I write stories for children and I love it. But I’m an unknown author, so how
do readers find my books?
Today’s authors (whether traditionally or self-published) have to be Jack Of
All Trades. They need to be experts in marketing and promoting themselves to stand out from the thousands of others who publish new titles each year.
And sometimes all that work gets in the way of writing. I’m not an expert on
new media, but every day I learn something new. And this helps me take little steps towards putting my novels in the laps of readers.
This blog shares some of the cool and interesting items I come across
each month on my Internet travels. Since I launched this blog in March, I’ve had some good feedback from readers who say they found the information helpful. I stumble across so much interesting info, that I’ve decided to do a pick of the month, twice a month: half way through the month and at the end.
So here’s part one for May:
LEARNING THE ROPES
I came across this interesting article featuring 10 Things Every Writer Should Do in Their Novel by best-selling author Brenda Novak.
Brenda shares the basics of how to pen a hit novel including starting your
story in the right place, what to do with back-story and how to build
Janey Rosen @JaneyRosen pushed the article into my Twitter timeline. Many thanks, Janey.
EFFECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Facebook recently announced that 1.1 billion people use its side every
Click on the link below to see how other social media sites compare. The
results may surprise you.
Interesting figures - but will they make you rethink your strategy?
Social media can definitely influence marketing but do these figures show the big picture?
There are no details to show how many authors made sales directly linked to people visiting a particular social media site.
I didn’t realise there were so many social media sites. Although I haven’t a
clue which one would be most effective, one think is clear: if you use them all, you will not have any time left over to do anything, never mind write.
My thanks to author/web editor Jaye Cherie for bringing these staggering
numbers to my attention on LinkedIn.
I was introduced to Grammar Girl on my travels. The site is hosted by magazine and technical writer Mignon Fogerty. Mignon has a BA in English from the University of Washington in Seattle.
I was interested in the misuses of the words so and very.
Mignon has some interesting points to make about overusing these two
"Both words are often used as intensifiers, meaning they allow you to express that you are happier than just happy," she states. "In the formal writing world, both words are looked down upon, but so (by itself) is considered worse than very ".
See what she has to say:
Let me know what you think.
My mind wanders. I start one task, get diverted and do another. Take a simple task like reading my emails: Every morning I open them and give myself a specified amount of time to check them, compose replies, tidy up my inbox etc.
But it never works out that way. I always go way over time. I open one email,
discover an interesting link, open it and read it. That leads me somewhere else.
Before I know it times has flown.
This blog by Genevieve, Shan sets out five ways to get your focus back.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
Five months into 2013 and I have just come across this fantastic year-long
course by author, editor, and writing coach Susanne Larkin on her blog, which started in January. Not last January but January 2012.
Why didn’t it cross my radar before now? Well, less of the moping, I’m just
glad I found it and am able to share it with my fellow writers.
"The heart of your story" course is an in-depth look at how to fashion a novel so readers are eager to turn pages and keep reading.
The first blog includes a great opening scene list and a very helpful first
page checklist to download. Thanks, Susanne.
I am looking forward to catching up with all the 2012 posts.
And when I’ve finished, I have my work cut out for me as I delve into Susanne’s 2013 course - exploring how to utilise cinematic techniques in fiction writing. That should keep me out of trouble for a while!
ARE INDIE BOOKS THE 'WRITE' STUFF?
Some people say that indie or self-published books are not the same quality as traditionally published books. This is not always true. But it’s important to make sure your indie book is as good as you can make it, so that a reader can’t tell the difference.
Here are some common book mistakes courtesy of Indies Unlimited:
Someone suggests that if you have trouble proof reading, blow up the text to around 300-400%. With only one or two lines across the screen you will spot the errors immediately.
The Chicago Manual of Style is a publication I've seen recommended. This talks about headers and page numbers, when to capitalise and how to punctuate.
The Elements of Style is also recommended as a good reference.
* If you’ve got a few minutes left, please take a look around my newly
revamped site and let me know what you think. I’d be delighted to hear from
That’s all for Part One of My Pick of the Month for May. I’ll be keeping an eye out for interesting info for Part Two – and you never know, you might provide it.
THE LIEBSTER BLOG
I was invited by talented British author E. L. Lindley @LindleyE to take part in the Liebster Blog. This is the mission I was set:
(a) List 11 random facts about myself.
(b) Answer 11 questions set for me.
(c) Come up with 11 questions to ask other authors.
(d) Nominate and tag 11 other authors for this award.
Here's my 11 random facts about myself:
1. I don’t drink tea or coffee
2. I can’t swallow tablets.
3. I’m a chocoholic. Sadly, my scales can verify that fact. Even before I’ve finished chewing, I have the next piece lined up to pop into my mouth.
4. I love elephants and dream of seeing them in the wild on the plains of Africa one day. In the meantime, I have a vast herd of my own – eli ornaments, clothes, belts, bags, jewellery.
5. I held my school’s sausage-eating record. I ate 26 in one sitting.
6. I can’t put my face under the shower since I nearly drowned in the Atlantic when on holiday in Tenerife.
7. The movie Jaws scared me so much, I won’t swim in the sea anymore.
8. I’ve never smoked and can’t bear to be anywhere near cigarette smoke. But I love the smell of wood smoke.
9. It took me three goes to pass my driving test.
10. I am fascinated with the history of the American West and am learning Lakota Sioux.
11. My left foot is bigger than my right.
These are the 11 questions I was set:
1. If you were to be banished to a desert island with only one book, one
piece of music and a luxury item, what would they be?
Book: Lonesome Dove. Music: Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean (it’s one of the few songs I can dance to and it would help keep me fit). Luxury item: a limitless supply of paper and pencils.
2. If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would
Have confidence and believe in yourself more. Reach for the stars.
3. Have you ever had a crush on a literary character?
Yes, Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
4. Which is your favourite season and why?
Autumn. As much as I like to be warm, I love this season with its vivid
foliage, from red to yellow.
5. What’s your most treasured possession?
My eyesight. I’ve been short sighted since I was about nine and it has plagued my life. In my teens, I’ve missed buses because I couldn’t read the number and struggled to see the blackboard at school (both because I was too vain to wear my milk bottle bottom glasses). I’ve said hello to strangers and ignored friends because I couldn’t see them properly – and I once jumped into a car with a blurry stranger who stopped at a bus stop to give me a lift. I thought I knew him. That was verrrrrry embarrassing. I also cracked my head on a tree playing golf and was at risk of two detached retinas. That scared the living daylights out of me. My eyesight is bad but I treasure what I have.
6. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
My late father. I loved him to bits. He was a power station engineer and worked shifts. But no matter how little sleep he got, he invested his time in myself and my brother. He encouraged the creative side in me. As a kid, I wrote stories on a toy typewriter, he put the pages into a book for me and added illustrations. I was his princess and he made me feel safe and loved. Often, when quite little, I would fall asleep in a chair and he would lift me up in his strong arms and carry me upstairs to bed. You can’t buy that feeling of being treasured. I loved my mother, too. But I was a "daddy’s little girl"
7. Which film or TV programme would you urge people to watch?
My favourite film of all time is Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are just brilliant. Guaranteed to make me laugh my socks off. I love it so much, I’m going to share it. Here’s a link to a trailer: http://bit.ly/cTOytJ8. What’s your pet hate?
It’s a toss up between people dropping litter and parking in disabled spaces.
9. If you had a time machine for a day, where would you go?
There’s lots of places and times I’d like to visit. As much as I would like to go back and eradicate many cruel maniacs who have brought misery to others, I believe changing history could mess up the present and the future. So I’d jump in my DeLorian and cram as much of this in as possible: I’d go for a ride on a Viking Longship; visit The Palace of Versailles and dance with The Sun King, Louis X1V; be a fly on the wall at The Battle of The Little Big Horn; and sip Spanish wine and go to the Running of The Bulls in Pamplona with Hemingway. I’d also like to meet my two grandfathers, who died before I was born, and go back and tell my dad how much I loved and appreciated him.
10. As a reader, what’s your favourite genre and is this reflected in your own writing?
I love historical fiction. This hasn’t influenced my writing because my books to date are animal fantasies for children. Though, I do have an historical romance that I’m burning to write. But first, I’ve just finished the first draft of a sequel to my children novel, ANTics and an idea for another animal fantasy has gripped my imagination. What goes on with these talking animals? They’ve taken over my life.
11. Try and pitch your book to readers in five sentences.
Reviewers have described ANTics as "cool" "clever", "entertaining" and "hard to put down". It’s is a fun fantasy for ages 7+ about three young ants’ scary adventures fleeing the clutches of the world’s craziest spider, who has threatened to turn them into ant soup. Their antics will keep you oohing and aahing as they try to outrun and outsmart the monster. It’s packed with funny incidents and hair raising incidents, but also addresses issues like bullying, courage and friendship. At the end, there are some interactive suggestions for young readers.
My eleven questions for my own tag team are:
1. What is your earliest memory?
2. What was your favourite toy as a child?
3. Did you read much as a child?
4. Do you prefer to read ebooks, paperbacks or hardbacks?
5. What other interests do you have apart from writing?
6. Who is your biggest fan?
7. If you have a pen name, how did you choose it? If you haven't, what pen name would you choose?
8. What's your favourite word?
9. What inspired you to write your first book?
10. How did you come up with the title?
11. Can you tell us a little about your latest writing project.
Here’s the link to E.L Lindley’s Blog and I will keep you posted with the links of anybody who agrees to take up the challenge:
Last month, I launched a new blog idea called My Pick of the Month
. It includes information about writing and publishing that I stumble across while browsing social network sites and blogs. I had some great feedback from folk who liked what I'd gathered.
So here’s my look back over April
. I hope you find the info below helpful, informative, or even amusing.
Let me know what you think.TO SAY OR NOT TO SAY
According to the great Elmore Leonard
, the only verb you should use to carry
dialogue in a novel is "said." Author and copy editor, Marcus Trower asked on
LinkedIn if people agree.
He asked: "Are you a ‘said’ purist, or do you like to mix it up by using verbs like ‘commented’, ‘probed’, ‘asked’ and ‘stated’, as well as ‘said’?"
Does using verbs other than "said" draw attention away from the line of dialogue?
Is it OK to use a verb appropriate to the situation?
Does verb usage add to the dialogue and make it richer?
If that’s your voice, your style to use speech tags, then why not use them.
Many accomplished writers ignore Leonard’s recommendation. I was surprised to
learn that Robert Ludlum’s
use of descriptive speech tags put him in the firing
line with The New York Times.A SELECT FEW
Many writers have their novels in Amazon's KDP Select
programme. You must give KDP Select your book exclusively for 90 days. Be advised that the contract automatically renews and locks you in for another 90-day contract. So if you aren’t happy with KDP Select, remember to go to your bookshelf, bring up your book, hit the info button about the Select programme and opt out. Otherwise you will be locked in to the exclusive deal for another 90 days. If you opt out, you can still keep your book on Amazon KDP and sell it elsewhere.
During the KDP select 90-day period, Amazon allows you to sell your book or give it away for free for a limited time. Some authors I know have reported big downloads during these periods, which have led to a boost in sales immediately after the promotion.
It's very tempting to do. However, my concern is that there is a glut of freebies on the market and in the long run, this is bad for authors. My fear is that readers will expect every book to be free or very cheap. THREE LITTLE LETTERS
I’ve seen the term SEO
many times on my web searches. I didn’t know what it stood for and put it on my never-ending to do list to check out - but never got around to it. Then the other day, I bumped into this blog and everything was explained.
For those, like myself, who don’t know a SEO from a SMS, let me enlighten you: it stands for Search Engine Optimisation
and it can play a big role in attracting people to your website.
Thanks to freelance copywriter, Dawn Baird, for sharing this blog on how these three little letters can boost your profile:http://www.copyexpertise.com/blog/2013/04/19/a-quick-start-seo-how-to-guide-for-web-writers/ HELP FOR INDIE AUTHORS
Here are two links to useful articles (courtesy of Ira Blacker) with promotional ideas for self-published authors:http://www.pbdink.com/blog/2012/08/05/book-printing-promotional-ideas-publisher/
Reading these was an eye-opener for me. I don't do 10% of the suggested ideas. Again, I am amazed how self published writers have the time to do all this; have outside interests; spend time with family and friends; and in some cases hold down a job. They deserve a cape or a medal.CREATING A BOOK IN WORD
I had less trouble turning my ebook into a paperback than I did creating the ebook in the first place. Pretty amazing because I am dumber than dumber about anything technical. During my internet travels, I chanced upon this very helpful information, courtesy of Tim Fairchild, about creating a book in word. And I thought I’d pass it on:http://jaydax.blogspot.com/2011/07/odd-page-on-right-creating-book-in-word.html THE QUEEN’S ENGLISH
I’m from the UK, so I write with English spellings instead of American. It’s amazing how many word variations there are. For instance, I say flavour, but a US writer would spell it flavor, I say fibre, in the US it’s fiber.
To help you get to grips with the language variations, this site might be helpful:http://grammarist.com/ SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
I’m sharing this because someone shared it with me:http://viewbook.at/
This site creates one link for your books on Amazon.com
sites giving you more characters left to tweet. You can also custom your link
and create one for your authors page.
It means that anyone clicking on the link in the US will be directed to your .com page and anyone in the UK will be directed to your .co.uk page.BOOK GOODIES
I write stories for children, so I was delighted when BookGoodies For Kids
invited me to share information about myself and my writing secrets on their website.
Here’s my author interview:http://bit.ly/146XJHU
If you are looking for an opportunity to promote yourself, why not spend a little time filling in their online interview. It’s free and there’s also a site for adult fiction:http://bookgoodies.com/ WRITING TIP
I’m sharing a writing tip about repetition from Shelly Stinchcomb Tegen on LinkedIn
. Shelly suggests that you don’t start several sentences close together with the same word. Remember to put repetitiveness on your editing checklist.
One of the top culprits is starting a sentence with I, he or she.
"This is a rule of thumb," Shelly states. "Though some times, the scene may merit multiple sentences with the same word to provide a certain feel."
I came across these two recommended sites on my travels. They are low cost
solutions to tackle repetitive/overused words:http://prowritingaid.com http://www.autocrit.com PINGLER
Sounds like a new putter from Ping. But it's not. I discovered pingler.com
in April thanks to author Donovan Neal.
This site notifies certain services that you have updated your blog, it can speed up your new page being indexed and drive traffic to your site.
"It’s basically the equivalent to standing on a hilltop and screaming out to everyone that you have updated your blog," he says.
For more tips, check out his blog:http://donovanmneal.wordpress.com/ DOES YOUR BLOG HAVE THE E-FACTOR?
Still on the subject of blogs. Various articles I read in April agreed on two things: your blog needs to entertain or educate readers. They say that the hard sell approach doesn’t work – it’s not what readers are looking for. Also the colour scheme is very important: Pretty isn’t always right. Blogs need to be crisp and clean, and easy on the eyes. Dark font on a light background is the easiest to read. SHOULD AMAZON BE BROUGHT TO BOOK?
I came across this petition to protect authors. Amazon offers a full refund
after owning an ebook
for seven days. I didn’t know that. Did you know that?
So what do you think about that?
Do you consider the three chapter look inside is enough to let readers know
if they want to purchase?
Giving a refund after seven days isn’t good news for authors. This petition
is a bid to persuade Amazon to stop allowing refunds of ebooks after they’ve
If you want to sign this and pass it around, visit:http://lnkd.in/dw3c2z That’s all for this month. I’ll be keeping an eye out for interesting info in May – and you never know, you might provide it.
ARE YOU AN OUTLINER OR A FREESTYLER?
A fellow author posed the question: Do you outline your story or just let it flow? That got me thinking about my own personal writing mojo.
Some authors like to outline in detail, some outline briefly and others don’t outline at all. I’m a mixture of the first two.
For instance, my debut story for children, ANTics, a fantasy adventure for ages 7+, came to me in a dream after watching a group of ants carry a potato crisp back to their nest. The story was in my head. Soon after, I scribbled down a brief outline in a notebook. This included a beginning, ideas for scenes in between and an end. I put this on the computer - just a few hundred words. Then I started writing and let it flow. The more I wrote, my characters took over and took me to places I never thought of before. It was exciting and magical. They took on a life of their own; they often chatted to each other in my head and helped create new scenes and ideas - even an idea for a sequel.
Then several months ago, I woke up one morning with inspiration for another story for children. Again, I wrote down a rough outline - a few hundred words - including a beginning, bits in between and an end. The other week, I woke up at 12.50am and before I fell back asleep, this story popped back into my head. Lying in bed, I wrote a scene I hadn't put in my loose outline. I told myself I would remember it in the morning.
Who was I kidding!
The scene unfolded in my head, with imagery and a tone that I loved. I didn't want to lose it, so I plucked my notebook, pen and flashlight from my beside table, dived under the covers (so as not to disturb my husband) and scribbled like someone demented. After about 10 minutes, I emerged from the covers, put my tools of the trade back on the table, and tried to go back to sleep.
Who was I kidding!
My muse wouldn't let me. Another scene exploded in my head. So I went back under the covers for another 10 minutes. This went on about four more times before I got up and wrote by a dim light until 6am, filling 60 pages.
Over the next few days, I transcribed my scribbles into an 8,000 word outline. I am delighted. But, there's no guarantee that I won't veer off my outline track once I start to write. My characters tell the story. Sometimes, I don’t know where they are going to take me: they may lead me into all sorts of situations and adventures. I can start writing a chapter based on my outline and by the end of the chapter I have written something I never thought of before.
THE WRITING ADVENTURE
This is what I find so exciting about the writing process; it's an adventure all unto itself.
Authors have different approaches to the writing process. I think it’s really cool to learn how they get their inspiration and how they turn an idea into a work of fiction.
On my writing journey, I’ve read some authors say they don’t outline at all: they don’t like to be pinned down. They take their story idea, start to write, let it flow and follow their imagination wherever it takes them.
Others outline briefly. They know the beginning, the end and some scenes in between. This helps organise their thoughts when they start to write, but they accept the story may go in a different direction as they begin to flesh out their characters and the characters take over. Some may know where the story starts but not how it ends. Others have a clear picture of how it ends, but no idea of how they are going to get there.
And then there are authors who outline in detail: scene by scene, chapter by chapter. That way – they are in control. They know exactly where their story is going and what their characters are going to do.
There’s no "write" or wrong way. People do what suits them - what is right for them. And isn’t it great, that the fruits of their labours have produced so many wonderful stories of all genres to pique the interest of readers.
In the meantime, I will go with the flow (outlining briefly or in detail) my future stories for children.
NEW MONTHLY BLOG POST
As a newbie author, I love to squirrel away titbits of information about the writing and publishing process that I find on social network sites and blogs. I’d like to share some of those gems with you. So I’m launching a monthly blog post, called My Pick of the Month.
I hope you find the info below, helpful, informative, or even amusing.
So here we go.....WRITING TIP
via Shelly Stinchcomb Tegen on The Writers’ Network on LinkedIn.
She believes that one of the most overused of the unnecessary words is "that".
Shelly states: "A good rule of thumb is, if you can read a sentence without ‘that’ in it and it makes sense and conveys what you want, leave it out. Before you go saying, "Oh but Shelly, it makes this particular sentence so much better", let me say every rule has exceptions. Use your good judgment on when to break the rule."
This is Shelly’s example of an unnecessary use of "that":
He knew that a swing band was performing at the reception.
She suggests this is a good use of "that":
He was thankful his boss called him that night to warn him of the upcoming layoffs.
Another author mentioned an overuse of the word "though". He didn’t realise he used it so much until a reader pointed it out.
Author Philip Catskill suggests using a word frequency counter (never knew there was such a thing – but why wouldn’t there be, there’s everything else) such as:http://rainbow.arch.scriptmania.com/tools/word_counter.html
It’s free and according to Philip, you can paste the whole of your book.
"I copy the results into a spreadsheet and boy, you learn a lot about your writing style!" he said. "Have to warn you - it can frighten you!"
Let me know if it works for you. ANYONE FOR GOLF
I’m a keen golfer. One of my fellow golfers often tells people that I never achieved my potential because I don’t focus. She’s right, I lose interest if I’m playing badly, and play worse, frittering away shots by looking at the scenery or weaving stories in my head.
To play good golf you need to focus and concentrate. Writing is much the same. You need to dedicate time for your writing and use it productively by concentrating on that task.
So it was interesting to come across author Loree Lough’s interview on Jason Bourne’s Author’s Roundtable where she compares writing to golf:
This is what Loree says: "I often compare writing to golf. Now, before I continue, I must confess: My golf score would be fantastic…if I was bowling! Despite my obvious lack of talent on the green, the analogy makes sense. At least to me.
"Everything about golf, from choosing the right club to how you grip it, your stance and approach…it all requires complete concentration. Focus. Determination. During those moments leading up to impact, if you allow yourself to think about where your new puppy is leaving little surprises or your Visa statement, the ball isn’t going to land where you want it to.
"Writing is like that. To do it well, to do it "write," you have to concentrate and focus on the story, on the characters. So, while you’re at work, you don’t have to worry about the puppy mess or where you’ll find the money to pay Visa. And here’s the kicker: While they’re reading your story, neither do your readers!"
Well said Loree.
If you want to read the rest of Loree’s interview, here’s the link:http://bit.ly/10ALf7t
And if you want to read my interview in the Round Table hot seat (discussing reviews, inspiration & whether writing is therapeutic) here’s the link:wp.me/p1gF2v-12T SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS
I came across this: Three quick tips and tools using social media to sell your book.http://bit.ly/108l5a0
I’m not using any of these three but I’d like to share them in case they help anyone reading this blog. I don’t know how writers have the time to use so many sites – and write – and have a personal/family life. If you do have the time, tell me your secret. And I’d be interested to know if any of these sites work for you. Keep me posted. GOOD RELATIONS
On the subject of selling your books. Someone on LinkedIn posted this:
"I have 500 facebook friends, but I only sold 50 books, and most of the books I sold weren't to those friends. The friends and family that bought it, haven't read it. Did they hate the cover? The first page? Me? Can anyone relate to this and tell about it?"
This was my reply: "I completely identify with this. I published my first novel last year. I have one brother. I gave him a copy months ago and he hasn't read it. I know we all have busy lives. But, hey, I take the time to involve myself in his affairs. It's a children's book (24,500 words long). An adult can read it in just over two hours. He likes to read in the bath. So he would come out like a prune - so what, I am his only sibling, fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming an author. I also gave it to my "best" friend. She says she's read it, but I am doubtful. I now plan to put her on the spot by asking her what her favourite scene and character is. And I won't take "all of it" for an answer. As an author, if we can't get our friends and family to read the work we have poured our love, sweat and tears into, just think how hard it is to sell it to complete strangers."
What's your experience? ARE YOU REACHING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE?
I’ve had some great reviews (would like more – if anyone’s up for it), but my books are selling sloooooowly. I’m a new author and not well known (only in my own imagination), Is that the reason? Or could it be I’m not reaching my target audience?
If you are in the same boat, perhaps this article - via Build Book Buzz - will help:http://buildbookbuzz.com/how-to-find-your-books-target-market/
Or this article by Jan Bear on Build Book Buzz:http://buildbookbuzz.com/finding-your-novels-target-market/
and this (courtesy of Gary Korisko on WritetoDone.com)http://writetodone.com/2013/01/17/are-you-targeting-the-wrong-readers-7-tips-to-fix-the-problem/REVIEWS
My debut novel ANTics is based on a dream. I woke up one morning with the idea in my head and started writing – without a thought about my target audience. It’s a children’s story about bugs, so chances were girls wouldn’t like it. But I’ve had some great reviews from girl readers. You can check out my blog about the subject of gender reading choices on Goodreads:bit.ly/Y5OMr7 WHAT'S WORKING ON AMAZON IN 2013?
I came across this from author Lindsay Buroker:http://linkd.in/XzwvSf
Lindsay looks at the changes that have been made on Amazon and gives an insight into what’s working and what’s not for authors promoting their work. NEW TOOL
This month, I discovered another free tool to get the word out there about my work and myself:http://about.me/dakotadouglas
Here’s what I say:
Hi, I live in the North East of England, where I'm fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming an author. So far, I have penned two children's novels, for ages 7+. One about bugs. Urghhhh! I know. But ANTics was inspired by a dream and my cheeky characters are very cute. The other novel is called WOOF. No marks for guessing that it's about a dog. But no ordinary dog. Rufus has a red nose (no relation to Rudolf) and a flair for the unusual.
Check it out and you could create your own about.me page. A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
This month, on Twitter, I e-met writer, teacher and lover of ancient history Luciana Cavallaro @ClucianaLuciana The name Luciana brought memories flooding back of the stories I used to spin in my head as a youngster, while smashing a tennis ball against the brick end of a block of garages, right next door to my home.
Flame-haired Luciana was a character in a series of stories my imagination created. She was the exotic one of four girls, who became best friends in an English boarding school. (I can still picture two of the other three but the fourth escapes me now. Must rack my brains).
Growing up on Tyneside, there weren’t many Luciana’s in my street or school. None in fact. I would definitely remember. Someone shouting, "Luciana, come and get your tea" would have stood out. There were plenty of Linda’s, Mary’s, Margaret’s and Susan’s. I was introduced to the name by Bond, James Bond. Italian actress, Luciana Paluzzi played a baddie in the 4th and my favourite 007 movie, Thunderball and I thought she was FABulous.
As I perfected my tennis shots, I created stories around my fab four – even made clothes for them. Imagine that, when I can’t sew for toffee. How wonderful a gift imagination is for a shy child. DO SOMETHING ABOUT BULLYING
I stumbled across this very thought-provoking blog by author/poet Janna Vought. Read it and if you were never bullied as a youngster (like myself) thank your lucky stars.http://bit.ly/ZXPXLj
A writer friend and former teacher, Mark Newhouse, has created a handbook all about bullying. Mark was bullied as a child and now works very hard to help stop it. His handbook is FREE to download. It’s packed with useful information, facts and creative ideas.
For a copy, visit http://bullystoppersclub.comHOW MANY SPACES SHOULD YOU PUT AFTER A PERIOD?
This, I have to admit, is something that had previously passed me by. But, apparently, it is something that arouses passion among writers and designers.
Is double spacing a remnant of typewriter days and is single spacing now the norm?
Check this article out:http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/how-many-spaces-after-a-period/ INTERROBANG
I saw this sentence in a children’s book and it peeked my interest:
"What have we here?!"
I thought it was a typo and asked my Twitter friends if they’d come across it before.
Some like myself, didn’t like it and thought it was wrong. Others had used it in emails and in their writing.
Someone even knew its name. An Interrobang.
Sounds like a Weapon of Mass Destruction. But it’s not – it is a bonafide piece of punctuation.
Devised by an American ad exec, it can be used the other way around i.e. !?
It asks a question in an excited manner or expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question.
The name is inspired by the word interrogatio, which is Latin for a rhetorical question.
Hey! The cool things you learn.
More on interrobangs at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterrobangThat’s all for this month. I’ll be keeping an eye out for interesting info in April. And you never know - you might provide it.
My writer friend, Sherrie Lowe, recently tagged me for a ‘chain’ blog entitled ‘The Next Big Thing'. The deal is: I answer a few questions about my current work-in-progress, then I invite other authors to do the same. A bit like a chain letter, except it is only focused on an author’s work-in-progress. Sherrie Lowe was tagged previously by Jeff Joseph. I've included details of their blogs so you can explore the answers to the questions. So here goes: What is the working title of your next book?
MutANTsWhere did the idea come from for the book?
It’s a sequel to my novel ANTics. What genre does your book fall under?
Children. It’s a fantasy adventure for ages 7+.What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s a toughie because if it was turned into a movie, it would be animated. So I’m having to think of voices, not looks. RepugnANT, the baddie in ANTics, has undergone a personality change in MutANTs. He’s now a cool dude. I think Owen Wilson might work. Zube is a street smart, smart-mouthed, happy-go-lucky ant who takes on responsibilities he’s not used to. Possibly Will Smith for Zube.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A crawly ragtag army must work together to rescue their friends from Mutant slaveraider ants.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self published.How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two months on/off. I suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), which causes pains to my hands, wrists and arms, from using the computer too much. So I have to ration my usage. Plus I play golf and that takes up a lot of my time. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
That’s difficult to say. I’ve never read anything like it, so I’d like to think it’s unique. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I didn’t plan to write a sequel to ANTics but my characters "talked" me into. They never shut up while I was editing.What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It’s the next adventure for my intrepid, little ants who made their first appearance in ANTics. Readers may be interested to know the idea for the story was first inspired by a dream after watching a group of ants carry a potato crisp back to their nest. Hopefully it gives an insight into the insect world and will help children to respect the Animal Kingdom.
It's certainly been a learning curve for me. Before writing ANTics, the word bug used to make me cringe. Creepy crawly is just one of those phrases that makes you shiver. Now I have more respect and understanding for our crawly friends, who are all part of the Circle of Life.
Here are the blog links for:
Jeff Joseph http://jeffjosephauthor.wordpress.com/
And Sherrie Lowe www.sherrielowe.co.uk
What the Dickens?
I had a reality check the other day. I realised that I’m not enjoying being a self-published author. I write because I enjoy it, and at the moment the fun has gone and I’m doing very little writing.
This hit me while playing golf. I was talking to my playing partner about my writing, and she said I sounded stressed.
"Hang on," I thought, "I’m retired. I left all the stress behind me when I quit work." Then I realised she was right.
I’m writing a sequel to my children’s novel ANTics. I started the first draft last September and have still not finished. It should have been finished, edited, polished and published by now. And I should be well into my next project. Where has all the time gone?
It didn’t take long to figure that one out. I dabble in so many things that I haven’t got a clue about. I get emails about emails; I press buttons here, there and everywhere, and get more emails and invitations to press more buttons. I feel like a hamster on a wheel. It’s turning and turning and not going anywhere.
And it’s all eating into my writing time.
You hear stories about self published authors who have sold millions of copies of their books. Good for them. I’m delighted for them. They may have a great product that readers are lining up to buy, they may pay someone to promote and market their product or they may be naturally gifted in the multiple skills it takes to be a best selling self-published author.
I'm not. When it comes to promotion and marketing, I suck. It takes me days to do a task that many may consider very simple and take only minutes. And in the end the rewards don’t justify all the time and effort I invest. At the end of each day, after pressing all those buttons, there’s no time or energy left to write.
I write because I want people to read my work and hopefully enjoy it. And to do that I need to connect with readers. And I can best do that by writing more and getting more work out there.
It’s March but I’m making a belated New Year’s Resolution to stop wasting time on the things I don’t enjoy doing and more on being more productive with my writing.
I read somewhere that a writer worked by the clock. Literally. She set a timer so that she only dedicated a certain amount of time to a particular task. That’s fine if it works for her. I’m not going to be as extreme as that. But I am going to carve my day up more efficiently and dedicate a limited time to certain tasks and more time to my writing.
Thank you for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars.
Proofreading is in the pudding.
An early reviewer mentioned some typos in my children’s novel ANTics. Let me hastily tell you that I have tackled them & hopefully caught all the little suckers.
I take pride in my work and was crushed. No one, I believe, could have read their copy more to weed out those pesky little typos. But then I’m sure everyone says that.
In my defence, I had a nightmare with formatting.
I split my time between the UK and US, spending half the year in each country. I wrote ANTics in Times New Roman font size 12 in Microsoft word on my UK computer, which has a Microsoft XP programme. I copied it on to a flashdrive and took it to America to edit. I downloaded it onto my US computer, which has a Microsoft windows 7 programme.
I set about editing, rewriting and proofreading. Fine. Or so I thought.
I uploaded the finished manuscript to Smashwords and when I checked it, certain sentences and paragraphs were in font size 10. You can’t alter the file on Smashwords, you have to upload a new version. The only problem was, when I checked my original version, it looked fine. It was all in font size 12. I double-checked that my machine was formatted for font 12. It was.
So I uploaded the story again. Again the same parts appeared as font 10. I copied, cut and pasted them back into my manuscript, then uploaded it again. But the same thing happened. So I went back to my version, deleted the parts that Smashwords showed as font 10 and typed
them in again from scratch in font 12, instead of copying and pasting. I uploaded again. Some had changed to font 12; some were still in 10. And to my horror, more sentences/paragraphs on the Smashwords version were in font 10.
The same thing happened time after time. In total, I uploaded 25 versions.
I was angry, frustrated, dejected, desperate. You get the picture. I was at my wits. My stress levels were off the charts. I guzzled gallons of soda, put away dozens of chocolate bars and unhealthy snacks to try and calm myself.
Eventually someone on Twitter told me to copy my story into a wordpad document and then copy it back into a Word file. And when I uploaded it to Smashwords, it was all in 12 font.
But I believe I created typos having to rewrite various sections over and over again. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
That was learning a lesson the hard way.
During the whole experience, I learned some things about proofreading, which I’d like to share.
Accurate proofreading is essential to make sure your manuscript is the best it can be. No matter how eagle-eyed you are and no matter how many times you’ve read your book, you are guaranteed to make mistakes because you are so familiar with the work. Your eyes fails to pick up errors.
It’s helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes to catch typos and grammar slips. There are lots of proofreading services out there. Do a google search or put something out on social media. Proofreading is a skill. If you can afford a professional proofreader to check your manuscript, do so, if not, do the best you can.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Spell check vigorously. But don’t rely on a spell checker because it won catch certain types of errors like their and there or your and you’re.
Check for consistency with capitals, italics, punctuation and spelling. Make your own style guide to help with consistency i.e. if one of your characters is called Linda Smith, don’t call her Lynda Smith.
Have as many people as possible read your manuscript to check for errors. If they are busy, get them to check one or two chapters, and someone else to check a few more chapters.
It’s easier to miss errors on screen, so proof read a printed copy.
Make a back up copy and change the font on that copy because familiarity can blind you to errors.
On the next read through, increase the font size on the back up copy to give your eyes a fresh view.
If you can, leave a gap between finishing the editing and proof reading, so you can tackle it with fresh eyes.
Thank you for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars.
My children’s novel ANTics touches on the subject of bullying. One of my characters is the victim of bullies. This leaves him timid and frightened.
The character is an ant. What! An ant being bullied. Is that possible, I hear you ask? Well, who knows. I did a lot of research on ants to help with the writing of ANTics and never – you’ll be surprised to read – came across an instance of bullying. But I don’t see why not. Ants are social creatures that work to benefit the collective. And there are all kinds of ants with all sorts of behavioral traits. So why not a bully.
This aside. My novel is an animal fantasy so you are asked to step into an imaginary world where animals, or in this case, bugs, behave as humans. They talk and experience emotions.
My ants symbolise human counterparts – children. And as we know many children are preyed upon by bullies.
Luckily, I wasn’t bullied as a child but many children are not so fortunate. Bullying comes in various guises, mental as well as physical.
A writer friend and former teacher, Mark Newhouse, has created a handbook all about bullying. Mark was bullied as a child and now works very hard to help stop it.
His handbook is FREE to downland. It’s packed with useful information, facts and creative ideas.
For a copy, visit http://bullystoppersclub.com
The scribbles of a techy twit: my Twitter journey.
Joining Twitter was something I didn’t planned to do. A golfing pal suggested it as a way to promote my work, and connect with readers and fellow writers. So I took the plunge in February 2012. I really am a techy twit so it was quite a big deal. From the word go, I was ready to give up. I followed her simple instructions to the letter and those on the site and couldn’t figure out how to send a Tweet. Now I look back, that seems ridiculous. But it was all strange then.
Once I’d mastered how to send a Tweet, I looked for suitable folk to follow. I followed a few and no-one followed me back. At that time, I had no profile or picture. Straight off someone tweeted me and told me I would find it difficult to get followers without a profile and picture or image. They were right. So that was my next task. And it did the trick. A few folk followed me back.
