Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ten Things Self-Publishing Taught Me (Guest Post)

I am pleased to have guest blogger, Bonnie Rae, posting today. She's a self-published author, whose second novel was released today! Be sure to check it out at the bottom of this post.


And be sure to comment as well. The first person to both comment and leave their e-mail address gets a free copy of her book!

Here's a list of tips she's decided to share about what self-publishing has taught her:

Ten Things Self-Publishing Taught Me

1. Create a deadline for yourself. Even if it is a relaxed deadline, you still need an end date to strive for.

2. Plan ahead. Make sure to give yourself a few extra weeks for bumps along the way. When I set my deadlines, I plan them so I have an extra month in there just for a buffer. Because let's face it, life happens and sometimes you can't get to your manuscript every day.

3. Know what you are talking about. This goes with any book really, but as a self-published author you are under the microscope far more than a traditional published author. If you need to research things for your novel, especially time periods, make sure you really do it right.

4. Have a support system of other readers/writers. Yes, critique partners and beta readers are a huge process in my novel creation. They let me know if the manuscript is flowing properly, if things don't make sense, and point out grammar issues. I would be so lost if I didn't have my network of CP's and betas. I know sometimes it can be hard to find the right ones, but never give up. Keep searching because they are essential. If you think you can do it without them, you are wrong. Close friends and family members do not count either. That is, unless they can be brutally honest without worrying if they hurt your feelings or not.

5. Hire a professional editor or editing service. You are not an editor and if you are, then you are lucky. Even still, you should have a different "professional" editor look at your manuscript. CP's and beta's don't count. I can't stress this enough, find an editor you work well with and do it. Sure, it might be a little pricey, but it's worth it in the end. I took the cheap route once with a person who claimed to be an editor. Let me just say I got my money's worth. Don't sell yourself or all the hard work you did writing the novel short. Also, do a little background research on your editor or editing service. Make sure they know what they are doing and you are getting the entire bang for your buck.

6. You need a good cover. People like pretty things. I'll admit that I will take a chance on a book just because it has an awesome cover. I am not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars, but there are plenty of affordable sites out there that can create really wonderful book covers. Again, like with the editor, you owe it to your manuscript to do this right. I know it sounds cliché, but it's true. The more professionally done your novel looks the more likely people will purchase it.

7. Network! Social network, local network, anything where you can get your name out there and start making it known you're a writer. Yes, I mean twitter, facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites. Also, sign up to some forums or web groups for your genre of writing. Trust me, it helps. I know social networking can be daunting for some, but we can't stop the world from moving forward into the digital and internet prone age. Also, find a local writing group and join it. Being around other writers is a wonderful thing. They understand what you mean by "all the voices in my head" and won't look at you like you're crazy. Plus, go to some writing conferences. I love conferences. You can learn so much from all the different workshops and meet some pretty amazing people. Most writers, me included, are introverts. You have to break out of that shell. It's scary, but it's worth it!

8. Develop a tough skin. As I mentioned in number four, people will be brutally honest about your manuscript and hopefully in a manner of constructive criticism. However, once published some reviewers can be just downright harsh and make you question your ability about writing. Eat a tub of chocolate ice cream for the first bad review then get over it and move on. Your writing doesn't suck. Just because it doesn't sit well with everyone doesn't mean you should give up. There will be people who love your stories and there will be people who don't. Don't dwell on the negative especially if people are being cruel. Look for the positive criticism and move on from there.

9. Enjoy it. Why do we write? Because we love to. Self-publishing can be a crazy process sometimes, but don't let it scare you away from your ultimate goal. If ever you feel so stressed during the process that it is affecting your writing to the point where you dread sitting down and working on your novel. Stop. Take a breather and remember why you started writing in the first place. You were born for this. Even if you have to take a couple of days to just walk away from it all and relax. That's okay. You gave yourself some buffer time in your deadline, remember? So take some time to read or do other inspiring things. You'll come back refreshed and ready to take on the world.

10. Never give up. It's easy to throw in the towel when things get hard. All my life people told me becoming a published author was nothing more than a pipe dream. When I self-published my first book last year I laughed at all of those who told me it could never be done. Now, I might not be the next JK Rowling, but hey, I had a dream and I made it happen. I continue to make it happen. And you can too.  Love who you are and what you do and never give up.




Nether World was the last place Ava Walker pictured spending the rest of her life, but after her mother’s murder, she had no choice. In order to save her little sister, Ava made a deal with the Devil, an unbreakable vow to live amongst the darkness and demons in a city of steel and fire. She's lost everything. Her mother is gone, her sister and best friend are on the run, and Kaine, the fallen angel who stole her heart, was incinerated right before her eyes.

Life couldn’t get any worse.


But she underestimates Lucifer. He goes back on his word and asks Ava to do the unthinkable: commit herself to his service and be reborn as one of the very creatures she was destined to fight. If she refuses, those dearest to her heart will be sealed with a deadly fate. If she accepts, mankind doesn’t stand a chance.


War is coming, and Ava must make a choice: die or become Death





Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing Better Descriptions

I hate writing descriptions because I find them to be boring. When I'm reading books, if a description takes longer than two sentences, no matter how hard I try to concentrate, my eyes always glaze over.

Because of this, all my first drafts lack description. I write about the characters without taking the time to describe their appearances or the rooms they are in and fill in the details during revisions.

It took me a long time to learn that descriptions take hard work and talent to write well. Here are some tips to make your descriptions better:

1. Descriptions should be relevant.

Imagine a girl who is about to walk through a door.

If this is an ordinary door, like the door to her house, you shouldn't describe it. In fact, you don't even have to mention the door. You can just say that she walked into her house and the reader will automatically imagine an ordinary door in their mind with her traveling through it.

But let's say this door is special, that her father died while building it and that his blood still stains the bottom of this door, even though she's tried to scrub it out a million times. She always stops and stares at this door whenever she travels through it because it tugs at her heart and reminds her of the father she misses and the fact that his murder remains unsolved. This door should be described in detail.

Why? Because the door is relevant to the story and may even be the first clue in solving a mystery!

Cut out any description that isn't relevant to the story. Not only does it bore the readers, but you have to get in the mind of your character as well. Would he or she really take note of the details of a door if this door had no meaning for her?

If a normal person walks into a garden, they may notice many pretty flowers and all the colors. If a gardener walks into the garden, she would pick out each rose and carnation she sees and think about them. Write descriptions according to how relevant they are to your story and your character.

2. Descriptions aren't lists of adjectives.

She was pretty, slender, tan, blond, tall, blue-eyed, popular, friendly, crazy, immature.....

Adjectives should be used sparingly. If you use them too much, then the reader drifts off and gets bored.

"She had a warm smile" is better than "She had a warm, wide, friendly, smile with dimples and white teeth."

Maybe all those things are true, but they're not all important and if they are important, then you can spread out the adjectives into other parts of the book. "She had a warm smile" can start you off and then maybe another character, her husband, comments on how much he loves her dimples later as he kisses her. Maybe she lectures the main character about brushing her teeth later and says that was the key to her having a white smile. But is always welcoming people into her house for dinner because she's friendly and loves to meet new people.

You see how the description of this character means more when it's spread out over the entire book through her actions, instead of shoved into a tiny list of adjectives?

3. Descriptions should describe the unusual things about your character or setting.

People tend to use hair color, eye color, and skin color to describe their characters and nothing else. This is boring. Not only will most of us have a difficult time recalling the eye colors of most of our friends (because the color of one's eyes isn't important), but also, most of us notice other important details about a person that enhances their description and makes them unique if we add those kinds of details to our stories.

Like, let's say a character trembles every time she lifts a plate because she's weak due to illness or she snorts when she laughs and wears glasses. A character might bite their fingernails regularly or constantly smooth their hair down while they speak to people. A character might pick their nose in public or cough so hard that their face turns red on occasion. Maybe she has a limp or is cross-eyed.

All those descriptions of character make them unique and put a more vivid picture of a character's appearance in the readers' head. You're welcome to mention hair color, eye color, and skin color when describing a character, but don't leave it at that. There's so much more to them as a person! And you don't need to even mention these details to form a vivid picture of a character and how they appear in a readers' mind.

4.  Descriptions should show more than just appearance.

They should also describe the personality of a character and the mood of the setting.

Here's one description:

The tombstones of the graveyard were lined up in rows. They cast shadows in the moonlight. There was green grass around them and flowers on the graves.

This is an okay description, but it could be better . . . .

The rows of tombstones seemed to stretch on forever in the moonlight. Goosebumps ran up my arms as I wondered if I should turn back. The green grass muffled my footsteps. The dead flowers on the graves told me that this wasn't a place where the living belonged, but maybe if I was quiet enough the corpses wouldn't hear me.

The second description is better because it shows that the character is scared, it shows that the mood of the setting is that it's creepy and the main character is frightened by it. The first description doesn't show this on the other hand. It's just a list of traits that this graveyard happens to have: rows of tombstones, moonlight, grass, and flowers.

If a character has blue eyes, should you say "She had blue eyes" or "Her blue eyes gazed at me so coldly, they looked like frozen pools." The second is better because it shows the character is potentially cruel and hostile. It's a better representation of not only her physical appearance, but her personality as well.

5. Don't forget to describe where in the room the characters are located.

I'm adding this because it's not something I've ever seen on one of these lists and yet it's something I mess up on all the time.

If one character is standing behind another, then state this. If a character is standing in the corner of the room, make sure to say this as well. If they're running across the room, spell it out.

I always imagine character placement in my mind, but often don't write it out. This causes a disconnect for the reader. They may be able to picture the character and they may be able to picture the setting, but they can't actually picture your character IN your setting. This is the glue that draws those things together and makes them one.

6. Don't describe your main character by having them look at themselves in the mirror.

It's cliche and has been done a million times. There are other ways to describe characters and it's usually best done during a description of an action a character is taking.

Like . . .

She charged towards the door until her muscular shoulders came in contact. It wouldn't budge. Her brown eyes narrowed in determination. He would not lock her out. She would get in there whether he liked it or not. Her brown hair flew behind her head as she slammed her body against the door again and it splintered into tiny pieces.

This describes the character as muscular with brown hair and brown eyes.

Also, if you sneak description into action like this, a reader often won't realize that they're actually reading a description because there's enough action happening to entertain them during it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Dogs Want To Build An Army

No writer is complete without a loyal pet (or two), like I have, so I wanted to talk about my two rottweilers: Izzy and Mika (pronounced Micah.) Here's their picture if you've never seen them before: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.222568421187620.46557.100003033921752&type=3 

Izzy loves everything that moves, but she's half pitbull (and looks it), so everyone thinks she's vicious. It doesn't help that she has this weird habit of barking at people for attention. She does it all the time to me when I'm reading because how dare I stare at books and not pay attention to her, but then people come over. She sees them and gets overexcited and either tries to bark at them for attention or throw her entire hundred pound body into their laps. And then she gets confused by the fact that they just ran for their lives. I don't blame them, it used to scare me when she did those things when I first got her, too!

She also doesn't understand why people hug one another without having her in the middle. Whenever my boyfriend and I hug, she's always right there, nudging our arms and trying to force herself in.

Mika on the other hand just licks people and not once or twice, but for long periods of time. I had a friend come over once, pet Mika only a little, but Mika in response licked her for an hour. I'm pretty certain from the violated look she had on her face that this was the reason she chose never to come over again.

And my dogs are always trying to adopt other dogs. Who needs children begging for you to keep the stray dog you found when you have two dogs begging you to keep every dog they meet? When we take them for walks, they whimper every time they pass a dog because they want to play with that dog, even when the dog is barking at them viciously.

I go,"Stop it! That dog wants to eat you!" But they don't get it because they think that dog is wonderful and it obviously must reciprocate their feelings. They whimper because we won't stop to let them have fun.

They successfully adopted a stray once, in fact, earlier this year. All of a sudden, when they were howling one day, there was an answering howl right outside our door and this super skinny dog was sitting there, waiting for our dogs to come out. The dog harassed us whenever we left the house and would keep my dogs up and barking all night because it would get lonely. It did this for a week straight. Eventually it had to be taken away.

My dogs were not going to stand for it either. It broke my heart watching them charge at the door and bark because they wanted to rescue the stray dog from being taken away. My dogs are so sensitive and like the title of this post says, I'm pretty sure they want to build their own dog army.

What did this post have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing! Except that my lovely dogs always keep me company while I'm writing.

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TODAY - I'm also on Angie Sandro's blog guest posting about what inspires me as an author and opening up about struggles that I never thought I'd speak about publicly:

http://anjeasandro.blogspot.com/2012/10/sharing-our-voices-eb-black.html

Monday, October 15, 2012

Update on Medusa's Desire

If you are curious about what my new book will be about, check it out here.

I just wanted to update everyone on the progress of getting my novel published. I hired an editor and finished editing the manuscript last week. I'm tweaking the formatting, but have to wait to upload it until the copyright goes through, which will take (on average) two and a half months, according to the site, so we're waiting on that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mistakes

Being a writer can be extremely stressful. Sometimes it feels like every decision we make has the potential to destroy our entire career.

For instance, if you write a blog post and it has something in it that you know people will disagree with, you might hesitate before pushing the "publish" button. Or on twitter, you read someone commenting on something political. All you want to do is show them your support, but you also realize that some of your followers might read it and disagree. What to do? Keep silent? Will speaking up make everything blow up in my face? Or when you're writing a query and you've edited your hook more times than you've edited your book. The words are a jumbled mess in front of you, but you know if you don't get this right, you might never be published.

Any of those things sound familiar?

I've made mistakes. I do things wrong and so do other authors. I have regrets that my mind likes to torture me with on occasion. We all offend people sometimes, say things we wish we hadn't, write things that we later realize we could have made better. We disappoint people and lose readers.

But you know what? It's okay.

Because we're human and no matter what people tell you, one mistake won't destroy your career. It might cause damage or slow you down, but as long as you're willing to keep going and pick yourself up, then it will be okay.

During those down moments, if you give up, that's the only time when you can truly fail. Otherwise, opportunities to succeed will continue to open up for you. You just have to work hard and take risks.

Taking risks is scary. I've been terrified about getting my book out there and the risky things I've written about in it. There's quite a bit inside of it that has the potential to offend people.

Self-publishing, especially without querying first, means I have pretty much zero chance of ever publishing this traditionally. It means I'm taking a certain road with my career that I may regret later.

But should I sit here and be scared? Or should I take the plunge and learn from my mistakes?

Don't be scared to mess-up. Be scared of never trying.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Plot Bunnies

I know a lot of people hate plot bunnies, but most of my novels start out that way. Medusa's Desire, a few years ago, was nothing more than a jotted down sentence along the lines of: "Write a novel where Medusa is the hero instead of the villain. It should be a romance and maybe she's in love with Perseus." I daydreamed about it a little and really wanted to write it, but it wasn't developed enough at the time. It evolved as I studied the myth and let the idea build up, while I was finishing my previous novel.

I always deal with plot bunnies by jotting down my ideas in a word document to be looked at later. I'm usually working on something else when they come, so I don't have time to pay attention to them. I'm glad I do because I have a horrible memory. A few months ago, I remember looking through my plot bunnies and not remembering even half the stuff I had come up with.

I was a bit sad lately because although I have many outlines already saved on my computer, it seemed like all the plot bunnies had run away. It had been awhile since I had come up with something new, except this past week, things have been different. I've been waking up in the middle of the night or taking a nap and waking up and suddenly there are plot bunnies in my head that I need to immediately jot down before I forget them. It's very exciting.

What do you do with your plot bunnies?