Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Day Thirty: Writing an Epilogue #BYBin30

By now, on day thirty of the challenge, you should have finished the first draft of your book. You might be deciding now whether or not to add an epilogue to your non-fiction book or fiction novel.

An epilogue, or afterword, is a short piece of writing at the end of the book. It serves as a commentary on what was written before or it serves as a conclusion, where all the loose ends are tied up. Not every book has an epilogue, and not every book that does have an epilogue points out to the reader that it is an epilogue.

Epilogues, in non-fiction, are always closely related to the theme of the book, but may be either a way of summarizing the book or as an after-thought to the lessons or information in the book.

Epilogues, in fiction, can serve as way to give the reader a look at the main characters after the main story is finished, and sometimes a great deal of time has passed between the main story and the epilogue. And it can also be a way to look at what happens within the wider scope of the world the characters live in after the events in the main story have transpired.

A relatively new technique authors have started using in fiction is to write an epilogue in order to give the readers a reason to but the next book in the series. In this instance, the book is complete and the protagonist has achieved his or her happily ever after, but there is an epilogue which shows something else happens or is about to happen which will put the protagonist or the protagonist's happily-ever-after in peril again, thus creating a cliffhanger. Instead of having the cliffhanger as part of the overall story, which can alienate some readers, the story is completed with a positive resolution, and only by reading the epilogue does the reader find out that this is not the true end of the story, but, rather, the beginning of another story for the protagonist.

In most stories, an epilogue is unnecessary, so before you write one, make sure your story actually needs the epilogue.

Consider these points when deciding on whether or not add an epilogue to your story:
  • Does your story need an epilogue? 
  • Does the epilogue add to the story in any valuable way? 
  • Does the epilogue make sense as it pertains to the larger story? 
  • What information do you want to impart through the use of your epilogue?

If you have made it this far, let me congratulate you on writing the first draft of your book! It takes a lot of effort and dedication to spend the time crafting a well-written book.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day Twenty-Nine: Happily Ever After - Writing a satisfying story ending #BYBin30

By now, if you are writing a fiction novel, you are nearly finished with the writing of your book. You will be getting somewhere near the end of your story. Just as important as beginnings are to a story, so, too, the ending can make or break a story.

An important thing to keep in mind while writing your ending is that it has to make sense. All of the clues or foreshadowing you have given to your readers preciously in the book must play into this particular ending. All of the events must lead to this unavoidable conclusion. The ending must seem impossible to achieve while at the same time inevitable.

There are three types of endings that can work in your story.

Happy endings: Most of your readers will want a happy ending. Very few writers can pull of an unhappy ending where the protagonist does not prevail and manage to retain any of the readers of the first book for the next book. Readers will often feel betrayed if they don't get their happy ending. Happy endings don't have to be completely happy. In a happy ending, your protagonist must prevail. For a truly happy ending, your protagonist not only prevails but manages to find a peaceful conclusion.

Sad but winning endings: Happy endings don't have to be completely happy. Supporting characters might die in the end, but most important ingredient in a happy ending is the protagonist needs to prevail. In rare circumstances, the protagonist can die but win by doing so, making the world or their loved ones safe through their sacrifice, but this is a difficult approach to take in story writing, as this is not the ending your readers will want to read. If your writing is evocative enough, they might accept such a sad "win," but it's a much more difficult path on which to try and take your readers.

Cliffhangers: Many authors take the tactic of leaving huge cliffhangers at the end of their novels, when it is a series novel or part of a trilogy. This is where the main element of the story, the main conflict, does not get resolved by the end of the story, but the reader is left having to read the next book (or several more books) in the series in order to reach a resolution to the conflict.

While there should be, in a series or trilogy, an over-arching conflict that won't be resolved in book one, each book should also have a stand-alone issue that is the center of the book and gets resolved. In trilogies, the cliffhanger is more forgivable, because the reader knows, when they buy a book that is part of a trilogy, it will be quickly resolved within the three books. (But if, in writing a trilogy, you choose to take this tactic, please only do so if the books in your trilogies are not going to have several years between publications.)

In a series, this is less forgivable because the reader does not know how many books it will take to reach the conclusion. Unfortunately, to leave everything unanswered or unresolved is just too much of a sign that a) the author doesn't care about his or her readers enough to bother resolving things by the end of the book b) the author is making a ploy to get the readers to buy the next book (which feels dishonest) or c) the author doesn't actually know how to end the book yet.

Many readers don't like reading books with cliffhangers. I think writers need to keep that in mind that with a book that doesn't resolve anything, they might be alienating some of their readers. It's personal preference that a large proportion of the reading public share. In a series book, you should never leave off on a cliffhanger; even when there is some aspect that is unresolved in the current book, the meat of that particular book should be resolved.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Day Twenty-Eight: Point of View #BYBin30

It can be difficult to choose a point of view to use in your book. If you have gotten this far in the challenge, you should already be writing your book in a particular point of view. Be careful not to alternate points of view within the story. If you find that your story isn't working for you, one way to do a major revision that can spark ideas and sometimes change the tone of your whole story is to rewrite it using a different point of view. It takes a lot of work to do this, but it can be surprising how a story can be changed completely with just this one difference.

