How to Write Your First Novel And Get Published @ngalina1973

How to Write Your First Novel And Get Published @ngalina1973

How to write your first novel

I recently did a livestream interview on Alina Boyte’s Heart Centered Life Broadcast, talking about How To Write Your First Novel And Get Published. Alina hosts a podcast and YouTube show for busy professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators on living and leading from the heart. During the interview, we discussed how to get ideas and find inspiration for your book, develop characters, build a captivating story, edit your work, and find a publisher. You can watch the episode below.

Visit Alina’s Heart Centered Life website
5 Recommended Resources For Writers During The Pandemic

5 Recommended Resources For Writers During The Pandemic

Below, I’ve listed some resources for writers and readers that I’ve had the time to explore or rediscover during this pandemic. I’m fortunate as my whole family has been able to stay home and social distance. My husband is a high school teacher, so he set up a second desk in my office. The kids are doing remote school work on their Chromebooks. We all have our own separate projects, but have created new family routines also such as playing board games every evening after dinner, baking, and participating in a virtual trivia night hosted Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST by An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe on their Facebook page while the store is closed.

I’m not writing a book at the moment, though I expect that to change by summer as I’ve been jotting down ideas. For now, I’ve  focused on creating content to post on my three blogs and YouTube channel, marketing my fiction books and Book Editing Blueprint course for writers, guesting on numerous podcasts, developing a new online course, working with editing clients, and catching up on tasks that have sat on my to-do list for way too long.

The below resources for writers have helped to keep me productive and distracted during this difficult time. I hope you find them helpful. Please feel free to share in the comments what you’ve been doing during this pandemic and any resources for writers that you’ve found useful.

Check out these 5 amazing resources for writers! #amwriting #writingtips #writingcommunity Click To Tweet

resources for writers

StoryOrigin

StoryOrigin is a cross-promotional marketing tool designed to help authors work together to build their email lists, increase sales/page reads, and get more reviews. I’ve been meaning to explore this wonderful resource for months, and I’m impressed! Those who follow me know that my motto is: Let’s make editing simple. Well, StoryOrigin’s slogan could be: Let’s make book promotion simple. Created by Evan Gow, this community is currently free.

You can connect with other authors to swap mentions in one another’s upcoming newsletters, team up with multiple authors to promote your books on a single landing page, collect requests to join your review team and automate review tracking for those you’ve given access, and collect subscribers for your mailing list and automate delivery of a free book or sample. The site has great features including a universal book link that sends readers to your book’s purchasing page at their preferred, country-specific store, automated distribution and review tracking for Audible and Findaway promo codes, and easy downloads for newsletter exclusives, welcome gifts, or ARCs.

So far, I’ve joined several group sale events and done newsletter swaps. A couple years ago, I did newsletter swaps all the time, but got burned out. I arranged them via Facebook and email, and it was a hassle exchanging information and keeping track of all the dates and contact information. Worse, many authors never followed through and didn’t share my book.

With StoryOrigin, you can see on your dashboard exactly what you’ve committed to and gather all the details you need, and you know what date your book mention is slated to appear in someone’s newsletter. Many authors share a link to the published newsletter, so you can see the click rate and find out who is reliable. It’s a user-friendly site, well-organized, and amazingly, it’s free right now!

Lumen5 

Making trailers for my books has been on my to-do list for YEARS! Now that I have more time on my hands, I’ve finally sat down to create some videos to promote my books. I used Lumen5, a video creation platform that enables anyone without training or experience to easily create engaging video content within minutes. I use the free plan, which gives you five videos per month with a Lumen5 watermark.

The site is amazing as it offers millions of copyright-free stock images and video clips, not to mention an extensive copyright-free music library. I use some of their images, and some that I’ve gathered from other sites. You have full commercial rights to all the videos you create using Lumen5. You can post your videos to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or wherever you’d like. I first learned about this site about a year ago, and although I didn’t do much with it initially, it floored me that Lumen5 offered so much for free.

I even sent an email along the lines of, “Really? Am I understanding this correctly? I can use the music, clips, and images, post the video on YouTube, and don’t have to worry about copyright?” Someone cheerfully responded that yes, I was understanding it correctly. I don’t mind having a watermark at the end of my videos as they deserve the credit! With some of the paid plans, you can have access to even more stock photos and videos, but the free plan has met my needs.

I’ve been adding trailers to my Book Trailer playlist on YouTube. Below, is the trailer for my sweet and sassy chick lit novel, Fooling Around With Cinderella (Storybook Valley #1) so you can see a sample.

If you make a trailer using Lumen5, be sure to tag me on social media!

Publisher Rocket

Publisher Rocket
Publisher Rocket is a simple tool that shows you exactly what Amazon book buyers type into Amazon, as well as how many people search for these things every month. Using Rocket’s Keywords Feature, you will learn: what keywords shoppers type into Amazon; estimated number of times someone types that keyword into Amazon; how much money other books that rank for that keyword are making; and how many books are competing for that keyword.

With the Category Feature, you can quickly find pertinent and niche categories for your books, as well as find out how many books you’d need to sell that day in order to be the new #1 bestseller. You can see your potential competitors, their information, reviews, book cover, and even their daily and monthly earnings. Rocket will also help you find profitable keywords for Amazon’s AMS ads.

This software wasn’t new to me, however, I hadn’t used it in at least a year. Since then, it has undergone updates and gained even more features from when I purchased it. I’ve been using it to freshen up my books’ keywords and categories, as well as to create AMS ads. I also recently became an affiliate of the program, so if you purchase it, I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate link to help support my blog and YouTube Channel: https://stacyjuba–rocket.thrivecart.com/publisher-rocket/

Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur is the creator of the software and has many free tools on his website including:

Rocket Tutorials

AMS Ad Class

Book Description Generator (This helps you to add bold and italics to your Amazon book description as well as control the font size.)

How to Choose Keywords

How to Choose Categories

Libby App

All authors should make sure they take time to read. First, it’s relaxing downtime. Second, it will help you to become a better writer. Although I buy lots of books, I also enjoy browsing the shelves at my local library and borrowing titles that catch my eye. Well, until the pandemic.

I recently discovered Libby, a free app where you can borrow e-books and digital audiobooks from your public library. (Libby works with public libraries that use OverDrive.) You can stream books with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card. The Libby app is free to install from your device’s app store, and all the digital content from your library is free to borrow with a valid library card.

I hadn’t borrowed e-books from the library for a couple years as the previous app I used was a bit clunky. I was impressed with how easy Libby is to navigate and amazed at all the books at my fingertips. Some have been available to borrow and download immediately, and for others, I needed to get on a wait list. It’s always a nice surprise to get a notification on my phone that another book is ready to borrow.

So far, I’ve borrowed: When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth, and Picture Perfect, Leaving Time, and Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. Yes, I’ve been escaping with a lot of books, lately!

You can download Libby on:

 

Writing In Tough Times

I stumbled across the book, How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG: A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times by Allie Pleiter, and thought this was an important book to share during these stressful times. I’m a fan of Allie’s book for writers, The Chunky Method Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Plan to WRITE That Book Even When Life Gets in the Way, and didn’t know about How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG until recently. 

Is your muse yelling “SOS”? How do you keep the words pouring onto the page when your real life feels like it’s under attack? Every writer knows how stress and personal crises can strangle your creativity. Help is on the way in this brilliantly practical guide. Inside, you’ll find advice that:
– Gets you through the thick of your crisis
– Gives you tactics that will energize you to keep writing
– Teaches you to use your stress to inspire your writing

As the author of over 30 books and the creator of The Chunky Method of time management for writers, Allie Pleiter has met deadlines in the midst of some imposing traumas. With candor, insight, and the wisdom of experience, she shares practical and inventive strategies for how to stay afloat and creative amid life’s stormiest seas.

You can purchase How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG on Amazon.

Bonus Resource

how to write a successful book online writing class

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – This is my self-paced online course for fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and is the resource I wish I’d had available early in my writing career. Most novels need several rounds of editing before they’re ready to submit to agents or to indie publish. Unfortunately, each round with a freelance book editor can cost you hundreds of dollars.

By going through this course, you’ll get the tools to skyrocket your manuscript to the next level without breaking the bank. This course demystifies the editing process, giving beginner and intermediate writers a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing their manuscript. It’s like having a professional editor standing over your shoulder as you’re editing the novel. The course will give you a solid foundation while also being something you can reasonably finish. It includes  examples, practice quizzes, and bite-sized action steps that nudge you closer toward your goal.

By the end of this course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report outlining your book’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to fix the problems, and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. It’s a proven system that outlines what every fiction and creative nonfiction author should do before approaching an editor. That way when you’re ready to hire a editor, you’ll get much more value for your money and should receive a high level edit rather than one filled with general beginner advice.

 

Get a quick overview here:

Want more information? Watch the 8-minute classroom tour on YouTube.

Purchase Book Editing Blueprint here. Since the course launched at the beginning of the pandemic, I decided to extend the $139 sale price and limited time bonuses through May.

Conclusion

If you're an author, be sure to check out the resources for writers described above:

StoryOrigin

Publisher Rocket

Lumen 5

Libby App (if your library uses Overdrive)

How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG: A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times by Allie Pleiter

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable

What resources for writers do you recommend? Share in the comments.

Behind The Rewrite Guest Blogging Opportunity For Authors

Behind The Rewrite Guest Blogging Opportunity For Authors

Guest blog

Are you an author who would like to get some exposure on the Shortcuts for Writers blog? Then I’d love to have you participate in my guest blogging opportunity, Behind the Rewrite. This is a win-win opportunity as you get to share the post with your readers, giving them a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of your writing process. And I get to share the post with my writer followers, so they can learn more about self-editing through your examples.

You have three choices for how to approach your guest post. Please choose one of the below options.

Line Editing Before-And-After – Find a section of your manuscript that you did a lot of line editing on (50-150 words). Write an introduction giving a short overview (a paragraph or two) of the type of line edits you made. (i.e. making sentences more active, cutting vague words, using more vivid words, etc.) Then copy and paste the unedited excerpt into the blog post. Beneath it, paste the rewrite of how it reads with line editing.

Examples: Fleshing Out A Scene With Suzanne Jefferies 

Fleshing Out With Line Editing With Alice Renaud

Tackling Wordiness With J Arlene Culiner

Top 5 Changes – Rather than pasting a before-and-after with line editing, you can do a post talking about your larger-scale edits. Tell us about five things you changed and why you made those changes. Each explanation should be at least a paragraph. For example, did you flesh out your protagonist? Add more obstacles in the middle? Cut your prologue? Change your characters’ names? Delete sections to improve the pacing? Add more description? Do more research and add authentic details? Give us a summary of five things you rewrote and your reasons for each change.

Examples: Power Of The Red Pen With Cathy Skendrovich 

5 Editing Tips From Renee Wildes

Deleted Scene – Share a deleted scene (up to 500 words). Preface it with an explanation of at least 3-5 paragraphs. Explain specifically why the scene didn’t work as written and when you realized it. Did you totally delete the scene, or did you heavily rewrite it? If you rewrote it, give us a summary of what you changed and how this was an improvement. If you cut out the section without rewriting it, how did cutting it improve the book? How hard was it for you to cut?

Examples: Scene Purpose With Kathy L Wheeler

Editing A Short Story With Emerald

Whichever option you choose, at the end of your post be sure to include the following:

 

  • If this book is published, share the title, blurb, and Amazon link at the bottom of your post.
  • If it’s an unpublished WIP, then please mention that in the post. You’re welcome to promote one of your published books below that post. Share the title of the published book, blurb, and Amazon link.
  • A short bio, link to your website, and links to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. (if applicable). Please paste this beneath the book blurb.
  • Send the post to stacy@stacyjuba.com as a Word attachment. In the subject line, put BEHIND THE REWRITE FROM (INSERT YOUR NAME) Also attach a jpeg of the book cover you’re promoting. Size should be 600 by 900.
  • Is there a specific time-frame you’re hoping this post will run to coincide with a book release or blog tour? I run these posts weekly, in the order they are received, so you will be scheduled for the next available date. Unfortunately, I can’t change the schedule around to squeeze in a blog tour or a book release. However, if your book release or blog tour is a few months away, and you want me to hold onto your submission until then, I don’t mind delaying the publication.
  • I will let you know when the post will run, and will tag you on social media. I can’t wait to read about the behind-the-scenes of your rewrite process!
Free Writing Class – 5 Things To Focus On During Editing

Free Writing Class – 5 Things To Focus On During Editing

 

free creative writing class

I recently discovered a valuable Instagram account that offers free writing classes, writing prompts, giveaways, support and community, and other resources. It’s called YouAreHereWriters, and I was honored to teach a 10-minute self-editing class on their IGTV channel.

free writing classes

In my mini writing class, I shared five tips to help you whip your manuscript into shape. My tips centered around:

1. Point of View

2. Setting

3. Emotions

4. Passive Words

5. Crutch Words

If you browse through the channel’s past free writing classes, you’ll find workshops on topics such as historical research, writing book recommendations, handling rejection, dictating your draft, book marketing, book launches, writing from both sides of the brain, researching and writing nonfiction, getting published in magazines, and much more. What a gold mine of free content!

Here is the link to my mini free writing class on IGTV.

If you’d like to take another free class, be sure to sign up for my course Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages. It features bite-sized concepts and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing.

 

Affordable Book Editing Blueprint Course On How To Revise A Novel

Affordable Book Editing Blueprint Course On How To Revise A Novel

how to write a successful book online writing class

You know that feeling of overwhelm when you think of how to revise your novel? Where you wish an editor could sit over your shoulder and keep you from making a ton of time-wasting mistakes? You see the big picture but worry about how to get there. How do you get your book ready for publication or submission to an agent?

Today is the LAST day you need to feel that overwhelm about how to revise a novel. My online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable is now available. If you’re a beginner or intermediate writer, then this course may be the solution you’ve been waiting for to reach the next level in your writing journey. 

Sign up here.  

Why I Created A Course On How To Revise A Novel

As a developmental editor, I kept seeing my clients make the same mistakes. I knew there had to be a way to break down the editing process into simple steps. I thought about what helped me to tackle my own rewrites and what issues plagued my clients, leading me to create a self-paced online course that streamlines the editing process.

Freelance editing is expensive, and I hate that as an author. But as an editor, I now know that editing someone’s manuscript is hard, time-consuming work. When you don’t charge enough, freelance editing doesn’t pay the bills despite the time and effort involved. That’s why it can cost you a thousand dollars or more for ONE ROUND of editing.

I wanted to offer a win/win situation: a way to empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can cut down on editing expenses. That way they can do the earlier rounds themselves and only pay to send their best work to a freelance editor. My vision was for writers to save time and money by teaching them how to catch and fix common flaws. Editors could do a higher-level edit rather than act as an expensive private writing instructor.

Editors don’t want to charge you outrageous amounts of money. They want to give you their best work, but if you make a lot of general beginner mistakes, it’s going to take them a lot longer to help you make your book publishable. That means you should give them your best writing. That’s why I created Book Editing Blueprint, so I could walk you through each of the common manuscript flaws and show you how to find and fix them in your manuscript.

Would you rather spend thousands of dollars to get multiple rounds of one-on-one writing coaching from a freelance developmental editor, or take an affordable online course to learn the exact same thing?

I am a freelance editor, so trust me, you'll learn all the same techniques and how to apply them to your manuscript. I'll tell you everything I've told my paid clients during their early rounds of editing and show you how to find weaknesses in your story, and most importantly, explain how to fix them. I won't edit your book during the class, but I will teach you how to do it.

Who This Revision Course Is For:

  • Beginner writers who have just finished, are working on, or are thinking about writing a fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript.
  • Intermediate authors who have had a couple of books published, but their editors keep sending them back to the drawing board for multiple rounds of rewrites and the editing process still feels overwhelming. You want to turn in well-developed, polished manuscripts and get to a higher level.
  • Authors who find hiring an editor too expensive and feel they might be skimping on the editing process.
  • Authors who don’t want a crazy-intensive course that will take months to get through and that they might give up on. They want a simpler way to get there.

In Book Editing Blueprint, your mission is to learn how to do a thorough developmental and line edit and to create a solid action plan for your work-in-progress. By the end of this course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report outlining your book’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to fix the problems, and will be armed with a simple checklist on how to revise a novel.

You’ll learn through 10 easy-to-understand modules that get straight to the point. It’s a proven system that outlines what every fiction author should do before approaching an editor. That way when you’re ready to hire an editor, you’ll get much more value for your money as you’re not paying someone to point out issues you could have easily found yourself. Here’s what topics you’ll see covered:

Module 1: Character

Module 2: Structure

Module 3: Point of View

Module 4: Show, Don’t Tell

Module 5: Dialogue

Module 6: Pacing

Module 7: Line Editing

Module 8: Copyediting

Module 9: Hiring an Editor

Module 10: Putting It All Together

Bonus Module: Foil the Frustration - Motivation Strategies for Authors. (Includes an excerpt from When The Timer Dings: Organizing Your Life To Make The Most of 10 Minute Increments by Katharine Grubb of 10 Minute Novelists)

You can binge through it in about 10-14 days, or take as long as you want. The course includes:

  • 28 video tutorials, most between 4-10 minutes
  • 200 pages of transcripts
  • 71-page workbook with worksheets and cheat sheets
  • 25-page Book Editing Blueprint checklist

If you’re a beginner or intermediate fiction or creative nonfiction writer who wants to learn how to revise a novel so you can lower your editing expenses and become less dependent on editors, then Book Editing Blueprint is for you.  Learn how to revise a novel, save time and money, and get that book done. Register here.

 

Rewriting A Novel When It’s A Big Mess

Rewriting A Novel When It’s A Big Mess

rewriting a novel

How do you go about rewriting a novel when it’s an absolute mess?

I want to tell you about this editing client I once had. She submitted a manuscript that was the biggest disaster I had ever seen. It would need countless drafts to make it even in the ballpark of publishable.

1. First, it was written 25 years ago when she was a teenager, years before she developed her skills as a novelist. It lacked character development, description, and a strong point of view.

2. Since it was originally done on a word processor, this author hired a company to scan her hard copy so she could work with it again. Unfortunately, the scanning process riddled it with formatting errors and odd symbols that made my eyes glaze over when I was editing.

3. The storyline was so outdated and unrealistic that she had buried the manuscript in a drawer for several years, too overwhelmed to deal with it.

Finally, this client took a deep breath and vowed to give the manuscript a long-overdue rewrite. It was a sequel to a young adult sports novel published in 1992 that still sold copies daily, and readers kept asking her if there was a second book.

As a freelance editor, I’m known for writing encouraging but honest ten-page editorial letters. Some editors have never written a book themselves and don’t understand how awful it feels to have your hard work criticized. Since I’ve been on the receiving end of overwhelming editorial letters, I always make sure to include the positives. However, in this case, I ripped the manuscript to shreds.

Want to know why? This “client” was me.

Rewriting A Novel From Scratch

Rewriting my young adult novel Offsides (Hockey Rivals Book 2), a manuscripted penned by my nineteen-year-old self, was one of the scariest, strangest, and most rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken.

Every single word of that book required rewriting. I think the only thing that stayed the same was the characters’ names. (Wait . . . I changed a couple of those, too.)

I desperately needed a system to break down this monumental editing project into manageable steps.

I made a long list of every possible task I could think of and arranged it in an order that made sense so that I could redraft the novel. Then I dug into my messy manuscript and revised one item at a time.

Little did I know that this checklist would shape the curriculum for my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. Checking off each task was a small victory, and finally reaching the finish line reflected my proudest moment as an author.

self-editing class

 

Now, just like its predecessor Face-OffOffsides sells copies every day. This one-line review on Amazon filled me with joy. “My 11-year-old hockey player grandson could not put the book down. He loved it.”

I market these hockey books with the tagline “Score a goal for reading,” but I scored a goal for my writing career also by tackling the rewrite of that novel. Through self-editing, I took my disaster of a manuscript and transformed it into a publishable novel that my ideal reader couldn’t put down. You can do it too. I’d love to share my system and revision checklist with you in Book Editing Blueprint. 

Your mission is to learn how to do a thorough developmental and line edit, to clean up your manuscript, and to create a solid action plan. By the end of the course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. Sign up below.

 

 

Have you ever had a messy rewrite to complete? Are you working on one now? Tell us in the comments.

Setting In Fiction: 5 Bestselling Authors Share Their Secrets

Setting In Fiction: 5 Bestselling Authors Share Their Secrets

.setting in fiction

Several years ago, I wrote an article about setting in fiction for a writing magazine. The angle was how research field trips could enrich your writing. As a longtime journalist, hands-on research comes naturally to me. I’m used to picking up the phone, explaining that I’m a writer, and requesting a tour and interview. I’ve done it for hundreds of newspaper articles, so I have no qualms about seeking out experts to research my novels.

I’ve hung out and chatted with interview sources at a hospital emergency room, childbirth education class, dog training school, prison, power plant, Christmas ornament factory, homeless shelter, haunted inn, and at a psychic’s house; during a police cruiser ride-along, on the firing range, and inside a courthouse, to name a few. I never could have created such authentic setting descriptions without being there in person and asking my list of questions.

However, some authors feel hesitant about e-mailing or cold-calling a stranger for research purposes, especially writers without a publishing track record. Here’s my advice: do it anyway.

Agents and acquisitions editors trust writers who strive for accuracy. Readers love authors who plunge them into settings ripe with authentic details. Field trips can expand a writer’s knowledge base and provide opportunities to gather color, atmosphere, and on-scene information unavailable in a research book or on the Internet.

Sure, the adage ‘Write what you know’ has some truth, yet if that’s all we wrote, our fiction would be boring. Next time you get stuck on a scene, put on your reporter’s hat and go out and find the story.

Here is advice and setting anecdotes from five of the novelists I interviewed for the original article.

Lisa Gardner

Lisa gardner booksBestselling suspense author Lisa Gardner met with the Rhode Island State Police for her novel The Survivor’s Club and even staked out a Providence courthouse to determine the ideal angle for a sniper shot.

For The Killing Hour, she visited the FBI Academy to learn about the life of a new agent, and she spent a week with the U.S. Geological Survey team, checking out remote places in Virginia for an “Eco-Killer” to abandon his victims.

The Other Daughter led her on a hunt to Texas, where she researched execution protocol. 

“I need to be able to picture something to write it,” she said. “Actually seeing Texas’s retired electric chair was so much more riveting than simply reading about it. To walk through a maximum security prison, getting the sights, the sounds, and particularly the smell, made the whole atmosphere come alive in a way simply talking about it never would. Then I can take this experience in turn, and make it come alive for the reader.”

Stephen Coonts

Stephen Coonts booksStephen Coonts, bestselling action/adventure author, took a flight in the F-22 cockpit concept demonstrator at Lockheed Martin in Georgia for Fortunes of War. He talked his way into the V-22 Osprey simulator at NAS Patuxent River, the basis for scenes in his novella Al-Jihad. While research is vital, he advises not overloading the reader with information. 

“The first requirement for any writer is a good story,” Coonts said. “Once you see how the story is going to go, then do enough research to give the tale the flavor of authenticity. Salt in a little jargon, but only a little. Write around details you don’t know. The easiest and best way to do research is to find an expert and ask precisely the questions to which you need answers. Shotgunning (or scattered) research is a waste of time.” 

Jodi Picoult

Jodi picoult booksAs part of her research for novels such as Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Second Glance, bestselling writer Jodi Picoult has milked a cow in Amish country and roughed it with native Alaskans. She shudders when she remembers heading out to an abandoned New England mental institution on a winter night with paranormal investigators. Her group trudged across a field where a building had burned down with patients inside. 

“I was walking with a sensitive, someone who can ‘feel’ ghosts,” Picoult said. “Suddenly, all the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Before I could even mention this to my walking buddy, he lifted a digital camera and held it up between us backward, over our shoulders. Although there was nothing visible to the naked eye, in the viewfinder of the camera was a white, misty, wraith-like image.” 

Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich booksAnyone who has read the humorous Stephanie Plum series, about a female bounty hunter sleuth with attitude, knows how much detail bestselling author Janet Evanovich weaves into the books. That all stems from research.

“One time I was meeting a bounty hunter for lunch in a crowded Au Bon Pain in downtown Washington and this guy came in dressed in leather,” recalled Evanovich, whose books include the recent Twisted Twenty-Six. “I was trying to find out what he did and how successful he was. He did this arm thing and reached for something on the table, and all you could see was this illegal Dirty Harry gun. The place cleared out and we were the only two people left. It was important for the Stephanie Plum series as it gave me perspective on crowd reaction, and made me think about how I was putting my heroine in this atypical and unsavory job.” 

 

Deborah Donnelly

Wedding Planner MysteriesDeborah Donnelly, author of the Wedding Planner Mysteries, writes so vividly that her books caught the attention of Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. The channel adapted her book Veiled Threats into the movie the Wedding Planner Mystery.

“While researching May the Best Man Die, I toured the Seattle’s Best Coffee roasting plant,” she said. “I explained myself as a mystery writer when I made the tour request, but apparently no one told the gentleman who showed me around. As he dutifully described all the specialized equipment, I kept asking questions like, ‘If one of those sacks of coffee beans fell on you, would it kill you?’ and ‘If this place burned down, would the coffee smell really good?’ He kept edging farther and farther away from me… Eventually, he learned the reassuring truth about my odd profession.”

Arranging Research Field Trips

Are you inspired to make a field trip to enrich the setting in your book? If you want to tour a site or interview an expert, search the Internet for leads. Larger organizations might have a PR department that handles inquiries.

Cold calls are fine, but don’t subject someone to an on-the-spot interrogation; make an appointment so you both have time to prepare. You could also outline your request in an e-mail.

Before the visit, read up on your subject and develop specific questions. Bring a notebook to the interview and ask whether you can call or e-mail with follow-up questions. Afterwards, be sure to show your appreciation with a thank you note. 

What type of field trips have you made to research your books? Share in the comments. If your book is published, share an excerpt that reflects your research and a buy link.

Here’s The Missing Step Of The Book Editing Process

Here’s The Missing Step Of The Book Editing Process

book editing proccess

Many beginner and intermediate writers find the book editing process overwhelming. That’s where I come in. I was recently asked on a podcast why I’m so passionate about teaching self-editing skills to authors. The thing is, I’m not just an editor. I’m an author who has received crushing editorial letters, letters that outlined everything I was doing wrong. I’d thought those manuscripts were pretty darn close to being publishable, but nope! Evidently not.

Those letters got my heart pounding, my blood pressure rising, and my eyes prickling with tears. Don’t get me wrong. The editors said encouraging things, too, but all I could focus on at first was the overwhelming list of problems to fix.

For example:

“I think in order to make us eager to get back to this place in future installments, you may want to dial it up even more to make the park a true character in the story.”

“We don’t know enough about what your characters want to allow us to get really invested in their story and the outcome.”

“I’m going to make a bold suggestion here. What if there was no Danielle?”

In that letter, I discovered my setting needed to become a character (huh?), my real characters were flat, and I should consider cutting the bitchy ex-girlfriend who drove most of the conflict. And trust me, there was more. Much more!

Good editors also focus on the positives during the book editing process, and this was an excellent editor whose suggestions helped me a great deal. She included paragraphs like this one: “I know these seem like a lot of notes, and I hope I’m not overwhelming you. I really think you have nailed the more critical elements that can’t be fixed as easily. You have a fluid writing style and a good sense of pacing, and most importantly, you write with voice.”

In the beginning though, all I felt was overwhelm. Of course, I thanked her and gushed over how much I appreciated her insightful editorial feedback, because I did appreciate it. She’d saved me from publishing a book that wasn’t ready.  Thanks to her, I realized the book editing process wasn’t done yet. That didn’t make the truth any easier to swallow, though. I wasn’t almost finished with the book after all. In fact, I wasn’t even close to being finished.

I survived the rewrite just as I’d powered through the other tough rewrites over the decades. With a leap of faith, discipline, and peanut M&Ms. Plenty of peanut M&Ms! 

Eventually, I became a developmental editor, coaching other authors through the book editing process, and found myself writing these kinds of distressing letters. I’d echo the words of my mentors, incorporating lines like, PLEASE don’t be discouraged. You’re a talented writer and this story has so much potential.” I’d nervously await a reply, praying I hadn’t crushed a new writer’s dreams with my editing feedback.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that every manuscript has potential, but it takes good editing to transform it into the book it deserves to be.

I wished I had a fairy godmother to transform this early draft of Fooling Around With Cinderella, the book described in the above editorial letter.

And I really wished I could wave a wand and make things easier for my clients.

That’s why I created my new course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. New and emerging fiction writers needed a way to simplify the book editing process so that they saved time and money.

They were jumping from Point A (finishing their draft and revising as best as they could) to Point C (hiring a freelance editor) with no transition in between.

What they needed was a stop at Point B, which in my world stands for Blueprint. Everything I put into the course and the step-by-step guide that accompanies it comes from thousands of hours spent editing my own manuscripts and my clients’ projects. If you’d like to learn more about how Book Editing Blueprint can transform your writing and editing, watch the above trailer and then visit the course home page for more information. Hope to see you inside the course!

 

Video Tour of 7 Character Name Generator Sites

Video Tour of 7 Character Name Generator Sites

FREE CHARACTER-NAMING GUIDE BELOW! Are you a fiction writer who could use some help on how to name your characters?

Then check out this video tour of seven amazing name generator websites for writers. I’ll show you where you can quickly generate English first and last names, find out names popular in certain years, discover multicultural names, and even generate the perfect names for medieval characters, dragons, vampires, unicorns, and fairies.

Do you need a name to reflect a certain ethnicity? Or, would you like to explore what potential character names mean so that it can add a layer of symbolism? These sites will help you with all of this and more.

You can also visit my blog post which has clickable links to each site along with six questions you should be asking yourself before finalizing your character names.

Sign up for a PDF of my Tips for Naming Characters Guide, which includes a list of all the questions and character-name sites in one handy download. Get the PDF here: https://billowing-water-5216.ck.page/f47dd8ffda

In the comments, share the name of one of your characters and why you chose it. Please like this video and share it with any writers who might find it helpful! Have you used any of these sites to help you pick your character names? Do you have others to recommend. Let me know in the comments.

Never Send Your First Draft To An Editor & Other Advice For Writers

Never Send Your First Draft To An Editor & Other Advice For Writers

I had such a fun time chatting with fellow writer Kat Caldwell, host of the podcast Pencils&Lipstick, and giving advice for writers including my number one tip: NEVER SEND YOUR FIRST DRAFT TO AN EDITOR.

Even your second and third drafts may not be strong enough, as let’s face it, editors are expensive. You should only send your best work so that you’re not paying someone big bucks to catch flaws you could’ve caught yourself.

Unfortunately, many writers don’t know how to self-edit their early drafts. Kat and I discussed why I created my new course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan To Making Your Novels Publishable, a class geared toward beginner and intermediate fiction and creative nonfiction authors. It’s the course that I wish was available when I started writing as it would have saved me a lot of time, money, and aggravation.

 

Blood, Sweat, And Tears!

Speaking of aggravation, Kat and I also discussed our “blood, sweat, and tears years.” We were aspiring writers in the 1990s, before indie publishing took off, before Kindle, and before the INTERNET! We talked about how new authors today have so many more options than Kat and I did when we were starting out, and how wonderful it is to have writing groups and classes available online so you don’t have to drive to them.

It was fun talking with someone who remembered trudging to the post office to mail a thick yellow envelope with a self-addressed stamped envelope inside, and then the mixed feelings when your SASE eventually wound up in your mailbox. It was probably a rejection, but. . .maybe there was a slim possibility it was a publishing offer with some editing notes???

Rejections From Editors You Want To Pay?

We also fast-forwarded to the present and discussed how as a freelance editor, I’ve worked with beginner authors on 3-4 drafts of their novels, and even then the manuscripts weren’t ready for publication. They wished they could have afforded more rounds of developmental editing, but needed to save money for copyediting and cover design. That was before I created Book Editing Blueprint, which would have saved them money on those early drafts. Kat was telling me about freelance editors she’d come across who wouldn’t even accept beginner writers as clients. These editors tell writers that the manuscript needs a lot of work before they can take on the author as a client, leaving the writer confused. Wasn’t that the point of trying to hire an editor? To make the manuscript better?

Even though there are more oppportunities for authors nowadays, learning the craft is just as important as it was in the 1990s. I hope you enjoy our candid conversation about the writing life, sprinkled with lots of advice for writers. The first 40 minutes discuss the ups and downs of my writing journey and what led me to this point in my career, and then for the rest of the podcast we talk about Book Editing Blueprint and the common mistakes that writers make.

Pencils&Lipstick is for anyone who is a writer, reader or looking for encouragement to develop their creativity. Kat interviews writers, entrepreneurs, artists, and many others. You’ll get audio samples of new books coming out, and she tackles life issues that plague us all.

You can also join her Pencils&Lipstick Facebook group, a growing community where creatives come together to encourage and connect.

To listen to our interview, click here.

 

5 Reasons To Join The Shortcuts For Writers Facebook Group

5 Reasons To Join The Shortcuts For Writers Facebook Group

Today I’m going to give you a tour of my Facebook group for writers. It’s called Shortcuts for Writers – Editing Made Simple, and it’s a community for fiction and creative nonfiction writers of all levels who want to make the writing and editing process easier.

As a member of this writing community, you’ll get LOTS of writing and editing tips. My mission is to make everything I teach as simple and actionable as possible. Members can download the free interactive guide 𝟳 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗽𝘀 𝗧𝗼 𝗡𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗕l𝘂𝗿𝗯. It’s filled with tips for crafting your back cover copy and book description for sites like Amazon.

In addition, you will find camaraderie and a friendly, supportive author community. Beginner writers can find experienced writers eager to help those learning the craft.

📚 𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿: Fiction and creative nonfiction writers of all levels.

❌ 𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽 𝗶𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿: If you’re seeking a place to promote your books and author services, then this isn’t the group for you.

I hope you’ll check out the video and head over to Facebook so you can answer the membership questions.

If you found this video helpful, please like, subscribe, and share it with your writer friends.

25+ Unique Gifts For Writers That They Will Actually Use And Want

25+ Unique Gifts For Writers That They Will Actually Use And Want

Are you searching for useful and unique gifts for writers in your life? Or perhaps you are the writer and need ideas of what to ask for during the holidays or for your birthday or graduation. Maybe your family has a tendency to buy you literary-themed mugs, T-shirts, and socks, and while those novelty ideas were cute at first, now you want a gift for writers that you could use.

Below you’ll find 25+ Unique Gifts for Writers That They Will Actually Use and Want. I polled the members of the Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook Group, did an inventory of my own favorite products, and combed the Internet for ideas.

I’ll update this gift recommendation list periodically and do some spin-off lists such as book gifts for writers and fun and frivolous gifts for authors, so feel free to post additional ideas in the comments. Ready? Let’s get started.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, then I will receive a small commission which I will use to help support this blog and my YouTube channel.

Desk Gifts For Writers

Hemingway Pencil CupThis typewriter-themed pencil holder will bring a smile to the face of a writer or aspiring writer. With a faux stone composite and ample room for pencils, it will add some style to their desk. Okay, maybe this a borderline novelty item, but we all need somewhere to keep our pens and pencils, right? So, it will get some decent use.

unique gifts for writers

TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp – How about a smart lamp to shed some extra light for a hardworking author? The LED reflects the light sideways and produces a strain-free light beam that doesn’t harm your eyes. The built-in iSmart USB charging port will power up your devices and keep them right within reach for extra convenience.

christmas gifts for authors

Coffee Mug Warmer – This earned high marks from members of the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group. This coffee mug warmer quietly maintains the optimal drinking temperature for hot drinks to 130 ℉ in 5 minutes. Writers tired of sipping cold coffee or hot chocolate will consider this gift an indulgent treat.

The Synonym Finder by J.J. Rodale –  This book features more than 1,000,000 synonyms in a simple alphabetical arrangement. It has been expanded to include thousands of new words and expressions that have entered the language in recent years. It’s a great resource for writers to keep within easy reach on their desk.

Planner Gifts For Writers

The Self-Publishing Author’s Planner – This was highly recommended by a member of the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group. Here is a snippet from a customer review: “This is an excellent organizer to help keep track of the myriad of details of writing, editing, and marketing that are part of a writer’s life. The layout allows me to be non-linear when I need to brainstorm my plans, and still create the lists I have to check off as I work through them. “

Planner Pad: This is what I personally use. I’ve tried loads of planners, and this one has made me the most productive. I first heard about the Planner Pad from online marketing expert Amy Porterfield. I love how each week there is space to categorize everything you have going on in your life, such as writing, book promotion, social media, freelance work, family, chores, etc. Then you assign specific days for action and block out time to get things done. The company says that if you’re not more focused and organized in six months, you’ll get your money back. 

Word Count Stickers – Regardless of which planner you use, consider ordering word count stickers to help you stay on track with your writing goals. If you do a search on Etsy, several choices come up.

Tech Gifts For Writers


practical gifts for writers

Lap Desk for Laptop with Built-in Wrist Support, Mouse Pad, Cellphone, and Pen Holder – A lap desk is a must for authors who use a laptop. I asked my husband for this one as a Christmas gift this year as it is a huge step up from what I’m using now. This one caught my eye as it includes an ergonomic wrist support, a mouse pad for my new wireless mouse, a slot for a cellphone, and a pen holder as I’m always losing pens and highlighters. It’s a little pricier than other lap desks, but my tired wrists will thank me for the wrist support, and it will be nice to have a place for my cell phone and pens as well as a built-in mouse pad. If you don’t want the ergonomic wrist support, then this lap desk has all the other features. And if you just want a simple, no-frills sturdy lap desk, you could also check out this one which comes in assorted colors.

christmas gifts for writers

Laptop Computer Case with Shoulder Strap and Side Pockets – I use this roomy case to carry my Chromebook and other supplies when I go on vacation or to write at the library or in a coffee shop. It has plenty of room for power cords, notebooks, pens, snacks, and other items as well as enough padding to keep my device safe.

unique christmas gifts for writers

AmazonBasics Rolling Bag Laptop Computer Case with Wheels – A writer who travels a lot will appreciate this rolling laptop computer case. It fits under airplane seats and has an easy-access front pocket with compartments for smaller items like pens and notepads.

what to buy a writer

Chromebook – Writers who don’t have a laptop need to consider purchasing one as a laptop has made me much more productive. I love that I’m no longer tied to my desk and can write and work on the go. My favorite spot is my plush recliner in the living room. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of a Chromebook. I quickly adjusted to working on Google Drive, and appreciate that I don’t have to worry about installing anti-virus software like I do on my desktop. I set up my lap desk, flip open the Chromebook, and I’m ready to work. When I take a break, I can even watch Netflix on the screen. If you buy a Chromebook or another laptop, I recommend purchasing a sleeve case for it and a lap desk. Some writers may also prefer a wireless mouse to the Chromebook’s touchpad.

presents for authors

Laptop Sleeve Protective Case – I have this case in coral for my Chromebook  and love it. I use it for carrying my Chromebook around the house, or if am bringing it somewhere but don’t need a lot of extra supplies. It’s come in handy while my kids are at a birthday party or a karate lesson and I’m getting a little work done while waiting for them. Just pay attention to the measurements of both the laptop and the case so the fit isn’t too tight. For my Chromebook, I went with the 13-inch case. 

presents for writers

Wireless Mouse – Some people prefer using a mouse to a touchpad. That’s where a wireless mouse comes in. You plug it into the device’s USB port, and then it’s just like working on a desktop except without a long mouse cord. You can either buy a mouse pad to go with it, or a lap desk that has a built-in mouse pad like the one above.

useful gifts for writers

Ergonomic Mouse Pad – In the past, I’ve had flare-ups of wrist pain, so I now use an ergonomic mouse pad with a gel-filled wrist support at my desktop. I tried a couple of ergonomic keyboards, but they both stopped working relatively quickly. I found that the ergonomic mouse pad was just as beneficial, and family members sharing the desktop liked that much better than having to deal with the unusual layout and feel of an an ergonomic keyboard.

usefful gifts for authors

Gel Memory Foam Keyboard Wrist Pad – I also have this long ergonomic rest pad for my desktop computer. It comes with a small mouse wrist rest also, though I don’t use it as I find a large ergonomic mouse pad more comfortable. This product has an impressive Amazon rating, so most people are happy with the set.

best gifts for authors

Kindle Fire HD – All writers should understand what it’s like to read an e-book. Since many readers prefer e-books, it’s important for authors to be familiar with the technology so they can get a better understanding of their customers. At least, that’s a good excuse for buying one. Kindle Fires are also fun. You can read on it, choosing from millions of Kindle books and magazine titles. You can even borrow Kindle books from your local library. However, Kindle Fires can do a lot more than store hundreds of books. You can download apps, play games, listen to music from the Amazon Digital Music Store, watch movies and TV shows, check your email, and go on social media.

Tools For Writers

Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad – Highly recommended by members of the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group. Why should being in the shower slow down your creative muse? Capture and preserve your ideas on this waterproof pad.

best gifts for writers

Light Up Pen for Night Writing – Another recommendation from the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group. These pens feature a bright steady light for writing in the dark. Since many writers get their best ideas overnight, this is a great tool. Pair it with a nice notebook like this leather journal.

games for writers

Storymatic Classic – A fun way to help overcome writer’s block. This kit has 540 cards with prompts, games, and suggestions. Here is a snippet from an Amazon review: “As an aspiring writer, I sometimes get stuck or hit a road bloack. Whenever this happens, I pull out a few cards and let my imagination go. Never in my wildest imagination would I ever write about a competitive eater, driver of an ice cream truck, or a person with wings at a class reunion talking about broken promises while looking at unflattering portraits of themselves in their yearbook…Yep, this all came from the cards.” 

what to buy writers

I always recommend that my clients print a hard copy of their manuscript for editing purposes. A pack of highlighters and retractable colored pens are helpful tools for making edits on a hard copy.

A nice set of retractable black ink pens will also be appreciated by any writer.

supplies for writers

Set of 1200 neon page markers – These flags help you find what you want on your manuscript’s hard copy exactly when you need it. Use the different colors to mark different types of edits you have to make such as description, point of view, internal thought, dialogue, etc. The secure, self-stick tabs offer quick and easy tabbing and indexing. They’re easy to write on and simple to remove, replace, or reposition.

great gifts for writers

Electric Pencil Sharpener – This idea was suggested on Facebook as an addition to this post. I don’t use pencils, but some writers do, and I’ll bet they would appreciate a nice electric pencil sharpener. We have this one in our house as my husband wanted one. He and the kids use it all the time. I do sharpen one from time-to-time, and this is so much better than our previous pencil sharpener.

good gifts for an author

Amazon Gift Card – How about a gift card to Amazon, or to an office supply store, so the writer can go on a shopping spree? 

Comfort Gifts For Writers

gifts for fiction writers

Real Ease Neck and Shoulder Relaxer – I have one of these and take it out when I need to relieve a tight neck and shoulders after a long day at the computer. You can use it while reading or watching TV. Looks a little strange, but it works!

unique gifts for ficiton writers

Neckbone Chiropractic Pillow – This chiropractic support pillow is great for traveling, sleeping, or just reclining after a long day at the computer. I’ve also given these as gifts to relatives who had neck pain, and they raved about it. They’ve even shown it to friends who were so impressed, they went and bought one for themselves. 

special gifts for authors

Back Buddy Trigger Point Back Massager – Okay, this one looks REALLY weird! My husband makes fun of me when I use it, but boy, does it work for relieving super-tight knotted muscles when he isn’t around to sweet talk into rubbing my neck and back. I use it along with The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief.

gifts writers will love

Lumbar Support Back Cushion for Office Chair – I keep this on my office chair when working at my desktop, and have given it as gifts to family members with low back soreness. It relieves tightness in the mid-to-lower back from a long time sitting. My family members appreciated it and said it helped them, and I’m never in my desk chair without it.

Editing Software & Online Courses

ProWritingAidUse my affiliate link to get a 20 percent discount! ProWritingAid is my favorite editing software, and is a grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor in one package. You can view my demo above or on YouTube. You’ll learn why ProWritingAid is a helpful spell and grammar checker and editing tool for writers, see examples of the strengths and limitations, and watch me do some informal, off the cuff line editing. ProwritingAid is an excellent supplement to my signature online course Book Editing Blueprint, and it’s a resource that I recommend to my editing clients. You can also read more about it in this blog post.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – This is my self-paced signature course for beginner and intermediate fiction and creative nonfiction writers. In Book Editing Blueprint, your mission is to learn how to do a thorough developmental, line edit, and copyedit and to create a solid action plan. By the end of this 10-module course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report of your draft and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. My goal is to simplify the editing process and to save writers money on repeated rounds of editing. It’s a proven system that outlines what to do before hiring an editor.

 

Conclusion

I hope this list of useful and unique gifts for writers was helpful to you. For a lot more ideas, check out my Amazon store.

I’d love to hear your gift ideas for writers and aspiring writers in the comments.

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