Saturday, May 18, 2019

How to Make Similar Characters Unique

My friend Katja asked me to write the blog post, and I love the assumption behind it: that we will write similar characters. This is normal--not everyone can be vastly different or polar opposites. But heaven forbid we confuse people. Here are some basic tricks to keep even similar characters unique.

Maybe you like to create characters on the fly, personality type them *cough*, or find a name and let them write themselves. There really is no one "right" way to create a character. But while variety is needed, what do you do when you have a sibling set with the same upbringing and home or

One of the most basic things you can do is give one a distinct something that the other doesn't have. This could be literally anything:
  • facial feature
  • catchphrase
  • habit
  • fear/struggle
  • condition
  • goal/motivation
  • cute pet
  • race/gender
  • clothing style
  • taste in music
This is not revolutionary by any means, nor does a single character need to have every one of these! A little goes a long way to making a character--especially a side character--stand out in a reader's mind.

On the flipside, there are some given things in life that people can't share without conflict. Like boyfriends or the last bite of cookie. Give multiple characters the same unshareable desire and watch their true colors come out.

Another option is to trace different means to the same end. In other words, explore how characters have different ways of reaching the same goal. Their motivation might be the same, but what are they going to do about it?

Or once again you could do the reverse of this. Characters who begin the same can take divergent paths. Maybe these are siblings with a similar past who lead vastly different lives. Showing different results from the same event (because it affected characters differently) can be very powerful.

In my mind, making similar characters unique comes down to reactions and interactions. This is where your plot and characters meld to make a story.
Any character tips to share?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Why You Should Read the Genre You Write

I've heard some debate lately on whether it's safe to read books that your story could be compared to. I think you absolutely should read those books!! I even wrote a post about how I write what I read.  Here's why.

When you read inside the genre of your WIP, two good things can come from this: 
  1. you get familiar with the genre so you can be similar enough to fit the genre and 
  2. you get familiar with the tropes that are perhaps more overused than necessary so that you can be unique. 
In my genre of contemporary Christian fiction, my book Martin Hospitality was similar in that it had a redemption arc and was very slice-of-life. However, I think it had perhaps less of a key romance thread than many, the uncommon theme of hospitality, and some unusual characters. And a different cover. I also hope it wasn't quite so flat or preachy as many CF books!

I wrote the genre that I'd largely become disenchanted with the way I wanted it to be. But I didn't sacrifice all the elements or I wouldn't have met expectations.

I think a great genre to look at for an example is dystopian. All dystopian stories have so much in common!
  • Post-war (probably nuclear) America
  • Faulty new structure of government has arisen (usually with different facets)
  • Young adult female protagonist who challenges the government
  • She becomes a leader (against her will) for the brewing rebellion
  • A love interest and valued family member raise the stakes
Yet for all those similarities, we get different things like The Hunger Games, The Divergent Trilogy and the Out of Time Series. Two I loved, one I didn't. 

So yes. Read similar books to your own to help you make decisions! People will expect certain things from you based in your genre. But being imaginative with how you do those expected things is a big part of how you stand out.

When you read similar books can also matter. Preferably don't read them while you're writing the first draft. This will probably be overwhelming. Chances are you've read some of the genre prior to now to prepare you. And maybe you should read a few bestsellers after the first draft to gives you some more perspective going into revisions.

Now actually finding a book that's similar to yours may be an easy mission or not. I've always struggled with this, but it may be straightforward for you!
Do you shy away or enjoy reading books similar to yours? What book would you consider similar to your WIP?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Truth About Internet Friends

In today's world, having internet friends is a very normal thing, at least for the younger generation. For others, that's very hard to fathom or even scary. Since I got to meet another one of my internet friends in person this week (and loved it!), I thought I'd break down the truth about internet friends.

Yes, I met an internet friend this week at a coffee shop in the city on a rainy day. I survived both the trip and the get-together, and it was awesome!!

If you think that sounds adventurous, the first time I ever met an internet friend, I flew across the country to stay with her family, roadtrip with her and another online friend, and attend a conference ... all over my 19th birthday. (Oh, and we hooked up with like ... five other writers that most of us had not met in person?)

Not only did I live to tell the tale both times, but we also had a really nice time. Beyond that, never was it awkward for me. (Yes, this was surprising because I am a somewhat awkward person when it comes to human interaction.)

So to give a brief overview, here are some of my thoughts:

  • You can have real friends on the internet. Listen, this makes sense. If friendship is based on things like common interests, upbringing, and personality ... shouldn't it almost be easier to find such people online than in real life?
  • You won't know until you try. AKA you might like them online and not in person, but there's only one way to find out. If you do get on in real life, this is how you cement your friendship.
  • Yes, it's still the internet. While it's got it's perks, of course you should be smart about internet friendships. Not everyone actually wants to be your friend. But once you find someone you really enjoy keeping up with online, you'll see what a light such a person can be in the darkness of a very bizarre internet.
  • This is just the newest thing. Yes, internet friends are a newer thing, but they're so cool!!! And, really, how is this different than writing to a stranger like people used to do? At least I have the internet now to do research on them if I'm worried.

I'm very grateful for all of you, whether we ever meet in person or not. :)


If you've private messaged or *gasp* emailed someone via the internet ... then you have an internet friend! Have you ever met any internet friends in person?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

What Keeps Me Writing

If you or any of your friends are writers, you've probably seen all the posts how writing keeps us up too late, makes us hermits, and encourages us to talk to imaginary friends characters. So why do we do it?

Not all of these reasons may apply to every writer, but hopefully they'll provide you some insight.

Mission Field

Some people are very much gifted writers who are called to writing as a vocation or a ministry. This doesn't mean writing is easy for them, that it has to be preachy, or that they even make a living off of it. But it does mean that they're going to stick with it. Because when God gives you such a talent, how can you not put it to work? 

Better Out Than In

Many writers can testify that when an idea for a story comes, it often does not want to leave. At least not until it's been shaped into a story on paper and become an integral part of the writer's life ... that it might chill out. If it's going to take up that much mental space, isn't it worth a little time and effort?

Warning: it's been observed that ridding ourselves of one story often means a new story pops into our head. There may be no curing this disease.

Pros Outweigh the Cons

Yes, writing is hard. But it's also fun! Yes, it takes time and energy, but so do all the best things in life. Think about why you might feel the urge to write in the first place. It might not be for publication. But the further down the writing road you travel, the more likely you are to get swept up into all writing has to offer.

It's a Necessity

For some, writing may mean journaling or blogging instead of writing books. (Or maybe they are a creative writer but write poems or short stories instead of novels.) Oftentimes non-creative writing is more a means of processing or connection. It's a unique activity that can be very helpful for things like memorization and healing. So some may never look like a writer because they're unpublished, and yet be the most dedicated of all.

Explaining why anyone keeps at anything is a tall order. For me personally, it's a blend of all four of those things. Writing is my mission field, something I enjoy doing well, helps me process feelings I tend to internalize, and is so rewarding to see completed. It's not a requirement you always write to be a writer. But because of those reasons I listed ... I think I'll be a forever writer.


Do you see yourself as a forever writer? Why or why not?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What Makes a Book My Favorite

If you know anything about me by now, it should be that I love to talk about books. I don't always take the time to talk about some of my favorites, but today's the day (so buckle up!).

I'm especially curious why my favorite books are my favorite. What makes a book my favorite? I think the answer(s) differ. Not only from book to book for me, but also from person to person--I want to hear your take on this as well!

Here are a few of my favorites with an explanation of why they achieved that status.

An Old-Fashioned Girl

I've long considered this book by the amazing Louisa May Alcott one of my all-time favorites. Other than the fact that I appear to be partial to the historical fiction genre in books (and period pieces in movies) and this checks both those boxes ... I think the big thing on this one is relatability through time. Polly Milton grows up in this book. As a child, I related to her as a child. As an adult, I could relate to her as an adult. I'm so glad I took the time to reread this one because I could quite literally grow up with her. That was beautiful. Her choosing the right thing even when it's hard has always touched me so much!

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Historical fiction again, ha! I started off by loving this one simply because it was a really, really good book. I didn't expect it to be (and had been putting it off) because it was assigned for school. Sorry, Mom. I don't think I'd ever read such suspense, romance, and espionage. I could not get enough of it, and it's still near and dear to my heart. I figured out the Scarlet Pimpernel's identity when I put to my mind to it. And this is coming from the kid who never solved a single Encyclopedia Brown ... But it didn't take away from the story because he still duped me! It was probably my first exposure to split POV done so, so right.

Sense and Sensibility

I actually just read this one!! And the reason I loved it is quite simple. Elinor. is. me. I've never read a book where I was so 100% a character. So that made the story instantly more interesting. But I also loved how not straightforward it was. Had I not already known who everyone ended up with, I'm not sure I would have guessed? 'Twas very sweet and wonderful.


*ahem* I was surprised at myself for liking this one so much. But is it a surprise?? It's still historical. And it's still all swoony romance (though much less dramatic) with plenty of action afoot. The reason I will continue to go back to this one is the originality, lack of black and whiteness, and spiritual themes. This made some people hate the book. I thought it was brilliant, and I can't conceive how a person could create such a thing. But it's wonderful and requires a reread immediately.

There are other five-star books I've read of course. I rate an obscene amount of books five stars. But these four in particular stand out among my other excellent reads for personal reasons. Beyond that, I think their stories and purposes are somewhat timeless. I mean ... they are mostly classics after all.


Are you willing to share any of your favorite books and why? I'm always on the lookout for another excellent book and curious as to why people love their favorites so much!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

5 Writing Lessons from Charlie Brown

This post was so spontaneous and fun to write. I may have to turn "writing lessons from *insert movie*" into a blogging series this month!

I'm not a die-hard, well-versed Charlie Brown fan. But I don't think you have to be to see that Charles Schultz really knew what he was doing. Or if he didn't ... there's still a reason that his comic strip ran for fifty years. Here are a few things that stood out to me as I paused my walk through the living room to watch a scene of The Peanuts Movie this week.

Character Catchphrases

We all know that Charlie Brown says "good grief." It's part of what makes him iconic. Do you even remember Marcie? She's the girl who calls Peppermint Patty "sir." That probably rings a bell.

As an editor, I often find a pet phrase or styling habit that authors tend to overuse. However ... if a one character is consistently saying something ... it stands out as unique to them. I think little traits like this make a character more memorable.

Pick a Token Object

Not every character should have a catchphrase. That could get annoying very fast. But maybe Linus always has a blue blanket with him. Or Pig-Pen is always in a cloud of dirt. Whether it's something that the character chooses to always have with him (a blanket) or something that stands out to others (the dirt cloud), characters come to life in the details! 

POV Goes a Long Way

Most people can quote any given adult from Charlie Brown. Why? Because they don't speak! At least, not intelligibly. Their waw-wahs are a nice dash of humor. The real power in this decision, though, is that this is an excellent use of point of view! The main characters are a bunch of kids. To them, what do adults sound like? Utter nonsense. So it's more than just funny--it's making a fair point that people can relate to. While the ins and outs of POV can be a pain, it's one of the most vital and engaging parts of a story.

Have Different Personalities

Lucy is bossy, demanding, prone to shouting, and a bit of a know-it-all crab. Charlie Brown tends to get down about life ("good grief"). Schroeder just wants to be left with his piano, and Sally is the epitome of everyone's overly-enthusiastic little sister.

Having such a variety of personalities makes for a much more entertaining ride. Some of you may be really good at this and write character-driven novels. For those of you who are more plot-driven, making sure your characters aren't cookie-cutter is a good way to add some color. I mean, really. Scenarios with Lucy and Charlie Brown must have practically written themselves.

Nicknames Are Helpful

When we see the dude with the hair squiggle, golden shirt, and black-and-white dog, we say Charlie Brown. Yet even a simple name like Charlie easily gets construed. Peppermint Patty (which is actually itself a nickname for Patricia) calls him Chuck. Marcie calls him Charles. And most everyone else uses his first and last name when that's not true of most the other characters.

Chances are, your main character's been nicknamed at least once by some other character. Nicknames people choose often say more about them than who they're nicknaming. Marcie's use of "sir" and "Charles" show her formality without ever having to tell: " the way, Marcie's really formal." Having one character nickname another is a great way to show personality.


Were any of these a new thought for you? For those of you familiar with the Peanuts cast, anything you would add to this list?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

How I Use My Social Media

This post was made possible Eliza and viewers like you. (If you didn't read that in a PBS voice, try  again.) Truly, though, Eliza sent me this blog post request if you will, and I'm very grateful because I needed a topic to write on this week!

Eliza asked what my mission was for each of my social media accounts and how I balanced life and book content. Those are both really great questions, so I'm going to go through the main social media mediums.

Keep in mind, though, that even though there are differences between each of these sites ... You could make any of them fit your purposes. The main factor is where your audience is and if you're engaging them.

However, I do tend to treat each of the social media differently with my kind of content, so I'm going to tell you what I use, why I got it, and what I post.


I've had Facebook the longest, but the reason I got it was to make my author Facebook page. There, I share my blog posts, some occasional writing updates, sales of mine and friends, and some witty writing-related things. The writing memes and such I'm getting better at sharing. But despite all the algorithms being against us and whatnot, I still get a decent amount of blog views from Facebook, so I'm going to keep at it for now.

As far as posting on my actual profile ... I really don't do that a whole lot. I'm trying to get better at sharing bits of life there! But it's one of the places that I've friended the most writers and get a good picture of what someone's life is like. (Provide they post, unlike me. :P)

I do enjoy being a part of Facebook groups and have several of my own groups as well. Facebook parties are also completely one-of-a-kind and can be successful as well. So those two things alone make Facebook pretty invaluable. Plus, it still tends to be the most universal social media.


I had several friends tell me I should get an Instagram, and I resisted for a while. Because 1) I don't consider myself a good photographer, and 2) I hardly used my personal Facebook as it was. Well ... I love Instagram. xD

I have my author profile that has turned into mostly a bookstagram and a place for me to keep up with a bunch of other writers and friends. It's also the only place I've messed with the "stories" feature at all. (I love them!!!) For whatever reason, I don't like them on Facebook, and I rarely cross-post from Instagram to Facebook.

I also use way more hashtags on Instagram than I would anywhere else. I used to think they were obnoxious, but on Instagram at least, they really do work well to categorize things. Provided you're using established ones and not hashtagging randomly just for the fun of it. (It's a skill ... that I'm still developing.)

Just this year, I started a second Instagram account for more personal things. I want my author profile to stay pretty, so I don't post everything that comes to mind on there. My personal profile is more for my health journey and my day-to-day life.

Obviously, many people don't categorize their social media quite that much, but I've found that it works best for me. I'm posting more on Instagram in general ... but perhaps less on each individual profile than I otherwise would have. Even for that, there seems to be more community on Instagram that doesn't rely on you knowing the person first.


I am super inconsistent on my Twitter usage. I will cross-post here from both Instagram and Goodreads sometimes. I try to share some of my blog posts, witty writing things that come to mind, writing updates, retweet meaningful/funny things ... I still keep it mostly writers-life themed, and I don't share pictures hardly at all.

I have a similar following on Twitter than Instagram, but less interraction overall. If I were more frequent and a little more witty about what I did ... I think I would do well. Some people have made very good niches there. But it's about how relatable and shareable things are to do well. People have to relate.


I love Pinterest, but I don't use it nearly as much as I used to. I have it primarily to make WIP aesthetics. I also use it for personality typing graphics and other random interests of mine. 

However, I do have multiple boards that have writing-related articles and information on them so that other people can be benefitted by my profile as well. Apparently, by pinning for the sake of other people and pinning blog posts and whatnot, some people generate a lot of traffic from Pinterest. I've never been quite dedicated enough for that, but have seen tiny results off the tiny things I've done.


While I do have a YouTube, I don't use it a whole lot. I used to do a lot of video interviews, some bookish reveals or hauls, and one or two topical videos. However, I find that it's much faster for me to stage a photo than to stage a video. My house has horrible lighting and a video requires my face. Yeah, no thanks. xD Some people really love the vlogging and do well with it. So maybe this is a medium you would like. I always think I'll use it more, but it's something I never get around to.


I felt like that was a lot ... but it should be pretty obvious that I use Facebook and Instagram the most! There are others like Goodreads and Snapchat that can be used beneficially as well. Even though I have accounts with those, I use them more for my own amusement than for the benefit of my endeavors.

It really comes down to what you're comfortable with and what you're looking for. There's probably a social media out there for you. ;) It is smart to have a reason for getting another account, though, instead of having one of everything just because.

As far as the life and bookish balance ... I try to stay personable in everything I post, but also keep a professional/consistent look to things like my Instagram. I think everyone has to find their own balance for how much they post about their books, books their reading, their daily life ... how vulnerable they are. All of that is dictated by my own inclinations and comfort level to a large degree. But getting outside of your comfort zone a little is often a good thing as well.

I'd also encourage consistency! Not just with posting, but also with things like your handles. I'm @abitheauthor basically everywhere. It keeps my life simple. Or at least as simple as having a dozen social media accounts can be!
Let me know where I can follow you! What social media is your favorite and why?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

How to Make an Author's Day

Hey, everyone! Now that I've used my one unexcused absence for the year over a particularly hectic weekend ... I thought I'd come back with something a little more lighthearted! Let's take a look at how to make an author's day.

Making an author's day is a lot simpler than you might think! This isn't an exhaustive list, I'm sure. But each one of these tasks is guaranteed to make an author's day!

  • read the book *gasp*
  • review it (especially on Amazon)
  • ask your library to stock it
  • take pictures of the prettiness
  • share said pictures (tag the author and use hashtags!)
  • lend your copy to friends
  • better yet, buy them their own copy
  • recommend the book (in person or on Goodreads)
  • participate in release prep
  • talk about the book on social media
  • share its pretty cover
  • blog post about the book
  • interview the author
  • share when it's on sale
  • join in book-related events
  • message the author to say you loved it
  • share your favorite quotes or scenes (no spoilers!)
  • be ready to recommend the book at all times
  • make the book your new go-to birthday gift
  • hoard multiple copies just because

I die a little bit (of happiness, of course) anytime someone tells me they've done one of these. Just ugh. So amazing. And then there's the unexpected like a reader having a dream about your characters or having their perspective changed by reading the book. Guys. This is why we do what we do. Not for our glory, but for Jesus's. We have the power to make a difference!
I've gotten better about reviewing, so next I want to start asking our library to get books I love! What would you add to this list?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

How Cynicism Helped Me

While I'm not always super proud that I'm a cynic, I realized the other day that it does make me a better writer and editor. Who knew I could find a positive, right? All you cynics out there, take heart. Those of you who are blessed with a sunnier outlook, prepare to glean from the dark side. ;)

I'll be the first to admit that approaching people or the world at large with a cynical mind isn't always a good thing. However, approaching books with a cynical mind is surprisingly helpful.

When it comes right down to it, I think this is simply because being a cynic means I'm hard to please. That's it. I have extraordinarily high standards.

In the life of my own writing, this means that I will do whatever it takes. While writing the sequel to Martin Hospitality, that has meant experiencing burnout, restarting, rewriting ... and taking years longer than I wanted to.

Those are all things I'm willing to do in order to get a good book on the other end. Quality really matters to me. In case you couldn't tell by my previous two blog posts ... xD This makes me very hard on myself and my writing. While it's not always a super fun process, I come out the other side better for it ... eventually. Or at least, my book does.

At the same time, enjoying my own work is the best. If I can reach a point where I am pleased, then chances are I'm going to please the majority of my target audience as well. Because I'm way more particular than most people. Some of that comes with being the creator, and some of that comes with my personality.

Of course there are downsides like self-doubt. This is why Hailey Rose is the best critique partner, you guys. I would die without her reassurance. A need for the manuscript to be sheer perfection can also make me lose my mind, so that's fun. Yet overall, I think it works out. 

Those high standards don't go away when I edit. I will search how many different ways you spelled the same word and if that was really the color of eyes the preacher had fifteen chapters ago. In other words, I put your book through the same fine-toothed-comb approach!
Lots of people simply don't have the same obsession with getting every detail identically aligned. While that may be perfectionism speaking, my cynicism won't let things slide, even if it's not my manuscript. If I see a problem and I'm being paid to point out problems ... I have to say something.

Along the same lines, I play devil's advocate really well. Reading with that challenging voice in my head helps me catch things, especially in other people's writing, that could come off the wrong way. Unfortunately, it's harder to do this in my own manuscripts.

Editing is really good for me, though, because when I work with other people, it's my job to find the positives as well.

While being cynical can be a fault, it's good for me to step back and view cynicism itself in a positive light, as contrary as that sounds. Cynicism has equipped me to do my calling well. God obviously knew what He was doing. ;)
Do you consider yourself an optimist, realist, or pessimist? Have you ever considered how your personality plays into what you do?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Why I Market My Books

Something I've noticed (especially in the self-published community) is that sometimes people self-publish a book ... and that's it. They talk about their writing, it hits the shelves. Done deal. I would argue that should not be the case for several reasons we're going to talk about.

In last week's post, I wrote about Why Self-Publishing Shouldn't Equal DIY. I asked why after so much work writing would we sell ourselves short with a half-decent book. Today I'm asking why after so much work publishing would we sell ourselves short by letting our nice book die on the shelf.

Publication is just the beginning in so many ways. I don't say that to discourage you. Publication (indie or not) is a huge feat.

However, just like I talked about last week, I think we owe ourselves some more hard work. If you're someone who publishes for just your family or friends, then my approach won't apply to you as much. But if you're someone who publishes because you enjoy utilizing your God-given talent of writing then, again, don't leave your book to die on the shelf! It's downright disrespectful of your own hard work thus far.

It's for this same reason that I can't fathom being a writer who never publishes. It's not all about making money and believing every human, puppy, and goldfish should read what you write. But if it's a talent, we should be sharing it and using it for the glory of God.

When I say we shouldn't leave our books to die, I don't mean we have to be pushy salespeople (heaven forbid) or marketing pros. I know I'm certainly not well-versed in marketing tactics and strategies.

All I mean is, we should put some energy into spreading the word. It's that simple. Just like I said last week, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy. It will take time.

I think it's worth it to sit next to a stranger and have them ask if you're the local writer. It's worth it to have an older woman at your church ask you for a signed book every time a new family member is in town. It's worth it to make new friends who have similar experiences. And it is definitely worth it to have people say your book has made a difference in their life.

All of those above examples have happened to me recently. Let me remind you that it's been two years since I published the book in those examples. Those events are only possible because I do some basic marketing. Things like run giveaways and sales, share blog posts, and use social media.

Every little bit counts. There's nothing wrong with being content with where you're at, but I'd encourage you to make sure there's no fear holding you back, either.

Share things about your books on social media at least every once in a while. That way, when you announce a sale, you have several dozen people hurry to get it! Do blog tours for new releases and birthdays. Exposure is the key

If our ultimate goal is to bring glory to God, we want a quality product. That's what last week's post was all about. Once we make it that far, reaching as many people as possible is part of doing our best for Him. So make those connections, write those posts, and have those book signings. Tell people what you're up to in the writing world when they ask what's new.

As someone who'd like to be traditionally published one day, I've heard from the Harper-Collins acquisitions editor herself that people are impressed when they see how much hard work self-published authors put into selling copies. They know it's hard work, but the time is well spent because it also shows that they care about their book.

 Why be a storyteller if you have no one to tell a story to?
Marketing is largely outside of my comfort zone, you guys, but I view it as a necessary part of publishing! What ways do you like to market? Have you ever given thought to why you market?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Why Self-Publishing Shouldn't Equal DIY

As someone who has self-published, I've seen a vast variety of self-published products on the market. Some are brilliant and could easily pass for traditional in both popularity and quality. (Hello, some are being made into movies now?!) Others sit in a dusty corner of Amazon and looking at them makes me think rightly so. That second category is part of why I would argue that self-publishing should not equal a DIY project.

The very things that drew me to self-publishing were the control, speed, and low cost. What better way to have even more control, efficiency, and savings than by doing everything myself? No. No no no. That thought never even entered my head!

I didn't set out to self-publish because I was a cover designer, editor, and interior formatter (all of which I paid for by the way). I set out to self-publish because I was a writer. Not just that, but a writer hoping to make her name for herself as an author.

In order to make a name for yourself, you have to make a good impression. As materialistic as that may sound, it's a reality. And to one degree, it makes sense because quality talks. I mean, Mary Poppins can sing "a cover is not the book" all she wants, but I'm here to tell ya that people are hardwired to think otherwise. Myself included.

I find it unfortunate that self-publishing often turns people into a jack-of-all-trades, because that often sacrifices quality. If you have true talent as a cover designer, then I think the argument can be made that you're worthy to do your own cover. Other than that, stick to writing and writing only.

I think everyone who publishes can say professionalism is the goal. (If it's not then you can disregard everything else I say here today.) This quite simply means that you should be paying the professionals. I don't mean spending $5,000 on a single book. There are talented people out there with reasonable prices if you look hard enough!

I die a little bit on the inside every time I see a new book with a pencil drawing cover. Or maybe it has a beautiful watercolor cover and the grammar rules have hit the fan. Maybe it's simply ugly to look at on the page. Whatever the issue is, it will have an impression on all your readers! I die a little bit not because it's so bad, but because it could have been so much better. Instead, it's wasted potential.

Even though I know it can be hard to consider having to pay for so much when the return may not be great, think about it like this. How much we value our book should show. I would argue that means we should shell out some money to make it look professional. You've worked hard on the words inside, so don't sell yourself short of the whole package.

As overwhelming as that may be to some of you new writers, have no fear! There's such a community to be found of people willing to give you a helping hand. Farming out jobs doesn't even always mean you're paying. I used my uncle who had tech/photo skills to do the font design on my cover. In future, I'll probably have photography friends help me put together a book trailer. By all means, use what resources you have. But please don't use resources you don't have.

After all, this self-publishing thing is a great opportunity, don't you think? As such, we should bring  a good name to it. Let's be honest, the bad rap exists because bad self-published books exist. But let's not do the snobs any favors by contributing the pile of "meh" self-published books.

Don't we want to give our hard the work the best leg up possible? Of course! To me, that means doing a stellar job on all fronts, even if it costs a little more time and money.

If that's not enough for you, I think we can all agree that writing is a gift from God. Don't we want to do our best to bring Him glory? Yes of course! It's simply the nature of the world that people will be more inclined to listen to your message if it comes in a pretty package. And it's simply the nature of God to expect nothing but our very, very best.

Now simple doesn't mean easy, so it's fine if this sounds like a lot to you. But, trust me as someone who's come out on the other side twice now, no one has ever regretted making their work the best it could be.
I hope that didn't come off condescending and instead gave you a perspective for why self-publishing can be so good! What are your thoughts on why quality matters? Does this seem obvious or was something new to you here?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Creating Content that Sparks!

So excited to have a guest post from my friend Livy Lynn today! She's a sweet young woman doing amazing things (and I just might get to meet her this year?!). Check out these wise words, a giveaway, and her launch of a new blogging course! Without further ado ...

Words are powerful little tools. With them, wars are waged, minds are changed, and cultures are formed. Every word has the potential to flicker like a flame and set the world ablaze.

As a blogger and novelist, my life pretty much revolves around words. Each time I sit down to write a post, I ask myself, “How can I create content that sparks? How can I write a piece that will touch hearts, change lives, inspire my readers to action, etc?”

Today, we’re going to be answering this question.

Creating blog posts that readers truly value is something every blogger strives for! We want our readers to be delighted, connect with us on a personal level, and keep coming back for more!

The first thing to discuss while exploring this topic is to realize that each post serves a different purpose. Sometimes we wish to encourage and inspire our readers them, other times we want them to laugh, or check out a book we can’t stop fangirling over!  

When we sit down to write, it’s important to know the purpose for our post, and what we desire the end result to be in our readers' minds and heart.

Let’s talk about three different kinds of digital content. Now, there are certainly more than three types of blog posts, but I’ve found that most every post can be categorized by these three umbrella categories.
  1. Connection Content
  2. Viral Content 
  3. Monetized Content 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and find out how you can create that sparks!

1. Connection Content

Connection content is a post focused on connecting with the heart of your readers. Being yourself, opening up, sharing a struggle, or something God is teaching you through your own life: those are all Hallmarks of connection content. Your readers want to know you: the real you.

Anytime you open up and are truly yourself, truly vulnerable, readers respond to that.  

On the internet, oftentimes all we see are highlight reels of all the exciting, Instagram-worthy happenings in the lives of others. It’s easy to place internet-personalities on a pedestal and forget that they struggle just as much as we do.

Many bloggers who build up faithful followings over the years, do so by being REAL with their readers.

On the flip side, we’ve all seen online personalities take this to the extreme. Talk about being real, and we all think of that one friend who never stops posting about their bad days, or the YouTuber who is endlessly venting about their woes. That is not what I’m encouraging us to do. If we’re going to be real about what we’re going through, we have to do so with an air of grace and a HUGE dose of hope at the end! Nobody wants to hear another sob story without a happy ending. Remind your readers why you’re sharing your current struggles and the beauty you believe will come out of it.

Connection posts, if done correctly, can truly SPARK and fling open a door to connect on a heart-to-heart level with your readers! One of my favorite way to do connection posts is by sharing what God’s been teaching me in my Quiet Time and through my current season in life.

2. Viral Content

We often think of viral content as something that’s gone viral, spun out of control in popularity and practically broke the internet! And while that’s true in some cases, the reality is, most of us are not going to write posts that do that.

The majority of bloggers don’t write posts that sky-rocket them to blogging fame. The most common path bloggers travel upon, is one that requires slow, faithful, consistency.

So when I refer to viral content, maybe a better phrase would be, “potential viral content”. In other words, posts that have the potential to be passed around, posted, shared, re-tweeted, etc.

Do you remember the last time someone shared your post on Facebook or Twitter? Do you remember what it was about, or why they shared it?

If you’ve never had anyone share your posts before: don’t be discouraged! The majority of your readers are silent admirers, they will never comment on your blog or share posts, but there are some people who will! So if you haven’t seen that happen yet, hang in there. :)

Not everyone is going to feel the urge to share a connection post on their social media, but they might want to share a post that discusses a trending topic, is perhaps a little controversial in a unique niche, or discusses a fun concept, but with a fresh, creative twist!

One example of potential viral content would be my post: If Disney Invaded Your Youth Group because my readers go to youth group, and love Disney, they totally enjoyed this comedic take on what might happen if these two worlds unexpectedly mesh together!

Another example of potentially viral content is an interview with a celebrity, artist, musician, author, or someone who has a larger platform than you. If your readers love for King and Country or the Willis Clan, they’re going to be really excited about your interview, and potentially want to share it!

Potential viral content can also include hot news topics, popular Google searches, or keyword focused pages, but those are just a few examples.

Are you beginning to see how having a mix of heartfelt, connection content, along with fun, pop-culture (or book culture, whatever you’re into), potentially viral content, makes a delicious mix for readers?

3. Monetized Content

Finally, we have monetized content. This is a post style many bloggers avoid, or simply don’t think about. For most writers, blogging begins as a hobby and the idea of earning income from our blogs either isn’t important to us, or it seems impossible. Or maybe you’ve seen longtime bloggers suddenly switch gears and try to turn their blog into a business, and they’ve done it totally ungracefully, and it’s left a really sour, commercialized taste in your mouth.

One of the reasons that happen, is because hobby-bloggers aren’t creating monetized content, then when they suddenly whip out links to their new affiliate program, everyone is totally blindsided by the shift.

If the idea of earning income from your blog makes you uneasy, because you don’t want to sell out or lose the trust of your readers: that’s a good thing! That means you actually CARE about your readers. And the simple fact that you have the heart to always place your readers first, tells me you can earn income from your blog, in a really beautiful, natural, organic way.

So how can you do that?

I would encourage you to consider adding a new style of posts to your line up: monetized content. Monetized content is simply a post which gives you the potential to earn income from it, through affiliate links, sponsored posts, or brand partnerships.

But here’s the really cool part: you can start doing this before you ever sign up for an affiliate program or begin exploring how to earn income from your blog. By sharing your honest opinions on products, books, music, movies, restaurants, etc. (whatever your unique niche is!) your readers will get used to seeing these kinds of posts. In fact, if you add review posts to your blog on a regular basis, your readers won’t just be used to seeing them: they’ll love seeing them! They’ll know you’re the place to come when they want opinions on a book, hair product, etc.

Monetized content can totally spark and delight your readers! If you do this before you start partnering with brands and affiliate programs, your readers won’t be surprised when they learn you’re earning income from these posts. It will also give brands a “portfolio” of how you do reviews, what your style is, and what they can expect when they work with you.

If the idea of monetizing your website excites you, I would encourage you to start adding reviews to your line-up!

Once you’ve got a fun, colorful, tasty mixture of connection content (your readers trust you!), viral content (new readers are finding you!), and monetized content (they value your opinion on products, brands, and services), then you’re ready to slowly begin earning income from all your hard work! How cool is that?

Brainstorm Your Next Blog Posts!

Are you ready to start brainstorming your next blog posts? It’s not nearly as daunting as you may think! Simply grab a notebook and a pen, and divide your paper into three columns, one for each category, Connection, Viral, and Monetized. OR, take the easy route and use this free printable that I made just for you guys! :)

Write down ten ideas for each category and remember to keep the purpose for each post in mind before you even pick up your pen.

Ready to rock and roll? Woohoo! You’re well on your way to creating 30 new, sparkling blog posts your readers are going to ADORE!
Are you a new or aspiring blogger? Or maybe you’ve been blogging for years and the idea of learning how to earn income on your website sounds really appealing. But where do you even begin? I’m SO excited to share my 20 Day video series for bloggers! It’s called Fire Starter: Launching a Blog that Blazes! This interactive course teaches bloggers (both old and new) how to create their dream blog or website, monetize their site, AND give them all the tools, encouragement, and support needed to be truly successful on their journey! The Fire Starter course is listed at $150.00 but I would love to share my special code with you to get $100 off! You can check that out HERE.

To celebrate the release of Fire Starter, I’m giving away a free Skype Session to talk about blogging goals, writing advice, and how to take your blog to the next level! (Or, if you’re too shy to video chat, we can totally do it over email.) My sweet friend Bella and I love coaching bloggers and authors through our Cheerleader Sessions! This is our first time giving away a free session and we’re SO excited!

Entering for a chance to win is super simple! Just hop on over to my blog and sign up for my free email updates (and I’ll throw in a free e-book, just to say thanks!) and you’re all set!

Keep writing, friends!

Lots of love,

~Livy Lynn

Livy Lynn is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she’s not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies!

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