author help

A long break – and NaNoWriMo!

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I apologise for the long break between posts. I’ve reblogged a couple of interesting posts lately, but have not put up any of my own. The main reason for this is that my mother passed away in September. I’ve been dealing with that and trying to get back into my work proofreading and converting books, but I’ve also been planning my next novel. This is something I’ve been wanting to get serious about and do for a while now, and it’s a good distraction from my grief.

I have signed up with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – to help me get focused and stay focused. For those of who don’t know what that is, it’s an event organised on the Internet for anyone who wants to write a novel and might need some motivation to just do it. Or if you just want to have fun while writing.

It was started in 1999 and originally had about 120 people doing it. Now it has thousands worldwide. It’s free to join and the goal is to write a first draft of a novel during the month of November. At least 50, 000 words in 30 days. If you reach the 50,000 word mark, you are declared a winner.

50,000 sounds like a lot, but if you break it down, it works out to be 1,667 words on average per day. You probably think that that’s still a lot of words, but it isn’t really. I can type that in about 40 minutes. Believe me. I’ve done it. Today even.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and although the day isn’t over yet, I have written 3369 words already! And it was easy! When I get into the flow of writing, time flies by and the words just magically appear on my screen, and before I know it, I’ve written a chapter.

A lot of people on the Net have recommended doing “Word Sprints” to help you get going. All you do is set a timer for a short period of time, say 20 minutes. Think about what you’re going to write first, before you start. Have it cemented in your brain. Turn off all distractions. Then start the timer and just write. Don’t stop for anything (unless the house is on fire) and just let the words flow. The secret is not to try to edit as you go or think too much about whether it’s good writing or not. Just go.

Once your timer goes off, stop writing and take a break. I did my first one just after midnight, then another 20 minute sprint this morning after breakfast. And the third one was a bit longer because my timer didn’t go off for some reason. It was about 35 minutes.

So I got 930 words done first, then 968, then 1498. It wasn’t hard. The sprints made it easy and made it so I didn’t stress about it. I just did it.

The other advice is to not edit your draft while you write. Just concentrate on getting to the end. You can edit later. If there’s something you need to change, just make a note of it that you’ll act on when you edit, and just keep writing.

I hope you have signed up, or are thinking about it – I think you can still join now. You can meet other authors on the https://nanowrimo.org website, participate in the forums, get help, get pep talks and motivation, and attend meetups near you. Even if you have no intention of joining, go check out the website anyway.

I think this is just the kick in the pants I needed to get motivated and stay motivated. I can’t slack off now… everyone will know… lol.

If you’ve signed up too, let me know in the comments below.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

The truth about PLOT and STORY

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My eyes have been opened! I just watched a YouTube video from Just Write called “What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings” and what he says about plot and story is amazing!

He talks about the difference between plot and story and includes things like the character arc in his definition of story. He says that they are separate and that in The Lord of the Rings, the climax for each of them comes at a different point in the film. I won’t try to explain all the details here. Just watch the video for yourselves. It knocked my socks off. It also explains why there’s such a long ending.

I think that this is a really important thing to understand if you want to write good fiction.

Here is the link:

What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings

I hope you find it as interesting as I did and I hope this has been helpful to you.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

Said is NOT dead

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I hear people on the Internet, especially on YouTube, say that their English teachers had told them that “Said is dead”, meaning, don’t use the word “said” when writing a novel or short story. I don’t remember my teachers saying that specifically, but they did insist that we use more “interesting” words to describe speech. I’d never really thought too much of it until recently.

A few AuthorTubers were talking about this and saying that it’s okay to use said. In fact, they’re saying that if you do use it, it kind of floats to the background and your readers don’t really notice it. It’s almost invisible, which is a good thing. I thought that what they’re saying made sense, but it wasn’t until I picked up a book written by someone who had used anything but “said” that I realised exactly how much it changes your writing.

I found myself noticing every word they used. Replied, reciprocated, insisted, intoned, argued, countered, retorted, interjected… the list goes on. The first things I noticed was that it didn’t feel natural and it didn’t fit with the style of the writing. The next thing I noticed was that it started to really annoy me. “Said” would have been better than most of the words used.

Sure, there may be instances where you need to make sure your readers know how something was said, and that’s fine. Use another word. But “said” and “asked” are quite adequate for most things.

Although, if you write, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”, you don’t need to write ‘Sarah yelled’ afterwards.

Another thing you can do so that your writing isn’t full of he said, she said: Try to use an action rather than just telling the reader that someone spoke.

For example, instead of this:

“Are you coming to the mall with me?” asked Mary.

“Um, I don’t know,” said Jill.

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works and then we could get a smoothie,” said Mary.

“Okay, I’ll get my purse!” exclaimed Jill.

Use this:

Mary strode into the living room. “Are you coming to the mall with me?”

Jill cringed. She didn’t want to go, but didn’t want to upset Mary. “Um, I don’t know.”

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works,” Mary insisted as she twirled a lock of her hair around her finger, “and then we could get a smoothie.”

A devilish smile spread across Jill’s lips. “Okay, I’ll get my purse!”

Which example sounds more interesting?

On a side note, when writers say “Said Mary” instead of “Mary said”, it rubs me the wrong way. To my mind, the books I read in primary school when I was learning to read would use “Said Mary”, so it makes the writing sound childish. And it seems to sound worse when written in the present tense. Or maybe that’s just me.

Is it just me? Or does this bother you too? Let me know in the comments below. Or tell me if you think “said” is dead.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

No warmups – just write!

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There is a lot of advice out there about preparing to sit down and write your book. Some people tell you to free write or journal beforehand. They say to just write about anything that comes to mind. I’ve sort of tried this and it’s okay. But I guess I didn’t love it, or I’d still be doing it and this blog post would be totally different.

This advice is usually meant for someone suffering from Writers’ Block. To help them get unstuck and back into the swing of things. To get their mind muscle back into writing again. And this may work for you. But I don’t think we need to free write every time we sit down to write.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this advice. It’s just that it doesn’t always apply. Or it doesn’t always work for us as writers. I think maybe we have to look at other factors, like the time we have available to write. I have plenty of time, but a lot of people don’t. You might only have an hour or less per day. Or an hour a week. However much time you have, it is precious. If you spend that time writing about something totally unrelated to your story, then you won’t get your story written.

As I’ve said in a previous post about writing faster, a good idea is to plan ahead and know exactly what you’re going to write about in your allotted time. Then sit down in the chair and just do it. Planning ahead really helps to eliminate Writers’ Block, because you know what you’re going to be writing about. It’s in your head already. You might have been thinking about the scene you want to write on your way home from work, and now that you’ve set aside time to write, it all just pours out onto the keyboard.

If you do find you need to write something to help with Writers’ Block or there’s something you’re stuck on, try writing about something related to your story. Those words won’t be wasted. You could write a totally unrelated scene, a scene depicting something that happened in one of your characters’ lives in their childhood, an “interview” with the main character or the antagonist, or anything you can think of. And don’t forget, you don’t have to write your scenes in chronological order either. You might be having trouble writing a scene because you keep on thinking about this other scene that is more exciting because it’s a fight scene or something. Go ahead. Write it. Just do it!

You’re the author. You’re the boss.

As we write, we establish our own routine and we learn how we like to do things and what works for us. What works for you? Do you like journaling or free writing? Add your comments below and we can start a discussion.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

Don’t fall for the free ISBNs!

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You may be aware that for a lot of online book distributors, you don’t need an ISBN to publish your ebook. If you want to publish a print copy or an ebook with Apple’s iBooks, you need an ISBN.

I think you should get an ISBN anyway, even if you don’t have to get one. Then you can publish it anywhere.

You will need one number for each version of your book, meaning, one for the print version, one for an audiobook version (if you decide to go that route), and one for your ebook version. I’ve been told that you need a separate one for EPUB and MOBI, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound right. It’s just the electronic form of the book.

Online distributors will tell you that if you get your ISBN through them, it is absolutely free and that’s great, especially for me here in Australia where we have to pay for them.

But…

DON’T DO IT! Even if ISBNs are free in your country. Why? Because if you get a number through Amazon’s CreateSpace, Smashwords, Lulu, Ingram Spark, and whoever else offers them, then THEY are the owners of the ISBN, NOT YOU! You won’t be able to use that number anywhere else! If you decide that you don’t want to publish through Smashwords anymore, you can’t use that ISBN on Amazon. And vice versa.

Find out about how much it costs, or if it’s free where you are, and get your own. Here in Australia, it costs $44 for one ISBN, $88 for 10, and $480 for 100. I went with the 10.

Bowker.com is the place to go. They are the official ISBN Agency. For Australia, it’s Thorpe-Bowker and the website is www.myidentifiers.com.au.

If you publish a print book, you’ll need a barcode for the book. In Australia, barcodes are $45 each if you buy between 1-5 barcodes. From 6-10, it’s $40 each. 11 plus and they’re $35 each.

Yes, I know. More money. Every time you turn around, someone wants your hard-earned cash, but it is worth it to OWN your ISBNs and barcodes. Then you can have total control over their use.

One thing to note: You can’t use the same ISBN for different books. If you decide to take a book off the market and you’re never going to sell it anywhere again, you can’t reuse that ISBN. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. It’s because there still might be copies of it floating around out there, being sold second-hand on eBay or Amazon. New book, new number.

Same goes if you change your author name, like I did. I went from my married name, Susan Carter, to my maiden name, Susan McKenzie, and used up another two ISBNs and another barcode. But that was my choice. If – I mean when – I become famous, I don’t want it to be under my married name when I’m not using it anymore. If I ever get married again, I’m not going to change my author name. It really was a pain in the neck to do. But that’s another story.

So, it’s all up to you, of course, but the whole idea of self-publishing is to have control over all aspects of the publishing process.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

How to write your book faster

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There is lots of advice out there on how to write faster and be more productive. They tell us to be more organised before we sit down to write. Plan ahead. If you only have an hour a day, or even less, make sure that you know ahead of time what you need to write, so that you don’t waste time thinking about what to write and maybe not even get any writing done. This is great advice and I’ll be following it closely when I start writing my first draft of my next novel.

But…

There is another way that you can all write faster, and that is, to actually WRITE FASTER! It’s kinda simple really. If you learn how to touch type, you can really get more words down in your novel in the time that your bum is in the chair and you are typing.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, I can type,” but how many fingers are you using and do you have to look at the keys? Most people use two or three or four fingers and if they use social media a lot, they’re probably pretty fast, but…

Your accuracy will improve immensely if you can look at the screen and see your mistakes as you type them. If you learn how to type properly – using nine fingers, you will be too slow at first, but your speed will pick up and soon you’ll be typing faster than you did with two fingers. Faster than you can type on your phone with two thumbs. And more accurate.

I can type 70 words per minute while I’m writing my novels. I used to use a program that measures your speed while you write your book. I start off slower, but once I’m into the swing of things, I’m doing 70.

There are plenty of typing programs out there, and there are plenty of free ones. Give it a try. I’ll warn you now, the exercises will get tedious and even boring doing it, so do it in small doses. Maybe ten minutes a day. It will be worth it. It is an investment in your business as a writer. And once you’ve learnt this new skill, you will use it for the rest of your life. It isn’t boring or tedious once you are using it to write your books. Believe me. I pick up my phone and get frustrated at how slow I have to type. Sometimes, I just wait till I get home before answering Facebook messages or emails.

Here are some free typing programs I found on the Web (OMG! I sound like Siri!):

Typing Club – https://www.typingclub.com/

Typing.com – https://www.typing.com/

The Typing Cat – http://thetypingcat.com/

Learn Typing.org – http://www.learntyping.org/

Speed Typing Online – https://www.speedtypingonline.com/home

You can always ask Mr Google if you don’t like any of these.

I hope this has been helpful to you. I would love to know what you think in the comments below.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

It pays to learn the craft first

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Are you new to writing? Have you been writing for a while? I’ve been writing for a long time, but it wasn’t always full-time and I would go for long periods of time where I would be too busy with life to write. I went through some rough patches which eventually led to me getting a divorce and I can tell you that it’s extremely difficult to write when your life is in chaos.

But now, I’m concentrating on my writing, blogging, book conversions, proofreading, and cover designs.

I want to say that I think it is very important for all of us to learn the craft of writing. We should never stop learning. And if you’re just starting out, I think you should try to learn as much about writing as you can and do it as soon as you can. That way, you’ll avoid a lot of mistakes. The mistakes that I made and the mistakes made by so many authors before us.

I had basically finished my first novel – well, I thought so – when I read a blog post on Live Write Thrive by CS Lakin that said to not start your novel with lots of backstory and especially don’t start with a flashback. And what did I have in the first chapter? A flashback.

It didn’t start out that way, but I’d read a few novels with a flashback at the start and thought that it might make it interesting, but Ms Lakin said in her blog that if you start with some action, then slip into a flashback, you’ve stopped the action and slowed down the novel, which is a bad thing. And when I thought about it, she is dead right. I changed it immediately.

I still have a lot to learn, of course, but if I’d known then what I know now… life would’ve been a lot easier when it came to writing. So my suggestion is to get on the Net and get your head into some books and learn as much as you can. Now.

Some book suggestions:

  • “The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction” by CS Lakin. (You can buy the book or read it in blog form on Live Write Thrive.)
  • “The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing” by CS Lakin and four other top authors. (You can buy the book or read it in blog form on Live Write Thrive.)
  • “Shoot Your Novel” by CS Lakin. (You can buy the book or read it in blog form on Live Write Thrive.)
  • “Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage” by CS Lakin. (You can buy the book or read it in blog form on Live Write Thrive.)
  • “Writing the Heart of Your Story” by CS Lakin. (You can buy the book or read it in blog form on Live Write Thrive.)
  • “Story Engineering – Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing” by Larry Brooks.
  • “Story Fix” by Larry Brooks.

YouTube suggestions:

  • Film Courage. They talk about movies, but you can learn a lot from the structure and development of characters, etc from these videos
  • Jenna Moreci
  • Vivien Reis
  • Shaelin Bishop (ShaelinWrites)
  • Kristen Martin
  • Kim Chance
  • Rachael Stephen
  • Natalia Leigh
  • Ellen Brock
  • Michael Levin
  • K.M. Weiland
  • Derek Murphy
  • Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn)
  • And last, but not least, Cinema Sins. They go through movies and pick them apart. Weak characters, plot holes, you name it. It is a great learning tool.

If you’re not a newbie, don’t worry. It’s never too late to learn.

Do you agree? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.