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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writing tips, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 630
1. Children’s Book Author Django Wexler Combines Computer Science and Creative Writing

Django Wexler is a self-proclaimed computer/fantasy/sci fi geek. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked in artificial intelligence research.

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2. Try-Fail Cycle Brainstorming Tips

Bestselling author, David Farland is not only a great author, but he's a great writing instructor. If you're an aspiring author and do not subscribe to his writing tips, you should. Today he posted a writing tip on brainstorming obstacles for try-fail cycles that I love. Try-fail cycles play a critical role in creating tension and moving a story's plot forward. But often effectively executing the the try-fail cycle as a writer can have mixed results. David's post gives some great insight for those who struggle with try-fail cycles or just need a little more help coming up with more creative ideas to throw more obstacles in your protagonist's path.

Check it out. 12 types of obstacles to consider when creating try/fail cycles

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3. Re-Imaging Shakespeare or Creating a Shakespeare Re-Mix

To make re-mixed Shakespeare exciting for young readers as well as older readers, get your hands dirty and have a field day in that Shakespeare toolbox.

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4. The Art of Writing and Reading the Verse Novel

The verse novel is a condensed blend of poetry and story that flows from one word to the next. It shows the reader how to listen, how to see more sharply, how to emotionally connect. And somewhere in the journey we are changed.

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5. Back In The Room…

It’s good to be back! I have taken time off from writing this blog to concentrate on writing children’s books. It takes a while to create meaningful, exciting and engaging characters who jump off the page, climb up your nose and playfully mess about with your brain. I shall be posting soon about some exciting new […]

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6. Creating Settings: Bringing the Sounds, Sights and Smells Home

Lisa Doan | The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 When I began writing The Berenson Schemes, a middle grade series in which responsible Jack Berenson is repeatedly lost in the wilderness of foreign countries by his globe-trotting parents, I gave some careful thought to creating the settings. The books take place in the Caribbean, Kenya and […]

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7. Writing for Charity

I often get asked the question, "I've been thinking about writing children's books, how do I get started?" I have an FAQ on my website that goes in detail on my typical answer, but part of that answer always includes "attend writing conferences."

Fortunately, I live in an area with a quite a few successful children's authors. As a result, each year we enjoy the opportunity to participate in or attend a number of local conferences devoted to writing for the children's market. One such writer's conference is our annual Writing for Charity conference.

One of the unique things about the Writing for Charity conference is that all the proceeds for the conference to towards getting books into the hands of needy children. More than 40 local children's authors donate their time to present at this conference and give critiques. Some of this year's authors include Shannon Hale, Matthew Kirby, Jessica Day George, Ally Condie, Kristyn Crow, Sara Larson, and J Scott Savage.  The programming covers picture books, MG, and YA. It doesn't matter if you're a rank beginner or fairly experienced, it will have something to benefit.

The conference itself is high caliber, but very low cost - $55 for the entire day. The conference will be on March 21, 2015 at the Provo Library. You can find more information on the Writing for Charity conference at www.writingforcharity.blogspot.com.

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8. Workshop Scholarship: The Art of the Pitch, Daedalus Books

Workshop Scholarship: Applying to Publishers and Artist Residencies (fee free)

Daedalus Books Presents THE ART OF THE PITCH taught by John Sibley Williams and Jill McCabe Johnson

Saturday, February 7, 2015, 2-4:00 pm
2074 Flanders Avenue, Portland, OR
 
Two scholarships are available for the workshop. To apply, tell us in 50 words or less, why you especially, of all the charming writers in the world, should get the scholarship. Free application. Deadline is February 1, 2015
 
Learn more about the workshop here.
Apply for a scholarship here.
 
Artsmith’s founding director Jill McCabe Johnson and literary agent and publicist John Sibley Williams will guide you through a hands-on, two-part workshop to help you find and pitch your work to the book publishers and artist residencies that match your vision and aesthetics. 
 
In the residency portion, participants will:
• Learn what reviewers look for in residency applications
• See examples of successful applications
• Gain tips and practical advice for crafting a compelling application package
• Find out how to target residencies that are a good fit for your work
• Draft the “story” of your creative work for application purposes
 
In the book publisher portion, participants will:
• Learn how to craft comprehensive publisher pitches
• Find out how to tailor your approach to specific publishers
• See examples of successful cover letters, marketing plans, and CVs
• Discover how to research and judge which publishers best suit your work and goals
• Draft the pitch cover letter for your book

Beverages and snacks will be provided, and Daedalus Books will provide a 10% discount on all book sales to attendees.
 

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9. Do Authors Manipulate Readers? Guest post by Vonnie Hughes

You bet they do! Authors know what buttons to push.

By ‘what buttons to push’ I mean what buttons do authors use to manipulate (yep, being honest) their readers’ emotions, to get them on side with the characters in their books. For example, perhaps the author creates unlikeable, evil antagonists and emphasizes the sterling qualities of his protagonists.

The most obvious ploy is the ticking clock. It not only lends urgency but it yanks the reader along at a rush, keeping him intrigued.

Then there’s characterization. Of course in this dynamic world, what worked ten years ago may not have the same appeal in 2014. The innocent 1960s virgin, so prevalent in romances of that time, would drive a reader from 2014 to drink. We are much more cynical, well-informed and downright demanding than we were then. Historically though, some classics retain their appeal because they are much more than the sum of their characters’ emotions. To Kill A Mockingbird’s racial tensions are still not outmoded today, and that lazy description of the syrupy south’s inbred attitudes is not far from the truth in some out-of-the-way places. And that is why books like these are classics. They endure not just because of the characters in the books but because of the settings and historical attitudes. And Harper Lee manipulated the readers’ emotions. Think of the way she pushes Scout’s lack of desire to be a ‘lady’ so that the reader is on Scout’s side.

Perhaps today’s writers manipulate the readers in more subtle ways. What of Dick Francis’s heroes who are often of the working class up against a criminal upper class or just up against class bigotry where he is on the outside looking in? Dick Francis does that so well that even if the protagonist is not your usual Everyman, the reader is still very much on his side. That’s right. The modern protagonist need not be a perfect hero as he has been in novels and movies of the past. Some have patchy backgrounds and they’ve made mistakes.

There’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher who thrums a string in every male heart. They all want to be Jack with his freedom and lack of possessions but with an innate sense of responsibility. And of course Jack has been in the military and knows how to handle himself in vicious situations. Every man’s dream. There are a lot of wannabe Jacks out there. And Lee knows how to manipulate those readers. 

Tami Hoag’s heroines are believably imperfect. They make mistakes and have hang-ups that readers can empathise with and they frequently have to form alliances with people they don’t trust. There’s that little brush of reality that lends credence to the stories.

So…empathy and sympathy are the buttons. And the harder those buttons are pushed by authors and movie makers, the more a reader/viewer becomes invested in the characters. We need to see how the protagonists get themselves out of a bind, or if the evil antagonists get their come-uppance. And the best books of all are where you know darned well that the author is pushing your buttons, but you just don’t care. The book is so good! ~Vonnie

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie. 

All of Vonnie’s books are available on Musa Publishing and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

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10. Novel Craft: Sewing Lessons

Hi folks, I'm writing a series about how certain artistic skills enhance other artistic skills. I am an artistic and crafty person. I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about sewing lessons.

I love textiles. I always have. I know how to knit, embroider, and crochet. I can even do some tatting. I know how to dress a loom and weave fabric. I also sew. I learned how to sew in junior high. I've made over a hundreds of shorts, jackets, Halloween costumes, dresses, pants, toys, and quilts. I know how to use a pattern. I know how to create my own.

When I write, my sewing skills always come to me. Sewing starts with a provocative idea. Making a well made garment takes time and work. I fully envision the garment I plan to make. I fully envision the book I plan to write too. This is something in my head. Yes, I draw sketches and doodle on paper, but the big work is a complete internal vision. I see the thing I want, then I proceed to bring it into the light of life. Writing a book follows the same process. Just like a physical garment, I must envision a physical book at the beginning of the process.

To sew something I need a pattern. I have to decide do I want to use a pattern off the shelf or do I want to try and go it alone. I start by looking through books of patterns. For writing I look at books in the genre. I gather together patterns that are close to my vision. I always tweak patterns for sewing and writing. I feel a need to put my stamp on my sewing work and my writing. I have certain sleeves that I love, and often those sleeves go into the WIP garment , even if the pattern calls for something else. I don't like the way certain collars look so I will modify to put on a collar that is more of my thing. In writing, I have certain scene structures that I use often. There are some sorts of pacing that I will never use. The list goes on.

After I've got my pattern, chosen my fabrics, picked out my notions, gathered my tools, I'm ready to sew. In writing, I gather scrap art, pick characters, research subjects, gather thematic elements, and gather my tools. I cut out the pattern, and it's time time to sew. I write an outline and it's time to write. Sewing is painstaking work just like writing. You have to pin each piece just so. You must also fit in each scene just so. I have sewn in pieces backwards, upside down, and on the wrong side. It hurts to pick out all those stitches. No matter how slow you work, there are always necessary adjustments. It's the same with writing. I put scenes in the wrong place. I have to reorder events, sometimes I have to edit out huge swaths of my planned plot. I've got too much going on.


Sewing helps me write.

I often find myself working through writing problems by comparing them to sewing problems. The comparison helps me find my way. Perhaps you have some artistic skill that will help guide you, Will help you out of tight spots, Will help you complete your WIP. Good luck on your journey. I will be back next week with more lessons.

Here is a doodle for your week: This was a doodle I did when envisioning a dress.





Here is quote for your pocket"
Sewing mends the soul. ~Author Unknown

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11. Plotting a Novel–Difficult Choices Authors Have to Make

Plotting a novel sounds easy, doesn’t it? After a […]

The post Plotting a Novel–Difficult Choices Authors Have to Make appeared first on aksomitis.com.

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12. Becoming an Author Means Embracing a Life of Crime

Before I became a writer, I had no idea being one also meant embracing a life of crime. I don’t know why. All the signs were there – the saying “every great lie has an element of truth”, T.S. Eliot’s immortal “Good authors borrow, great authors steal”, and the infamous Faulkner adage, “Kill your darlings” (Faulkner actually stole that saying from Arthur Quiller-Couch).

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13. Plots Made Simple

Writing Instruction Video for Teachers and Aspiring Writers

Want to know the basics of plot? Need a simple and entertaining way to learn or teach  plot development? This short video can supplement teacher's lesson plans on plot basics. It provides step-by-step instruction and examples of plot diagram elements, including plot introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Enjoy!


The above video is also great companion resource to my video on raising plot tension.

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14. 7 Point Story Structure System

Seven Point System

To build a story you must have a story in mind. Plot – characters – conflict. Before you start to layout your plan for that book Dan Wells tells us, don’t start at the beginning, but start at the end. This is not the last chapter. It is the climax. Figure out the external conflict and internal conflict.

Once that is done then go to the other end, the beginning and start. Normally a good book will take a weak or flawed character on a journey that ends with them growing in some way. By the end, they are a better or stronger person because of their journey.  I’ve heard Richard Peck tell writer that he always rewrites the first chapter after he is finished the first draft. He says you can’t know where to start until you figure out how the story ends. He is doing the same things as what Dan is suggesting, except Dan is trying to save you from having to rewrite the first chapter.

This system can be applied to almost any writing, including short stories and novellas.

Here are the notes I wrote while watching the videos below:

The Seven Points:

Hook – Starting state loser – weak – flawed.

Plot Turn 1: Introduces conflict. Just as the midpoint moves you from the beginning to end, Plot Turn 1 moves you from the beginning to midpoint. Call to adventure. Introduces the conflict. The character’s world changes: Meets new people – discovers new secrets – follows the White Rabbit.

Pinch 1: Applies pressure – something goes wrong – bad guys attack and the MC is forced to go forward – often used to introduce the villain.

Midpoint: Learns the truth. This is wear the MC changes from reaction to action.

Pinch 2: Applies more pressure until the situation seems hopeless. A plan fails – a mentor dies, leaves the hero alone – the bad guys seem to win. These are the jaws of defeat from which your hero will be snatching victory. Make sure the teeth are sharp.

Plot Turn 2: Moves the story from the midpoint to the end. At the midpoint your MC is determined to do something, and finds the resolution you do it, so Plot Turn 2 is where the MC obtains the final thing they need to make it happen. “The power is in you!” Grasping victory from the jaws of defeat. MC has the piece they need even if they don’t realize it. The piece that gives the character something they decide to do in the climax.

Resolution – What is the climax? MC succeeds, and is now a changed person.

The story is not complete. It is just a skeleton, and needs flesh to fill it out: Rounded characters – Rich environments – Prologue? – Try/Fail cycles – Subplots.

If you haven’t watched Dan Wells videos, you might want to take a few minutes to do so. At least bookmark this page, so when you have a half hour you can watch without wasting time to find it.

First Video

Second Video

Third Video

Forth video

Fifth video

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, How to, Process, Tips, video, Writing Tips Tagged: Dan Wells, Free Writing Videos, Seven Step Story Structure

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15. Three Easy Tips to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing PLUS a Giveaway of THE YOUNG ELITES

Do you edit censor yourself as you write? Before you even start to write?

We all second guess ourselves, at least to some extent. I do. Something happens, someone says something negative, or I read something brilliant by someone else, and the doubt demons start nibbling away at my self-confidence, whispering that what I'm doing isn't good enough.

There is so much noise in this business, so much whispering, so much doubt.

We can't let it take hold or we'll paralyze ourselves. Deadlines don't give into paralysis or doubt. : )

When I'm feeling like writing has become a chore and I need to regain the joy of writing, I find that there are a number of things I can do that practically guarantee to get me back on track.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and feeling like you're overwhelmed, don't give up. Here are a few tricks I use to convince myself that I can keep going.

  1. Connect to what you love. If you're anything like me, the characters are what you love most about your manuscript, but if you're more invested in the plot or the concept, that's okay. Make a list of what you love and why you love it. Concentrate on rekindling that initial enthusiasm. Got it? Good. Now look at the scene or chapter you're currently writing and find a way to incorporate what you love into that chapter. Make your character do something that shows who she is, or demonstrate the "cool" aspects of your plot or concept.  
  2. Write a letter. Get in the head of your character more deeply by writing a letter from her to someone else in her life. What is bugging her most? What does she need someone to know? What would she tell someone who wronged her if she had the chance? What would she say to her best-friend, right here, right now.
  3. Write a paragraph. Focusing on writing a thousand words or two thousand or more can be debilitating. The task can feel too huge when you're not feeling inspired. Instead of telling yourself you have to write ALL THE WORDS, tell yourself to write the first sentence in a paragraph, and then another sentence. All you have to write is one paragraph. Then another. You can quit any time, but once you've met your goal for the day, the words may come more easily. 
Remember one more thing: your words may not be perfect, but they don't have to be when you first put them on the page. Focusing on word count can be debilitating, but words don't matter.

Hear me? Words don't matter.

Words change. Sentences change. Paragraphs and scenes and chapters may be deleted. 

Focus on what the characters want and why your main character isn't getting what she wants, why it's almost impossible for her to get what she wants, and your story will write itself. Once it's down on the page and you are happy with the story, THEN you can focus on the words. In the meantime, focus on the joy of story! : ) 

Happy writing,

Martina

Giveaway This Week


The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Hardcover
Putnam Juvenile
Released 10/7/2014

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


Purchase The Young Elites at Amazon
Purchase The Young Elites at IndieBound
View The Young Elites on Goodreads



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16. Outlining Your Novel

outlining your novelI am a big believer in creating an outline of your story and keep telling other writers how much it will help them with writing their novel. They nod their head, when they really want to pat me on the head and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So tonight read the beginning of K.M. Weiland’s “how to write book” titled, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL, hoping to find someone else who could help persuade others to realize how much it will help them with their manuscripts. After reading the excerpt below, I bought the book and I hope you will check it out. She lays out some good reasons to outline.

Here it is:

Benefits of Outlining Your Story

 

  1. Ensures Balance and Cohesion

In an outline, you can see at a glance if the inciting even take place too late in the sotry, if the middle sags, or if the climax doesn’t resonate. Instead of having to diagnose and remedy these problems after the first draft, you can fix problems in the outline in only a few keystrokes.

  1. Prevents Dead-End Ideas

How many times have you started writing an exciting new plot twist, only to realize – 5,000 words later – that it’s led you to a cul-de-sac? You either have to spend valuable time bactracking and trying to write your way around the roadblock – or you have to cut the subplot altogether and start afresh. Outlines allow you to follow plot twists and subplots to their logical end (or lack thereof) in much less time. You can identify the dead-end ideas and cull them before they become annoying and embarrassing ploy holes.

  1. Provides Foreshadowing

It’s nearly impossible for an author to foreshadow and event of which he has no idea. As a pantser, when a startling plot twist occurs late in the book, you’ll have to go back and sow your foreshadowing into earlier scenes. Not only is this extra work, it can often be difficult to make the new hints of what’s yet to come flow effortlessly with your already constructed scenes. Because an outline give you inside knowledge about what’s going to happen in subsequent scenes, it provides you the opportunity to plant some organic foreshadowing.

  1. Smoothes Pacing

Like foreshadowing, pacing often requires inside knowledge. If the author doesn’t know the protagonist is about to be shot in the back, he can hardly adjust the pacing to introduce this shocking new event in the right manner. An outline shows you the places where your story is running too fast and the places where it is lagging and sagging.

  1. Indicates Preferable POVs

When working with multiple points of view it can often be challenging to know which scene should be written from which POV. Too often, we write a scene from one character’s POV, only to realize a different character’s narrative perspective would probably have offered a better experience for the reader. As a result, we’re forced to go back and rewrite the entire scene. Outlines allow us to make educated decisions about POV, thanks to insights regarding plot and character. Just as importantly, outlines permit us to look at the balance of you POVs over the course of the entire novel, so we can ensure each character is getting an appropriate amount of time at the mic.

  1. Maintains Consistent Character Voice

When writing without an outline, we’re often discovering the characters right along with the readers, and because our perception and understanding of our character often evolve over the course of the story, the result can be an uneven presentation of the character’s voice.

  1. Offers Motivation and Assurance

Writing a novel can be overwhelming. Typing thousands of words is an undertaking in itself – but when those words all have to hang together in a way that is sensible, entertaining, and resonant, that’s enough to make our knees start shaking beneath our desks. Outlines give us the assurance that we can craft a complete story; all we have to do now is fill in the blanks. And because those blanks are ones that fascinate us, outlines also motivate us to keep on writing through the tough spots, so we can get to the good stuff.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, How to, inspiration, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Benefits of outlining Your Story, K.M. Weiland, Outlining your novel, Reason to outline

1 Comments on Outlining Your Novel, last added: 11/25/2014
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17. Before the Sale – Book Appeal

Have you ever thought about how you decide to buy a book? In my case, unless it is written by a friend or someone has told me I must read a book, I first look at the cover. If the cover has a good title and the cover art grabs me, then I look inside. If the flap jacket pitch sounds interesting, then I flip through the pages.

I look to see if the book has good margins, short paragraphs, and good amount of white space. Long blocky paragraphs exposition, narrative, and description make me think… SKIP!

Studies show that using white space is important because it helps make a book look friendly. And, it is dialogue that provides the eye candy for a reader. As a potential buyer flips through your book, rapid back-and-forth dialogue will make your book more appealing before the reader even reads a word.

So paying attention to dialogue when you revise it is worth the time and effort. I would start by flipping through the manuscript for places that look dense and circle them. Later go back to read and analyze. Ask yourself, “Can I use dialogue to breakup this long paragraph? Would dialogue work better here than what I have now?”

Here are ten things that dialogue can do to help keep your reader reading.

  1. Dialogue draws a reader into your story.
  2. Dialogue adds immediacy, picks up the pace, and makes your text easier and more fun to read.
  3. Dialogue can give the writer a more effective way to provide information about emotional states and inner thoughts.
  4. Dialogue can reveal motive, insight into a character without overt telling.
  5. Dialogue can help set the mood of the scene. Example: “This doesn’t feel right… It’s too quiet.”
  6. Dialogue can intensify the conflict. A confrontation conversation between adversaries can ramp up the tension and remind readers what’s at stake.
  7. Good Dialogue moves the story forward.
  8. Dialogue is a useful tool to provide information the reader must know without slowing down the pacing.
  9. Dialogue is good to use to get out critical bits of information, back-story, and background.
  10. Dialogue can even be use to suggest a theme.

Of course, dialogue is only one thing to work on while you revise, but the above list can help you can see the many things it can help improve in your novel.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Marketing a book, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Book Appeal, Getting readers to buy your book

2 Comments on Before the Sale – Book Appeal, last added: 11/24/2014
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18. Hey indie ebook authors, here’s how to succeed

Smashwords

Smashwords

Attention, indie ebook authors. Mark Coker at Smashwords wants you to know that there’s never been a better time to be you. He writes, “Thanks to an ever-growing global market for your ebooks, your books are a couple clicks away from over one billion potential readers on smart phones, tablets and e-readers. In the world of ebooks, the playing field is tilted to the indie author’s advantage.”

Then, the wake-up call. Coker goes on to report that “the gravy train of exponential sales growth is over,” with indie (self-published) authors seeing “significant” sales decline at Amazon, especially since the July launch of Kindle Unlimited. He had predicted the slowdown and attributes it to the glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks, the increasing rate of ebook supply outpacing demand, and the slowing, much-discussed transition from print to ebooks.

However, all is not lost. He offers tips on how to succeed in this new ebook environment. You’ll want to see his entire piece at Smashwords, as space constraints require editing them down. Here is a short take on Mark Coker’s 20:

1. Take the long view; focus on aggressive platform building.
2. Good isn’t good enough. Are you bringing your best game?
3. Write more, publish more, get better.
4. Diversify your distribution.
5. Network with other indie authors.
6. Publish and promote multi-author box set collaborations; you can build your base.
7. Leverage professional publishing tools, like preorder, to your advantage.
8. Best practices; there are seven, and Mark gives a good summary in his blog. Your fellow indie authors pioneered these practices, so listen up.
9. You’re running a business: be nice, ethical, honest, and humble. It pays.
10. Pinch your pennies; practice expense control.
11. Manage your time.
12. Take risks, experiment, and fail often.
13. Dream big dreams; aim high. Salvador Dali said: “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”
14. Be delusional.
15. Embrace your doubters.
16. Celebrate your fellow authors’ success. Their success is your success.
17. Remember that past success is no guarantee of your future success.
18. Never quit.
19. Own your future.
20. Know that your writing is important.

I’ll just repeat that last one: Know that your writing is important.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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19. The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend

juiliephendI met Julie Phend at the recent Avalon Writer’s Retreat. She was in my group and I was so impressed because her manuscript was the most polished piece of writing I had ever seen. I found out that Julie is a English teacher and begged her to be a guest blogger and share some common errors that people could easily fix in their own manuscripts.

Here is what she sent.

Notes from a Grammar Nazi by Julie Phend

Arghh! No writer wants to have her grammar questioned. BUT the truth is that as writers, we are judged as much by our grammar and punctuation as by our witty characters and suspenseful plots. So it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some rules we’ll use over and over again. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid common problems.

CAPITALIZATION OF PROPER NOUNS:

Names of Family Members: As writers for children and youth, we will frequently reference moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When do you capitalize these words?

Rule: Capitalize family members only when part of a name or used instead of a name. Don’t capitalize when used with a possessive pronoun.

Examples: I wish my mom would listen. I wish Mom would listen.
I bought a gift for Aunt Alice. I bought a gift for my aunt.

Names of School Subjects: Again, as writers for kids, we’ll often reference classes they take.

Rule: School subjects are only capitalized when they are a specific title or when used with a number.

Examples: My math class is boring, but the worst class I ever took was Math 101. Or maybe it was Advanced Algebra.

PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE: Good fiction is filled with snappy dialogue, so let’s be sure the reader (or agent or editor) is not distracted by incorrect punctuation.

Rules: If a quote is interrupted by a dialogue tag, whether you use a period or a comma depends on whether the second part of the quote is a complete sentence. If the second part of the quote is a separate sentence, use a period after the dialogue tag and a capital letter to begin the next sentence.

Example: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Jenny groaned. “That hamburger weighed a whole pound!”

BUT when a dialogue tag interrupts a sentence, use commas around the tag, and lower case letters when the sentence is completed.

Example: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed, “or I’ll shoot!”

OTHER DIALOGUE RULES:

Rule: Periods and commas ALWAYS go within quotation marks.

Examples: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed.
My favorite quotation is “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Other punctuation marks, such as exclamation points and question marks, go within the quotation marks if they are part of the quote, but NOT if they aren’t part of the quote.

Examples:
Are you familiar with the famous quotation, “You can run, but you cannot hide”?
“Who said that?” Jenny asked. “I can’t remember.”

Rule: If there is a quote within a line of dialogue, the quote goes in single quotation marks.

Example: “A famous person once said, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,’” Jenny said.

A FEW PESKY COMMA RULES: Modern writing uses fewer commas than were once taught, but commas show a reader where to pause. Without them, a reader struggles to make sense of a line of type. Similarly, unnecessary commas slow the reader down or break a sentence in strange places. Hence, a couple of useful rules.

Rules: Use a comma before ‘but’ and ‘and’ when they are used as conjunctions to join two complete sentences.

Examples: I have often walked down this street, but I never noticed all the flowers.
I often walk down this street, and I always stop to smell the flowers.

Do not use a comma before ‘and’ or ‘but’ when used to join verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or clauses. (In other words, if the second part is not a complete sentence.)

Examples: She loved to run and play.
She loved to run through the meadow and stretch her long legs.
I loved him long but not well.

Never use a comma before the word because.
Example: She often paused to smell the flowers because her mother taught her to appreciate the little things.

A useful rule of thumb: Read the sentence aloud. If you need to pause, you probably need a comma. If what follows the pause is a complete sentence, you need a period instead of a comma.

Example: I couldn’t go home. The police were waiting at my door.
NOT: I couldn’t go home, the police were waiting at my door.

Thank you Julie for sharing your expertise. I know your manuscript will be snatched up, published, and people will be clamoring for more books.  You may be interested in her current book, D-Day and Beyond: A True Story of Escape and POW Survival or you may want to check out her webite: http://juliephend.com/and read about her lively WWII and writing presentations for schools, book clubs, and veterans’ organizations.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: D-Day and Beyond, Grammar Nazi, Guest Blogger, Julie Phend, World War ll

6 Comments on The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend, last added: 10/10/2014
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20. 10 Writer Quotes to Keep you Working on Your Novel


30 Days to a Stronger Novel Online Video Course

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30 Days to a Stronger Novel Online Video course

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Writing teacher Darcy Pattison teachers an online video course, 30 Days to a Stronger Novel. Each day includes an inspirational quote, and tips and techniques for revising your novel. Here are the 10 of the inspirational quotes.

LEARN MORE: ONLINE VIDEO COURSE.

Or sign up for more information on the availability of this course and other courses.

Pattison
The titles below are the first ten entries of the Table of Contents for the Online Video Class. Sign up now for the Early Bird list. You’ll be notified when the course goes live.

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  1. The Wide, Bright Lands: Theme Affects Setting

    21-Morrell

  2. Raccoons, Owls, and Billy Goats: Theme Affects Characters

    22-singer

  3. Side Trips: Choosing Subplots

    23-morrell

  4. Of Parties, Solos, and Friendships: Knitting Subplots Together

    24-lengle

  5. Feedback: Types of Critiquers

    25-goldberg

  6. Feedback: What You Need from Readers

    26-king

  7. Stay the Course

    27-Parker

  8. Please Yourself First

    28-dillard

  9. The Best Job I Know to Do

    29-allen

  10. Live. Read. Write.

    30-Bratslav

Click Here to See 22 More Quotes for Writers

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21. Mastering Kid-Speak – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

A Dialogue Tune-up: Mastering Kid-Speak

Dialogue is one of the most important pieces of any manuscript, and this often goes double for children’s works. Dialogue moves the story along, develops the connection between your readers and the characters and keeps things tangible and realistic.

That means that mastering Kid-Speak is unequivocally important.

There is a rhyme and rhythm to the way that kids communicate, where they pause to think, how they choose their words, the direction their stream of conscious takes them in. I’ve often wondered if there are linguists who study children specifically.  I bet we could learn a lot about the development of the brain and human instincts by looking at how and why kids pick their words.

As writers, if our characters don’t sound realistic, we’ve already lost the battle.  It’s something a child will instantly and instinctively pick up on.  The character will seem fake and they won’t bond with them.  Even in a plot-driven story, if the readers don’t connect with the characters, the story won’t resonate.

Here are a few things you can do to work on the dialogue in your stories: 

Eavesdrop!

Listening to children talk is one of my favorite things to do. This can be a bit trickier to do with older kids.  Teenagers aren’t big on you overhearing their devastatingly important and secret information.  But there’s a great trick to overcome that.  Stick two or more kids in the back of a car and drive around a while.  Even teenagers will fairly quickly forget that you can probably hear them and get swept up in the excitement of their chatter.  When hushed whispers are completely ignored, they often become full-volume conversations within a few minutes.

It’ll be a hit with the other adults in your life too! The fact that I’m quick to volunteer for anything kid and car-pool related is a much-appreciated running joke among my friends and family.

Listen to yourself:

Most writers understand the value of reading the dialogue sections of a manuscript out-loud. But you can take this even further.  Record yourself reading it.  Play it back.  Have someone else read it to you.  Have multiple someones read it to you.

Better yet, have an age-appropriate child read it to you. See how it sounds coming from them.  Does it sound natural?  Stale?  Funny?  Bland?  Vocabulary that encourages learning and reaching is excellent when carefully placed in children’s books.  But (unless it’s your character’s quirk) you want to keep the dialogue age-appropriate.

Hearing how the lines sound with the natural intonation of a child’s voice can be a simple and surprisingly effective way of polishing up the dialogue.

Give Everyone Their Own Unique Voice

If you ask five kids the same question, you will get five different responses, even if they all have the same general answer. You have a voice as a writer.  Be sure each of your characters has a voice of their own as well.

We all have our little verbal tics, especially kids. Some are simple speakers, short, two to three word sentences.  Some seem to look for any opportunity to use flowery, descriptive words.  They know different words based on who and what occupies the majority of their time.

A friend’s five year old used the word “bonemeal” when he was commenting on my conversation with his mother about my garden next year. Turns out, it’s basically a type of fertilizer in Minecraft.  I was amazed that he made the connection to a real-life garden, but it was just his natural Kid-Speak.

A great test for this is to pull out all the dialogue in your manuscript and see if you can tell who said what without even looking at the character name. 

It’s not an easy test. But for me, it’s given me great perspective on places I need to have the opportunity to personalize and develop that critical bond between my readers, and the characters they’re going to take the journey with.

Dialogue does so much in our manuscripts. It allows us to remove unnecessary words, breaks up long, difficult to read paragraphs, advances the story, gives us relatable realism and lets us see how a character thinks.  Take these opportunities to really let the uniqueness of your characters shine, and capture your readers.

Kid-Speak varies for different ages, backgrounds and situations, making it a versatile and powerful tool to make your story, and your character jump off the page and into the reader’s heart.

Your character’s personalities, and your manuscripts, are worth it.

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. I always enjoy them.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, inspiration, Writing Tips Tagged: A Dialogue Tune Up, Erika Walssal, Guest Blogger Post, Mastering Kid-Speak

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22. Guest Post: I killed My Mother by Terry Jennings

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Terry Jennings

I killed my mother, I must confess. And while I’m at it, I should admit I killed my baby brother too.  In the interest of full disclosure I should also own up to doing away with an uncle and a few cousins as well.

I know full well that matricide, fratricide—familycide in general—are frowned upon in polite society.  But I’m not the least bit sorry. In fact, under the right circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the act. I had to do it. My story, a fictional novel very loosely based on my life, was drowning with the weight of its characters.

To assuage any sensibilities that may be aroused by my dastardly acts, I will let you know that the murders were done off stage, very discretely. I could have lined them all up against a wall and shot them, right in front of God and everybody, and been totally within my rights. My story, after all, is set during the Cuban revolution in 1958—executions were common place. But I disposed of my family gently, elegantly. My mother, bless her soul, died giving birth to me. With one stroke of the pen I not only got rid of one very significant adult, but I also gave my protagonist a reason to have guilt—because she lived, her brother didn’t have a mother. I transformed the baby brother into a 17 year old and morphed the essence of the combined souls of the rest of my relatives into his character.

Having to kill and change people is a peril you run into when you write a novel loosely based on fact. Not just historical novels, like mine. When we know the story so well—when it’s our story, or the story of someone we know or have come to know—it is difficult to sacrifice the truth in order to let that fictional story shine through.

I think it was Stephen King that said you have to kill your darlings. I’m not sure he meant fratricide and matricide, but in essence, he said get rid of anything that doesn’t move your story forward. That is particularly hard when it comes to characters. Each one of those people had a story, an experience, which was significant to the historical context. Their experiences weren’t darlings to be cast aside. They were representative and exciting. And my real life was so lame, I had to draw on their experiences for my plot. I needed their experiences. Every one of them. But even I realized that the reader would need a cheat sheet with the names and life stories of each relative in order to keep up with the plot.

It was my friend Ivy Ruckman (Night of the Twister), who suggested an older brother replace the uncle. Why hadn’t I thought of that? That simple change made everything simple. In the brother I could develop the mindset of the young revolutionary, in love with Fidel Castro who could be the foil against the pro-establishment and anti-Fidel father. The brief discussions about the revolution which happen as a result of the action, are now organic. A perfect case of the new pared down cast showing rather than telling what it was like living in those first two and a half years of Castro’s revolution.

Another result of my murderous binge was that now my protagonist participated fully in all of the experiences without having to take a taxi. In the previous version, an older cousin (it happened, I promise) was writing pamphlets against the revolution to hand out at school.

Eventually, someone finds out, calls her and tells her she’d better stop of else. My cousin ended up in an embassy not long after that phone call. But in order to get my protagonist to see that, I had to invite her to a meeting at her older cousins’ house, find a way to get her money for a taxi and a way to sneak off to her cousins’ house, hear what the older kids are saying and later find out about the phone call and her cousin’s exile from her father. With the brother embodying some of the experiences of other characters, my protagonist is right there, in the same room. She chooses to write pamphlets of her own to distribute at church, and she is the one who picks up the phone when the ultimatum is received—who’s the ultimatum for, her or her brother? Now the book is full of energy and the narrative moves quickly from one exciting scene to another. No more taking a figurative taxi or a bus to get the protagonist to the action.

It was a significant change in the book, I must admit. More of a re-imagining of the whole story than a revision. But I believe it has been well worth it. Now we’ll see if a power that be agrees with me and buys my story. I really hope someone does. My cousins are really not happy that I killed them, whether on or off the stage. They were all hoping for a cameo. The only way I’ll keep them quiet is to prove them wrong and have a best seller.

http://literarymidwives.com/

Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day.  Since then she has written for Ranger Rick and had a family humor column in her local newspaper, The Reston Connection. Primarily she writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council.  Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna  is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015.  Currently she is working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on her childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.

Thanks Terry for sharing your article with us. I will be doing a lot of killing this week.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, demystify, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Literary Midwives, Terry Jennings

5 Comments on Guest Post: I killed My Mother by Terry Jennings, last added: 10/27/2014
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23. A lot of writing & marketing ebooks on sale today only for #writers today only. Grab them while you can!

There are a number of writing technique and book marketing ebooks on sale today only (Fri Nov 7, 2014) for only $0.99 on Amazon that, if you’re a writer, published or pre-published, you may want to buy. I’ve snatched up most of the ones I’ve listed here myself. As a writer, I think I can always keep learning and growing, perfecting my craft.

Writing Technique

Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail.
Mary Buckham teaches courses on writing technique, and I’ve loved very article I’ve read by her, so I snatched this one up immediately. I highly recommend her work.









Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell.

I’ve bought and read James Scott Bell’s books on writing technique before; I know he has solid, helpful advice, so I snatched this one up, too. :)










The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book

This is a 3-book set, combining: WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT.: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant; LET’S GET DIGITAL: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran; and HOW TO MARKET A BOOK by Joanna Penn. I know Joanna Penn’s work; she’s the author of many fiction and non-fiction books and blogs at thecreativepenn, so I snatched this deal just for her book, but I’m also really interested in reading Write, Publish, Repeat, and at $0.99 for all three this is a steal.




Writing the Heart of Your Story: The Secret to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel (The Writer’s Toolbox Series) by C. S. Lakin.

C.S. Lakin is an author and a writing coach; I’ve appreciated (and recommended) many of her articles on her blog LiveWriteThrive, so I snatched her book up, too.









Writing a Killer Thriller: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction by Jodie Renner.

Jodie Renner is an editor offering advice on creating fast-paced, compelling fiction. I think editors, because they see so much work (both good and bad), and because they’ve trained in writing and editing, have a lot to offer writers that we can learn from. So I bought this book, too.










Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 4) by Marcy Kennedy.

Even when we know writing technique and “rules,” sometimes a refresher helps, or hearing it a different way. I liked the conversational tone to her book, so I bought this one, too. :)







Book Promotion

Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book.

As published authors, we’re expected to market our books. This book sounds like it may have some good advice and takes a different approach than some books and articles I’ve read, so I also bought it.










Goodreads For Authors: How To Use Goodreads To Promote Your Books

I know GoodReads can help readers find our books; I’ve used GoodReads for contests for ARCs and finished books, and I have my blog appear on GoodReads. I’m interested on reading what else authors can do.









How To Get Honest Reviews: 7 Proven Ways to Connect With Readers and Reviewers (Book Marketing Survival Guide Series 1) by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart.

I don’t have trouble getting reviews–I query book bloggers–but if you’re just starting out, or if you haven’t had to do this for yourself before, you may want to get this book. I may still pick it up myself because it looks like they have some things I haven’t thought about before.





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24. Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

 by Trish Wilkinson

trish20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5447_trish_2x3-225x300For readers to become invested in a story, they need to “see” characters’ movement and action within a setting. Writers often hear, “Show don’t tell,” and sometimes we think, “But I did show – didn’t I? How do I fix this?”

Here are a few quick tips for showing rather than telling:

  1. Use ACTIVE VERBS rather than passive ones wherever possible.

Keep this list of passive verbs near your computer until you get in the habit of using them sparingly. (I tell my students: “If you must use passive verbs, limit them to no more than one or two on a page.”)

  • Forms of be to AVOID: is, are, was, were, be, being, and been
  • Auxiliary verbs: am, did, do, does, can, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, has, have, had, could
  • Adjectives (describing words)
  • Adverbs (words used to modify verbs that tell us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent – words ending in –ly; other examples: yesterday, here, barefoot, fastest)

Telling/Passive: She was running quickly to the dilapidated shed because she needed a place to hide.

Showing/Active: She sprinted to the shed, slipped inside, and crouched under a sawhorse behind a stack of paint cans.

  1. Place your characters in a setting at the beginning of every scene, so your reader can “see” them.

Begin every scene with a few words of setting BEFORE a character shares thoughts or engages in conversation. Otherwise, fuzzy talking heads float in space until the writer gets around to putting the characters in a specific location.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch rubbing his temples.

            “You got it wrong,” I said. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

A quick aside: Forget all the fancy words you learned in middle school – replied, chortled, stuttered, etc. – and use SAID, which is considered the invisible dialogue tag.

  1. Write ACTION TAGS within conversations rather than dialogue tags wherever possible.

If your characters shove their hands in their pockets or tuck a curl behind an ear or move to the other side of the room, action tags can show details and movement, adding to the depth of the scene.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch, rubbing his temples.

“You got it wrong.” I dropped my drawing in front of him on the coffee table. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

These three things: active verbs, establishing the setting, and using action tags in dialogue, will transform your scenes from flat and fuzzy into mental motion pictures.

Trish Wilkinson is a writing coach, content and line editor. You can find her at: www.write-to-win.com

Thanks Trish for sharing your expertise with us. I am sure it will help many of the new writers who visit and also help remind the rest of us to always strive for an active voice.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, Process, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Action Tags, Active Verbs, Trish Wilkinson, Write to Win

6 Comments on Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling, last added: 11/14/2014
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25. My NaNoWriMo Tip: Stop Writing and Start Seeing (at Chronicle Books)

Truth? I haven't written anything remotely bookish for a while because, well, I've been busy. That harried woman running from place to place, topic to topic, responsibility to responsibility, and only sometimes to her own kitchen? That would be me. There's wind in my hair.

But I've been thinking about writing and when the good folks at Chronicle asked me to offer writers a NaNoWriMo tip, I knew exactly what inspiration I wanted to offer.

It's all here, along with a few of my photographs. And one silly picture of me. What I wouldn't give to be pretty. What I wouldn't give.

Wait. I'm off topic. I'm also off again, and running —

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