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  1. I suspect that most writers have “Get Published” on their list of goals for the year. Given that this assumption is correct (and I’m pretty sure it is), I’m dedicating this week’s post and next week’s to getting published and what to expect in the process. Whether you’re looking into the traditional route or self-publishing, I’ve got something for everyone. Without further ado, here are my top five picks for this week: #1: Podcast 365. Sunrise, Sunset, and Behind the Scenes in Publishing: Hanging out with Abby Zidle Abby Zidle is the senior editor and associate director of marketing at Gallery Books. While this podcast is mostly geared toward the romance genre, Abby makes some really interesting points about women in publishing, women authors, and how they are changing the face of the industry. She also talks about how Amazon and eBooks altogether have shifted what sells. Mass-market paperback, anyone? This is about a one hour listen, and it might even make you laugh. #2: To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish R.S. Ford gives a no-nonsense approach to the self-publishing world and why you would, or would not, want to be apart of it. In my opinion, it seems like he is almost trying to talk writers out of this route, but that’s probably because he’s just getting down to the brass tacks of it all. It’s incredibly informative and definitely worth your time if you’ve been thinking that self-publishing might be for you. #3: 5 Reasons to Turn to Traditional Publishers Rather than Self-Publishing On the flip side of things, Writer’s Unboxed gives some very enlightening reasons to avoid self-publishing. This isn’t to confuse or muddy the publishing waters, but rather my hope is that this information helps writers really think about the path they want their writing career to take. #4: Published Authors Share Wisdom from their Debut Journeys This gem of an article contains the advice of multiple different 2020 debut authors—who all published traditionally—and what they wished they would have known ahead of time or done differently. I recommend this to all. #5: I Choose Joy, Dammit! If you’re in the throws of a hectic life and schedule right now then you’ll definitely want to read how one author dealt with it all. Full of clarity and passion, Julie Carrick Dalton shares her insight into how she conquered her stress when faced with increasing demands on her time after publishing her first book, facing a deadline with her publisher for her second, and all while trying to take care of her family and home. I may or may not have shed a tear while reading this.
  2. Writing Hacks. Are they helpful or hurtful? I, for one, have never cared for the word hack in this instance because it makes it sound like you are potentially BS-ing your way through your writing goals, thus leaving your integrity at the door. I’ve also never really understood the entire “hacking” trend because in so many instances they are just using the word hack in place of the words tip or advice. However, with all that being said, we’ll say that hacking is a good thing for our purposes today because it helped me find some new techniques for novel writing that I couldn’t have found any other way. So, here are my top five writing “hacks” for the week (the titles are pretty self-explanatory): #1: Top 5 Writing Hacks to Distract You from the Nightmare of Your Daily Life #2: Writing Hacks – Using A Bulletin Board #3: The Hack’s Guide to Writing while the Kids are at Home #4: Meal Planning Hacks to Maximize Your Writing Time #5: The Hack’s Guide to Writing During a Pandemic Happy week and happy writing to you all. Until next time, Kara
  3. My very first manuscript was horribly cliché and pretty much plotless. In fact, it didn’t even have an ending to it. I never bothered writing one. It was clear to me that by 80,000 words there was no point in wasting my time on devising a resolution because there was never even a climax. It literally turned into one very lengthy exercise in getting to know my main characters—because I hadn’t bothered doing that before I started to write my novel. And this was okay at the time. I was brand new to creative writing and I just wanted to test my hand at being a writer since I’d never done anything like it before, unless you count the horrible required writing assignments in English 101, which I don’t. My point is that in order to get out of those cliched beginning manuscripts and onto something really high concept and novel—pun intended—then we have to become more creative as writers. So, with that being said, I have just one top pick for the week that centers on this very concept of creating something new in your writing. #1: Novelty and the Novel Literary agent Donald Maass keenly points out the need for authors to write stories that have more unique and novel settings, characters and plots. I would recommend that you pay extra special attention to the bulleted list of questions he has come up with for you to ask yourself about your story. These are gold and well worth your time pondering over them if you need to get yourself out of a cliched writing rut, or if you need inspiration to breathe new life back into your story. Happy week and happy writing to you all. Until next time, Kara
  4. When it comes to my all-time favorite fictional character it will always and forever be Andrew Wiggins, better known as Ender. I have loved fictional stories ever since I could read. I especially love fantasy and sci-fi. However, I had never really connected with a main character very deeply in a novel until I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, when I was in the latter part of Junior High school. I have since read that story multiple times and my 14-year-old self connects just as deeply every time. Every author’s dream, right, to have their stories cherished for decades? But why did I completely fall in love with this particular character? I was a teenage girl who secretly dreamed of becoming a princess one day, while Ender was a 6-year-old savant, battling in space. Well, the answer’s simple. I felt like Ender from page one. He was bullied because he was a Third, he was small and weak, and felt like no one wanted or liked him, with the one exception of his angel sister, Valentine. But then, as the story progressed, he had to overcome his obstacles in super creative ways, conquer his bullies and eventually he became someone the other kids looked up to and followed. I wanted to do what Ender could do. But other than seeing myself in Ender, I couldn’t really tell you why I loved him so much. At least that was the case until I decided to become a writer and learned all the intricacies of novel writing. It’s one thing to conceive of a particular character for a story and to see them in your mind, but to translate the images in your head to words on a page can be a very difficult thing. Orson Scott Card had to not only see who Ender was in his imagination, but he also had to write him in a way that would create sympathy from a reader. He had to make you care about Ender and what happened to him. He had to create scenes and moments in the novel that would show Ender’s personality, his ability, his vulnerabilities and fears. You learned about Ender little by little as the story unfolded, but in a way that created sympathy, mystery and kept you intrigued about what Ender would do next, and how he would react. Essentially, the author created a very appealing, but also realistic character arc; the protagonist starts out in a place of weakness, but then becomes the humble hero by the end—which is just one example of a character arc. We all connect with different characters for different reasons, but that is the very goal of all good authors. They need readers to care about their characters in order to sell their books. I can’t tell you how many books I have literally stopped reading within just a few chapters because the MCs have zero likeable or sympathetic qualities. I simply did not care what happened to them and the story was no longer interesting. So, how do you get your writing to a place that you can create these deep connections between your characters and your readers? I’ll let my top picks for the week explain: #1: Love me, love my characters This article is about the good and bad character traits generally present in romance novels, but it can be applied to other genres too, especially if you have an a**hole character that you’re including in your story. #2: The Bedrock of Character Development This is an interesting take on how to develop a character. If you’ve struggled with rounding out your MCs, or can’t seem to get past surface details about them then you may want to try a new approach. #3: Use Writing Prompts to Dig into Character Development While this title is a bit misleading, as there is only one writing prompt that they actually give an example of, I still find this helpful. Using this technique may be just what you need to dive deeper into your character’s head than you were able to before. #4: Creating Complex Characters: A ‘Mass Effect 2’ Case Study This is a super in-depth article that focuses on the RPG Mass Effect 2—something I’d never heard of until running across this article—and the complexities of those particular characters. It is a pretty lengthy read though, so I recommend viewing it when you have some extra time on your hands. #5: For the Love of Moira – The Arc of a Memorable Character This is the perfect example of a character and their evolution. Character arc is so very important to your story and this article demonstrates how that can be executed correctly. Happy week and happy writing to you all, Until next time, Kara
  5. Truthful, authentic, honest. All these words mean roughly the same thing, but in this case, I’ve chosen these words to describe writers and the stories they create. I’m sure you’ve all heard phrases such as “find your own authentic voice,” or “write your truth,” or “be true to your craft.” Or even “be honest with your readers.” I realize that these phrases are ambiguous at best and are usually tossed around at writing conferences to make a speaker sound like they know what they are talking about. So…what am I getting at? To be honest in what you are writing, or to be truthful in the story that you create means showing a side of yourself that you may not want to. To be authentically you as a writer means to be vulnerable, to let down your walls just a little bit, or a lot, and let people into your world. It’s a scary reality, but when it’s done well, it shows in your writing and enhances your story significantly. Any character you create, or any setting you envision all have bits and pieces of you, of your imagination, of your ideas, of your creativity. If you aren’t connecting with one of your characters neither will your readers. If you’re painstakingly writing every word just to get the book done, your readers will feel that as well. Stephenie Meyer said that she will not write a sequel to Midnight Sun because she experienced a great deal of anxiety every time she sat down at her computer to write Edward’s story. Guess what? I felt nothing but anxiety every time I picked it up. No joke. This stuff is real. Your emotions, your beliefs, your humor, everything about you ends up on that page and if you’re afraid of judgement, criticism, or “what will my family think?” then you’ll likely become less and less authentic and your story will suffer because of it. Your readers aren’t going to know precisely why they don’t like a scene, or heaven forbid your book altogether, but it will happen nonetheless if you start censoring your writing voice. If you find that you aren’t allowing yourself or your characters to explore certain emotions or situations because it’s uncomfortable for you as the writer then this should be a wakeup call. If you’re fighting this, but keep feeling pulled to write something you don’t particularly want to then it probably means that you need to put on your big girl or big boy underwear and do it. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means putting a little more of you on the page for everyone to see than you are currently comfortable with. In the end, you’ll be glad that you did. In full honesty (no pun intended, or maybe a little), I’m not perfect at this yet either. I’m guilty of taking whole scenes out of manuscripts because I was afraid of what other people would think. In the end, my stories suffered because of it. With all this being said, you certainly don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, take the word of my top picks for the week: #1: Terrified About Writing Your Novel? Excellent! The author of Waisted goes into depth about the fears she had to face in order to write her fictional story about weight obsessed women and the society they lived in. She not only had to face her own weight obsessions and body image issues, but also the criticism after her story was published. #2: What Gandhi Taught Me About Telling Stories that Mean Something Kelsey Allagood encourages writers to not only tell the truth, but also to create stories that push the boundaries of current societal belief. “Of course our readers are going to look at our stories through their own lenses—the ones that stories have helped them shape over the course of their lives. Our role as storytellers is to write stories that help shift those lenses.” #3: How Honest is Too Honest? 6 Books That Straddle That Line While most of these books listed are either memoir or self-help, I still find this article helpful for friction writers in order to see just how much truth previous authors have put on a page and lived. Perhaps this article will give you the courage to explore those ideas or scenes in your story that you’ve been avoiding. #4: Write of Way #15 – Write True to You “I think it’s a lesson all authors learn that, whether we intend them to or not, our books reflect things about ourselves that we might not have even realized.” “If your creativity is flowing through a filter, you risk losing themes and ideas like that. You might not notice you’re losing them, but you will be, all the same.” Spot on, A.Z. Anthony. Spot on. Oh, and the rest of the article is good too. #5: Make it as Honest as You Can - Neil Gaiman This is actually a short video I linked from the Novel Writing Advice Videos section of Author Connect. It’s Neil Gaiman talking about how he found his own style of writing by being honest with himself. It’s definitely worth the 5 minutes it takes to watch it. Happy week and happy writing to you all. Until next time, Kara
  6. Conflict should be at the very heart of every story you write. Its presence throughout your manuscript, or lack thereof, can literally make our break your ability to get published. Your main characters need internal conflict, they need conflict between themselves and other characters (more than just the conflict raised by the antagonist). There should also be conflict within the setting of your novel like a picturesque countryside that isn’t entirely what it seems, etc. etc. etc. Without conflict, or tension or raised stakes for the main characters, beginning with the first scene and ending with the resolution, stories meander, they are quiet and your readers get bored. Conflict helps readers care about the fate of both protagonist and antagonist (if your antagonist has sympathetic qualities) and it gets readers hooked. So hooked, in fact, that they will read your entire book just to find out how the story ends to get their much-needed resolution from all the said conflict you’ve created. Since this is such an important topic for all fiction writers and even some nonfiction categories, I’ve chosen seven picks for the week. Feel free to read them all, or choose which ones speak to you. #1: Confessions of a Conflict-Avoidant Writer #2: Create Conflict in Your Characters #3: 6 Tips for Creating Good Bridging Conflict #4: What Dungeons and Dragons Taught Me About Story Conflict #5: Levels of Conflict #6: The Science Behind Conflicts in Literature #7: Conflict, Plot Lines, And The Devil Wears Prada
  7. Creating your author’s platform can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and for good reason. There’s lots to worry about. What do I say about myself? What photo of me looks the best? What if I’m nowhere near close to being published? Do I start with a website first, or a presence on social media? Rest assured that all these questions, and more, get answered in my top picks of the week: #1: Your Author Platform – Is it Ever too Soon to Start? The short answer is no. It is never too soon to start and I’ll let Karen Cioffi explain why. #2: Do I Need a Platform and If So, How High? Are you an expert on what you’re writing about? This article gives tips on how to become one to help you get seen and eventually published. #3: Social Media for Authors: An Interview with Leili Mckinley Learn from social media expert Leili McKinley. In this article she gives the answers to a few burning questions authors want to know about social media marketing. #4: A Smarter Author Platform for the Digital Era of Publishing This really gets into the meat of social media, websites, and other marketing strategies. If you’re ready for a hefty dose of information that really digs deep into the author platform then this one is for you. Happy week and happy writing to you all. Until next time, Kara
  8. Have you ever had a hard time figuring out what genre your story fits into? Or, maybe you know the genre of your story, but you don’t know how to structure it. Perhaps your book keeps switching from one genre to the next depending on which chapter you’re writing. If genre is feeling a bit hazy for you, or if you just want to understand it better then this week’s picks are for you: #1: Tinker, Tailor, Wizard, Spy: The Joys (And Dangers) of Blending Genre Elements W.L. Goodwater states, “When readers browse the genre shelves at the bookstore, they are looking to sign a contract with the writer: I, the undersigned, will purchase and read this book, but only under the following terms. Writing genre is not simply about meeting readers’ expectations, but managing them.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why understanding genre is so important. #2: Mixing Genres Is All About Messing with Structure Stuart Turton explains about the structure of different genres and how he was able to get his stories to fit snuggly within the right ones. While he specifically mentions genres like mystery, time-travel and sci-fi, his methods of fixing his stories could work for any writer, no matter your genre of choice. #3: A Taxonomy of Nonfiction; Or the Pleasures of Precision As an assistant professor of creative writing, Karen Babine explains in detail, genre, subgenre, form, mode and shape of nonfiction writing. Ever thought about writing a memoir, or essay? Consider this article as your basic 101 course. #4: Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi? Writing a sci-fi thriller? This article lists five main points about how to scrutinize your story and determine where it falls on the spectrum between science fiction and thriller. You’ll know exactly what you need to change to balance your story correctly within these two genres. #5: Writing a Genre That’s New to You A short read and to the point about how to get started writing in a new genre that you’ve never written in before. Or, perhaps you’ve only toyed with the idea, but haven’t been brave enough to try it yet. According to the author, Greer Macallister, “No one can stop you from writing in a new genre but you.” #6: In Psychological Thrillers, The Abyss Stares Back This article is an interesting and even freaky example of how writing and the genre you choose to write in can mirror your own life, without you even realizing it. The uncanny experience of author Sebastian Fitzek and his not-so fictional story shows firsthand how our lives can bleed into our work, thus giving us a new perspective of our own past and how it has shaped our present. Happy week, and happy writing to you all. Until next time, Kara
  9. It’s here! The much anticipated second part to getting published. These articles will round out the information you already got in Part 1, but also give you more to consider when picking your publishing path. Ready or not, here are my top picks for the week: #1: How to Secure a Traditional Book Deal By Self-Publishing Jane Freidman brings up a lot of really good points about why, or why not, a writer should ever consider doing this. I warn you, going this route is not for the faint of heart. I’ll let Jane explain why. #2: Friday Speak Out!: No More Query Letters Why one woman decided—only after many years of writing—that the traditional publishing career path was no longer for her. The author also points out the stigma that has loomed over those who self-publish and how she dealt with it. #3: It's Okay to Make Mistakes “…one of the biggest obstacles writers face--no matter where you are in your writing or publishing career--is getting over the fear of making a mistake. It can paralyze you, no matter where you sit on the perfectionist spectrum.” -Margo L Dill. Need I say more? #4: My Novel’s Heroine is Doing Better in the Publishing World Than I Did The title pretty much says it all: Ellen Feldman’s recounting of her own career in publishing versus the character in her published novel. It’s quite humorous, but also very revealing about the questionable past of New York City publishing and the male-dominated world it once was. #5: Morgan Entrekin on the Hope of a Post-COVID Publishing Landscape It only felt right to end this two-week journey into publishing with this article about the future of it. Morgan Entrekin, publisher of Grove Atlantic and co-founder of lithub.com, recounts his own tale of suffering from COVID and how it has impacted his life and family. However, when it comes to the future of books, it may not be as bad as it seems. While face-to-face author interactions have been paused, negatively affecting libraries and brick and mortar bookstores, authors have become more accessible to their fans and audience due to the ease of online interactions. Entrekin however, is “getting sick of Zoom calls.” And there you have it folks. I hope all of you are a bit wiser now about where you want your own personal writing career to go and why you are going there. Happy week and happy publishing to you all. Until next time, Kara
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