I is for I – As in Self: Writing in First-Person

IA first-person narrative is a story from the first-person perspective: the viewpoint of a character writing or speaking directly about themselves.

The narrators of written works explicitly refer to themselves using variations of “I” (the first-person singular pronoun) and/or “we” (the first-person plural pronoun), typically as well as other characters. This allows the reader or audience to see the point of view (including opinions, thoughts, and feelings) only of the narrator, and no other characters. In some stories, first-person narrators may refer to information they have heard from the other characters, in order to try to deliver a larger point of view. Other stories may switch from one narrator to another, allowing the reader or audience to experience the thoughts and feelings of more than one character or character plural.

From the Wikipedia entry on First-person narrative

Though I widely read both third-person and first-person perspective and enjoy both equally, I’m sort of new to writing first-person narrative.

Back when I wrote fan-fiction, all my stories were from a third-person perspective, and this followed through into my first two novels. It worked for these novels, but as I moved to my third, and started focusing more on the romance I felt first-person worked better.

One of the key aspects to first-person, I’m my opinion, is the feelings of the characters. Something I’m working to develop with the help of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.

Writers are taught to show not tell, and I feel this is more easily accomplished through first person, as you’re inside the character’s head, experiencing what they do. You get an insight into their mind, and how they’re thinking and feeling about a situation.

Though anyone wanting to venture from third-person to first-person should be warned, it’s a lot more difficult than simply changing the pronouns and including more of the character’s (narrator’s) thoughts.

While third-person allows the writer to really explore and describe the surroundings, in first-person you’ve got to explore and describe the internal, and if you’re not in tune with your character, it can be hard to do that.

When writing in first-person, voice is more important than ever, and you have to become your character. Everything you put down on the page needs to sound as though it comes from their mouth (or mind). You have to be mindful of vocabulary, and not use words that your character wouldn’t be familiar with due to race, social class, time period etc.

Another difficulty to overcome when writing first-person is making sure not to frustrate the reader by keeping the character/ narrator in the dark for too long. If something is becoming obvious within the story, the narrator needs to figure it out at a reasonable speed (at around the same time the reader does), or the plot will begin to drag.

On the flip-side to that, make sure your character/ narrator isn’t privy to information he or she wouldn’t know because they weren’t there. You as the author may know Mrs Jones down the road has pink underwear, but unless your character has seen it first hand, they don’t!

Though first-person narrative has many aspects to be aware of, and switching to it from third-person can be quite an adjustment, when done properly it adds a new depth and level of personalness to a story, which can be greatly rewarding for both author and reader.

I hope this is helpful to anyone writing first-person narrative for the first time, and if you’re after some recommendations for great first person books, may I suggest the following:

Daughter of Glass, by Vicki Keire
Paranormalcy Paperback, by Kiersten White
The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice
Game On, by Kyra Lennon
The Name of The Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (which is divided into two timelines: the first in the present, described in third person; the second in protagonist Kvothe’s past, narrated by Kvothe himself to a renowned ‘Chronicler’.)

H is for How to … properly fangirl!

H*raises hand* I’m Clare and I’m a fangirl.

I can’t help it, when I love something, I love it with my whole heart and sometimes to an obsessive degree. That can be both a blessing and a curse in an online environment.

But if you’re mindful of others, and keep your obsessions within a healthy limit, then there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fangirling!

Here’s some things to keep in mind so that you and those around you stay sane:

 

  1. Be creative. A brilliant outlet for your love of your favourite book, character, TV show, video game, movie, actor etc. is creativity. Be it fan-fiction, fan-art, graphics, fan-mixes, meta essays, web sites etc. You get to create something dedicated to the thing/ person you love, thus giving you opportunity to research and talk about that thing/ person, and if you share it online, other fans get to enjoy it too. Sites like Tumblr, Deviantart, Youtube and Archive of Our Own are brilliant places to share fan-works, or enjoy the fan-works of other people.

 

  1. Be respective of others. Just because you love a certain book, doesn’t mean everyone in the world does. Telling your friends about your latest fandom obsession is good, and it might intrigue them enough that they check it out, but don’t talk about it 24/7, as you might alienate your friends. Likewise, if you’re into a fandom with shipping wars or character rivalries, consider other people’s feelings when going full-on fangirl. Just because you think Character A and Character B belong together, doesn’t mean everyone in the fandom does. They might prefer Character A and Character C together. And that’s their choice. Don’t attack someone’s fandom obsession just because it isn’t the same as yours, and NEVER be hurtful to a fan who has a difference of opinion. Being racist, sexist, homophobic etc. is never acceptable.

 

  1. Delurk. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and in the case of fangirling, an obsession shared is an obsession doubled. It’s great connecting with other fans of the thing/ person you love. It may lead to many new discoveries, like information you haven’t caught yourself, of troves of wonderful fan-creations. Plus, other members of the fandom are more likely to indulge your obsession than someone who isn’t into the thing you are.

 

  1. Know Your Limits. Creating fan-works, taking part in discussions, attending conventions, creating websites dedicated to your fandom, etc. are all excellent ways of expressing your love for a thing/ person. Stalking/ harassing actors/ writers etc., not having enough money for rent because you’ve spent it all on merchandise, or getting no sleep the day before an important exam because you’ve stayed up all night reading fanfic are not healthy ways to express your love for a fandom. To be a good fan, you also need to be a good person and take care of yourself and those around you.

 

I hope my mini guide on How To Properly Fangirl (or Fanboy!) helps you stay sane, enjoy the thing(s) you love, and be respectful to others as you delve into the wonderful world of fandom!

 

 

 

G is for Gender Bending for Authors

GI have often pondered why I prefer writing from the male POV. That has to be weird, right? As a woman, shouldn’t I feel more comfortable speaking as a woman? Shouldn’t I be more versed in what women think and feel?

Although quite girly in real life, for some reason in fiction, I’m a tomboy.

The early versions of my novel, The Charge, were written from the perspective of Lena—the leading lady in the story. Because when writing a YA, your MC has to be a seventeen-year-old girl, or you’re doing it WRONG, right? But some astute critique partners suggested trying Warren as my MC.

Deciding to change my main character from Lena to Warren was a big decision, namely because it meant re-writing most of the novel. But I also didn’t trust that I could master the voice of an 18-year-old guy, especially one like Warren, who is not that much like me. However, I decided to make the change.

From a plot perspective, writing the story from Lena’s perspective had been a mistake. She’s deeply involved in the story, but it’s not about her. It’s Warren’s story, and should be told by him. Honestly, I think I was stuck in the female-focused mentality of the YA/NA genre. I naturally started writing from the female perspective, just because it seemed like the normal thing to do, even though it wasn’t right for my story.

When I stated writing the story from Warren’s POV, it felt like fireworks erupted in my head. It worked better partly because it made for a better plot, but also his voice flowed so naturally. The prose came to life with color and texture.

This happened to me again with Destruction. When planning the story in my head, I fully intended to write from Amanda’s POV. But when I actually sat down to write, the main male character took the helm. I just started writing a scene from his perspective and he tumbled out for a whole novel.  In retrospect, I am very glad I chose him as a MC. He’s a deeply flawed character and making him into a likable MC added much more complexity than I would have had otherwise.

Who knows, perhaps I do have some deeply seeded gender issues, but my guess is that something else is going on here. I like writing from the male perspective because the voice is less like mine. When you’re attempting to write from the perspective of someone who is not like you, you have to make a more conscious effort to create a strong and consistent voice, which at least in my case, improves the quality of my writing.

In addition, I find it more enjoyable to write as a character unlike myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Sharon fan, but I live in my head 24/7. Stepping out of myself adds fire to my writing because it’s fresh and different, and I enjoy the challenge. So, at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s that much about gender. I enjoy writing as someone different from me.

In A Taste of Death and Honey, book 3 of The December People Series, I finally re-embrace my feminine side, with Samantha, Amanda, and Emmy telling quite a bit of the story. As The December People Series has progressed, I have found that I really love using multiple POVs, no matter what the gender or age. That’s one of the main reasons I moved away from writing YA. I want the freedom to enter every character’s head and tell all sides of the story.

If you’re stuck, try writing from another POV. Step outside of your own shoes. Even if the scenes you write don’t end up as part of the book, your story will become more complex when you look at it through different eyes.

What about you? Do you mostly write characters of your own gender, or do you change it up?

Sharon Bayliss - Author PicAbout Sharon Bayliss:

Sharon Bayliss is the author of the dark wizard family drama, The December People Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Find Sharon Bayliss Online:

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F is for Fictional Characters That Make Great Role Models

FEugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, in The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Skeeter is a study in self-knowledge. By daring to question the morals and beliefs of her insular Southern home town, she figures out a great deal about herself, and manages to become involved in the Civil Rights movement, at the same time. She’s a character who turns her back on a lifetime of privilege. She’s the white daughter of cotton plantation owners, complete with trust fund and college degree. Skeeter could spend the rest of her life sheltered by white privilege, but she steps up when confronted by the oppression around her. During a time when Civil Rights workers were being violently murdered, Skeeter becomes involved with a group of maids, daring to write about their stories of abuse, humiliation, and even rape. Skeeter helps give these women voices of their own through her anonymous book, The Help. She eventually grows too big for Jackson, Mississippi, and heads off to New York City to become an editor.

Katniss Everdeen, in The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

There are so many reasons to love Katniss. She rises out of a slew of dystopian heroines to claim a space that’s truly unique. She’s grown up way too fast, having been forced to put childhood on hold to provide for her family. She puts her own life behind her sister’s when she volunteers for the games. But Katniss’s fight quickly becomes bigger than just her personal circle. She understands, as the books continue, that she has, for better or for worse, become a larger symbol for freedom in the districts. Even though she’s not always comfortable in her role as the Mockingjay, she does her best to stand out and fight, hoping to inspire others to do the same. One other thing I love about Katniss? Her unashamed love of food. She eats everything in sight when she goes to the capital. In fact, if she’s not fighting or plotting, she’s eating something. I love this about her. Never once does she worry about her appearance, either. She’s perpetually interested in keeping herself as strong as possible.

Hermione Granger, in The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I came to the Harry Potter novels as an adult, but like a religious convert who comes to the church later in life, my love for the series knows no bounds. And of course I’m not alone. Millions of readers make the Harry Potter fandom one of the strongest around. For me, part of the appeal was the unapologetic way so many of the female characters break barriers and forge their own paths. The greatest of these is, to me at least, Hermione Granger, super witch and braniac. But she’s far more nuanced a character than that. As the main female lead, she proves she can fight dark magic with the best of them, and that “ladylike” doesn’t mean weak. She almost always knows what to do when things go south, she’s fiercely loyal, and she remains proud of her Muggle roots when that’s not always the most popular route to take.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, in The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Dumbledore is both surprisingly simple, and powerfully complex. Despite being (arguably) the most powerful wizard of his age, he nonetheless manages to come across as humble. In an era when power was being exploited for ambition and greed, Dumbledore chooses to pursue knowledge and virtue instead. This gives him a kind of nobility unseen in the rest of the characters. He acts as a moral compass to the other characters. But his awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Did I mention he was powerful? As in, kick-butt, save-the-day, powerful? He saves the world multiple times, acts as teacher and mentor to thousands of young Hogwarts students, all while orchestrating the overthrow of the world’s most powerful dark wizard. All in all, not bad for a role model.

Darrow, in Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow lives in a world stratified by caste and color: as a Red, he is the lowest of the low, drilling beneath the surface of Mars for a mineral needed to make colonization of the surface a reality. But Darrow has been fed a lie. Like all Low Reds, he has been told he is working for the future, to make colonization, and a better life for his children, possible. But after a series of tragic events, he learns that the Golds- the ruling caste- have lived on the surface for centuries, and his labor is for nothing more than to make their lives easier and more luxurious. He begins a long fight to even the playing field, and to make the Golds accountable for all he and those he loves have had to endure. What I love about Darrow is his focus. Even though he infiltrates the Gold’s world, he never loses sight of who he really is, or what his true mission entails. He wants revenge for what was done to him, but he doesn’t let that overshadow the fact that he is working for the betterment of all Reds, and the other oppressed colors. He even refuses to change his name, keeping his Red name when he joins the Golds. Once a part of their world, he proves he’s superior to them, beating them at their own games. But he never loses sight of his roots, despite all the opulence. This is an ongoing series, and I’m eagerly awaiting the final book.

Vicki Keire - Author PicAbout Vicki Keire

Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She spent the last decade teaching writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks.

Published works include the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood, Darkness in the Blood, and Blood Redemption, The Chronicles of Nowhere series, and the stand-alone novel Daughter of Glass. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking, and the Primetime anthology with J.R. Rain and Anita Exley.

When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people’s cooking and keeps vampire hours. She’d rather burn the laundry than fold it, and believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She is fond of lost causes and loud music. She currently resides in Central Florida on a lake-front farm full of many furry friends. She loves hearing from readers and can be reached on most social media sites or through her blog (link: http://www.vickikeire.blogspot.com/), of which she is awfully fond.

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E is for Editing

ESo you’ve written your masterpiece. But you know that’s not the end of it. You’ve heard lots of talk about crit partners, beta readers, and the importance of editing. There’s so much advice about editing, in fact, that it can be hard to know where to start. While there is no one magic bullet to take care of all your manuscript needs, I would nonetheless like to propose an overarching philosophy that will serve well in any editing situation: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I found over many years of teaching that focusing intensely on grammar and typos in a manuscript is the worst thing you can do. Don’t get me wrong- these things are important. You can’t ignore them. But what I’ve found is that writing has layers of varying importance. Spelling and typos rank near the very bottom in importance as far as editing goes. What’s most important then? It’s simple, really: the biggest concerns, the foundation of your writing, is the most profitable thing on which to focus. Here’s what gets me really excited about the subject:

When we focus on the larger concerns in our manuscripts, the smaller ones tend to disappear. Like magic, right? 😉

Okay, not like magic, but the basic principle is sound. If the foundation isn’t solid, no amount of detail will save the house. That’s kind of obvious. But what’s so fascinating to me is that by focusing on the bigger picture of plot, pacing, characterization and the like, many grammatical snafus and misspellings will disappear on their own. It’s as if these Lowers Order Concerns, or LOCs, are symptoms of bad writing rather than the cause. Fix the Higher Order Concerns, or HOCs, and the LOCs often go away. Not totally, of course. There is no way to get out of proofreading, but they will at the very least shrink a bit.

Conversely, you can also look at a section riddled with LOCs as a signal flag for deeper concerns. Odds are, if there’s a section with lots of misspelling, passive voice, and unnecessary tense shifts, something bigger is going on. Try ignoring the LOCs and plug the section back into your overall plan: are the characters not being themselves? Perhaps the whole thing doesn’t relate to your meta-plot, and needs serious cutting. Maybe you need to go all the way back to freewriting, brainstorming, or whatever discovery process works for you.

In a nutshell: HOCs before LOCs, every time.

For more information about HOCs and LOCs, check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, or OWL, online writing lab. It’s one of the best writing resources out there, bearing in mind it’s set up largely for academic writing. It’s an engaging site, and if you think of things like “thesis” as your main message or central plot, then it’s easy to transfer these ideas to fiction.

Vicki Keire - Author PicAbout Vicki Keire

Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She spent the last decade teaching writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks.

Published works include the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood, Darkness in the Blood, and Blood Redemption, The Chronicles of Nowhere series, and the stand-alone novel Daughter of Glass. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking, and the Primetime anthology with J.R. Rain and Anita Exley.

When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people’s cooking and keeps vampire hours. She’d rather burn the laundry than fold it, and believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She is fond of lost causes and loud music. She currently resides in Central Florida on a lake-front farm full of many furry friends. She loves hearing from readers and can be reached on most social media sites or through her blog (link: http://www.vickikeire.blogspot.com/), of which she is awfully fond.

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D Is For Death: How NOT To Kill Off a Character

DAs writers, many of us have had to grapple with the fall out that often accompanies a character’s death. We want to remain true to our novel, but we may have to deal with reader’s expectations. While even the best death of a much-loved character doesn’t exactly make readers want to stand up and cheer, there are several surefire ways to alienate your audience completely:

  1. Kill off a major character at the end, but leave little to no room to grieve
    Closure is an important part of coming to terms with a beloved character’s death. The story, not just the reader, needs time to breathe after such a traumatic event. Other characters need time to deal, and loose ends usually need tying up. The technical term for this is denouement, or, “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” Without one, the story ends too abruptly, and you risk turning off the reader.
  2. Slay a much loved, long running character for no good reason

The general rule here is that great characters deserve great deaths. Major characters deserve death scenes in proportion to their importance in the narrative. To kill off your story’s star in a manner more befitting a minor character can leave readers with a sense of narrative imbalance.

  1. An act of writerly revenge

Ever read a death scene that just seems like an arbitrary exercise in power? Like, I’m the writer and I can kill whoever I want? Whether it’s to establish themselves as stonehearted wordslingers, or to prove the world they’ve created is dark and gritty, the effect is the same: a character death that feels a bit like the red-shirt away team member on Star trek who never, ever makes it back.

  1. “Suddenly, I’m an idiot” syndrome

A previously intelligent, entirely rational character suddenly loses about fifty IQ points, or else temporarily exhibits absolutely no sense of self-preservation. Dangerous alien? I’ll stroll right on up! Unidentified plant on a strange new world? Must be delicious. Not only do deaths like this have us rolling our collective eyes, it makes the entire cast of characters look bad. What kind of friend is going to let someone open that blood streaked door with the screams coming from behind it, anyway? So clearly, “I’m suddenly an idiot” syndrome is contagious, and is therefore best avoided.

  1. Deaths that don’t advance plot or character progression

Some deaths simply do not add anything to the story at all. Perhaps the death is ill-timed, occurring too close to the beginning for us to develop any emotional ties to the character. For me, though, the real metric here is how deeply the character’s death is felt by others. If the demise slips by unnoticed, then it has failed to make an emotional impact on the reader, too. But when a story takes the time to let the other characters really feel the death, then its effect on the story as a whole is that much greater.

Vicki Keire - Author PicAbout Vicki Keire

Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She spent the last decade teaching writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks.

Published works include the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood, Darkness in the Blood, and Blood Redemption, The Chronicles of Nowhere series, and the stand-alone novel Daughter of Glass. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking, and the Primetime anthology with J.R. Rain and Anita Exley.

When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people’s cooking and keeps vampire hours. She’d rather burn the laundry than fold it, and believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She is fond of lost causes and loud music. She currently resides in Central Florida on a lake-front farm full of many furry friends. She loves hearing from readers and can be reached on most social media sites or through her blog (link: http://www.vickikeire.blogspot.com/), of which she is awfully fond.

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C is for Clare’s World

CWriting and reading have always been part of my life.

When I was a child, I loved getting lost in fantasy worlds like The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Wizard of Oz.

In my teens, I wrote a story about a girl with magical powers, who was in love with her science teacher (don’t ask)! I worked on it every night, and kept the pages hidden under my mattress during the day. I wish I still had it now to look back on.

In my early twenties, while I was struggling with depression, I discovered the Harry Potter Series. Reading Goblet of Fire, and then venturing onto the forums to theorize about what would happen next in the series kept me going. It was through the Harry Potter forums that I discovered fan-fiction, began writing again, and made some of the greatest friends of my life.

Reading Harry Potter also re-ignited my love for literature, and I began to devour Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and her Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy, before moving onto other fantasy and/ or supernatural series. I rediscovered the Chronicles of Narnia, and took deeper meaning from them, as well as being introduced to series like His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman, The Kingkiller Chronicle, by Patrick Rothfuss, and the A Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R.R. Martin.

Throughout my twenties, I continued write. It was mostly fan-fiction at this point, while I found my feet and discovered who I was as a writer. I learned the basics of writing and grammar, and started to pick up some idea of how to promote myself online, through Live Journal and blogging. I didn’t realize back then, while I was writing stories about WWE Wrestling and Harry Potter that I was developing skills I’d used for many years to come in my writing career!

In 2010 I took part in National-Novel-Writing-Month for the first time, and branched out into original fiction. Even though I still loved fan-fic, I wanted to make steps towards becoming a published author. From there, I worked on original fiction, and building an author platform – mostly through blogger and social media – treating my writing career as a full time job and putting the same time and effort in that you would for any type of work. I took part in NaNoWriMo twice more, and the A-Z Challenge twice, as well as various blog fests and hops along the way.

Though I’ve now shelved everything I wrote from that period, I learned so much: about the industry, about myself, about writing. I’ve also made some fantastic friends, who I hope I’ll be in touch with for the rest of my life – not matter where our careers take us!

Through the blogging community, and learning about different routes to publication, I discovered Curiosity Quills Press, and in the summer of 2013 I started working for them a Social Media Manager, before being promoted to Blog Curator and joining the marketing team. I was still writing, and at the same time, earning a living helping other authors get their literary babies out there in the world. I was learning more about the industry, and discovering things I didn’t know before, as well as figuring out how to look at my work and self-promotion more critically.

In January of this year, I decided to go back to my writing roots somewhat, by publishing a novel in web serial form, and from there my contemporary-romance web serial All It Takes was born.

While working on an urban-fantasy novel, I was finding revisions, and when thinking what the problem could be, I came upon a realization. I am not used to writing a manuscript, then revising it, sending it to critique partners etc. Writing fan-fic had conditioned me to start with an outline for the story, then write, edit and publish a new installment every week. This is good for me for many reasons. It allows me to do a little at a time, and fit writing in around the rest of my life. In small chunks, a novel doesn’t seem as overwhelming. And by publishing a serialized story, I get regular feedback from readers, which motivates me to continue.

For me, writing has never been about money, and that’s even truer now that Hubby and I are in steady jobs. I love my work at CQ, and wouldn’t want to leave it for anything, but I still want to write. I want people to read my stories, and for them to get a few hours/ days enjoyment and escapism from something I’ve created.

Writing and reading has always been about escapism for me, and when I break down my motivation for either to the basics, my one driving force is creating my own world or falling into someone else’s for a few hours.

Through literature and the literary world I’m able to get away from my worries and stresses for a while. I can l loose myself, and think only of the fictional world I’m in. I think without reading and writing, I’d likely go insane, and I can fully understand why so many say creative people walk a fine line between genius and madness!

 

 

B is for Branding

BBranding is essentially the boogie man for new authors, there is no magic fairy godmother that flies into your office while you’re writing late at night and whispers the secrets to becoming a brand (though I should look into this). Unfortunately simply having a website and/or every other social network known to man & tween doesn’t mean you have a brand, but I promise it’s really not that complex. I mean Band-aids are literally adhesive strips for wounds and they’ve became a ubiquitous brand name. I’m sincerely hoping that a person about to make a career out of creating fictitious worlds can come up with a story for their brand as an author that’s a little sexier. Pay attention young grasshopper, I’m going to help you out.

 

Step 1: Discern your brand

 

Let’s face it, the chance that you are both a good fiction writer & badass marketer are, as the outlook would say, “outlook not so good”. What you are good at is storytelling, which is basically what all good marketing is. You tell stories? Awesome, tell your own in a well edited, honest but interesting manner. The hardest part is figuring out how to tell your story with the right angle for your book. For example, let’s pretend I was writing a book about a modern, metrosexual Abraham Lincoln aimed at teens. Abe Lincoln is famous for many things, but most teens think Kim Kardashian than good ole’ Abe when they think of hip iconic people (Although Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter sure gave it the college try). I’m probably going to be looking for teen readers who are into pop culture, read fashion magazines, watch reality television. Working the political benefits angle with this particular YA crowd would essentially be useless, however I could pose him as the most fashionable president to hit the white office, comment on his ‘vintage’ suit style, and make his promos about the man who made the beard and top hat iconic. Right now young people love beards, and there are a ton of sites (such as the Art of Manliness) that would probably feature an “Abe Lincoln’s Guide to Accessorizing the Beard” post. That’s not only relevant, but it’s promotion that’s outside of the devout reader population, so your net is much larger. What ‘thing’ is going to make you iconic?

 

Find your target audience, including age group, gender if applicable, interests/hobbies, social networks they use and sites they associate with, and orient your brand in a way that compliments their interests, style, and habits.

 

Step 2: Find your angle

Find what you bring to the target audience, what are you offering them that they like? If you mentally answered, “a good book” get out. That is not an answer. Even if it is a damn good book, it needs to be more than that to hook attention because guess what, there are a LOT of good books out there. As in, several million. One of my authors has written a novel about infertility. She could just say it’s a book about fertility, OR she could pitch it as an infertile woman’s experiences retold in a fiction novel, following from failed pregnancy through marriage struggles to an unforeseen happy ending. That’s way more interesting than a book about infertility, and places like Parent Magazine would likely love to chat about that. Use your personal story, (we don’t need to know everything about you, just the basics) and your personality (are you funny, sarcastic, arrogant, shy?) to fuel your angle.

 

Step 3: Survey the land

You’ll see very quickly that each social network has an etiquette and each generally attracts a different kind of person primarily. Scope out each network and see what the majority of people on it are like. What’s their age? Their job? How and what do they communicate? Find the top 2-3 networks with the most people that fit your target audience and observe for a while. Learn the lingo, the etiquette, the times of day most are active, share, and favorite/like. You need to, to an extent, adopt their manner of communicating a teensy bit. Keep in mind, it might be difficult to find your audience depending on age. MG levels aren’t as active publicly, and you may not want to retweet everything an 11yr old thinks is cool. However, their moms might be on socials, and they could be looking for books they know are appropriate, so don’t go swearing someone out on Twitter if you write for very young readers. That said, if you write for YA/NA, words like ‘douchenugget’ are 100% acceptable.

 

Step 4: Make it snappy

Think about when you go shopping at an entirely new place with unfamiliar stores. You don’t have previous knowledge and credibility to judge which stores you should visit, so what do you do? You look at the storefront. No one goes into the store that barely has items inside and could seriously use a paint job. Newsflash, your online profiles are your storefront. You don’t have the luxury of a physical location except the chance it’s placed in stores and picked out of hundreds of others at said store. How you orient your image online is how you are judged for intrigue and credibility, so make it snappy folks.

  • Have a really solid cover photo for your networks, and keep them consistent (if you change one, change them all)
  • Have the same profile picture across the board, and then on your website, and please for love of baby unicorns everywhere, get it done professionally. Bathroom selfies are NOT okay for a professional author of any kind.
  • Pick a color scheme (it doesn’t necessarily have to match your cover, but complimenting colors is a good idea).
  • Find hashtags that fit the content you are writing. I recommend using iconosquare.com
  • Canva can save lives- it helps you design everything from Pinterest posts to Google Plus covers.
  • If you received an award like “Best Indie Ninja Author of 2056” you should put that in the header of things, it increases credibility.
  • Make sure to have a quote from a review here and there on your website
  • Find other authors that compliment your brand and promotion style and campaign together
  • Make sure there is a link to your site or Amazon page in your socials, and mention the name of your book or series. If you have many, choose the most recent or upcoming
  • Do NOT send auto-messages via Twitter saying, “Buy my BOOK!!” because it irritates 99% of users.

Step 5: Make it findable (yep that’s a word, I checked)

If you have a kickass site or blog, but no one can find it, you’re wasting your time, it’s as simple as that. Google SEO tips and try to help yourself out as much as possible- here are a few general rules and tips to get you started.

  • Keep your name consistent across all social networks
  • Don’t only have images or drop down javascript on your site pages. Web crawlers (basically Google’s search minions) can’t read images, so basically it looks to them like there is no information on your page (bad for ranking).
  • When possible link your socials together. While your Amazon and website should be the priority, don’t hesitate to add you other socials as well.
  • Create an About.Me page, it is another opportunity to get your name and links out there with very little updating necessary on your part.
  • Content is king- posting relevant things and fairly often is going to make a world of difference to traffic, especially if you are talking about trending things.
  • And links are Queen- As in, make sure that any relevant places that mention you link back to your site. Any time you do a review, interview, newsletter, cover reveal etc send them to your site. The only time this isn’t acceptable is if you want to link directly to Amazon.
  • Use tags on every page, picture, and post you make or use
  • Have a keyword strong meta description
  • Submit your new site to Google’s web submission page
  • Have a Linkedin Page. As a professional of any kind, you need a linkedin, and it may help local media find you.
  • Even if you don’t want to blog that much, you should be updating your site with new information (even if it’s just your upcoming events or twitter posts). The see updated, new content as a way of ensuring a site is still relevant.
  • Link out to relevant people as well, they might return the favor and that improves your online ‘reputation’
  • Have your alma mater do a feature or profile page for you if possible, edu links are held in esteem.
  • Add a comments option to your site
  • Try Google +, it’s definitely not the most popular network but links through it can help a lot in the end!

note: Canva has their SEO on like a boss, because less than a day after posting this they emailed thanking me for the mention and asking if I would mind linking to their site, so curious people can easily find it. That is a great way to earn backlinks!

A is for Anonymous Andrew

AYou may think you’re reading a blog post right now. A blog post that kicks off the A-Z Blog Challenge for Curiosity Quills Press. Now you’re beginning to wonder; if you’re not reading a blog post, what are you reading? Well, all I can do is assure you it’s not a blog post.

What you’re actually reading is nothing. That’s right, nothing. Here, I’ll put it in quotation marks so you know I’m being deadly serious: “nothing.” Now I’m going to put other words in quotation marks to make this particular paragraph about nothing far more interesting: “Chinchilla,” “Fruit Popsicle,” “Leonard Nimoy,” and, of course, “Ker-Splat.”

Welcome to the third paragraph, to remain consistent with the two previous paragraphs you just read, this one shall also be about nothing. But in order to re-enforce my two opening paragraphs, let’s look at some statistics:

  • Time you’ve already spent reading this blog post (which is not a blog post): less than 2 minutes
  • The percentage of you who are reading this on the toilet: 3.2%
  • Average number of times you’ve considered to stop reading this not-a-blog-post: 0
  • Average chance that you’ll read this entire post despite my statement that it’s about nothing: 99.9%

Now let’s put those statistics into a colorful graph to prove how pointless they were:

graph

Now we’ll move into the all-important 4th paragraph. Had this been an actual blog post, we’d be approaching the point where conclusions are drawn and recommendations are made. Sadly, this isn’t a blog post and you’re still reading nothing.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, here is a picture of an unimpressed-looking Capybara:

Capybara

Had you been reading a blog post about something this whole time, this would be the paragraph where I’d hammer home that final point. It’s ideally placed on the page, that capybara is still staring at you, and you can see you’re almost at the end. For maximum effect, this is where I’d leave the reader with a positioning statement that would illicit thought and contemplation and send them away with an emotion, feeling, idea, inspiration, and/or gas. Unfortunately, what you’re reading isn’t a blog post at all and your erstwhile pursuit of reading about nothing continues.

April Fools! That’s right, it really is a blog post.

Too bad it was about nothing. Had I some subject matter to work with, I bet it could have been awesome.

A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal

Curiosity Quills loves the A-Z Blogging Challenge, so for the first time ever, we will be taking part and posting every day throughout April (with the exception of Sundays of course)!

Our theme will be The Literary World, and will include posts about anything from marketing, writing, and publishing tips, to discussions about aspects of the literary world we love, and our experiences with books and writing! Most posts will be from CQ marketing team members Clare Dugmore, Nikki Tetreault, Andrew Buckley, and Vicki Keire, with additional guest posts from some of our awesome authors!

A to Z: 2015 Challenge Schedule

Week One:

April 01, Wednesday – A is for Anonymous Andrew
April 02, Thursday – B is for Branding yourself as an author
April 03, Friday – C is for Clare’s World – relationship to books and writing
April 04, Saturday – D Is For Death: How NOT To Kill Off a Character

Week Two:

April 05, Sunday – BREAK
April 06, Monday – E is for Editing
April 07, Tuesday – F is for Five Fictional Characters That Make Great Role Models
April 08, Wednesday – G is for Gender Bending for Authors
April 09, Thursday – H is for How to…properly fangirl
April 10, Friday – I is for I – as in self: writing in first person
April 11, Saturday – J is for Jason Purdy [and Randee Dawn]

Week Three:

April 12, Sunday – BREAK
April 13, Monday – K is for Kindles, Keurigs, Keywords
April 14, Tuesday – L is for Lessons Learned
April 15, Wednesday – M is for Marketing
April 16, Thursday – N is for Nikki’s World – relationship to books/writing
April 17, Friday – O is for Oxford Comma
April 18, Saturday – P is for Publishing today (being a newby in the field of Publishing)

Week Four:

April 19, Sunday – BREAK
April 20, Monday – Q is for Querying
April 21, Tuesday – Letter R is Reviews
April 22, Wednesday – S is for Shelf-talk
April 23, Thursday – T is for Trolls- avoiding the neg. review maelstrom
April 24, Friday – U is for University: What I Learned Teaching Freshman Comp
April 25, Saturday – V is for Vicki’s World – relationship to books/writing

Week Five:

April 26, Sunday – BREAK
April 27, Monday – W is for Women, Winning, and other Badass W’s
April 28, Tuesday – X is for X-rated scenes
April 29, Wednesday – Y is for Yummy- deliciously hot actors and the books we want
them to star in
April 30, Thursday – Z is for Zilch- what’s in the mind of a writer during writers block
and how to overcome it