Monday, October 22, 2018

Critique Groups: The Good, the Bad, and Run-for-Your-Lives! 10 Kinds of Critique Groups that Can Drive you Batty

By Anne R. Allen

Critique groups are a great way to get feedback on your writing. But groups can fall into bad habits. I've been in dozens over the years and I've seen how one or two dominant members can change a group’s tone and direction.

Here are a few common deviations from the helpful critique group we're looking for. Some can be helpful in spite of flaws, but often you have to move on.

1) Enforcers

They’ve never met a writing rule they didn't love and enforce each one with zero tolerance. For them it's all about shaming rule-breakers, not improving a fellow writers' work.

They have a search-and-destroy policy for adverbs, and insist the word "was" is taboo. (For a rebuttal, see my post on the "was" police.) They allow no prologues, EVER.

Put up your deflector shields and let most of their “advice” bounce off.

2) Fact-Checkers

Some groups are dominated by detail-oriented people who want a novel to be as close to real life as possible.

Everything must be "realistic" down to knowing when and where your heroine relieves herself when she's running from mutant raccoons on Mars.

One will say your Regency duke would have terrible B.O. after fighting those ruffians, so the kiss the heroine has been anticipating would not be the glorious experience you describe.

Remember your genre’s norms and ignore the noise.

3) Group Therapy

The tendency to slip into psychotherapy is a common pitfall, especially in groups with memoirists writing about divorce, wartime, or health issues.

The line between creating and confessing can blur. Critiquers often give supportive, "attaboy" feedback out of compassion, no matter the quality of the writing.

When you come in with your breezy rom-com, you feel like you're crashing the pity party.

Plus these tender-hearted folks may try to stop your protagonist from making bad choices. She mustn’t dance with that judgmental aristocrat Darcy or accept that owl's invitation to wizard school.

Conflict-free stories are not what you’re aiming for.

4) Golden Girls

A group dominated by an older demographic can have memory issues. (Hey, age happens to us all, with any luck!)

Unfortunately, members often forget what they heard in the last installment, so they’ll ask you to repeat yourself. Often. Which can make for some unreadable prose.

Give them a separate recap before you read your chapter, and DON’T put it in your WIP.

5) Punctuation Police

This happens in online groups or in-person meetings where readers bring printed copies. Critiques can devolve into drawn-out arguments over use of the Oxford comma.

Groups that focus on grammar and spelling will do little to help with big-picture storytelling, but if you want to brush up on basic grammar or need a proofreader, they're fine.

6) Literary Salon

Usually dominated by readers and writers of literary fiction. They may write brilliantly and have a vast knowledge of literature, but their critiques can be…less than helpful.

They tend to be old school, so won't consider self-publishing. They may send out a few half-hearted queries comparing their work to Kerouac or Karl Ove Knausgaard, but probably don't attempt to get published outside of small literary journals.

They can have useful things to say about character and setting, and are fantastic at weeding out clichés. But on plot, structure, and pace, not so much.

7) Coffee Klatches

These groups never get around to more than a couple of critiques because so much time is spent chatting over the elaborate refreshments. Providing snacks can become a competitive sport. If the group meets in the evening there may be some lovely wine.

These groups can be a godsend to a writer who's been holed up in a writing cave and needs some human contact. And wine.

But feedback can be skimpy and useless to a writer on a path to publication.

8) The Literary Death Match

Whether or not the members are poets, meetings can be like a competitive poetry slam. The dominant member (s) want to perform, and tune out when others are reading.

Critiques careen from lavish praise to savage criticism. Somebody will probably order you to write an entirely new plot, which they’ll outline for you in detail. Their goal is to establish dominance, not improve your WIP.

These people can build you up one week and crush you the next—saying anything that comes into their heads.

Find another group. Narcissists are dangerous.

9) The Mutual Admiration Society

Like the Coffee Klatch, this group is all about schmoozing. Also bolstering flagging egos. To give them credit, they’re not focused on the ginger-pear Linzer torte and imported Gewürztraminer. They are actually interested in the work.

Unfortunately, everything brought for critique is always WONDERFUL and worthy of publication. They don't want you to change a thing.

You’re not going to grow much in this environment.

10) The Vicious Circle

This group is dominated by a handful of Dorothy Parker-wannabes just waiting to slip a verbal dagger into your heart.

