Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Wishes from the IWSG Team

2014 has been a great year. We saw the IWSG group celebrate our third anniversary, this website saw its first anniversary helping writers across the globe, and the Facebook group has grown to 1790 members, plus the Critique Circle is taking off as well. On top of all that, we also pooled together and released the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, a free resource for anyone to download.

So, from the IWSG Team, we'd like to thank you for your support and to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and productive New Year. May your writing dreams come true and your inspiration and motivation always flow.

We will return here on January 5th and our first IWSG post day will be Wednesday 7th

What do you do over the Christmas season that's not so traditional?
I always... watch Die Hard (best Christmas movie ever), play poker with the family (with one and two cent pieces that go back into the bottle until next year), and eat far too much seafood (the joys of Christmas in Australia). No writing gets done. But I'm okay with that. I view Christmas as a great recharging time.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where to Find a Great Book Cover Artist

They say don’t judge a book by its cover–but we do. The cover art has to grab our attention while conveying the tone of the story or a scene from the narrative. And if the cover falls short, we won’t go any further.

Publishers have staff illustrators or freelance artists they use. But if you self-publish your book, you’ll have to find an artist on your own. (Unless you’re already a professional artist and understand cover design.) How do you decide which one? And what type of artwork works best?

M. Pax’s artist is Erin Dameron-Hill, a graphic artist who uses stock art.

M. Pax also offered this advice:
My advice for hiring anyone - personally talk to the authors who have used the artist. I mean, send an email and ask. Just because an author gives a credit, doesn't mean he/she was pleased. I think talking to other authors is the best way to find a graphic artist. If you see something you like, contact the author.

Some artists incorporate computer animation into their covers. Gwen Gardner uses Corona Zschusschen, a Dutch artist.

Others use more traditional means, often with stunning results. Cherie Reich called upon Laura Sava to do her latest cover.


Ultimately, you want your cover to look as professional as those produced by a traditional publisher. And if you select a good artist who can accurately capture your vision, it will. Below are three covers–one by a self-published author, one by a small press, and one by a large press. Would you know which one is which?

Now, where do you find a cover artist? Below are websites that list numerous artists and illustrators. And don’t forget to check with other authors for their recommendations. Find an artist with a good reputation, produces quality covers, and who can successfully capture the spirit of your book!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pad Your Resume, and Wallets, by Writing for Small Markets by Sylvia Ney

The idea of publishing a piece in well-known glossy magazines or national newspapers, can become an alluring, but unfulfilled dream unless you are already widely published or connected to the right people.

Smaller presses can be an excellent stairway to success by attracting the attention you desire from the larger publications. You might consider starting local. These writing jobs often mean a more steady income, a growing writing portfolio, and some interesting story assignments.

Writing locally also gives you the advantage of familiarity. You will be able to appeal more easily to your readers since you shop the same places, travel the same roads, and are otherwise affected by the same social and environmental issues they are.

Even though local publications often can't pay as well as larger publications and the article assignments aren’t always riveting (how many “best of” article topics can I create), the less competitive nature of the smaller market makes it far more likely that a local editor will take a chance on you and your writing skills, and then return to you for future needs.

(Sylvia with Chicken Soup for the Soul publisher, Amy Newmark, in the middle.)

Regularly exercising your skills of brainstorming, researching, conducting interviews, meeting word counts, and anticipating deadlines will ensure improvement. This will in turn arm you for articles you can query regionally or nationally.

So, who in your community needs your writing skills?

Local publications - Don’t assume the local paper is the only publication in need of writers. That little magazine you pick up for free in the grocery store needs writers. So does the real estate guide with articles about local happenings that arrives in your mailbox. To start, arrange an in-person meeting with the editor or write a friendly, but professional email introducing yourself. Let the editor know if you have clips from previously published work and be prepared with a few article ideas to pitch if they express interest.

Tourism organizations - Local organizations such as visitors' bureaus or chambers of commerce probably create more written content about your area than anyone else. Contact the directors to see if they need assistance creating print or web content. Be flexible and creative when considering how you can help promote the local area. You could write traditional articles (like lists of the best parks in the area), proofread monthly e-newsletters, pull together a calendar of events, write blog posts, or regularly update their social media accounts.

Nonprofits – these organizations always need confident and skilled writers. Offer to assist a local nonprofit you care about by writing and submitting articles about their work to area publications, writing financial campaign "ask" letters, updating websites and blogs, coordinating and writing newsletters, preparing press releases, assisting with grant proposals, or proofreading outgoing documents.

Start Ups - If you hear of a new business in your community, reach out and offer to write press releases, website content, ad copy, brochures, and introductory letters. You could also proofread or tighten copy they already have. Every business does better with a compelling story; be the person who writes those stories.

Don’t give up your dreams of writing for the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, or Better Homes and Gardens. Just be prepared to climb that ladder of success one rung at a time using local markets. Each step strengthens your writing muscles.

Sylvia Ney is a freelance writer and teacher currently serving as President of Texas Gulf Coast Writers. She has published newspaper and magazine articles, photography, poetry and short stories. She is also a member of the Bayou Writers Group and enjoys encouraging other writers. You can connect with her at Writing in Wonderland and through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Goodreads.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Definition Of Author Platform

Platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently.
But one thing that I know for sure: Editors and agents are attracted to authors who have this thing called “platform.”

What editors and agents typically mean by platform

They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.
Let’s break this down further.
  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodonist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).

What platform is NOT

  • It is not about self-promotion.
  • It is not about hard selling.
  • It is not about annoying people.
  • It is not about being an extrovert.
  • It is not about being active on social media.
  • It is not about blogging.

(This excerpt is taken from an article written by Jane Friedman and posted on her blog, Jane Friedman: Helping Authors and Publishers Flourish In The Digital Age. You can read the rest of the article HERE )

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond – Available Now!

Just in time for IWSG post week and Christmas - The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is available for downloading. Thanks to everyone who contributed – it is packed with information! Please help us spread the word about this awesome book.

Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.

ISBN 9781939844088
235 pages, FREE
Find it at Amazon, (please tell Amazon you found it for a lower price elsewhere) Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads.

And this Wednesday 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 December 3 posting of the IWSG are Heather Gardner, T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins!
Don’t forget to check out the IWSG Facebook group and the IWSG Critique Circle.

Thanks again to everyone who made the IWSG book possible, including the awesome IWSG Admins who spent hours editing and formatting. You all rock!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Create a Believable Character

I do characterization sessions for schools and enjoy helping kids create their own. The following is exactly what I walk the kids through.

If the plot is the backbone of the story, then the characters are the heart. 

Creating believable characters is crucial to a good story. Your characters must have depth, personality, and the ability to evoke an emotional response from your reader.

Many writers envision the setting first and the people inhabiting that world second.  This sometimes results in shallow characters.  It’s easier to build a plot around an individual than force that character into unrealistic situations. Developing a character in depth, complete with flaws, will give you a basis for your narrative.

To build a character:

First, decide if your character is a male or female. Name your character if possible.

Two major factors will determine your character – their background and their personality type. Humans all share similar feelings and needs, but how they respond to those depends on their upbringing and their basic, fundamental personality. Backgrounds are as varied as humans themselves. Race, culture, religion, and economic status all contribute to one’s development as a person. 

What is their ethnic background?
What country?  Or planet?  Or world?
Every religion has morals and standards.

Where and how were they raised?  Positive or negative influences?  Taught responsibility?  Taught right or wrong? A person’s moral compass is easily affected by their upbringing, and you need to keep this in mind when creating your characters. Consider also any childhood traumas.
How many, older or younger?
Both parents?  Other relatives crucial to upbringing?
Upbringing and now – poor, rich, worked hard to achieve more, etc?

“Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer is an excellent book that outlines the four personality traits. Become familiar with these basic personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. They will also determine how your character reacts in any given situation. If you do not stay true to character, you will find them responding in a dubious fashion. Life altering moments happen for us all, but a sudden change for no apparent reason will be looked upon as a mere plot contrivance. These personalities often line up with the four birth orders:

Choleric- Oldest, leader, powerful, persuasive, insensitive, worker, extroverted, unemotional
Sanguine- Youngest, popular, playful, funny, unorganized, talkative, extroverted, emotional
Phlegmatic- Middle, peaceful, friendly, balanced, indecisive, slow, introverted, unemotional
Melancholy- Only, perfect, scheduled, artistic, organized, sensitive, introverted, emotional

Which of the above personality types fits your character? And it can be a mix of two.
What is your character good at? What are the positive traits? Do they have a good attitude?
Avoid the temptation to create a perfect character! 
People are flawed creatures and the more imperfections and internal conflicts your character possesses, the more intriguing your story. 
Give them weaknesses, impulses and unresolved issues. 
Negative aspects of your character might improve and eventually vanish, but this needs to be developed slowly during the course of your narrative.
Hobbies, studies, leisure, etc. These are often influenced by the personality.
What do they want to accomplish? This can be the force that drives your story.
How do they view themselves? Do they have secrets? Are there things they hide from others?
What quirks or habits do they possess? How do they speak? Do they dress funny? Have any strange rituals? Pet peeves?

Consider how your character appears -

Skinny? Fat? Athletic?


Color and texture

And what other information will you need to know?


Who are their closest friends?
Are they married or seeing someone?
Do they have children?

Characters will always be the drive and focal point of any story. By putting a great deal of thought into your main characters, you will form interesting, relatable people.

Once you have established this foundation, you can begin creating an intriguing tale!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing Successfully from International Best Selling Author, RaShelle Workman

The awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh asked me to share some tips for writing successfully. Thanks for having me. 

Here they are:

1) SELECT YOUR TEAM. Whether you want to publish traditionally or independently, you should have a rocking team in place. For the traditional route you'll need beta readers and an editor or two. As an indie, you'll need a cover designer, beta readers, an editor or two, and a formatter. You might also need a publicist and a personal assistant. 

2) EMBRACE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. Listen to those you trust. I'm not talking family. They love everything. =) I'm talking about editors and beta readers whose opinions you respect. Allow your story the freedom to grow to its greatest potential.  

I'm going to reveal an insecure truth about myself. Sometimes I think my stuff sucks and I wonder why in the world anyone would want to read what I've written. Then I tell myself (yes, I talk to myself - LOL) that's false. And I remember I've sold more than 700,000 copies of my books and received thousands of amazing reviews. They can't all be wrong. Sometimes our worst enemy is the one within. Know when to tell those insecure voices to shut the hell up. Keep on keeping on. 

4) WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. There are those who believe it's good to write with the trends. They say that's where the money is and we ALL want to make money. I know I do. And writing to trend may bring temporary success. But to stay in the business of telling stories for the long hall means writing what excites. It also means being comfortable with the fact that the story you tell may never make it "big." My Immortal Essence series hasn't been as financially successful as my Blood and Snow series. At least not yet. =) I still have hope the masses will fall in love with an alien girl from another planet who is exiled to Earth. If they never do, that's okay. The series is one of my favorites. Most importantly without it I wouldn't have been able to write Blood and Snow. 

Traditional editors are still saying paranormal doesn't sell, that contemporary romance is where it's at. And for the traditional world I've no doubt they're right, but that doesn't change the fact that I enjoy writing about witches and vampires and retelling fairy tales that just so happen to live in Salem, MA. It's where my heart is. Luckily I've been able to reach readers who like those things as well. 

5) BE FEARLESS. Remember the publishing world is constantly changing. Allow yourself to move with the ebb and flow. You're going to have amazing sales months and then months that aren't so awesome. That's the nature of the publishing beast. It doesn't mean readers quit liking YOU, it just means you need to fearlessly wait for it to come back around. It will. Find new ways to promote. Don't give up on your stories. 

There you have it. The writing tips I live by. 
Hope they help you on your writing journey. 
If you ever have questions, please feel free to reach out. 

RaShelle Workman is the author of the popular Blood and Snow series. She loves to reinvent fairy tales teens and adults can sink their teeth into. Her stories include vampires, werewolves, witches, aliens, and creatures of her own creation. Her books: Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, and Dovetailed have foreign rights contracts with a Turkish publisher. RaShelle is also one of the co-founders of Indie Recon LIVE. Currently, she lives in Utah with her husband, three children, and their three dogs.

Connect With RaShelle

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keep The NaNo Going

It's November and we're halfway through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Half the writers I know go scarce every November and are hunched over their keyboards pounding out roughly 1,667 words each day to get to 50,000 by November 30.

To the uninitiated, this might sound like mission impossible, but to those who relish a challenge, NaNo is the opportunity to unleash your muse, forget about editing and write your story down in its raw form.

If you're still at it, here are some tips to keep you moving toward that goal of 50,000 words or whatever goal you've set yourself this month.

1. If you don't outline but need ideas, try to work out plot lines in your mind each day. Forget the nitty-gritty details and focus on the highpoints for the next chapter. It will prevent the agony of having your mind running in circles when you should be writing.

2. Stay connected to your cheering squad — whether it is a group of people also doing NaNo, or friends who will encourage you to pick up the pace when you stall. Just knowing there’s someone slogging along  and/or cheering will help you stick it out.

3. Pace yourself – at 1667 words per day, you’ll hit the 50k mark on November 30. Write more each day if you can. You don’t want to be caught flat-footed if you have an emergency and your writing time is cut in half. Some people do word sprints — they are fun and keep you motivated. 

4. Stock up on food that energizes you — and will keep you going when you’re tempted to doze on the keyboard. You will have some late nights while you try to catch up on, or surpass your daily targets, but don’t ingest anything that will keep you awake for days, give you palpitations, or make you hyperactive. You need to rest to write your best.

5. Never forget it’s all in good fun. If you start feeling tense and stressed, remind yourself there’s no prize other than personal satisfaction and the tag that tells the world you ‘won’ NaNo.