All posts by Angela Booth

About Angela Booth

Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.

Indie Author: 3 Tips To Manage Anxiety And Doubt

Indie Author: 3 Tips To Manage Anxiety And Doubt

You’re an indie author, and you’re sinking in a swirling stream of doubts and anxieties. Are you wasting your time? What if your new book won’t sell?

Every author has doubts. Some authors are continually anxious, and there’s a good reason. Research shows that creative people are more susceptible to anxiety than others; the upsetting emotions are just the way your brain works.

Several months ago a friend told me that she was giving up writing. She hated her current novel; she said it was a mess. She was in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. Her writing was another source of stress, so she was cutting it out of her life.

I made commiserating comments and silently made a small bet with myself — I was convinced that she would be writing again within six months.

You’re an indie author: kudos to you!

It took three months. She rang me last week. “I’m working on a new novel. I’m not giving up on the one I was stuck on, I’m revising — I’ve got some good ideas of where I want to go with the revision.”

When there are other things happening in your life, the stress of writing seems too much, so you give it up. That doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, or that you’ll give up writing forever. It just means that you’ve put your creativity on hold for a time. It will return.

Now let’s look at the tips, but do remember that as an indie author, you deserve kudos. You’re doing something that takes courage, faith, and trust in yourself, and at times, finding those things is hard.

1. Anxiety and doubt are normal: expect and accept

As we’ve said, anxiety is normal for creative people. I’ve often told the story of what happened when I got my first book contract from MacDonald Futura. Every morning when I sat down at my IBM Selectric typewriter to work on my novel tears streamed down my face. I was beyond anxious, but I wrote anyway.

I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me; obviously I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Years later, I learned that my emotions were completely normal.

The solution to dealing with them was simple: I learned that I needed to expect to be uncomfortable for ten minutes or so when I started writing.

You can accept the discomfort and write anyway. Within a short time, the discomfort will fade. Until the next time you sit down to write.

Over the years, my discomfort when I sit down to write has almost completely vanished. I need to look hard for it, but a tiny fluttering of anxiety is still there. I ignore it; I’ve learned to expect it, and to realize that that’s just the way our creativity works.

2. Write down what you’re feeling: you’ll feel better

Occasionally, you can’t write. The anxiety is too much. You’ll do anything rather than sit down at your computer. One writer I know painted his house, inside and outside, to avoid writing. Another took up sky-diving.

There’s a simpler way.

When you can’t write, take a pen and paper (this process seems to work better if you write by hand), and write down what you’re feeling. Write for ten minutes.

You may need to repeat this exercise every time you sit down to write for a week or two. Eventually, you will have made all your unconscious doubts and fears visible. You’ve unmasked the terrors and tamed them, so they’ll lose their power over you.

3. Meditate: ten minutes a day puts you in control

If meditation sounds a little too trendy for you, give it a chance. Meditation has been used for thousands of years because it’s powerful. I first started meditating in the 1970s. Although I may not meditate for months, when I start to feel anxious, I start meditating again.

Ten minutes a day will make all the difference. Here’s a simple meditation from Tara Brach that’s both a wonderful introduction to meditation, and an easy meditation you can do every day once you learn the body-scan process.

An indie author strategy: when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break

Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? You’ll know if you are.

Slow down. Review your deadlines, and give yourself a little breathing space. I give myself one day a week when I take a break from writing fiction. On that day, I blog, and I work on nonfiction, so I’m still writing — over the years, writing has become my default setting. It’s just what I do.

Writing fiction can be more anxiety-making than writing nonfiction; you’re working with your imagination. This creativity leads to anxiety, so take a break occasionally. You may find as I do, that your little breaks are helpful. After a break, you’ll write more easily, rather than struggling to find words.

Doubts and anxiety are the price you pay for being an indie author. They do fade over time. You can handle it. 🙂

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

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Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

In fiction writing, there’s an old argument among authors. Some authors believe that the plot is everything; while others believe that the plot is immaterial — fiction begins and ends with fictional characters.

If you’re unhappy with your fiction — your characters haven’t “come alive” — chances are that you’ve been pushing them around. You’re too focused on your plot.

Let’s look at some fiction writing tips which will help you to build great characters, and a wonderful plot.

Characters in fiction writing: two essentials for each character

New authors imagine that to create a character, you need to know everything about him: his shoe size, for example. Or whether or not he likes anchovies on his pizza.

To create a character who has the potential to be wonderful, you only need to know two things:

  • What he wants. What’s his heart’s desire — what will he sacrifice for?
  • What internal obstacle stops him getting what he wants?

Now let’s look at three tips to help you to build great characters who will grow your plot for you.

1. To create a character, start with an attribute to create an internal obstacle

In Craft Fictional Characters For NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips, we said:

I know some authors like to create page upon page of character bios, and that’s fine — although it’s never worked for me. I like to start with the basics, a fictional character’s name, his age, his profession, and his primary attribute.

Let’s say that we’re writing a cozy mystery, and we want to create a quirky sleuth. Without bending our brain, we decide on:

* Name: Mara Mason, age 26

* Profession: widow, who works from home, as a virtual assistant;

* Primary attribute: intense curiosity.

You can create a character within moments, as you can see. Mara’s primary attribute is curiosity, an essential for a sleuth. It’s also a double-edged sword, and this attribute helps you to create external obstacles for Mara.

Recall however that we also need Mara’s heart’s desire, and an internal obstacle which stops her getting what she wants.

Let’s say that Mara’s heart’s desire is a family of her own. Her parents died when she was young, and she lived in a long succession of foster homes. She wants what she never had. What’s the internal obstacle? It’s a lack of trust. Mara can’t trust anyone enough to reveal herself and build close relationships.

Vital: your character will usually be totally unaware that he has an internal obstacle which stops him getting what he wants. He may also be unaware of what he mostly deeply desires.

Although Mara may be unaware that she has problems with trust, and unaware that she longs for a family, you as the author are completely aware. You use this knowledge to build your plot.

Similarly with other major characters in your novel. You need to know what they most want, and what stops them getting that.

2. Once you know the internal obstacle, build your character’s backstory to explain it

Our backstory explanation of Mara’s trust issues is: orphan, foster homes.

However, if you want to write a novel which is a page-turner, keep 95% of the backstory out of your novel.

As we said in: Fiction Tips: Kill Your Backstory,

Your explanations are backstory. You need to know the backstory, but your reader doesn’t. You may have heard that you should start slotting backstory into your novel after the setup, somewhere after the first few chapters. This can work, but honestly? It still bogs down the story. You want readers to keep reading, so only tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Backstory is a killer, especially for new novelists. I’m currently reading The Night Manager, by John Le Carré. He’s amazing. I love the way he handles backstory, but he’s an expert. Until you have Le Carré’s skill, avoid dumping backstory into your novel.

Instead, hint at the backstory. For example, perhaps Mara has a garden rock on her desk. She took the rock from the garden of the one foster home in which she was completely happy.

You can keep readers wondering: why is that simple rock so important to Mara? Keep them wondering, until you reveal its importance to Mara.

When you limit your revelations of backstory like this, you’ll write a more exciting novel, because you’re involving readers.

3. Develop your plot: your plot is the resolution of your main characters’ internal and external obstacles, in SCENES

You need to know the heart’s desire of all your main characters, as well as their internal obstacles. You SHOW the desires, and the external and internal obstacles in scenes.

We covered how to set a scene in Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips:

Character goals lead to: action, conflict, suspense… DRAMA

It’s often easier to study scenes while watching a movie. There’s less chance you’ll get lost in the words. So watch a movie, with a pen and paper. Pause the action when a scene ends, and replay the scene. Analyze it.

When you focus on your characters’ internal and external obstacles, you’ll automatically build a good plot, scene by scene, because you’re focused on your characters.