When I say a few, I mean a few. In that first month, it was very, very slow. I would follow 25 people and only one or two would follow back. I would read people’s short stories, look at their websites and send them a tweet with a comment. But still no follow backs. Now and then five would follow back. What a rush!
Looking back I think I know why. I wasn’t connecting with people, I hadn’t mastered how to use the reply or retweet buttons. I know. Sounds stupid. But I’m missing the geek gene. So it all comes hard to me.
Hashtags, lists, likes, links, keywords, klout, Tweepi, Tweriod, triberr, Hootsuite, automated tweets, DMs, URLs. My head was spinning. It was another language. Some of it I’ve picked up along the way, some I’ve yet to tackle and some I’ve put in my "I haven’t got the time or the energy to do" pile.
What I did find is that my fellow tweeters are very generous about giving out advice. I lapped it up and learned a few things through trial and error. For instance people suggested various avenues for finding people to follow. Their ideas included looking at other authors and seeing who they follow, following Twitter’s daily recommendations, and using the search button to source out interesting people to follow. I found that hardly any of Twitter’s daily recommendations followed me back. They had tons of followers and I had only 100 or two. What I found most helpful was looking through my timeline, reading people’s tweets, seeing who was an active Tweeter and checking them out. If I liked them, I followed them. Slowly my number of followers grew. The emphasis on slowly.
Someone suggested finding someone you admire and follow all their followers. That potentially could give me a huge number of follow backs in a very quick time. But after thinking about this, I dismissed the idea. I decided I prefer quality to quantity. I prefer to hand pick the people I choose to follow individually.
Other advice from fellow Tweeters detailed how long to give people to follow you back. It was suggested anything from two to ten days. I decided to be a bit more generous. People are busy; they have lives outside of social media (amazing, I know, but true). They take holidays, they get cold and are laid up, they fall in love. All sorts of reasons why they might not follow someone back in a couple of days. So I gave people two to three weeks. If they didn’t follow back, I zapped then and moved on.
I reached the 500 landmark. Woo hoo! Then 1,000. I was getting light headed. Then 1,500. Then I learned about Twitter’s Bermuda Triangle - the 2,000 mark. Twitter stops you following more than 2,000, if you don’t have a certain number of followers. Eek! What was all that about?
It sounded difficult. It wasn’t. I set about with Sherlock Holmes tenacity to get to the bottom of the issue. And it was elementary. To get past the 2,000 barrier, you need to have at least 1,800 followers. To do this, I zapped non followers quicker than three weeks and slowed down following people. By careful juggling I surmounted the barrier.
At that stage, Twitter was still a mystery to me in many ways. It’s only about five months ago that I discovered the connect/interactions button. Eureka! It changed my life. Before that all my new followers, retweets and any mentions came to me in an email. My inbox was swamped. Especially when I joined Goodreads.
Again a friend suggested it. Again I was clueless. So after joining and putting on a profile, left it hoping that I would wake up one morning and by osmosis it would all be crystal clear. I never have. Though one day I did get a request by email from Goodreads saying someone wanted to be my friend. What? I went to the site. I was still baffled so I ignored it. Several weeks went by. It preyed on my mind that someone had requested to be my friend and I had ignored them (stupid I know, but that’s how I am). So I went back to the Goodreads site, clicked a few buttons, just as if I knew what I was doing. The next morning when I checked by email inbox, I had over 800 emails from people asking me to be their Goodreads friend. I’ve now got more than 1,200 – and I haven’t got a clue how. C’est la vie!
That little connect button has made life so much easier. I was very active on Twitter and it was taking over my life. Between that and golf, I didn’t have any time to write. My sequel to my children’s book ANTics was supposed to be published by now. By the time of writing this, I am only two thirds through the first draft. So I have streamlined my Twittering. I don’t put out as many promotional tweets so I can manage my retweets.
I don’t automate my retweets. I don’t see the point of an automated system tweeting a snippet of conversation someone has had with a fellow Tweeter. If someone has tweeted info about my work, I want to do the same for them. If they RT a snipped of my conversation, that’s up to them, but I no longer give them a RT for it. It just takes up too much time. Sorry.
I aim to RT everyone who RTs me. If I miss some, please accept my apologies. Recently, by mistake Twitter switched me to mobile twitter instead of standard twitter. At first I hated it, but I’ve got used to it. Mobile Twitter has some benefits. I find it easier to RT people. However, it doesn’t always show up all the people who have RT me. But I’ve found I can log on to standard Twitter by going to the Twitter shortcut in my favourites on my desktop.
However it is sometimes hard to find a suitable tweet to RT. I will go back perhaps five days and if I don’t find one I say enough is enough and just thank the person.
One good tip I have picked up is that when you finish a session of interacting and RTing, put out a tweet that you would like RTed. This way people don’t have to trawl back days looking for one.
Some erotic authors RT me. I want to return the favour but sometimes I find it very difficult to find a tweet to RT. Some are very explicit. I’m not a prude. I plan to write various genres and have started with children’s novels. Therefore I don’t think it is appropriate to RT really explicit material. Some people may think it doesn’t matter. But I do. So if it takes me longer to find a tweet I like, so be it. That' my choice.
So many people have so much more knowledge than I will ever have, but I hope some of this was helpful.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars.