Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Anthology Contest Winners!

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 today are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

December 4 question - Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Please note – since the next first Wednesday falls on New Year’s Day, we will be posting for the IWSG on the following Wednesday, January 8!

Announcing the winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest!

Coming May 5, 2020 -
Voyagers: The Third Ghost
Middle grade historical/adventure

Featuring these stories and authors:
The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days - Katharina Kolata
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard - Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba - Charles Kowalski

We’d like to thank our amazing judges:

Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge
Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links @elizabethscraig or at her blog where she offers tips for writers. She lives in Matthews, North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two.

Dianne K. Salerni, author
Dianne K. Salerni is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series and historical novels, The Caged Graves and We Hear the Dead. The Roosevelt Ghosts, featuring young cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt and a vengeful ghost, will be released in 2020 by Holiday House.

Lynda Dietz, editor
Lynda has been fascinated with the written word since her earliest years of reading the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table. She’s now a copyeditor who works with authors in a variety of genres, both in fiction and nonfiction. She’s had a blog for over six years, and shares writing tips from an editor’s point of view with a healthy dose of snark and silliness. She’s also an unapologetic—but always encouraging—grammar thug.

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.

Rachna Chhabria, author
Rachna Chhabria's imagination has taken her all over the world and introduced her to all kinds of creatures. She is the author of Festival Stories Through The Year, Lazy Worm Goes on a Journey, The Lion Who Wanted to Sing and Bunny in Search of a Name. A columnist with Deccan Chronicle and The Asian Age, her stories have appeared in Young World, Open Sesame, Tele Kids and Deccan Herald Student Edition newspaper, as well as in several school textbooks. She also taught creative writing in a college for many years. As a child she loved listening to stories, now she loves writing them.

Lindsay Davis Auld, agent - Writers House
Lindsay first started at Writers House in the West Coast office, where she apprenticed with Steven Malk and has had the opportunity to work with some of the very best authors and artists in the industry. She is actively building her list, and is seeking picture book, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts. She has always been passionate about children's and young adult literature, and, as an agent, she is eager to help bring fresh voices, characters and stories to a new generation of readers.

Tonja Drecker, author
Tonja Drecker is a writer, blogger, children’s book reviewer and freelance translator. After spending years in Germany exploring forgotten castles, she currently resides in the Ozarks with her family of six. When she’s not tending her chickens and cows, she’s discovering new adventures, nibbling chocolate and sipping a cup of tea.

David Powers King, author
David's works include WOVEN, THE UNDEAD ROAD, and FULL DARK: AN ANTHOLOGY. He currently resides in the Mountain West with his wife and 4 children.

And a big thanks to everyone who entered! There were some great stories.

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

Nominations for best writing website are now open at The Write Life!
Please go nominate the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

The WEP Challenge for December – Footprints.

And the theme came from our very own IWSG Admin, Tyrean Martinson!

Footprints in the sand...Footprints in the snow...and they don't have to be human - alien, monster, unknown creatures...all up for grabs.

The IWSG Instagram prompts and announcements for December:

The next #IWSGPit will be in January 15, 2020, 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Don’t miss it!

Did you know the IWSG has a Goodreads Book Club? Why the heck not?
If you’re on Goodreads, join this group to learn and grow as a writer.

How would you answer the question today? Participating in #IWSGPit in January? And are you ready for Voyagers: The Third Ghost?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Quick and Tidy Tips to Streamline Editing

By Gina Ardito

    I’m not only an author; I’m a freelance editor, too. As an editor, I want to give my clients every opportunity to clean up their manuscript before it gets to me. The cleaner your manuscript is when it hits my desk, the less you pay to edit the stuff you missed and the better your chances of catching a publisher’s eye. Let me help you achieve your writing goal with some quick and tidy editing tips.
   Have you just typed The End and can’t wait to dig into the edit process? Stop. Put that manuscript aside for a while before reviewing it. Give your brain time to reboot so when you come back to the story, you’re fresh, and so is the story.
    When you’re finally ready to edit, open the document. Before you do anything else, save it with Edit or Revision added to your original title. This way, you’ll always have your original document, should you need to refer to it at a later date. On your revision version, change the font style and enlarge the font size. With a new style and size, your eye will more easily catch errors you’d normally miss.
    Use a standard pen, not a marker or a gel pen that smears. Choose a color you like to make the work happier. Don’t opt for red unless you truly love it. Go with purple or green—avoid black, which won’t stand out against your type on the printed page.
    Find a comfortable spot, a different site than where you write. Don’t sit at your desk. Just like with your font, different surroundings make it easier for your eyes to see the actual words on the page. Go outside, to another room, or a coffee shop with your printed manuscript. Now, let’s start editing.

    Backstory: Only include information that impacts the scene.
    In Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass advises, “Remember that backstory is, for the most part, more important to you, the author, than to your reader.”
    If you’re unsure if you need particular information in a scene, try reading the scene without the passages detailing that information. Was the scene hindered by its absence? If the answer is “no,” delete the backstory.

    Description: Let’s say your character’s plane is going into a tailspin. Is now a good time to describe the color of her hair and eyes? Do green-eyed redheads crash faster than blue-eyed blondes? Then it’s not important at this juncture. Find another place for such information in the manuscript. Or don’t. If it doesn’t impact the scene, let your readers envision the characters any way they like.

    Adjectives and adverbs: Sprinkled in, adjectives and adverbs add zest. Too much, and you’ve ruined what could have been a masterpiece.
    In The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman advises writers to cut excess:
    “…(1) where you use more than one adjective or adverb.” For example, “hot, humid, sticky” = “stifling.”
    “…(2) where you’ve used commonplace or cliché adjectives…” For example, “cold as ice” = “icy.”

    Modifiers: Useless words add nothing and should be deleted when possible. Are any of these familiar to your work?

    Dangling Participles: Search for sentences that begin with an –ing verb to find dangling participles. A dangling participle occurs when you modify the wrong noun. “Striding across the room, his eyes were drawn to her.” This sentence reads that “his eyes” (the subject) were striding across the room. “Landing at the bottom of the stairs, the pain shot through her bones.” The pain landed at the bottom of the stairs.
    Danglers also happen with words that end in –ed, so be alert! “Whipped into a froth, the chef poured the eggs into the pan.” I think the writer meant the eggs were whipped, not the chef.
    Starting a sentence with an –ing word can also lead to creating two simultaneous actions that can’t happen simultaneously. “Kicking off her shoes, she removed her socks.” You can’t do both at once. Try “After kicking off her shoes, she removed her socks.” Or “She kicked off her shoes and removed her socks.”

Contractions: “Cannot” = “can’t,” “who has” = “who’s,” and so on. Contractions speed up pacing and make your author voice sound more natural to the reader.

Dialogue: Avoid the “As you know…” trap. For example:
    Jenna flounced to the couch and collapsed in a heap of white tulle. “I don’t want to marry Stuart. I wish we’d stayed in New York.”
    “But, Jenna,” her mother said. “We had to move for your father’s health. The soot and grime of the city was too much for his lungs. He has severe asthma, you know.”

    This dialogue doesn’t move the story forward. The reader is probably more interested in Stuart, but the conversation focuses on the father’s backstory, which isn’t pertinent to the scene.
    When using dialogue tags, stick with “said,” “replied,” “exclaimed,” and “asked.” Avoid “responded,” “opined,” and “queried.” Better yet, use an action with the dialogue to convey mood.

    Narrative arc. Every story must have these key components:
    1. Opening hook
    2. Introduction of conflicts
    3. Initial success
    4. Stumbling Blocks
    5. Sub-plot, downfall, or introduction of new conflicts
    6. Ease of some issues, but original problem still looming
    7. Ticking clock/conflicts turn against protagonist
    8. Black Moment
    9. Climax
   10. Denouement

A few other common errors to look for:

    Character names. Make sure you use the same name and spell it the same way throughout.
    Character traits. Give each character a unique tic or reaction to emotional upheaval and a distinctive way of speaking, with phrases used only by them.
    Loose ends. All tied up?
    Continuity. If the villain has a gun in Chapter 3, he shouldn’t use a knife in Chapter 4.

    While editing, remember: Love the story, not the words. Be ready to kill your darlings if they don’t work. Best of luck!

Gina Ardito is the award-winning author of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance, currently published by Montlake Romance and independently. In 2012, she launched her freelance editing business, Excellence in Editing, and now has a stable of award-winning clients, as well.
She’s hosted workshops around the world for writing conferences, author organization chapter meetings, and library events. To her everlasting shame, despite all her accomplishments, she’ll never be more famous than her dog, who starred in commercials for 2015’s Puppy Bowl.
Her newest release, MEMORIES IN DECEMBER, is available now. For more information on Gina and all her books, visit her website.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Boost Your Launch By Getting Reader Reviews

Boost Your Launch By Getting Reader Reviews
Services that help authors get seen.

What do I know?

I feel like a fake.   Like I know nothing about writing, despite that, I joined in partnership with another writer, Vanessa Wells, to create themed anthologies.  We formed Stormdance Publications.  It has been a bit scary.  It has been challenging, overwhelming, and rewarding. 

What have I learned?  Here is what comes to mind because it is my current focus.  Getting our books in front of readers and getting reviews, which is important for authors who want their books to keep selling.

One thing I did was to learn how to create arcs in Mobi, ePub, and PDF, from Vanessa’s Word Doc she uses to upload our books to Amazon, using Scrivener.
That done we now need a way to distribute our ARC’s and get them out to a larger audience if possible, but how?  We have two websites Writer’s Gambit and Stormdance, but that is not enough.  There are Facebook and Twitter, still not enough.  Not ready for Instagram.

No, we have not tried book review sites or podcasts, but that idea is on the table for the future.   We have not even scheduled a blog tour yet.  It's coming.   Our focus right now is "just do".  Do something, try something, experiment, and figure out the process that works best for us as a team.

We are hoping to get 20 reviews on each Grumpy Old Gods volume.  As the reviews build, we plan to experiment a little with paid ads and giveaways, as we can afford it.  We are learning about Amazon’s keywords, categories, and algorithms. 

We are sitting on 15 reviews for Grumpy 1.  We have had more reviews, but Amazon keeps removing them for no good reason, or we would have already hit twenty with the first volume.  Like volume one, Grumpy 2 has had more reviews then what shows.  

Grumpy 3 has two reviews, so far.  We are still working on that one as it just released October 30th.  I admit I have dropped the ball a little with Grumpy 3.  We are currently working to release Grumpy 4 by the end of November 2019. 

In our pursuit to get reviews, we have tried:  

For Grumpy 1 we tried Booksprout.  The first 20 downloads are free.  There is no integration of email such as MailerLite, MailChimp, so although it does tell you how many times it has been downloaded up to 20, you cannot connect to your email provider to know who is downloading it or recontact.

I also received two or three emails from people who had problems downloading from Booksprout.  Booksprout was good to let me know about those who contacted about problems and forward their email so I could email them directly. 

I also offered the ARC for review on the Booksprout site because you can do that.  We had one or two takers that way.  I had about 15 downloads on the account I set up and Vanessa had 10 on hers.

I almost forgot.  The first tier plan $20 you get automatic reminders, ebook distribution, unlimited pen names, unlimited arc reviewers, access to reviewer community, private arcs, strong arc freeloader protection, blocks all known pirates, identify & block pirates.  This one is in the running still.  

I looked at Book Funnel, but other sites beat their offer in their free plan and their first-tier plans.  I do like Book Funnel.  It is not as economical for what you get for the money as others if money is a huge issue for you.   It’s a nice site.

PROLIFIC WORKS (The old InstaFreebie)

For Grumpy 2 we tried Prolific Works.  I love the revamp and name change.   The free version, Basic, you get unlimited giveaways and distribution (downloads) but no email provider integration.  The next tier of the plan is $20 a month plan.  You get everything in Basic. 

PLUS: You can add subscribers to a mailing list, optional MailerLite or MailChimp integration, Prolific Works acceleration to the right readers, fully customizable giveaways, track giveaway success.   All plans include: Ability to set limits and expiration dates for giveaways, optional DRM, eligible for additional promotions to readers on Prolific Works

As a reader, I like Prolific Works over Book Funnel because they keep track of all the books you have downloaded.  You can see the past books you have downloaded in a bookshelf through their services your account as reader or author.    

I had fewer downloads on this site, about 8, but I was late getting the link out too.  

With Grumpy 3 I found StoryOrigins.  StoryOrigins is in open beta since it is a new platform, so all features are free to everyone for now, including email integration.   I am working on getting our links now, so do not have any numbers to share. 

Yes, I canceled my Prolific Works subscription and went back to their Basic plan for now. 

StoryOrigins offers group promos, newsletter swaps, collect reader email addresses, integrate email service providers, get reviewer history & completion rate, automate review tracking & follow-up, distribute & track audiobook promo codes, unlimited file delivery, tech support for readers, schedule newsletter content, Facebook tracking pixel, and Amazon affiliate tags.  That is quite a bit all free for now.

We are using StoryOrigins for our coming releases.  We have a call for submission out for Grumpy 5, deadline December 1st with publication in January 2020.  We will post submission calls for Grumpy 6-Love gods and Grumpy 7-Trickster gods at the end of this month November 2019 with the release of Grumpy 4. 

I may also use Booksprout again as well, as we did get several downloads there. Another site I learned about but I have not tried is similar to Booksprout. 

Getting reviews and getting seen are problems we all face.  Using sites like these make some things easier and gives you exposure to avenues such as newsletter swaps and cross promos with other authors on the site. 

I am not ready for the swaps and cross promos, yet, but I am working my way there.