They may have published a bit—which makes them "experts"—but it was some time ago. Maybe in college. When they got harsh feedback from the writer-in-residence, who used words like "puerile" and "derivative."

Since then, they've been honing their bitterness till it cuts like a samurai sword.

It only takes one or two of these—plus their devoted (and fearful) minions—to turn a critique group into one of the darker circles of hell.

A workshop like this at a well-known writers' conference was the inspiration for my comic mystery, Ghostwriters in the Sky. I got to kill off the workshop leader who created this Vicious Circle.

Run before you resort to real-life homicide.


Anne R. Allen is a multi-award winning blogger and the author of 13 published and forthcoming books, including the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries. She’s the author, with Amazon superstar Catherine Ryan Hyde, of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. Her latest book is THE AUTHOR BLOG: EASY BLOGGING FOR BUSY AUTHORS. Her next Camilla mystery, GOOGLING OLD BOYFRIENDS will launch in December 2018 with Kotu Beach Press. You can find her, along with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris.

Anne’s latest book for writers


An easy-does-it guide to simple, low-tech blogging for authors who want to build a platform, but not let it take over their lives.

An author blog doesn't have to follow the rules that monetized business blogs do. This book teaches the secrets that made Anne R. Allen a multi-award-winning blogger and one of the top author-bloggers in the industry.

And you'll learn why having a successful author blog is easier than you think.

"I’m already a massive fan of Anne’s blog, and this book is written in the same humourous, yet highly informative style as her blog posts. Sharing her own blogging successes and mistakes…Anne makes the whole blogging process seem accessible to everyone, no matter what you’re working on or your level of technical expertise." …. Mark Tilbury

Only $2.99 at Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Amazon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

#IWSG -- Save Your Work! Twitter Pitch / WEP Challenge / Anthology Contest

We've all seen it. An author posting on social media saying their computer died and they didn't save their current masterpiece or that they lost power and lost all their major edits.

It takes seconds for hours worth of work to just disappear and that can be the difference between being a happy author or being a homicidal maniac author ready to pull out their hair.

There are lots of options for saving your work, a quick save to the device you're on, saving to a jump drive, or getting an external drive that can be taken off site.

My favorite way to save? Email. If I make major changes to my manuscript I send the whole file to three different email addresses with a version number and date. This way, I know it's not just on my computer and I can access it anywhere I can access my email.

Now we just need to REMEMBER to actually save!

Do you have any great tips for saving your work?

We have a date for the next #IWSGPit Twitter pitch – January 15, 2019!

Visit the IWSG site for details.

You don’t want to miss it.

Don’t forget that the IWSG has partnered with Write…Edit…Publish!
This month’s challenge - Déjà vu or Voodoo.
Add your name to the list, write your story, post on your blog or Facebook, and visit others.
And there are prizes!
Full details at the WEP site regarding genre, length, etc.
Déjà vu or Voodoo – do you?

Finally, this is the last month to submit to the IWSG Anthology Contest.
Young adult romance is the genre and masquerade the theme.
Entry is free, just need to be a member of the IWSG on some level.
See the SITE for details.
Don’t miss this opportunity to be in a royalty-paying anthology!

Monday, October 8, 2018

More About Cross-Pollination

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with cross-pollination. I’m not talking plants; I’m talking about linking up with endeavors of different kinds. I have a lot of writer friends, and I value their insights and knowledge, but it occurred to me that all of us should be looking at other fields for inspiration and information, too. Why not? I believe there are universal principals that can guide us to success, and maybe we can tap into some of that by extending beyond the writing community. How about looking at successful people in say, the arts, history, or science? What are their guiding principals, their strategies that have placed them at the top of their occupations?

In my article about Annie Leibovitz that was posted in ALLI last month, I took a foray into the art of photography and connected it with the art of writing.  I enjoyed that so much that I started looking for other possible connections. I didn’t expect to find exactly what I wanted about secrets to success in the financial world, but I did. I stumbled on Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge-fund firm, and here’s what caught my attention: “Without pursuing dreams, life is mundane.”

What writer can’t agree with that? Well, this one, for sure. But then he talks about what he calls hyper-realism. So, because I’m curious if nothing else, I wanted to know what that means and what that does. He explains it as being a deep understanding, an acceptance and being able to work with reality as it is and not as he wishes it were.

Okay. I got it. And I’m paying attention.

Later he gives what he says are his secrets to investing and managing money and—most importantly—getting through the next 24 hours. I can use all the help I can get when it comes to “getting through” another day and actually accomplishing something, too.

Here are Galio’s Secrets: 

  • Know your goals and run after them. 
Identify and face the problems, however painful, that stand in the way of your goals. 

  • Diagnose the root causes of these problems. 

  • Design a plan to get around these obstacles. 
Execute on your plan, pushing yourself to do whatever is needed. 

Are these secrets to success universal enough?
Thanks Morguefile
I see why this man is so successful. He has a philosophy that is overarching, much larger than one that’s about making money. He spoke directly to me here: “You will lose something or someone you think you can’t live without. You might think your life is ruined and there’s no way to go forward. But it will pass. There’s always a best path forward; you just don’t see it yet.”

Okay, now I stop and push back in my chair because the day before I read this article, my Zen teacher said, and I paraphrase, when you’re in doubt about making a decision, give it time. Don’t rush it. Let the right choice come to you. It will.

I’m now feeling as if I’m in a cosmic vortex, and my head’s filled with how I can use this, how others can use this. As writers haven’t you had times the plot won’t work, the agent fails, the book languishes without sales, or you’re undecided about which path to publication you want to take? Have you agonized over what to do? I certainly have, so I’m making notes about this waiting and giving it time and not catapulting into a ill-advised decision. And I’m thinking about what Dalio says about there being a “pathway” to  the right decision when I find, “Unfortunately, you probably won’t like it…”

Well, try me. So I read on.

He calls it radical open-mindedness. Wait. That means I can’t be right all the time. Really? But please continue Mr. Dalio.

“Your deepest-seated needs and fears reside in areas of your brain that control your emotions (I’m inserting the amygdala, you know, the old fight or flight part of us) and are not accessible to your higher-level conscious awareness,” Dalio says. “And because our need to be right can be more important than our need to find out what’s true, we like to believe our own opinions without properly stress-testing them.

“We especially don’t like to look at our mistakes and weaknesses.” He adds, “We are instinctively prone to react to explorations of them as though they’re attacks. We get angry, even though it would be more logical for us to be open to feedback from others.”

I’m all for learning more, not less and I’d love to make some good decisions in just about every aspect of my life, including the writing part. As I read more, I started asking myself if I’m living up to my potential or falling short because I’m not paying attention?

And you, do you shut down when someone criticizes your work, or do you take a look at that criticism and consider it? Do you practice radical open-mindedness instead of shutting down in anger? As a writer, what do you think about cross-pollination, learning from people who are in   different fields?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

IWSG October: We Need Your Stories

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 3 posting are: 
Dolorah, Tanya Miranda, Chemist Ken, and Christopher D. Votey.

Optional Question this Month: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

The 2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest needs your stories!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group. 

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

Our previous IWSG anthologies:
Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
Hero Lost: The Mysteries of Death and Life
Parallels: Felix Was Here

Gwen Gardner, Jen Chandler, and LG Keltner know what it’s like to have the winning story.

Yours could be next!

Are you on Instagram?
This month, we are prepping for NaNoWriMo (if participating) and staying motivated in our writing lives.

Do you Write, Edit, Publish with WEP?
October's WEP Challenge is:

Do you have a story for the anthology? Are you writing one? 
Write it and send it!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rules, Guidelines, and Just Plain Bad Advice by Lynda Dietz, Editor

My (now-adult) kids think I’m a rule follower. And to some extent, I am. But oh, back in the day, I was a rule breaker all the way. I think part of my problem with rules was that I needed to understand the “why” of them to know whether it was worth my time to follow them or not.

In the writing world, there is always someone pointing to this rule or that one, telling us to ALWAYS do this or NEVER do that. Even among editors, you can get fifty different opinions from forty different people—statistically impossible? Never say never—on how to properly edit a passage.

That alone is a prime example of why it’s important to know the real rules (yes, there are some) and the guidelines that are misinterpreted as unbreakable commandments. What makes people stifle their creativity based on a misunderstanding?

The writing world is made up, for the most part, of people who want to be successful, whether that means becoming obnoxiously rich and famous, typing “THE END” after working on a story for years, selling enough books each month to afford extra things, or quitting their day job because they can earn enough to live on, even if they’re not famous.

Those who want to write a good story and perhaps be commercially successful tend to look at what other successful people have done, and use that as a guideline. Guidelines are great. I love guidelines! They give a big-picture sense of what can be achieved if certain other conditions are met. Good advice is known as good advice for a reason, right?

The problem comes in when the good advice is repeated often enough out of context that it becomes known as a rule, or a set of rules. Perhaps even unbreakable, never-do-this-or-you’re-not-a-real-author kind of rules. And those are just plain bad.

Enter the Worst Writing Advice, usually stated with a note of disdain or accompanied by a wagging finger and severe eyebrows. The Worst Writing Advice is never asked for and rarely researched for validity. It’s stated firmly and the conversation is not two-sided. No one questions why, and no one asks for clarification. And yet—

The recipient often takes that WWA and repeats it to someone else. Before you know it, all kinds of people are quoting a rule that isn’t a rule, and they’re ready to arm-wrestle anyone who dares to call them out on it. Such a violent sport sometimes, being a writer.

Think about these bits of writing advice you may have heard, masquerading as hard & fast rules:
  1. Get rid of all your adverbs
  2. Never end a sentence with a preposition
  3. Always write in complete sentences
  4. Never use contractions
  5. Never use semicolons in fiction
  6. Always remove the passive voice
  7. “Said” is boring and you need to spice things up

The above examples are valid advice sometimes. But they shouldn’t be confused with actual rules, and nobody should be made to feel bad about themselves if they don’t follow that advice. Here are some reasons why it may be given:
  1. Adverbs can be overused as a crutch by some who haven’t yet gotten the hang of showing v. telling. Let’s assume those forty editors mentioned earlier have forty writer friends. Write “he spoke angrily” and ask what they picture when they read those words. Some may picture shouting; some may envision speaking through gritted teeth; some may hear a voice getting more shrill with each word. If you show those actions, the reader gets the clear idea that the speaker is angry, the type of anger that’s happening, and the adverb “angrily” is unnecessary. But guess what? Adverbs are real words and sometimes they’re the exact word you’re looking for, so go ahead and use it. Just find that balance between “overuse” and “completely forbidden.”
  2. Terminal prepositions. This not-a-rule goes back centuries to a talented but overblown poet who gave an opinion once, and everyone taught it as a commandment from that point forward. It’s fine if you end with them, and it’s fine if you don’t. Just don’t try to wrangle your words into a mess of a sentence to avoid it.
  3. Pfft. That’s my opinion of this one. Always writing in complete sentences is for schoolchildren who are learning the structure of the sentence. It’s not always practical in real life, and it kills any impact a writer may be trying to make, whether for shock value or merely for emphasis. She opened the door to the kitchen and gasped. Blood. No—cherry pie, everywhere. The floor. The cabinets. The walls. And . . . the curtains? The black Lab puppy sat in silence, facing the corner, head down. Complete sentences would make this sound like a children’s book. They’re not bad, and most of your sentences will be unfragmented, independent clauses. But don’t stress the ones that aren’t, if you’ve done it on purpose.

The list goes on. Knowledge is different from wisdom. Knowing the rules so you can break them for effect is great. Knowing when your rule isn’t even a rule at all is even better.

I’m a copyeditor who has worked with authors in a variety of genres, both in fiction and nonfiction. I live with my husband and kids in the northernmost tip of western Pennsylvania—right on Lake Erie in wine country, so my backyard smells like grapes in the fall. (We can’t smell anything in the winter because our noses are frozen shut.) I’ve kept an editing blog for over five years and love the writing community I’ve gotten to know. I can hardly believe I get paid to do two things I love: editing and singing . . . though I don’t do them simultaneously.
Find Lynda here:
Instagram - @easyreaderediting
Twitter - @LyndaDietz4

Monday, September 17, 2018

Diversifying as an Author

Many write to produce a book (or many) that others will enjoy. That and maybe a little extra money is often reward enough. But what if you want to make it a career and quit your day job? What if you want to reach a lot more people?

Authors who have made it big or at least made enough to write full time started where every author begins - with that first book. But they didn’t launch ahead with great sales alone. They realized they needed to expand and give their fans more than just books.

There’s a saying - don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You want many baskets. You want an arsenal of weapons at your disposal to conquer success. Think of it as planting many seeds and a variety of them.

How do you plant different seeds or acquire many baskets? You diversify yourself and what you offer.

How do you do that?

Write different genres:
Step outside your normal genre with or without a pen name

Offer more formats:
Serials in magazines
Foreign translations
Audio books
Games - card game, board game, video game, game app for tablet
Audio/visual - stage, radio, TV, or movie

As an author about your book or the publishing process - book clubs, writing groups, writing or book conferences
As an expert on a topic - conferences & conventions or seminars
Teach a subject - seminars, workshops, conferences, teleseminars, or online programs

Offer tie-ins:
Products or swag that connects with your book, the characters, or the setting. The possibilities are endless - pens, jewelry, mugs, bags, artwork, clothing, figures, etc.

Offer non tie-ins:
Other products you create, collect/sell. Again, the possibilities are endless - crafts, jewelry, knitted or sewn items, stock photos, artwork, candles, figures, comics, etc.

Authors and writers are creative people. Take that creativity and look beyond your first book. Offering more will give your author platform a firmer foundation and a better chance for success.

In what ways could you diversify?

Monday, September 10, 2018

7 Tips for Writing Compelling YA

This from REEDSY.
Just in time for the next IWSG Anthology Contest

For many authors, Young Adult fiction (or YA), is one of the most fulfilling genres to write in as it allows young readers to connect deeply with characters and narratives that reflect their own “coming of age” stories.

The million-dollar question then is: how to write compelling YA??

This post will take you through some tips for evoking the interest of your readers, and hopefully making your book impossible to put down...

1. Give it some perspective

Deciding on the right point of view for your YA novel is a crucial first step, as POV plays a key role in how the action and events of the story will be perceived by readers. Writing as an adult reflecting on their childhood is unlikely to resonate with readers who are aged around 16-18.

If you’re using first-person narration, consider combining it with the use of present tense. Especially if your book is action-packed, writing as if the events of the book are happening “right now” will add immediacy, pace, and tension.

The countless turns, changes, and opportunities for conflict in a teenager’s life lend themselves perfectly to this first person/present tense perspective, which compels the reader to keep going.

Example: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is the first-person narrative of a teenage girl forced to relive the day of her death every day for a week. The emotional drive behind being right there with her as she tries to work out what is happening to her, and why, is only added to by the uncertainty about what will come next.

2. Don’t shy away from sensitive subject matter

Whilst it’s worth keeping in mind the age-appropriateness of what you’re writing, the reality is that whatever you’re thinking might be ‘too dark’ for YA fiction is probably something that teenagers experience in real life. Even if they are not going through something directly, it might be around them, and it’s important to remember that these books are targeted toward young adults, not kids.

All things considered, you’re writing for your reader, not your publisher or whoever you’re concerned might take issue with what you’re writing — and your reader will appreciate your honesty about serious, sometimes dark, subject matter.

Example: One of the most popular YA novel of recent years, The Fault in Our Stars, has the whole works when it comes to what a lot of people would think of as sensitive content. The story centering around two terminally ill teenage cancer patients has been no barrier to critical and commercial success, and is part of the novel’s emotional power.

3. The majority of your characters should be teens

Readers and publishers alike will thank you for keeping the characters of your YA novel between the age range of 14-18.

YA novels aren’t just aimed at teens; their central character should also be a teen who will face obstacles and plot points consistent with a teenage experience (such as school, family, relationships, coming of age, and anything around gaining independence.) Luckily, as you’re probably going to be using the present tense, you should already be in the right mindset to write from this teenage perspective.

Example: In the Gone series by Michael Grant, everyone above the age of 15 literally disappears at the beginning of the first novel. If every YA writer were to adopt this approach, readers might smell a rat, but in this series it drives the plot, and also allows the remaining novels to chart characters’ progress through their most formative years.

4. Be careful not to preach

Look at the world of your novel through your main character’s eyes, not your own. In other words, focus on their narrative rather than trying to teach your audience a lesson.

Avoid moralising events in your novel, or pointing out painfully obviously why something bad has happened, for example.

Example: E K Johnston’s novel Exit, Pursued By a Bear received incredible amounts of critical acclaim. Its story centres around a sexual assault that occurs during the main character Hermione’s summer cheerleading camp. This is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the reviews of which consistently bring up how well Johnston ‘doesn’t focus on victimhood’ and is not moralising in tone in its treatment of sexual violence.

5. Don’t be afraid of tropes

Surprise superpowers, dystopian settings, the teenager who is solely responsible for saving the world — we’ve all seen these tropes before. And if we’re being totally honest, we kind of love them — when they are given extra layers of dimension and complexity to make them fresh and exciting again. If you ensure you’re writing fully formed characters, feel free to have fun with your tropes and to let them contribute to your plot lines and conflicts.