In fiction writing, you build characters: remember the desire, and the internal obstacle

If you remember these things, you’ll write good fiction. Not only will your readers enjoy it, you’ll enjoy writing it too. Have fun with it. 🙂

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

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Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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A Simple Self-Publishing Process: Write Well, Publish Faster

A Simple Self-Publishing Process: Write Well, Publish Faster

“How do I know that I’m doing it right?” This concern underlies every question my writing students ask about self-publishing. I respond with a variation of “if you published your book, you did it right. Fix it later if there’s a problem.”

It might be useful to share a VERY simple process I’ve developed over many years of writing books; I teach it to my students.

Firstly however let’s look at the biggest challenge facing self-publishing authors.

Self-publishing today: your biggest challenge is YOU

Sadly, you’re your own worst enemy.

We all are. I’m not immune — I find new ways to torture myself and procrastinate each and every week. I tell myself about things I “must” do, but most of these “musts” are simply new ways to procrastinate.

We all have 24 hours in each day. Depending on how long you’ve been writing, it may take you between an hour and two hours to write a thousand words. But a thousand words of new content every day might not be possible for you. Perhaps you can only manage 500 words, or 200 words. That’s OK.

Set a word count goal for yourself. Keep the count low. You should be able to achieve this goal even on your worst and busiest day.

Self-publishing in six steps

Here’s the process.

1. Get an idea, write a blurb (description)

As soon as you get an idea for a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, write down your idea. Expand on the idea to 300 words. Look on this description as a mini-outline. It stops you wandering off-track later, once you start writing.

You may or may not use parts of this initial blurb later, when you publish.

2. Expand on the blurb: create a quick list outline (or two characters for fiction)

Without thinking about it too much, spend five minutes writing a list of what you intend to cover in the book if you’re writing nonfiction.

Writing fiction? Create two characters — just a job, and an attribute:

  • Bored accountant — for the mob;
  • Self-confident female surgeon.

You’ll find that the job plus attribute quick character-creation process sparks ideas. I had no idea that the “bored accountant” would be working for criminals, that just sprang to mind.

3. Write, while developing a more extensive outline

Start writing. When I write fiction, I focus on the major scenes; I want to know what these big scenes will be by the time I’ve written 10,000 words.

With nonfiction, avoid doing research until you know the slant/ angle you’re taking on your topic.

4. Create a title, order a book cover, research keywords, start marketing

Do these basic self-publishing chores as soon as you can. However, avoid letting any of them cut into your writing time.

Tip: use premade covers unless you’re writing a series. (They’re cheaper.) When writing a series, get good covers, and make sure that the covers will identify your series instantly, at a glance.

4. Revise: re-vision — promises kept?

Your biggest challenge is ensuring that your completed book lives up to the promise of your blurb.

For example, let’s say you’re aiming for a Lee Childs/ Jack Reacher suspense novel. Read what you’ve written. Did you achieve that goal? If not, start revising. 🙂

With nonfiction, have you differentiated your book? Does it serve its audience? If you’ve written a “me too” clone of other books on the topic, revise.

5. Send to beta readers: edit, and edit again

Once your revision is done, and you’ve done some light editing, whip the book off to your favorite beta readers. While you’re waiting for them to get back to you, start your next book.

Then take your betas’ comments on board, and edit. Twice.

Edit once to ensure that there are no boring bits. The second edit is to make sure that there are no stupid bits. Fact-check yourself.

Do a final proof, and…

6. Publish it — ready or not

Upload it to Amazon. Going wide? Upload your book to the other major book retailers as well.

Start your next book while you’re revising/ editing etc your current book

Write your next book, following the same process, while your current book’s being edited.

Here’s why you need to do this.

If you’re enthusiastic about the book you’re currently writing, you won’t be overwhelmed by comments from your betas — or by your editor, if you’re going the traditional publishing route.

In your first few years as an author, even the kindest comments can throw you off track. Aim to be so engrossed in your new book that you’re insouciant about the book being edited. Eventually your “it’s done, I don’t care” attitude will be real.

Use this simple self-publishing process. Keep moving forward, and have fun with it. 🙂

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →