Tag Archives: authors

5 Simple NaNoWriMo Writing Hacks You Can Use Today

5 Simple NaNoWriMo Writing Hacks You Can Use Today

It’s the first day of NaNoWriMo, and you’ve got some 1700 words of your novel to write today.

Firstly, kudos if you’re taking part. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and with any luck at all, you’ll write and publish your novel.

NaNoWriMo hacks: easy tricks to survive November

Anytime I’ve got an important writing project, I take half an hour or so to plan the project, and to do a mini SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. So that’s our first hack.

Let’s look at some fun tricks to make NaNoWriMo easier.

1. SWOT it first: an analysis is fun, and often surprising

Grab a notepad, or an index card. Use a card if you’ll be writing in different locations; you can take the card with you.

Print SWOT vertically down the page, leaving some lines between the letters.

Now think about:

  • Your strengths, whatever they may be. Maybe you’ve got an amazing outline, and have scheduled each day’s writing carefully.
  • Any weaknesses. Are you terrified because it’s your first novel? Maybe you’re writing in a genre new to you.
  • Opportunities. Can you think of any opportunities which you might get as a result of doing NaNoWriMo? Perhaps you’ll write a bestseller… 😉
  • Threats? You know yourself — maybe you’re worried that you’ll procrastinate, or will get bored…

Here’s why a SWOT helps, even if you just take five minutes to do it very quickly. It gets the benefits and challenges out of your head, and onto the page. Your subconscious mind will begin working on solutions to threats, so that you can overcome them.

2. Do writing sprints with a countdown timer

The first four days of any novel are slow if you’ve done zero preparation — and even if you’ve done lots of preparation. You’re finding your voice for this novel.

However, often the idea that “the first days are slow” can merely be an excuse. When I catch myself getting too relaxed and lazy, I fire up the countdown timer in my phone. Then I write as quickly as I can while the timer ticks down.

Writing sprints of 20 minutes or half an hour are useful — you’ll increase your word count for the day relatively painlessly, particularly if you focus on dialogue. After the 20 minutes, you can go back and fill in the blanks of the scene you’re writing.

3. Create a BIG mind map, and update it daily

I work on several novels and short stories at any one time; my own, and others’. I have a “novel” mind map template, and have these branches from the central idea:

  • Characters;
  • Settings;
  • Story question;
  • Time line;
  • Open loops.

It’s easy to add to the mind map while you’re writing. For example, I might have these branches off “characters”: attributes; physical appearance; REMEMBER.

I have REMEMBER coming off each of the major branches, because there’s always something which I know I’ll forget, especially anything related to minor characters. In mysteries, there’s always red herrings; I need to remember where I planted them, and how I’ll resolve them.

The “open loops” branch is handy. Anytime you leave readers wondering about something, it’s essential you start closing your open loops at around the 60% done mark of the novel.

4. “Outline” at least two scenes ahead: just one sentence is fine

As I point out in Map It, my book on outlines for writers who hate outlines, I’m not huge on outlines. I like to work things out as I go.

One thing I’ve found however: I notice this in my students who prefer pantsing too… if you don’t write down at least a sentence about the upcoming scenes, you’ll block. Or you’ll head down a useless tangent.

Your brief notes for upcoming scenes kick your creative self into action. Those notes make writing easier.

5. Warm up with timed writing: five minutes each day

Speaking of easier writing.

When you sit down for that day’s writing session, do five minutes of free writing first. Just write as much as you can in five minutes.

It doesn’t matter what you write:

  • Ideas for upcoming scenes;
  • Character sketches;
  • Dialogue…

This brief warmup clears your mind, and gets you into a writing mindset. Words and ideas will come more easily.

OK — there you have it. I hope these simple hacks help you with NaNoWriMo — and with all your fiction, for that matter. 🙂

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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 →

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 Angela’s books for writers.

Ebook Covers: Create Low Cost Covers To Attract Readers

Ebook Covers: Create Low Cost Covers To Attract Readers

Our first short story class is well underway, and is huge fun. One of the most popular questions I receive is about ebook covers. When you’re publishing a short story, paying $100 for a premade cover can be a tad challenging, particularly if you need a lot of them in a short period.

A mini digression. Yes, I’m aware you can get a cover for $5 or $10. Caveat emptor. If you get an inexpensive cover, make sure you know the image’s source. Horror stories abound.

One student decided that she wanted to write two short stories a week for the next two months; this means quite the investment in covers. She set out to do her covers herself, and kudos to her.

I wrote about Canva and Picmonkey in this article last year, and said:

If you’re publishing a couple of short stories a month, payments to designers add up fast. In addition to money, time is a concern too. Good designers are booked up months in advance…

The solution? It’s time to take courage, and learn how to create your own covers.

Ebook covers: the DIY solution

Canva ebook cover templates
Easy Canva templates for non-designers

Without any doubt, the easiest way to create an ebook cover quickly, without any design experience, is by using Canva.com. The app works in any web browser, you don’t need to download anything.

You’ll find many templates for ebook categories, and genres. For example, here are some examples of the “Love” templates for romance fiction.

“Love” templates for romance fiction
“Love” templates: ebook covers for romance fiction

Tips to help you to design great ebook covers

Let’s look at some tips for what you might consider when creating your own ebook covers.

  1. Remember emotion: what emotion does the cover arouse in you? Chances are your readers will feel what you want them to feel.
  2. Arouse interest — vital. Over the past year, I’ve noticed that many covers, particular in some genres of fiction (and nonfiction too) seem to have a cookie-cutter, “me too” quality. Remember that it’s your name on the book. You don’t have to create a cover which is similar to every other cover in your genre, sub-genre, or category.
    You know what feelings you want to evoke in readers. Your designer and editor, with all the good will imaginable, can’t read your mind — have the courage to trust your creative self.
  3. I seem to be gushing over Canva, sorry, but one of the benefits of using Canva is that you don’t need to worry about typefaces or font choices — Canva chooses fonts for you. Of course you can change them if you wish.
  4. Pay for royalty free-images, and keep a record of the license information. With so many stock image libraries online, you can get a great image for your cover for a dollar, sometimes less.
    Sourcing dubious “free” images online, when you have no real idea of the images’ provenance, is a foolish economy.
  5. Accept that you’ll become better at creating covers the more you practice. When you’re 100% better in a year or two, you can redo your covers, or hire a designer.

Good luck with your ebook covers. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99
You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell. More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

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.

Self-Publishing And Promotions: 3 Vital Book Advertising Tips

Self-Publishing And Promotions: 3 Vital Book Advertising Tips

Book advertising is the latest hot trend in self-publishing, so let’s look at some tips which may help you to make money, or at least, prevent you from losing money.

Over the past few months I’ve been chatting with authors who use many different forms of advertising.

Here’s a good list of paid and free advertising venues from Reedsy. Results vary, as you might expect. There’s a reason that many authors just toss their books into KDP Select; it saves time, advertising-wise.

Of course “free” is authors’ most popular form of advertising.

Book advertising: does “free” still work?

“Free” will always work. But you need to be careful with it.

As I said in Book Marketing And Freebies: How To Escape The Tyranny:

If freebies aren’t working for you, for whatever reason, stop offering freebies. Simple.

We’ve got more on freebies below, in our second tip.

Let’s look at three tips which will help you to navigate the choppy waters of book advertising for self-publishers.

1. Know your ROI (Return On Investment): it may not be money

You need a reason for whatever you’re doing in advertising. If you’re marketing a book, you want to:

  • Sell copies; or
  • (If you’re using your free days in Select) Bump your book up in the rankings on Amazon so that you get greater visibility; or
  • Do a little branding; you want readers to become familiar with your name.

Here’s a step by step process to go through before you advertise

  1. Decide that you want, and set a goal, with a time limit;
  2. Decide how much money you want to invest;
  3. Have a way of tracking your ad spend and sales, so that you can see whether you’re making money, or are losing money.

As we suggested above, you may not be after direct sales. You may want to familiarize readers with your work. So, if you drop some money on Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) for a book and lose money, it will still hurt, but at least you’ve achieved your goal of becoming a little more visible.

2. Know what you’re doing with freebies: have a REASON for your freebie

I’ve spoken with several authors who were giving thousands of books away — with zero sales.

Unbelievable, right? I kid you not. My mantra for these authors, and for YOU if you’re taking this freebie thing way too literally is: “I SELL BOOKS”.

I know that online forums are packed with authors for whom freebies work, but think for a few moments about how free samples work in everyday life.

Let’s say you’re shopping at your local supermarket. It’s a Friday, a big shopping day. People from several food manufacturing companies are offering free samples. You can nosh on King Island Brie, plus a new sourdough bread; in addition, you can sample a new chocolate.

Think about what’s happening here. Does the King Island person offer you an enormous brie, the size of a dinner plate? Nope. You get a small teaspoon-sized wedge. What about the sourdough person? Does she hand you a sandwich? Nope. You get a tiny slice, the size of a spoon. The chocolate person offers you a square of chocolate, not a chocolate bar.

Sales people who offer free samples offer small samples, and the sample people are at a store for a day; or at most, a couple of days.

Sticking with our freebies in the shopping mall example. Go for a wander around the mall in your imagination. Here’s a bookshop. Excellent…

Look for the freebies in the bookshop. What’s that? There aren’t any? Well, fancy that. Ask the sales person what’s free today — she might give you a bookmark that a publishing company offers to promote its latest (they hope) hot seller.

You can stroll around the mall all afternoon. You won’t find full-sized anything for free, and while some stores have free samples, the samples are small, and they’re available only for a few hours.

3. Test and go slowly in book advertising: what works for others may or may not work for you

I adore advertising, because I’m a veteran copywriter. I read the ads in magazines as diligently as I read the content. I even read junk mail.

However, when it comes to spending money on advertising, I’m frugal, because you never know what will work for YOU. Yes, people can tell you that they made $5,000 last month on Facebook ads on a $500 ad spend.

That’s them. Your mileage will be different. You may be promoting a book in a different genre. Facebook may tinker with its algorithm, and offer your ad to people who’d never buy your book.

So, in book advertising, as in all advertising, go slowly, and test the waters. Try a small ad, for one book. Watch your numbers: how many sales did you make which are directly attributable to the ad?

Let’s say you use a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising network. You make a ROI of 500% — you spent $100 and got $500 back. Magic — you decide to ramp up your advertising significantly. STOP. Please don’t do that. Increase your ad spend slowly, always slowly.

Here’s a rule of thumb for PPC. You don’t know what will work until you get at least 300 clicks. (Unless you’re paying $5 per click. In that case, kill the ad as soon as you become unprofitable.)

Book advertising works best when combined with other promotions

I know many authors who focus solely on advertising to promote their books. They have a mailing list, but only post when they release a new book. It works for them. For whatever reason — their book hits exactly the right tropes for a genre, or they already have a following — they sell.

In general however, paid and free book advertising works best when it’s combined with other marketing, such as blogging and social media, for example.

Good luck with your promotions, and please be wary of “free.” 🙂

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99
In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

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.