Monday, August 26, 2019

If You're Only Going to Master 10 Literary Devices, Let it Be These Ones

James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place over the course of a single day, but it’s notoriously chock-full of literary devices. Weighing in at over 700 pages long, it’s a masterclass in writerly tricks, with the intimidating heft of a brick. Joyce seems to have never met a literary device he didn’t love, a fondness that made him the bane of many English majors’ existences — but also a celebrated genius. The good news is, we don’t all have to be James Joyce. There’s no need to frantically stuff your novel with every literary device you can think of, in the hopes that it’ll turn it into the next Ulysses. Still, it’s good to have a handful in your bag of tricks — they can punch up your prose, and make your readers unable to look away from your skillful weaving of plot and theme. Just don’t overdo it. If you’re only going to master 10 literary devices, let it be these ones!

1. Simile

Try this one on for size: writers are like chefs, and literary devices are like their seasonings. If that’s true, then the humble simile is definitely like salt. It’s simple and versatile, and you probably need less than you think — just a pinch can add an irresistible savor to your language. You can use similes to add clarity to your narration, and they can also liven up your characterization: the kind of comparisons your protagonist uses in dialogue — or just in her thoughts— can tell the reader a lot about her personality, background, interests, and even mood.

2. Metaphor

If simile is salt, then metaphor’s pepper: they make a natural pair. Metaphor is just about as universally useful, but because it makes comparisons directly, it’s got a bit more kick. You can even use metaphors to enhance the more complicated flavors in your cooking — by which I mean, themes in your writing — by extending them, elaborating on a comparison to evoke greater emotion and truly engage the reader’s imagination.

3. Symbolism

Novels make statements about abstract concepts — but they don’t make them abstractly. Instead, broad generalities like freedom, love, and growing up are fleshed out and animated through character and plot. Symbolism is an indispensable tool in that process: it takes the abstract and gives it texture, shape, and color so that readers can see and feel it instead of coldly grasping it with their intellect. For instance, instead of droning on about the protagonist’s fear of death, you could represent it symbolically with a raven he always seems to see in moments of dread.

4. Motif

Symbols and motifs have a lot in common — both help you get your theme across. But because motifs recur throughout your narrative, they have the added benefit of making your story feel coherent and satisfying. Motifs are also common in visual art. Imagine the effect of looking at an immensely complicated, dizzyingly beautiful tapestry, with a certain repeating element — say, a dove. Seeing that bird appear again and again in the gorgeous chaos of the tapestry will help you make sense of it and appreciate its beauty all the more.

5. Imagery

This sort of thickly descriptive language plays to the reader’s senses, grounding them in the universe you’ve created using vivid visuals. It’s the key to taking your novel from a list of events linked by causality — something like a news report — to an immersive experience like a whole world, something the reader won’t want to leave.

6. Irony

Irony is often misunderstood — its core meaning is one of distance between how things seem and how things are. Maybe we’re clear on the fact that the brave swordsman who saved the princess is really a woman, but Her Highness has no clue (dramatic irony). Or perhaps the conquering hero we’ve followed throughout his training randomly dies of the flu (situational irony), or the narrator refers to a fatal accident as a “slight mishap” (verbal irony). Sure, it can get a little complicated. But if you use irony correctly, it can do so much for you: build suspend, encourage reader investment, and give your writing a more profound quality.

7. Juxtaposition

Like irony, juxtaposition is also a device that plays with opposites. Here, two seemingly opposing things are placed side-by-side: life and death, prince and pauper, fire and ice. They’ll illuminate each other by their proximity, and the aesthetic effect can be very striking, like a visual pattern in contrasting hues.

8. Flashback

Mastering the flashback will give your writing a cinematic quality. It lets you control exactly when readers get access to the information they need to make sense of the story: you can dole it out in drips, making them hang onto your every word. Flashbacks help build suspense, giving you a gripping story full of immediacy.

9. Foreshadowing

Want your readers to think you’re a genius? Foreshadowing is the literary device for you! By seeding your story with hints at how things will pan out, you’ll wow them when they get to the end — and those seeds suddenly bear satisfying fruit. Foreshadowing shows your total control over the narrative, and mastering it will make your conclusions feel earned.

10. Interior monologue

Why do people even read fiction? Being able to get inside someone else’s head is a big part of the appeal. It’s certainly an advantage of our chosen medium over film: when it comes to showcasing a character’s thoughts, no voiceover narration or facial closeup can compare with a simple interior monologue. This device offers direct access to the contents of your characters’ minds, making them more knowable to your readers than even their closest friends. It’s the perfect recipe for emotional investment in your story, and the cherry on top of what should already be extremely strong prose — especially if you’ve taken this advice to heart.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ten Ways to Support Other Authors

At the core of this group, it’s all about support. Writers and authors face rejection at every turn and we need someone in our corner. Sharing our writing with the world is scary. Terrifying! It helps to know others have our back.

Here’s ten ways you can support your author friends:

1. Be a critique partner. We all need help polishing our manuscripts. As a critique partner, we also learn a lot about our own writing in the process.

2. Mark the book as ‘Want to Read’ on Goodreads. That helps it get noticed more. Plus vote for it if it appears on a Goodreads list.

3. Offer to host the author on your blog during his virtual tour. Either ask for a guest post or send interview questions. Even just a feature on release day helps spread the word.

4. Sign up to be on the author’s street team. You’ll promote on multiple platforms and get all sorts of cool bonus goodies.

5. Promote it on Facebook. Post notifications of the book’s upcoming release or host a Facebook party.

6. Promote the book on Twitter. Send out Tweets about the book – with an image. Retweet the author’s book tweets.

7. Promote the book on Instagram. If you have a review copy, take pictures of it. Same with Pinterest.

8. On release day, announce the book to your followers, friends, family, and fans, whether online or in the real world. Let them know they need to buy this book. Tell your local library and bookstore to order it. Hound them if you have to!

9. Buy the author’s book! Even if you got a free review copy. Years ago, Carolyn Howard Johnson said that was the number one thing you could do to support an author.

10. Review the book. Goodreads-Amazon-iTunes-Barnes and Noble – wherever! Just leave a review or at the very least a star rating. The book will get more notice with more reviews. Just make sure it’s an honest but not overly negative review. (If you’re out to slam other authors, you are in the wrong line of work.)

We all need to support each other and celebrate one another’s accomplishments.

And something else cool happens as a result – others will support us when we have a book release.

What other ways can you think of to support an author?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sell Ads to Help Finance Your Self-Published Book or Promotional Book

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series 
of books for writers

I hate the word “monetize.”  
And I especially don’t like it when this word (it’s really ugly, isn’t it?) is mentioned in the same breath with books. But I’m going to talk about it anyway because, if authors do it right, using ads in their books or other promotional materials can subsidize the cost of publishing a book, costs like great editing, great cover design, and great indexing that they often scrimp on. 
Most every author is self-publishing something themselves these days. If not their books, then e-books or white papers that help them promote their work. Many of these books—are perfect for paid ads and ads in barter. You might also think about trading an ad for another service you need like a blog tour, book cover art, or printing. 
So, even if you do hate the idea, I’m asking you to keep reading. It’s important because many authors never make the money they spend of self-publishing back in royalties or even back-of-the-room sales. Read it with an open mind. You might change your mind, or you might think of way to adapt the idea to your needs and thus help assure a more profitable career as an author. And—trust me—you will discover at least one way you’ve seen back matter ads in books for a long time—all the way back to high school.
Ads in the back matter of books are becoming more accepted (and more ethical), if they are focused on the book’s target audience. Not too long ago, the LA Times reported Amazon puts ads in some Kindle readers and that they then sell them at 18% less than the ad-free device ($114.00). I figure they got that wrong. They might sell them for more because they can enhance the perceived value if the ads  include a discounted offer or essential free resource for its readers. 
Ads in disguise have been used in literary journals and other books for years. They usually come as an order page or a list (subtle or not-so-subtle) of related books that might interest a reader. Your high school yearbook featured pay-for ads, but they called them “sponsors.”  
So, if you decide to put ads into your books, how would you do it? 
~Offer ads or sponsorship in the backmatter of your book. Be sure your offer includes the ways the ad will benefit the advertiser or sponsor including how you will feature your benefactor in social networking you’ll be doing during the launch. 
~Accept only professionally produced ads. 
~Accept only ads that would interest your target audience. Be prepared to refuse some with the “not quite right” phrase that literary journals use to reject submissions. 
~Limit the number of ads to just a few. 
~Encourage ads that give discounts or freebies to benefit your readers. In fact, you could offer a discount on the price of the ad to those who do.
~Don’t undersell your ad, especially if you already have an extensive platform. 
Did I mention that when you use ads this way, your reader benefits. They learn about new resources and special discounts and those discounts may easily pay for the book (yours!) your reader just bought?  Ahem. 
If you are uncomfortable with this idea, start small. Start using ads only in your promotional e-books. Then move on. Eventually your readers may benefit from ads in your full-fledged, honest-to-goodness paperback or hardcover book!  
PS: Anyone with a product (yes, books are products!) or a service that would appeal to readers of The Frugal Book Promoter may e-mail me ( for details of how we might partner on something like this for one of my new releases. I’m planning to update my little booklet, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips which is for sale to be used as an inexpensive thank-you greetings or gifts for writers but is also given as a little extra when writers sign up for my newsletter. Spaces are limited. 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a novelist, poet, and the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers ( That site includes a huge, free section of Resources for Writers. She also blogs writers’ resources at Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites pick

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

So dogs get their own days in summer? One might think cats would be offended, but cats think they own every day, so probably not. So since it is too hot to walk the dog on their days or even mow the lawn, what is it you can do? Writing? Yeah. Wait on that a few seconds. Blasphemy. I know. There are a few other things first.

You can keep those entries coming and make sure yours is all polished and ready to win. Less than a month left to get it in. Are you entering? Have you entered?

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules: 

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019  

Need some clarification on the genre?
Middle grade – suitable for 9 – 14 year-old children.
Historical – it must have historical aspects and be set in a time before 2000 or earlier. It just needs to be set in the past. Adventure/fantasy – the subgenre can be either adventure OR fantasy. The fantasy genre is acceptable as there are many ancient cultures and times that believed in supernatural occurrences.

It also never hurts to polish those pitches and have them ready to go. You just never know who may be watching.

Or prepare yourself for posting your entry for RED WHEELBARROW between August 21 - 23.

Or you could just answer the optional question. If you answer it would that mean it isn't optional? Probably not. Would that be two questions? I guess that makes three. Right. Here it is.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

And if you want one more thing, you could check out the going ons of the IWSG Instagram account. Or you could going on about my use of going ons. Did it twice. Whoopsy!

Are we done yet? Not quite. Where have you to go? It's too hot. Oh, you still want to write? Well then I better finish up. For our final task, please welcome Juneta Key to the IWSG admin team.

Juneta Key writes SPECULATIVE FICTION, and loves fantasy and all its subgenres, the paranormal, mythological and space opera. In 2019, she entered into a partnership with another Indie author as co-owner of Stormdance Publications, to create fun, quality themed anthologies, especially about grumpy old gods. She’s one of seven founders of the Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop founded in 2015. 

Also let's give a round of thanks to the awesome co-hosts for this month's posting. Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Do you plan to participate in any of the above? Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Enjoying the heat? Getting any writing done? Tired of my questions?