Interesting back stories, unexpected dark secrets, and compelling relationships are all ways to ensure any archetypes you use don’t feel cliche.

Example: Harry Potter is your typical “chosen one” trope, with the added bonus points of being an orphaned hero. The combination of these two, however, and the subsequent emphasis on friendship and family (not to mention the whole wizard thing) is is part of what makes him a unique character that we all root for.

6. Watch your language

This tip isn’t about swearing in your book (though maybe give that some thought also,) but more about making sure your language is appropriate for the age range you’re writing for. Pay special attention to the vocabulary and speech your characters use to make sure it feels authentic.

You won’t get away with just sticking the odd LOL or ‘like’ in with reckless abandon. As with any type of character, you need to put yourself in their mind to truly write from their perspective. Remember to think about not only how the age range you’re writing for speaks, but also whether readers of the same age will be able to easily understand and follow the dialogue and inner thoughts of your character.

Also, if you’re writing a series, consider how your characters’ voice and language will change as they grow up — there’s only a few years between a 13 year-old and 19 year-old, for example, but they’re going to have very different vocabularies and attitudes.

Example: Holly Black’s YA novel The Coldest Girl in Coldtown captures ‘teen-speak’ in a way that is modern, but not so modern that it is now, five years after publication, outdated. Well-written dialogue is a crucial tenet of any novel, but with quips like ‘If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic,’ Black perfectly slots this novel into the YA category.

7. Focus on voice

Your character’s personality should come through on the page, and whilst this is a frustratingly vague notion to point out, it also makes a huge difference to whether readers (and publishers) are going to be interested in turning the page. How your character’s motivations and goals are communicated to the reader, and how they might change across the course of the novel, are going to be a big part of crafting this voice.

In YA we like to be able to root for and relate to the voice of the characters, and the protagonist in particular. Since your protagonist and immediate surrounding characters are at an age where there is going to be a huge amount of personal growth, there is plenty of room for genuine and moving character progression, which will be reflected primarily in the voice of your narrator — your main character.

Example: Jenny’s Han’s novel To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was so successful after being published in 2014 that it recently got its own Netflix series. The first person voice allows Lara Jean’s personality to come off the page and engage the reader in all the twists, turns, dramas, and embarrassments that fall out of a number of love letters that she writes to her crushes throughout her teenage years.

YA allows you to tackle almost any genre through the perspective of a younger character. Exploring this freedom with a focus on authentically portraying the emotional experience of a teen makes writing YA fiction no easy feat, but it does make it incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.

Hopefully, this post has got some cogs whirring in your brain, and will give you the opportunity to take the plunge into this successful and exciting category of fiction.

Thanks to Reedsy for this informative article! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The IWSG Annual Anthology Contest is Now Open!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 5 posting of the IWSG are Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

Are you following us on Instagram?
Here are the prompts for September:

The 2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges. This year, we are honored to have seven incredible judges:

Elizabeth S. Craig, author
Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, Memphis Barbeque mysteries, and Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently.

Elana Johnson, author
USA Today bestseller Elana Johnson writes young adult and adult contemporary romance. She is an inspirational adult romance author under the pen name of Liz Isaacson, and her work includes the young adult dystopian romance series Possession, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). Learn more at Elana Johnson.

S.A. Larsen, author
S.A. Larsen is the international award-winning author of the middle grade fantasy-adventure MOTLEY EDUCATION and the young adult contemporary-fantasy romance MARKED BEAUTY. When she’s not chasing her characters around a graveyard or antagonizing them with young love, she can be found in Maine with her husband and four children. Visit her cyber home at S.A. Larsen Books.

DL Hammons, Write Club founder
When DL isn’t running the online writing contest WRiTE CLUB on his blog, he splits his time crafting YA and adult Mysteries, with a little bit of Paranormal/Sci-Fi on the side.

Gwen Gardner, author and previous IWSG anthology winner
Gwen Gardner writes lighthearted, cozy mysteries with a few ghosties thrown in to “liven” things up. Since ghosts feature prominently in her stories, she has a secret desire to meet one face to face—but will run screaming for the hills if she ever does.

Kelly Van Sant
Kelly Van Sant has nearly a decade of experience in the publishing industry and is a literary agent with the Red Sofa Literary Agency. She is a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center and blogs about writing and the publishing industry at Pub(lishing) Crawl and co-hosts the their weekly podcast.

Kristin Smith, author
Kristin Smith is the best-selling young adult author of the Deception Game series and a former Pitch Wars mentor. When she’s not writing, you can find her dreaming about the beach, beating her boys at Just Dance, or belting out karaoke (from the comfort of her own home). She currently resides in the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina with her husband and sons.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

Our previous IWSG anthologies:
Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
Hero Lost: The Mysteries of Death and Life
Parallels: Felix Was Here

Gwen Gardner, Jen Chandler, and LG Keltner know what it’s like to have the winning story.

Yours could be next!

Any questions regarding the contest? Are you going to enter? Can’t win if you don’t enter!

Monday, August 27, 2018

5 Ways to Know Your Book is Finished

By Lynda R. Young

I recently went through some old manuscripts that had gathered dust. They’d been shoved in the proverbial drawer because of a perceived lack of perfection. I had believed they couldn’t be fixed because they broke the supposed rules, or the characters weren’t interesting enough, or I’d decided the beginnings were terrible or the endings were flat. I had plenty of excuses to hide them away and not enough courage to bring them into the light and try again.

I’ll admit I’m too much of a perfectionist when it comes to writing. But life is short and I’d had enough of silly excuses. There are plenty of popular books out there that are far from perfect yet they have a given a lot of readers thorough enjoyment. And it turned out my stories weren’t as bad as I had first thought. The problem was, they wouldn’t give anyone anything if I didn’t get them out there.

So when do you know your manuscript is ready for publication?

1. Write YOUR story
One of my manuscripts had eleven drafts before I had given up on it. Eleven! With each iteration, I’d made it worse. I’d sent it to countless people to critique and they all had something different to say about it. I kept trying to please everyone rather than listen to the story that wanted to be written. I kept focusing on the negative and believed the story wasn’t good enough and couldn’t be fixed. I ended up going back to an early draft and starting again. It is a thousand times better now and it’s ready.

2. Learn the rules but don’t be ruled by them
Some writers prefer to call them guidelines rather than fixed rules that mustn’t be broken. Whatever you call them, to flout them entirely is a mistake. They will make your writing better if you understand them first before deciding to break them. But do feel free to break them if your story calls for it. So what if your main character isn’t likeable? What does it matter if you use multiple flashbacks to drive your story? You want your story to revolve around a common trope? Find a way to make it work, then go for it!

3. Get valued feedback
Despite what I said in the first point, it is important to get feedback on what you’ve written. Get at least two critiques and then get a professional edit. A lot of what we have in our head doesn’t always translate onto the page. That’s why we need those extra eyes. So make sure the feedback is coming from people who understand your genre and preferably have experience with editing. Everyone has a bias too, so it’s important to also read between their lines.

4. Time is a great editor
Rather than declaring a piece finished and throwing your manuscript out there in a rush, give it some time to percolate. Stepping away from it for a while will give you fresh eyes so you’ll be able to see whether it is as awesome as you first thought or still needs some work. Time will help you trust your gut.

5. Perfect is an impossible goal
My husband coined the perfect phrase for what we should strive for when it comes to a finished manuscript: Happy Perfect—the perfect that’s not perfect, but you’re proud of it anyway and you’re willing and ready to share it with the world. Readers rarely notice the mistakes, the tropes, the broken rules. If they are enjoying your story then you’ve got a winning book.

For me a manuscript is never finished because I could constantly pick at it and tweak here and there. But I want to share my stories with the world which means I need to finish them to send them out there. It does take courage to stand firm in the blaze of other people’s opinions and our own doubts, but using these suggestions might help.

How do you know when your manuscript is finished?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Reedsy Book Editor

The road from book idea to complete manuscript is a long one, full of twists, turns, and challenges. When you finally finish your last revision, it can feel like you’ve reached the mountain peak and the hard work is behind you. Of course, then you double-check your map and realize you’ve still got miles to travel before you reach your destination of being a published author. 

But don’t be daunted! Thankfully, today’s indie publishing community is a supportive one, and Reedsy is here to help escort you to your next milestone: formatting your manuscript to be press-ready.

That’s why we created the Reedsy Book Editor: a free formatting tool that any author can use to ensure that their trade book meets industry standards.

