https://www.facebook.com/groups/1921200231485411/ The Left-Handed Typist: 2019

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Martin Legacy Cover Reveal!

Why write an intro? I know you're all going to scroll past it to see the Martin Legacy cover. (But if you are reading this, check out the whole post for some neat info and opportunities!)



Cover


ARE

YOU

READY

?!?!


Isn't it gorgeous?! I am 101% in LOVE with it. Now, to be professional and give you the other info ...

Blurb


Gemma Ebworthy is a struggling single mother—but not for much longer. Engaged to a kind-hearted farmer boy, her turbulent life is looking more stable at last, but troubles are still on the horizon. It seems their efforts to build a legacy for their unique family are constantly under siege.


Farris cherishes the only life he’s ever known, even though he feels more called to the mission field than his adoptive father’s fields. Growing up among extended family and in the Christian faith, he’s always had a firm foundation.

Yet when the past Gemma is so ashamed of—the one Farris can’t even remember—comes calling again, the life they’ve built is put to the test. For it to remain standing, Gemma is going to have to silence her demons once and for all. But this time, she’s not alone.

Release Date


But when is it coming out, you ask?? 


Tuesday, November 12, 2019! (Thanks to Abbie Emmons for inspiring me to do a mid-week release for once.) At first I bemoaned picking a date that far away, but that's only six weeks away. *gasp*

Also, can we just admire that these two make quite the stunning duo. Just similar enough, but so unique.


Behind the Scenes


Okay, now for a peek at what went into this cover. You all know this book has been a little tricky for me to write and a long time coming. (Thank you for patience, by the way!)

As soon as my brilliant mother suggested the Martin Generations series be a duology instead of a trilogy, I knew exactly what I wanted on the cover. I tried several watercolor artists before landing on a newly acquired friend who does watercolor as a hobby. A huge shout out to Hannah Foster for tackling this daunting project and doing such a phenomenal job!

Like with Martin Hospitality, my uncle Michael Foley did the text, splicing, and sizing up (to meet Amazon's specs) for me. That's a huge part of what makes the cover match the first one so well in my opinion.

Of course, both those peeps have busy lives that don't revolve around finishing my cover. But they made time for it anyway, and I'm so grateful to be able to show off their talent! I couldn't be happier with the finished result.

Opportunities


Aaand this is where YOU come in! Here are some ways you can be awesome and join in on the fun:

1 ~ If you liked the cover, share it on social media! (Simply find me @abitheauthor, share, and tag me! The hashtag is #MartinLegacybook.)

2 ~ Sign up to be an early reviewer for an ARC! (You'll get a digital copy before everyone else.)

3 ~ If you're not up to committing to anything, simply add Martin Legacy on Goodreads as "want to read." 

~~~~~

All right, time for the opinions! Do you love the cover as much as I do?! (Actually, I'm not sure that's possible.) Can't wait for you all to have this story in your hands. It's beginning to feel real! :)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Seven Signs of a Good Editor

As a writer and freelance editor, I know (and have used) my share of fellow editors. Even for that, I've had seasons where it's been hard to find someone I know will do a good job. Actual competency aside, here are a few good signs that you're looking at a good editor.


You can't know all of these things upfront, but they're good things to watch for! Their absence should raise red flags.

Money


They have a money-back policy. This seems like a no-brainer, but on the off chance that you get halfway into an edit and decide they're really not for you, you're going to want to know what they're money-back policy is. What their policy actually says is less important than them having one, but I'd say a 50% refund on half-finished-then-canceled work is pretty standard.

They aren't going to charge you thousands of dollars. Even a 50% refund won't get you very far if they're charging you two thousand dollars, pounds, or what have you. I do know well-established, respected, loved freelance editors who charge this kind of money. (And that's fine--I should say don't pay this much if you've never heard of them.) But you can find cheaper without sacrificing quality.

Integrity


They come off as a generally positive and encouraging person. Obviously, it can be hard to know these things through email communication and whatnot. But sometimes it pays (or in this case, saves you money) to go with your gut. Just because you don't click with them doesn't mean they're a bad editor, but it does mean they're a bad editor for you.

They finish according to the timeline and preferences discussed. As someone presenting themselves as a professional, they should act like it and deliver on the promises they made. Now, life does happen, of course. Even professionals can't remember everything or keep relatives from dying. However, they should still try their best and inform you. 

Which brings us to ...


Communication


They're upfront about your preferences and their services. This is another no-brainer, but it's surprisingly easy to discuss things, hire someone, and then realize how much you should have talked about after the fact. Do they ask what your preferences are for things like the Oxford comma, or do they force their opinion on which way is correct? Do they list the type of edits they offer or have any testimonials on their website?

They reassure you that the story is ultimately yours. Okay, this one isn't a must, but it's a very good sign. It goes hand-in-hand with not forcing the "rights and wrongs" of grammar on you. Many things are personal preference, and they should be there to inform you of the rules and their preferences, but ulitmately let you make the calls! (Hint: you make the calls whether or not they're cool with that--they can't stop you. But they shouldn't try to stop you either.)

They communicate during the process. There isn't always a lot to say during a project. But if they have a two-week vacation in the middle of editing for you, they should let you know. If they have an issue with some of the content, they should let you know before a two-star review. If they get confused, they should shoot you an email or at least leave you a comment in the document. Communication is a key to keeping you--the writer--at the heart of the service.

~~~~~

Anything you'd add to this list? How do you find reliable editors?

It's been a while! And I've mostly been working on Martin Legacy edits with my editor and editing for my own clients. Thus, this post. :P What's new?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Future of This Blog

My very first posts on this blog almost three and a half years ago were about blogging. That's funny to me because I don't think I've blogged much about blogging since! But today I'm here to discuss this blog in particular because changes are ahead!


As some of you may know, my family is moving soon. We do know where, but we don't know when. Year's end, perhaps?

Between the move, my editing business, all my other jobs, and publishing Martin Legacy this fall ... I've had a hard time blogging lately. All the changes are taking up a lot of mental space. I think I've posted late for this entire month. Oops ...

So as strongly as I feel about the importance of consistency and as much as I love blogging ... now is not a good time for me.

I don't intend to kiss blogging goodbye for forever, but I'm not sure what will happen next. I'm going to aim to continue posting once a month on a Saturday instead of every Saturday.

I have lots of projects and fun things in mind that I'd love to see come to fruition some day. Getting back to vlogging, making a self-editing course/series, publishing little e-books on writing ... But now is not a good time for those, either.

So even though I'll be scaling this back a little, I'll still be around! To make sure you never miss a post, subscribe in my sidebar (underneath the followers). You can find me on social media @abitheauthor.

Blogging was my first connection to the writing world, and you all mean so much to me.  Thanks for your continued support as I step back for a season. I'll have an August post up before you know it!

~~~~~

What's something you've had to set aside for a time? Can I count on you to stick around?? :D

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why I Won't Use Language in My Writing

I think language in books is a common enough occurrence. What I don't think is common enough is a discussion, especially among Christian authors, about where to draw the line. Ultimately, I think it comes down to personal conviction. (Which means you don't have to agree with anything I say in this post!)


With every story I've worked on, I knew going into it that I wasn't going to put any language in it. However, I had no idea whether or not I'd put language in a future book. Here's a quick look at the route I'm taking.

Prayer

For me, whether or not you use language is not the actual deal-breaker. Light language is not enough to keep me from reading a book, and I've read a few with more than I'd brave again. What does become the deal-breaker for me is whether or not you, as a Christian author, prayerfully considered if God was okay with you including language before doing so.

Everyone has differing opinions on this matter, which I completely respect. But ultimately, it should only be God's opinion that directs how you choose to go about this matter. 

For or Against

I hear good arguments for and against using language.

For:
  • it makes certain characters more realistic
  • it helps a book fit the secular market more
  • why wouldn't you??
  • it's only fiction
  • authors don't agree with everything their characters do anyway
  • language can taper off if the character him/herself becomes convicted
  • a little can go a long way
Against:
  • Christians shouldn't use language even in fiction
  • even reading language can desensitize you to it
  • God told us we'll give an account for our idle words
  • you can be realistic and not use language
  • if you can't be realistic without language, maybe you shouldn't write this
  • passive swearing works well enough (he swore)
  • language doesn't fit my target audience
  • my mom would kill me when she reads it
Again, I kind of fall between camps. Even though I've decided not to use it doesn't mean I won't read it. I do think it depends on the author and the story and their convictions.

However, I know that language tends to take away from a story for me when I read it. Because I've hardly ever read a book that used only one or two words in dire circumstances. If there's any, there are usually uses that I find 100% unnecessary.

Again, it's a matter of personal conviction for me. Besides, my current audience would be more likely to dislike language than complain that it's not there (is that even a thing?). So I think I can continue to build on my current platform without crossing that line in my own writing.

Disclaimer

I do want to give a bit of a language disclaimer, though. Because even though I say I don't use language in my books and won't in the future ... people have different standards on what constitutes language. There are some words I could feel pretty guilt-free about using, but that's not the conclusion I came to when I prayed.

So while I can see myself using words like "bloody" and "crap" in the future, that'd be about it for me! Who knows, maybe I'll write fantasy one day and invent a curse word. Until then, I'll stick to passive swearing. "He swore" might not be the most thrilling sentence, but it's one I can live with.

~~~~~

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!! Would/have you ever use language in your writing? Why or why not?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Write the Random Stories

I think we all know by now that I don't have much of niche as a writer. At least not yet. Things I've experimented with (and even published) are all over the map. So today I want to encourage you to write the random stories.


I enjoy writing the random stories. And by random, I don't mean the storyline itself is random. I mean that the genre or idea or reason for you writing the story is random: outside of your norm.

For the next while, I think everything I publish will be in the contemporary genre. Which means that in all my published works, there will be one exception to that genre: Andora's Folly. 


My lil' medieval Pandora's Box retelling story. (Confused yet?) I wanted to write a novella so that I could finish the first draft during my first Camp NaNo three years ago. I decided to do a retelling because it sounded fun and might simply plotting. I chose to retell a Greek myth because I happen to adore them and fairytales are overused.

I didn't know if the story would come together or not. But I liked the idea and was only dedicating a month to it, so why not? It was random. And it was a fun little experiment among friends.

A year later, I published it.

You never know where the random stories will take you. I like flash fiction and Camp NaNoWriMo and the like because they encourage experimentation in my writing without huge, long-term investments.

I'd say that writing the random stories has been a huge part of finding my niche (even though that itself is still a WIP). Fiddling. Having fun. And being willing to close the doc or notebook and move on if it didn't work out. Because who knows? Maybe it will work out.

~~~~~

How do you like to experiment with your writing?

Andora's Folly is on sale for the rest of today (Saturday the 13th)!!! Grab a copy HERE.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

What Free Speech is Not

Since Independence Day was this week, it seems like an appropriate time to tackle a few thoughts I have on the very American topic of free speech .. and what it is not.


It's interesting to me that people have such different views on what free speech is. I think it often gets abused due to people not actually reading the First Amendment, so here you are:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free speech does not mean there are no consequences to what you say.  There are times when certain topics of conversation or manners of speech are a straight-up bad idea. If you get irate or verbally abusive, it doesn't matter what you're saying ... Wrong is still wrong and should be punished.

Along these same lines, free speech does not mean rules are unconstitutional. As an employee, I've been told not to say certain things (like company passwords). That's a rule to protect the company, but it doesn't infringe upon my right to free speech as long as there is no Congressional law prohibiting me.

Free speech does not mean self-control should disappear. People use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card so that they can say whatever they want. While technically you can say whatever you want ... that's not unique to America. Exercising common sense and self-control as well as free speech is a good idea.

I think something else everyone forgets is that free speech does not mean words cannot be harmful. We act like because we have it in writing that the federal government cannot cover our mouths, we're going to be belligerent loudmouths. Words themselves have natural consequences. There are SO many Bible verses about this that I don't even know where to start ...

Free speech does not apply to only those you agree with. Talk about something that drives me crazy ... You'd think it'd be common sense that if I get to talk, so do you. Part of free speech is leaving room for differing opinions. We don't have to agree. But we do have to let them speak if they choose.

In the end, God gave us the freedom to do anything when He created us. Free choice includes free speech. But I'd like to encourage you to keep in mind that it's easy to misuse privileges like this just like Adam and Eve did in Eden.

So while freedom of speech and the press allow me to write articles such as this one and publish books ... I have to be careful not to abuse that right. Because freedoms are abused just as often as they are taken for granted.

~~~~~

You do realize the irony in me asking for your thoughts on free speech, right?? I'd love to hear all politely expressed opinions on this topic!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Importance of Health as a Writer

While I've been blessed enough to have never been diagnosed with any serious health conditions, I still care about my health. And interestingly enough, I think it's being a writer that has made me more dedicated to and conscious about how I'm doing!


In November 2017 I  had a doctor tell me my left wrist was overused--burned out--and prescribed me dictation software since typing made it flare up. No surgery was necessary which I was thankful for!! But rest was not the solution I wanted.

I wore a brace for a while, tried new stretches, and generally just ... didn't use my wrist. It wasn't until I tried a natural, plant-based nerve supplement about six months later that I saw true improvement. Even though I'm still pretty sure nerves weren't my actual problem, it gave me enough relief to heal up!

I would argue that everyone can benefit from quality natural health products because no one has perfect health! And I really had no big health issues. But I had plenty of small, irritating problems.

Once I quit overdoing and making do and instead starting putting effort into healing my wrist ... what I was calling writer's block also cleared up. Apparently a physical block can also be a creative block!

In contrast, there were also the times when I had so much in my head and simply couldn't get all on paper without hurting.

I know I'm far from being the only writer who can't write. My inability to write whenever I wanted for however long (and in whatever position) taught me some vital lessons. But I don't want any other writer to have to learn about burnout, overuse, and timing the hard way.

Whether you're a writer or not, your health matters! And how well you prioritize your health will show down the road if not right now. 

As predominantly writers here, though, I think it's all the more important to pay attention to our bodies. We've been given a gift to use to God's glory. If we destroy our body in the process, was it worth it?? Learning boundaries through trial and error is all this really comes down to, as tricky as that can be.

And I know that I can't actually keep you all from learning these things in your own way. Your path will look different than mine. You will fall down. The question is, will you get up, try again, and do better?

Yet for those of you who are already consumed with a chronic illness, recurring burnout, a painful wrist, or just plain aren't making progress in your work ... don't lose hope! Even when there's not a clear-cut answer, you can have hope. Because these apparent roadblocks are steps in your journey.

The extra attention, time, and money I've dedicated to my health this year has freed me as a writer. It's one less thing for me--an already "healthy" person--to worry about. Poor health is now one less thing that can stop me from pursuing my dreams.

~~~~~

So ... how was that for a much more personal post than usual? ;P If you're willing to share, I'd love to hear some about what your different struggles have been as a writer, health-related or not. What measures do you take for your health?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Bookish Summer Bucket List

We're one day into summer, and I love making a bucket list, goals, or reading lists to get me through my least favorite season! The problem is, I forget about goals and am too much of a mood reader to get through TBR lists. So I'm trying a bit of a combo and making a bookish bucket list.


Most of these things are things I've been wanting to do for a while. Might as well write them down and see if I can get them done between now and Sept 23 (the first day of fall).

  • Make a book trailer // working on that this week!
  • Reread a book // sooo many choices
  • Request a book from the library // I just figured out how to do this, and I'm thrilled!
  • Work on ML edits out of the house // because edits need to happen anyway
  • Do a book photo shoot // summer + MH = ❤
  • Write by dictation // out of curiosity
  • Plot in a coffee shop // in lieu of Camp NaNo
  • Meet up with a writer friend // literally one of my favorite things ever
  • Donate a book to a birdhouse // you know, those public swap things? my town finally has one!
  • Listen to an audiobook while driving // haven't really tried this and really want to
  • Bonus: Read on the beach // September *cough*
  • Bonus: Share a cover reveal // Martin Legacy coming up!

And there we are! Ten (plus two!) bookish things for my summer. Can't wait to see what I manage to get done. But first ... I have four manuscripts to finish editing. Have a terrific summer!

~~~~~

What book do you want to read this summer? Any summery recommendations?

I've got some extras for you today!

  • Bree Dawn's new website // it's beautiful and I can't wait to see what she does as a writer!
  • Adorable summery short story // sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar for the freebie!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Happy Father's Day // A Letter to Josiah

A while back I did a Mother's Day letter from Farris to Gemma set after Martin Hospitality. Since Father's Day is this weekend, I thought I would do the same thing ... except with a character named Kat (whom you'll meet in Martin Legacy) writing to her father, Josiah.


Kat is a unique character. While this letter is not actually in book 2, consider it a preview! Or a bonus. ;)

Dear Dad,
You know I don't like writing letters, but Mom said I had to do my own. 
I know I'm supposed to say you're the best dad ever, but I don't know whether you're the best dad in the world or not, because you're the only one I've ever had. We didn't even get to pick each other. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. 
I don't think I'm a disaster, though, and neither are you. That means things worked out just fine, I guess. God must have known what He was doing. 
Thanks for being my dad. And especially for making me do piano lessons when I was little and Mom was tired of making me. I love them now. I'll play your favorite song after supper for you.
Love you!
xo Kat

~~~~~

Any thoughts about Kat's personality? How do you celebrate Father's Day?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Strengths and Weaknesses in Characters

As the majority of the creative work has been done for Martin Legacy, my brain keeps generating new ideas for me to work on. Not that I have time for that! But it's got me thinking about character development again.


While I'm not on Pinterest that much anymore, sometimes I come across gold. Like this pin that I'm springboarding off of today. Whether you're into profiling characters or filling out charts for them or not, it's good to know what a little about them in order to have your characters be unique.

The best things to know are your characters' strengths and weaknesses. Some people prefer to look at internal and external motivations, but these go hand in hand. Actually ... a strength and a weakness have the same root character trait.

Someone's greatest strength tends to lend a hand to their greatest flaw as well. While I'm not sure real people are always that clean-cut, it makes a nice process for creating a character.

Say you have a character who has the strength of handling money well. On the flipside, that probably makes them stingy or controlling when it comes to purchases.

Maybe you have someone who seems to brag a lot, but they have good self-confidence and powers of execution. (Again, you can find more examples in this pin.)

Your characters can have more than one of these, especially if they're a main character. And it should be obvious that this is for every character. Not just good ones or bad one or side ones. Because every real person has strengths and weaknesses, too. And I'm actually really curious to try and figure out what my own are now!

~~~~~

How do you like to create characters? Have you ever heard of this approach? (Can you tell they're my favorite part of pre-writing? :P)

Want to read my latest flash fiction? Check out mine and many more over at Rosalie Valentine's Flash Fic Dash.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Fun Things Every Book Needs

This week blog posting is one more thing I'm behind on, so I needed to make this post short and fun! I don't think anyone's going to complain about a list of fun things to do for their books.


Playlists


This one's a no-brainer. Even if you don't always listen to music while writing (that would be me), I love collecting songs that go with my story. My favorite place to do this is Spotify. I use it for free on my desktop as it's much easier to use there than on my phone. They have a ton of songs, and it's easy to create a playlist! 

You can find Martin Hospitality's playlist here and Andora's Folly playlist here.

Aesthetics


Whether this is a Pinterest board, a collage you've pieced together on Canva, or a few little items you've collected ... it's fun to collect visual inspiration! I like to do Pinterest boards and then I'll narrow that down into a collage or "aesthetic."

You can find the Martin Hospitality board here and the Andora's Folly board here.

Some people like to do "mood boards" on Pinterest which are much more abstract, giving the overall mood of the story. Mine tend to be a tad more specific than that with faces, scenes, quotes that fit, and things like that as well. It's all about your personal taste and what fits your books! (And seeing other people's amazing book boards is a great reason to follow writer friends on Pinterest!)

My favorite things ever are these collages for my WIPs. I assembled Pinterest images in a Word doc and framed them on my wall.

There's no limit to how you can create these sort of things (just remember that copyrights are a thing and you probably can't use these images officially).



Mock Covers


Along the same lines, who doesn't like an awesome mock cover? It helps make a difficult draft seem more like an actual entity. I like to use Canva for this. They have some good templates, fonts, and images that you can plug in for free.

I also like to make desktop wallpapers on there that go with the book and say something along the lines of "Martin Legacy is waiting to be written" or "Andora's Folly coming soon." It's a pretty kick in the pants every time I open my computer.


Other

  • desktop wallpaper (mentioned above)
  • personality profiles/charts
  • mock-up of the blurb or logline
  • standalone dramatic quote or line
  • quote graphic
  • item collection that goes with your book
  • movie or read a book that's similar to what you're writing
  • coordinating little painting
  • bookmarks
  • character sketches
  • cosplay

Why Does it Matter?


So what's the point of all of these? They're fun!! And yes, they do help inspire me. That's a crucial part of my writing process. When I get stuck or discouraged, being able to open something I've already made (or go make something new) is a great way for me to rediscover why I'm committed to not giving up on my stories.

This is also why I have an entire blog page dedicated to this sort of thing right here. These things are wonderful for catching attention and creating hype, so they don't always have to be kept to yourself!

~~~~~

What fun things do you do to re-inspire you with your stories? Any fresh ideas to share?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

My Next Two Releases

I figured it was finally time to give you all a writing update since most of that's only been in my quarterly newsletter or street team newsletter recently. (See the sidebar if you want to sign up!) There are still a lot of unknowns, but here's what I do have.


To start at the beginning the first book I ever published was Martin Hospitality. It's a full-length contemporary novel and the first in a series. I also published Andora's Folly, a little retelling novella that's completely separate and a standalone. (Until my brain decides otherwise. I make no promises.)

While I've fiddled with other things, the book I will publish next is the sequel to Martin Hospitality. While it's been known as Martin Crossroads for a long time ... it's been renamed to Martin Legacy. This is because the series will now be a duology instead of a trilogy. (A good and necessary decision, trust me.)

I'm ironing out all the crazy details for Martin Legacy and it goes to beta readers next week. Provided I get my editing act together. It will be published this year. So December 31 if things go south between now and then. But I'm aiming more for fall. ;)

However!!! Martin Legacy is not actually going to be my next publication! Just my next book.

HAVOK is going to publish a flash fiction piece of mine called Misfire on June 7, 2019. Because it's an online publication, here's how this works!

  • My story will be free to read on gohavok.com on Friday, June 7. Don't miss it, because after that, you have to be a paying member to read it!
  • If you're a member, vote on it! As long as I receive at least one vote, I can be considered for an anthology later in the year. :)
  • Regardless of membership, leave me a comment on the story! Comments have to be approved, so you may not see it pop up. But once it is on there, I'll be sure to reply to it.
Read, vote, comment. Simple, right? And please share it if you enjoy it!! I can't wait for the little bitty fantasy story to be out there for you all to enjoy. Mark your calendars! Perhaps it can appease you until Martin Legacy comes out later in the year.
Have you set an alarm so you don't forget to read Misfire? ;P I'm excited for you all to have these stories in your hands!

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.

Fawkes

*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: "...by 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.


Facebook

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.


Instagram

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.

Twitter

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.


Pinterest

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.


YouTube

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.


Conclusion

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?