The best part (apart from the $0 price tag) is that you can turn your manuscript into a full-fledged book in just six steps. 

Let’s get started.

Step One: Import your book 
The very first step is to create the chapters or parts of your book. You’ll find the function to do so at the top-left of the Editor, right under the Reedsy logo.

Once you’ve finished setting that up, you can begin importing your manuscript — a fancy term for copying and pasting each chapter or part into the Editor. Any formatting that you’ve already done in Word, Google Docs, or Pages will carry over into the Editor when you copy and paste (including italics, bold words, links, headings, etc). 

Once you’ve finished getting your manuscript settled into the Editor, the fun part starts: formatting!

Bonus resource: Get your manuscript to the finish line in the first place by developing a rock-solid writing routine.
Step Two: Format your manuscript
If you haven’t already finished formatting your manuscript before transferring it over to the Editor, don’t worry! The Editor’s formatting bar makes it a breeze  — and maybe even a little fun! This is the part where you get to put the finishing touches on your manuscript and see your words start to actually look like a book.

The formatting bar offers two primary functions:

First, it allows you to style your paragraphs. Highlight the appropriate paragraph and select one of these options:
  • A standard serif paragraph: this is the default option for any pasted content.
  • Three types of headings (if applicable): H1, H2, and H3.
  • Two types of lists (if applicable): numbers and bullet points.
  • Quotations: an offset, italic version of the standard serif paragraph. Use this to highlight a paragraph — for instance, if the text is a letter or diary entry.

Second, it allows you to style and customize your fonts. Highlight the appropriate words and select one of these options:
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Link

You can also format your book with the “Add” function (the plus sign “+” at the top of the Editor). This function allows you to:
  • Add an image
  • Add an endnote/footnote 
  • Add a scene break (which you can see below)

Once you’ve finished formatting your manuscript, it’s time make sure your front and back matter’s t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.

Bonus resource: Learn more about typesetting and the role a book’s interior plays in getting its message across to readers. 
Step Three: Prepare your front and back matter
Reedsy offers ready-to-go templates for the following front matter components: copyright, dedication, epigraph, table contents, foreword, preface, and acknowledgement.

The back matter consists of your endnotes, about the author page, and “Also by…” page where you can tell readers about other books you’ve published.

Of course, you don’t need to use all of these options. Simply select the ones you want to include.

Bonus resource: Learn more about the different parts of a book, including the front and back matter.
Step Four: Add finishing touches
With the Editor, you can rest assured knowing that your book will meet industry standards. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be standard itself!

The exporting process will give you a few final opportunities to customize, including:

  • The option to add drop caps. 
  • Three themes, including: Standard Reedsy format, Romance, and Classic.

If your book’s interior is ready to rock, it’s time to give it a cover.
Step Five: Upload your book cover
To do so, select “Book settings,” and then “Upload a book cover.” If you’re planning to publish print copies, ensure that the cover you upload has the appropriate dimensions based on the printer you’re planning to use! 

This is an important step to get right because, despite what we’ve been told, people will absolutely judge your book by it’s cover. Here are few resources for you to consider while working on your cover:

And, of course, it’s always worth considering working with a professional cover designer. Check out the average cost of hiring a professional here!

Bonus resource: Learn more about book cover design for indie authors.
Step Six: Export your book
This is your last stop! If you haven’t already, it’s time to decide whether you want to create an ebook, print copies, or both. If you’re just focusing on ebooks, you’ll want to select the “.epub and .mobi conversion” option. If you’re looking to create print copies, ensure you select the “Print on Demand PDF” option.

The epub option will be compatible with all the major online retailers, including Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play and NetGalley.

The PDF option will be compatible with all the major POD services, such as IngramSpark, CreateSpace, BookBaby, Lulu, and more.

Once again, if you’re printing copies, don’t forget to ensure that when downloading the file, you choose the trim size that matches the dimensions of your book cover! The available trim sizes are:

  • Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
  • Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
  • Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)

Bonus resource: Learn more about which ebook format you should choose, or about what the best service for print-on-demand books is for you!
Hey, presto!
Hit “Export” and wait for the Reedsy Book Editor to email you with your ready-to-publish files. You’re one step closer to being a published author! The top of the mountain is getting a little closer, and we hear the view of the other side is pretty darn nice.

Before we go, we’ve got one more bonus resource for you: a short video tutorial that will visually take you through all of the above steps.