Here are how the different points of view work:

First person: This is the point of view that speaks in "I." When using first person, you are writing the book as if it is the main character telling the story. This limits you to only what your main character sees, smells, hears, tastes, notices and thinks, but it can also feel more natural to write. One of the dangers is that you might fall into the trap of telling the story instead of showing the story more easily. It is becoming increasingly common to see first person point of view used in Young Adult novels.

Second person: This is the point of view that speaks to the reader using "you." In fiction, this can be really awkward and is not easily done well. Even when done well, many readers will find it uncomfortable to read in fiction. It is seen more often in how-to books and other non-fiction books.

Third person: This is the point of view that speak in "she," "they," "it," "him," "he" and "her." It can be used as a way to show more than one perspective within the book. In third person omniscient, you can show the story through multiple characters' perspectives, but this isn't always the best method for third person as you can sometimes confuse your readers when you write the story from the perspective of too many characters. It can leave your reader not knowing which of the characters to root for or connect with. It can be done well, but not easily. A better idea is to use third person limited, which limits you to the perspective of one to three of your characters. This works in that you can show more of the story to your readers, by using different perspectives, often broken up by different chapters, than when using first person, but you won't risk confusing your readers too much as when using third person omniscient.



It's time to announce this week's give-away winner of the Write About Life Tile Coaster. The winner was chosen from the active participants of the challenge. Must be a signed-up member to qualify. The winner was chosen by a random number generator. (Winner may choose alternate colors of this item, including a version with photographic background.)

And the winner is:

Melissa Gijsbers Khalinksy

Congratulations, Melissa! :)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Day Twenty-Seven: Humor in Writing #BYBin30

comic by Robert Fyfe
Humor adds an element to fiction that keeps readers engaged. It gives them a break in the drama or suspense. It can produce some memorable lines. It can help create more realistic and multi-dimensional characters. There are many reasons to use humor in your novel, but there are also many types of humor that can be used.

1. Sarcasm or wit - This form of humor is usually shown through word-play. Your characters can be sarcastic or witty through their dialogue with one another. Sarcasm is the use of irony to show contempt for something or someone. Wit is more about the intelligence and ability to think quickly when using sarcasm.

2. Dark  - This form of comedy covers jokes about the morbid, evil or depressing. If your character makes a joke about the form of his imminent death, that is an example of dark humor. Dark humor is comedy that makes light of dark situations or subject matter.

3. Satire - This form of comedy points out human flaws while also making fun of them. Although it is meant to be funny, it usually has an underlying point to make. It is used to make fun of or point out people's vices or stupidity.

4. Slap-stick - This is physical comedy. If you have a clumsy character, you might employ a lot of slap-stick comedy in your writing. "The Three Stooges" films were full of slap-stick humor. The physical actions in slap-stick humor have no boundaries or common sense. This humor is often physically violent.

5. Farce - This is an exaggerated form of comedy, where your characters get themselves into completely improbably situations. It often incorporates slap-stick elements, and often has absurd plot twists. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Dougless Adams is an example of farce comedy.

6. Parody - This form of comedy makes fun of other artistic pieces, either of previously written stories or of movies and shows. It tends to pretend to be those shows or stories while changing enough to make them utterly ridiculous. The relatively new influx of zombie stories based on literary classics, such as "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Quirk Classics is an example of parody.

One thing is certain, if your story make your readers laugh, they will remember it.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Day Twenty-Six: Self-Publishing your Manuscript #BYBin30

If you plan on self-publishing your manuscript, there are several things you need to keep in mind.

1. Where do you plan on self-publishing your book? There are several self-publishing companies you can choose from or you can go with all of them, keeping in mind that doing so will mean that you will have to create your book in several different formats. You can publish through Lulu or Lightning Source. Though both of these companies offer ways to publish your books in both e-book and print, they do not have the marketing power of the Amazon companies. One thing that Lulu and Lightning Source both offer that Amazon's CreateSpace does not offer though is the ability to publish your book in hardback. Amazon's CreateSpace does print books and offers the ability to have your book formatted for e-books as well, but I recommend creating these files separately and publishing your print book through CreateSpace and your e-book through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing for reasons I will explain below. You can also publish e-book through Apple's iBooks author program.

2. In which formats do you intend to publish your book? Print books can be much more satisfying to hold in your hand, and print books are the ones you are more likely to find in book stores and libraries. They are also the format you will need if you plan to tour doing book signings. However, e-books are popular with on-line buyers, and e-books have the potential to earn you more money per sale because there is not printing cost associated with the production of them. Anyone on-line can find your e-books, but you might have to do more marketing in order to sell your print books (although, they, too, can be found and bought on-line). The reason I suggest creating your e-book and print book formats separately is because when you create your e-book yourself, you can add hyperlinks within the text. You can have the chapters listed in the table of contents link to their corresponding chapters within the text of the book, and if you have any text within your book that suggests recommended reading or places to go on-line, you can make them clickable so that your readers can click on them and be taken directly to the website you want them to go to.

3. What type of book are you publishing? If you are publishing a picture book or a chapter book, your book will need illustrations and those illustrations will increase the cost of publishing your book a great deal, unless you are skilled enough to create your own illustrations. When you price your book, you will need to take into account the cost of creating your book, which means an illustrated book should be priced higher than a non-illustrated book. If you are hiring an artist, will you be paying them a fixed fee for the illustrations or will you also be paying them a percentage of the profits from the book?

4. Do you need an ISBN? It used to be that, in order to publish your own book, you needed to buy an International Standard Book Number. That is no longer the case. Most of the self-publishing print-on-demand companies will provide you with an ISBN free of cost, but if you use their ISBN, be aware that it will list the company you are printing your book through as the publisher. If you want to be listed as the publisher on your book, you will need to buy your own ISBNs. In the USA, you will buy your ISBNs through Bowkers. You can buy one ISBN or buy your ISBNs in batches or 10, 100 or 1,000 if you plan on publishing more than one book. If you plan on publishing your book as a paperback and as a hardback, you will need a different ISBN for each. In the UK, you can also buy a single ISBN or you can buy your ISBN in batches of 10, 100 or 1,000.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Day Twenty-Five: Self-Editing your Manuscript #BYBin30

While you have been writing this first draft of your manuscript, you should not be doing any editing. Think of your first draft as more of a really detailed outline. It will have some paragraphs, even whole scenes, that you will want to keep, but the rest of it will be the bones of your story, waiting for you to add the flesh and fill it out. It's your guide to the story you wanted to write. It's in the revising that you will add the polish and make your story shine.

As you near the completion of your novel, you might start thinking about editing your manuscript. Even if you plan on sending it off to a professional editor, you will want to have gone through and done as much editing as you are capable of first, so that the manuscript the editor receives from you will be the best you can make it without their help; then they can show you how to make it even stronger.

Here are some tips for editing your manuscript:

1. Instead of finishing your first draft and jumping straight into the editing, put your manuscript aside for a month or two. Taking a break from it will help you see it with fresh eyes when you begin the editing process.

2. Look for signs of narrative summary. This is when you tell the story to someone instead of showing them the story. It's like the difference between watching a movie about an event and having someone tell you about the event. When you are shown what is happening and shown the characters' emotions, you can picture it easily. When you are told about it, it loses some of its emotional impact. Long pieces of exposition are one of the signs to look for. Any time you do this, you risk losing your readers interest. When you have a scene that is a mixture of action and narrative summary, take away the narrative summary part of the scene; if the scene still works, then you didn't need the part that explained it all. Is there anywhere in your manuscript where you describe your characters' feelings? Try to show what they are feeling through their actions instead.

3. Remove the adverbs in your manuscript (words ending in -ly). Most of these are not as descriptive as they feel to you when you write them. For example, don't write that Jennifer "walked quietly;" say that she "tiptoed." find those unnecessary adverbs in your manuscript and get rid of them.

4. Check your point of view and make sure it is consistent throughout the manuscript. If you constantly switch from first person to third person, this will confuse your readers and weaken your manuscript considerably.

5. Get rid of redundancies. You will find as you re-read your manuscript that there are places where you have said the same thing more than once, just in two different ways. This is redundant and will slow the story's pace. Likewise, if you overuse the same word, it can become jarring to your reader. And some common phrases are redundant too. Phrases such as "exact same" and "brand new" are redundant. We use them in speech to create emphasis, but in writing, it is nothing more than an unnecessary redundancy.

6. Get rid of uses of the words "in order to," "start to, "very," "really" and "that." "She took the dog for a walk in order to get some exercise," could be more aptly written, "She took the dog for a walk to get some exercise." "She started to walk," could just be, "she walked." "It was the dog that Jenny loved," could just be, "It was the dog Jenny loved." Someone might find it "very difficult," but it's more powerful for them to just find it "difficult."

7. Check for sentences that begin with "there are," there is," or "there was" and remove them. Use more active phrasing. Starting sentences this way gives you a passive voice and weakens your manuscript.

8. Check for inconsistencies in your plot structure. If your character Jenny had blue eyes in the beginning, but they are green later on, that's an inconsistency. If you your characters find a magical talisman, but it never again makes an appearance, is used in the story or seems to have any bearing on any part of the story, that's an inconsistency (unless you are writing a series or trilogy and the talisman will show up in a later book). If you foreshadow something to happen later in the book but then change your mind while writing the book, so that the foreshadowed event never takes place, that's an inconsistency and you will need to go back and change every instance of foreshadowing.

9. Check for instances where you have used words with "-ing" endings and remove them if they are unnecessary (and they usually will be). For example, instead of writing, "she was dancing," write, "she danced."

10. Remove any extraneous commas.don't use commas everywhere you pause when you speak. Commas have specific uses. Brush up on the correct way to use them and then check that you have followed the rules in your manuscript.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Day Twenty-Four: Believe in your Ability to Write your Book #BYBin30

photography by Robert FyfeDon't let self-doubt keep you from writing your book.
This post might seem like one better suited to earlier in the month (or earlier in the book), but I know from experience that the further along you get in writing your book the stronger that critical inner voice can become, telling you that you aren't good enough, that you'll never make it as a writer, that you are fooling yourself if you think you can write a book. But to think this way, you are neglecting your dreams. If you feel the pull to write and act on it by actually writing, then you are already a writer, whether you are published or not. The only thing that will ensure your failure is if you decide not to write. You are the one with the power to make your dream of writing a book into a reality.

You need to reject the idea of being powerless about making changes in your life. You have dreams and you are the one who has the say in whether or not you can make those dreams a reality. If you dream of writing a successful book, don't ever believe that it is impossible; you can do it.

Get rid of any thinking that begins with, “I wish...”, “I can’t...”, and “If only...” and replace it with positive phrases such as “I will...”, “I can...”, and “I am...” By speaking and thinking in negatives, you are, in fact, ignoring any power you have over your own situation. In not even considering the chance that you have the power to change things, you are making yourself helpless. But you are the one with the power to reach for your dream. You are the only person who can write YOUR book.

What is it you want from life? Is it to write the next blockbuster novel? Nothing is out of your reach! What do you dream about doing? Tell yourself that you are going to do it! Wouldn’t it be great to empower yourself? Wouldn’t it be great to feel strong and capable and in control of where your life is heading? Wouldn’t it be great not just to have the courage to dream but to have the courage to grab for those dreams too? The only things that stand in the way of your dreams becoming a reality are the limits you place on yourself. And you can remove those limits with nothing more than a thought!

The first step is to have the courage to dream. Make a list of the things that you really want in life. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Write it down! Think about why you want to be a writer. How do you see your life changing once your book is published? What are your reasons for wanting to write this particular book? Who do you want to reach with your book? Is this book your only dream or do you dream of writing more than just this one book?

The second step is to believe that you are capable of achieving that dream. Sounds simple, right? The good news is that it really is that simple. Believe in yourself. Believe in your abilities. Tell yourself you are strong, capable and even fearless if the need arises. You can do this. You will do this. You will make your dreams come true. Get rid of that negative little voice in your head that whispers to you that you can’t do it, you’re not strong enough, it’s too hard and all of the other negative words. Just ignore it. You know, deep down, that you can achieve your dreams, so follow that deeper inner voice and believe in yourself.

The third and final step is to decide what steps you need to do to achieve your dreams, to write your book, and then take those steps. If you’re dreaming of becoming a novelist, then you need to start writing. You need to set aside time every day to write. Maybe you need to fine tune some of your writing skills so taking a class would help. For whatever your dream is, you need to start working in the direction of making that dream a reality. Stop defeating yourself with negative thoughts and empower yourself, not just with positive thinking but with your actions.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Day Twenty-Three: Tips for Growing your Blog Readership #BYBin30

Blogging your book is a great way to keep yourself writing regularly on your blog, but one of the benefits of blogging your book, or blogging about your book, is that your blog has the potential to bring you readers you would not have otherwise found. Here are some tips to growing the amount of readers for your blog.

1. Post to your blog frequently. The more frequently you post to your blog, the more content you create for the search engines to index. This, in turn, will make it easier for your readers to find you. That's one of the great things about the Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge; you are already posting daily to your blog, and after 30 days of posting daily, you will, hopefully, have created a habit of posting frequently.

2. Comment often. Reply to the comments others leave on your blog. This will show your readers that you care because you listen. Also comment on other blogs which cover topics similar to yours. Some bloggers will allow you to leave a link to your own blog in your comment, but others will see this as spam behavior, so be careful about where you leave links. Don't leave generic comments that could be left on any post about any topic; this is a common tactic used by spammers. Instead, read the post and leave a comment that shows you have read it. Over time, you might even build a relationship with these bloggers, which will in turn, make them more likely to mention you to their own readers.

3. Use links in your posts. Not only can you link to previous posts of your own, but you can also link to posts on other blogs. These links should be in line with the topic you are discussing on your blog, not just random. The blogs that you link to will sometimes link back to you. And the blogger might come visit your blog and like what they see, becoming a new reader for you. Remember, if you are blogging your actual book, those links will not translate in a print version of your book.

4. Use a blogroll and update it frequently. The owners of those blogs will then be able to find your blog, and many will reciprocate by adding your blog to their blogroll. This is a shortcut to getting a link to your blog seen by the readers of several different blogs.

5. Use tags in your posts, relevant to your post topics. Most blogs have a way to add tags or labels to your posts. These tags will help search engines index your blog posts. And once search engines have indexed your blog posts, people will be able to find your blog through searches on topics relating to your posts.

6. Take the time to submit your blog to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. This is a fast and easy way to get your blog noticed.

7. Use SEO. Search Engine Optimization is the method of making sure that phrases and words in your blog are easily picked up by the search engines. This means having a header for each post that says what the post is about and isn't vague. This also means having phrases in your blog's text that people are likely to search for.

8. Use images in your posts. Images draw readers to you. People tend to be very visual. And sometimes a picture can say more than words.

9. Create pages or accounts for your blog on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. You might already have a Twitter account or a Pinterest account and it is okay to continue using them, but make sure your profile links to your blog. You can also share some of your posts through the images, by pulling the images into Pinterest. Even if you have a personal Facebook account, you can add a Facebook page. This way, if people want to more easily follow your blog through their Facebook feed, they can do so. Also add your blog to Facebook's Networked blogs.

10. Use captions with your images, bold important text and break down the information you are imparting in an eye-pleasing way. People automatically read captions under pictures, so it's a good idea to use that fact to your advantage and tell them something that will make them want to read more. Putting important text into a bold font, people can more easily skim the information they want. Likewise, breaking down important ideas into a way that is pleasing on the eyes, such as bullet points or numbered lists, helps readers who don't have time to read everything on your page still find information they need. And this is why they will be more likely to come back.

You should also make your blog attractive to your readers, which we covered in an earlier post.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Day Twenty-Two: Using your Minor Characters to Fuel Your Story #BYBin3

In fiction writing, your story will have all sorts of characters: antagonist, protagonists, supporting characters and minor characters. The minor characters in your story can be immensely helpful to the development of your story.

Minor characters can help to show the reader your main character. Just as with supporting characters, you can show your reader your main character through your minor character's eyes, both their appearance and parts of their personality. A minor character might be helplessly in love with your main character or jealous of the main character's beauty. A minor character might be annoyed with the way the main character bosses him around. There are a myriad of ways that your minor characters can show your readers details about the main character.

In rare circumstances and only under certain conditions, you can even show your readers how others view your main character even if it's not an accurate view. For example, your main character might be accused of a murder he didn't commit and which the people in his town believe he is guilty of committing. In this instance, you can help show this through the eyes of one of his friends, a friend who isn't sure whether to believe in his guilt or innocence due to his own internal conflict between the damning evidence and his loyalty to the main character. In this situation, you can help show exactly how intense of a situation your main character is having to confront.

Minor characters can move the plot forward or create twists and turns within the plot. A minor character might decide to confront the antagonist on his own, because he has his own reason for hating the antagonist. This can result in his death, which could be another moment leading to the main character's negative view of the antagonist, or it could result in his capture, which will up the stakes for the main character. He might even win the battle, but at such a huge cost that the main character is faced with something even worse. Additionally, your minor character can make seemingly small decisions which can affect the main character or the main character's choices.

Minor characters need to be fully realized people, complete with flaws, idiosyncrasies and their own desires and hopes. Create a minor character to be a normal and imperfect human. Minor characters can sometimes take on very large roles within your story, so give them the same care and attention that you provide for your main character. And be prepared for them to try and take over the story, because they have been known to do that. Many stories have been written with main characters who once started out as minor characters.


This week's give-away is a Write About Life Tile Coaster. The winner will be chosen from the active participants of the challenge. Must be a signed-up member to qualify. The winner wil be chosen by a random number generator on April 28th, 2014 at noon GMT. (Winner may choose alternate colors of this item, including a version with photographic background.)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Day Twenty-One: The Value of Your Book - Publishing Rights #BYBin30

Whether you are self-publishing or publishing through one of the traditional publishing houses, you need to know about your rights, and about the different formats your book can earn money for you. You also need to be aware of the fact that some publishers will buy many of your book's rights but not use them all, and, if you are like most writers, you will want your book to reach as many markets as is possible.

First, you need to know about the different formats your book can be produced in, each of which constitutes one of the "rights" to your book.

Digital rights (e-books): The term "e-book" has been around since the 1980s, and the term "e-reader" has been around since the 1990s. The original e-book were book files that could be read on your computer, but since the advent of e-readers, e-books have become increasingly popular devices used for reading books. The most well-known of the e-reader devices, making them the best markets for your e-book sales, are Amazon Kindle, the Apple e-reader (iBooks) and the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Kobo e-reader. When you sell your rights for the e-book format of your book, these are the main ones your publisher will be looking to sell those books through. If you are self-publishing, then these are the main markets you will need to publish through. E-books have no printing costs and therefore have the potential for greater earnings per book sold than print books.

Print Rights: Print books are the more traditional format, and the format in which we most want to see our books.There is something about holding our own book in printed form that is immensely satisfying. There are various rights when it comes to your book, such as first printing rights

Audio Rights: An audio book is a version of your book where a narrator reads the story out loud to the readers, rather than the readers having to read the book themselves. Audio books are still a growing market for book sales. Audio books are available for sale through Audible books, iBooks, Brilliance and other services.

Territories and Languages: Don't think that selling the rights to your book in print is the end of matters or even that having your book printed for sale is the end of it. There are also several languages your book can be printed in, and each language is another book "right" that your publisher might want to buy from you. Each language is also another market for your book for you to consider if you are self-publishing. Likewise, your rights to your books can also be broken down by "territories" for your book to be sold in.

Film Rights: Your book may have the opportunity to be made into a film. A publisher or agent might be better able to negotiate those rights for you, but he or she will expect a part of the proceeds from you. An option is when the production company rents the rights to make a movie version of your book. The person who writes the script will most likely be someone other than you and, in most cases, you will not have much say over the movie's production.

Something else to consider, if going the traditional route, is the duration of rights. You most likely will not be granting a publisher rights to the entire duration of your copyright, and the duration for each right can be negotiated. Often, when a publisher buys the rights to a book, if the book goes out of print while the rights are still held by the publisher, an author might be able to buy their rights to their book back from the publisher.


It's time to announce the winner of the "Superhero Writer" t-shirt. The winner has been drawn by a random number generator selecting from active participants. (The shirt is white. I'm not sure why Blogger has decided to turn all the whites in my pictures grey, but lately, it has been an issue.) 

And the winner is:

Cecilia Clark!

Congratulations (again), Cecilia!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Day Twenty: Be Cruel to Your Protagonist #BYBin30

You know everything there is to know about your protagonist. You know what drives them, what haunts them, and what they love. You know everything about their past and everything about their present, and you even have a good idea of what their future will be. The problem is, you might like you protagonist too much to do what is necessary to keep the tension high in your book. You might feel reluctant to have horrific things happen to your protagonist, but without those awful events, your protagonist's story is going to drag.

Your readers need to like your protagonist too, and their fondness for your protagonist is what is going to keep them completely tangled up in your protagonist's story. If nothing really terrible happens to your protagonist, your readers might not read on, because they are not as concerned about your protagonist as you want them to be. If you make it clear in your writing of the story that nothing too bad could possibly happen to your protagonist and a happy ending is already a foregone conclusion, your readers will lose their need to read further and all of the impetus of the story will be lost.

Your protagonist needs to be put through hell. Bad things need to happen to your protagonist. None of those bad things will seem fair, and, although your protagonist may find their way through some of them before the end of the book, more should come your protagonist's way. You want to make their life miserable, no matter how unfair it all seems, and they need to fight back against all of the horrible things that are thrown at them. No one likes a whiny protagonist, so if your protagonist, at any point, feels dejected and hopeless, give them a reason to keep going and to not give up.

Keep upping the stakes. Make the results if your protagonist fails be even more disastrous as the story continues. If your protagonist defeats the antagonist or overcomes all of the obstacles in the story too soon, your readers will have no reason to keep reading. If you can't find a way to keep the stakes up for any longer, than maybe your story is a novelette instead of a full novel. Take away all hope and then find a way to give your protagonist a reason to hope again.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Day Nineteen: How to Successfully Weave Backstory into your Plot #BYBin30

In fiction writing, every story should begin somewhere in the middle of the action. You need to hook your readers right way. But what does this mean when it comes to letting your readers know why the action is happening and who the story is about? It means you will have to weave the elements of your protagonist's back story, and possibly your antagonist's backstory too, into other parts of the story.

Backstory is the story you have built up around your character which informs his or her motivations and actions. It ties in past events and your character's past histories that have helped shape current events and your character's personality. Backstory is what helps your readers care about your character. It explains why the story begins with the events in the first chapter.

There are several methods you can use to weave backstory into your novel's main storyline.

1. Flashbacks - Your scene or your characters thoughts can bring the reader into a flashback of previous events, but this flash back needs to fit within the story and not just be thrown in randomly.

2. Your character's inner thoughts  - Your character can be thinking about something in the past. These thoughts should be triggered by something in the present and should remain brief.

3. Leaving hintsLittle things about your character can sometimes lead your readers to the knowledge of your character's backstory. Comments made, unusual fears or rituals, a piece of jewelry that they always wear and any emotion that would otherwise seem out of place can be used to lead your readers toward the true backstory in small increments.

4. Dialogue with another character - Don't let them blurt out the backstory in a bunch of exposition. Let them mention it in passing, or confront one another based on it, or even just hint at knowledge of it within their dialogue.

5. Changing from the past to the future, not as flashbacks but as separate chapter changes - This is done less often, but this works when the backstory isn't something that your character has experienced in his or her past but about events that have set the things in motion with which your character is now having to deal.


Don't reveal to much, too soon or too much all at one time. Too much exposition can be boring. It slows down the story. It's the reason that a story works so much better when it begins in the middle of the action, which keeps the story more fast-paced.

Do your readers really need to know this? Your readers do not need to know everything that you do. Don't give too much detail. If all you're doing is filling in some backstory, your readers don't need to know every little detail about what happened, but only the things that are relevant to your characters actions and motivations in the present.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Day Eighteen: Changing Focus in the Middle of the Book: What Happens When your Book Has to Be Altered Drastically? #BYBin30

Unfortunately, writing a book is not always a smooth process. There are times when, after writing many thousands of words, an author realizes that there book is not going in the right direction or an author decides that his book needs a different focus. This can happen to both fiction writers and non-fiction writers equally.

When you are writing a non-fiction book, the first thing to consider when deciding whether or not you need to change its direction or focus is where your knowledge and current writing has taken the book. If what you have already written is leaning towards the change in focus, then the change will be much easier to implement.

The second thing to consider is what your readers, those who follow your blog and those who are your target audience will be most interested in reading; is it the original content you planned for your book, or will the new direction you are feeling compelled to move in be more suitable to your readers' interests.

Another detail to take into consideration is that changing focus can mean having to do a substantial amount of new research to cover the new focus for your book. Will some of the research you have already done help you in your new direction? If so, this will help to mitigate some of the amount of new research you will need to do.

Once you have completed any new research necessary for your book's new focus, there are a couple more steps to take. First, you need to read through the information you have already written and salvage the writing that will still be useful in your book despite the direction-change. Then you need to go back through all of the selected previously-written prose and make notations where changes need to be made in order to fit it in with the new version of your book.

When you are writing a fiction novel, you might also find it necessary to change the direction you book is taking the reader. Maybe you've come up with a different, but more suitable ending, or maybe you are finding, through the process of writing your story, that one of your secondary characters is taking on a stronger roll than your main protagonist and you have decided that your secondary character needs to become the main protagonist. For whatever reason, if you are going to change the direction of your story, you need to go back and make some changes within the writing you have already completed.

If you are making a secondary character the main focus, you need to read through your book and find the scenes where you have favored the protagonist over the secondary character. If your protagonist is now going to be a secondary character, you might be able to leave some of these scenes in the story, but more of them need to have their focus shifted to the new main character.

In whatever change you are approaching for your story, there will be newly created plot holes due to the change. You will need to go back, find them and fill them in. If your ending is changing, then you need to go find any foreshadowing added in the previous writing and alter it to suit the new ending. If you are changing a main character with a secondary character, then you need to go and fix some of the interactions between both of those characters with each other and with others to suit the new story. If you are changing the point of view of the story, for example switching from 3rd person omniscient point of view to first person, then you need to make sure that there is no over sharing (through the previous omniscient view point) and add in some of your character's personal views and thoughts, while also making sure that "he" or "she" and "her" or him" in reference to your character are changed with "I" and "me," and so on.

It can be a lot of work and can significantly increase your work load when it comes to finishing your story, but, most of the time, when a writer is pulled to make these changes, it is because the changes will strengthen the story. One thing many authors do when making these kinds of changes is to keep a copy of the previous story version, just in case.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day Seventeen: Repurposing Old Blog Posts for your Book #BYBin30

If you are writing a non-fiction book, an easy way to gain material for your book is to repurpose old blog posts. This will only work if you have been writing blog posts on the topic of your book for longer than you have been writing your book.

Go through your old blog posts. Is there anything there that will fit within the chapters of your book? Is the post something that your readers enjoyed? Did you get good feedback on the post? Maybe your blog didn't get very much attention, but there was a post on it which you wished had been seen by more people. Does it fit with the content of your book?

After you find a post that you would like to repurpose for your book, your next step is to update the information in the post. The older your blog post is, the more likely it has some outdated information.

Once the information in the post is all current, you will need to rewrite the entire thing. The reason for this is because, if a lot of time has passed, your writing style and your writing ability will have changed and grown since you originally wrote the blog post. Rewriting it will bring your new voice, the same voice and style you are using in the rest of your book, to the blog post you will be repurposing to your book. It might sound like a lot of work, but don't worry; it is less work than writing a chapter by scratch because you have already done the research and you can use the original blog post as a sort of outline for your rewrite.

Once your chapter has been written, you need to look at your book's outline and see where this chapter is going to fit. You can't just place it anywhere in the book without paying attention to the chapters around it. The more organized the chapters of your book are, the easier it will be for your readers to gain the knowledge they are seeking from your book.

If you are writing a fiction novel, you might want to look at old stories you have written. Sometimes, you can generate new ideas from them, find a paragraph here or there that, with tweaking, will work within a scene of your current story or even a character trait form one of your old characters that would enhance a character in your current story. You might even be able to recycle supporting characters, but always with plenty of tweaking to make sure everything fits within the new story.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day Sixteen: Writing the Middle of Your Book #BYBin30

By now, you might be reaching the middle of your book. This is where, if you let it, your story might begin to sag. But there are ways to avoid writing a saggy middle to your story.

1. Use your outline. Not knowing how to get from the beginning of your story to the end can cause many authors to flounder in the middle, but that is why you are supposed to have written an outline, with a synopsis for each chapter. The outline should tell you what you need to achieve in these middle chapters and give you direction.

2. View each chapter as a scene. If this scene were a short story, how would it begin and how would it end? What can you do to keep your readers interest all the way through? Giving your story the same focus on each chapter as you would for a new scene or a short story will help you keep it interesting for your readers.

3. Increase the stakes. If the stakes go up in the middle of the story, your readers interest will remain hooked. Maybe your protagonist now has even more to lose if she doesn't overcome her problem, or something happens to make overcoming the problem less likely.

4. Introduce a new character. This won't work for every storyline, but if the character can fit in within the context of the plot, sometimes this can cause renewed interest by readers, especially if this new person is a mystery, causes a new conflict, increases the conflict in some way or provides some much needed advice for the protagonist. Don't just throw any new character into the story. He has to be integral to the plot and cause a change in some way.
5. Work on your subplot and use it to increase the tension in the main plot. Tie the subplot into the main plot. Spend some time developing it, while subtly increasing the tension of the main plot.

6. Create a setback. Maybe your character has almost overcome the obstacles by now, but you are only half-way through the book. You will need a setback to keep form ending your story early and so that the story can start moving forward again.

7. Use your characters' interactions with each other to move the story forward. Dialogue between characters, even the unspoken body language between them, can create tension and pull the reader in closer.

8. Ask a question. If your story gets to the middle and, instead of answers, your protagonist now has even more questions, readers will continue to read because they want to find out what the answers to those questions are. This also increases the tension in the story.

9. Reveal a secret. Is there something about your protagonist or antagonist that your readers don't know yet? Use the middle of the story to reveal it.

10. Create a twist. Has your story been leading your readers to a false conclusion? Perhaps the middle of the story is a good time to reveal that. As long as it isn't giving away the end of your story, creating a twist can be a good way to keep your story's middle strong.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Day Fifteen: How to Avoid Writer's Block and Get Your Story Written #BYBin30

novel under construction

In my third year participating in NaNoWriMo, I set a goal of writing 10,000 words every three days until I reached 50,000 words, and I beat that goal by reaching a word count of 50,020 words within the first two weeks. The following year during National Novel Writing Month, I wrote 100,126 words within the 30 days of the challenge. These are some of the strategies I used while writing my novel for NaNoWriMo. (I originally shared a similar version of these on my Imagine! Create! Write! blog.)

This is the half-way point in your writing, and for many, this is the point, when writing, that writer's block can sneak up on you or you might start feeling a lack of enthusiasm for your story. It's also possible that you have continued writing daily until this point, but you don't feel that you are getting the word count you were hoping for. Here are some tips that will help you to avoid writer's block and produce a high word count over the next two weeks.

1. Split your focus between different parts of the story-line. By writing different parts of your book at different times, whenever you feel stuck on what you are writing or just need a break from it, you will be able to switch to a different story to write about. This can work when writing a one-story novel or a non-fcition book as well. When you get stuck on a certain part of the book or just need a break from what you are writing, start on a different scene within the story or a different chapter within your non-fiction book. You can always go back to finish the one you started with and when you do, you will feel refreshed and full of new ideas.

2. Set aside as much time as you can spare for writing. You may find that you can sneak more writing time into your day than you originally thought was possible. If you're a parent, you can write when your kids are at school, when your youngest takes a nap, or when all of the children go to bed. Maybe you will stay up late to write. Take a notebook with you everywhere and write while on the bus or while waiting at the doctor's office. Wake up early to write before everyone else is up or before you have to leave for work.

3. Get rid of distractions during your writing time. Many things constitute distractions. Children can be very distracting, so write when they were in bed or at school. The TV is distracting, so make sure it is off when you are writing. Facebook and Twitter are distracting, so tell yourself that you will reach a specific word count before allowing yourself time on either site.

4. Challenge yourself. Try and beat your best record for word count in a day. Or look at how your friends are doing and try to beat their word count. Think of a daily word count that seems slightly out of reach for you and then challenge yourself to find a way to reach it that day.

5. Believe in yourself. No matter what obstacles seem to be in the way of you reaching your word count goal, believe that you will overcome them. Because you can.

6. Make writing a priority. There may be a lot of things that have to be priorities in your life, but if you are reading this, then there is at least a part of you that wants to make writing a priority too. So do it. Make writing something you will not allow yourself to set aside.

7. Get rid of your internal editor. Just write without looking back. When you finish your novel, you can go back and edit what you have written, but just let it go while you are in the middle of writing. You can't edit writing that hasn't been written.

8. When you are not writing your novel, talk about it with others. Not only is this helpful in coming up with new ideas or ways for you to think about your plot, but also, just the act of talking about it will help you to come up with new ideas on your own.

9. Give yourself a break from writing every now and then. Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to give yourself fresh ideas and keep the writing flowing.

10. And the one thing that is the most important is to have fun with your story! Enjoy every second of the world you are creating!



This week's prize is a "Superhero Writer" t-shirt. The winner will be drawn by a random number generator selecting form active participants. Must be signed up to the challenge to qualify. (The shirt is white. I'm not sure why Blogger has decided to turn all the whites in my pictures grey, but lately, it has been an issue.) winner will be drawn on April 21st at noon GMT.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Day Fourteen: Creating Fantasy Worlds & Creatures #BYBin30

Creating fantasy worlds and creatures is a talent that is specific to fiction writing, and, within fiction writing, it is specific to a particular genre. When writing fantasy, you are only limited by the boundaries of your imagination, and, as a writer, your imagination should be limitless.

There are several techniques to help you build your world and your characters in a fantasy novel.

Borrow ideas from history and build on them. You can create a fictional character based on a historical figure and alter them to suit the world you are placing them in, or you can create a fantasy world with elements that resemble the real world as it was in the past. Use different religions and cultures and twist them to fit in your world, different but with similarities.

Fantasy worlds and characters have their roots in reality. If the world you create is so fantastical that it comes across as implausible, you will lose your readers. While there are no limits in fantasy, it still needs to be rooted in something more easily believed. Your characters need to experience real emotions and act accordingly; it's what will help your readers identify with them even if the character isn't human or lives a life completely different than your readers live. And worlds, even fantastical ones, will follow simple rules. There will be good and bad people (or creatures) in those worlds and there will always be progress of some sort. Your fantasy world's cities might even have corrupt leaders, just like in real life. Give your readers something they can relate too, no matter how much the world or the characters differ from reality.

Use mythological creatures and tales. Our reality is full of stories, myths about gods and goddesses, legends about dragons, sirens and fairies. You can base the creatures of your world on these creatures of fable. Just because fire-breathing dragons don't live in our reality doesn't mean that they can't exist in the fantasy world you are creating. Likewise, trolls, ogres, vampires and more can easily exist in your fantasy world.

Avoid stereotypes and cliches. While you can use mythological creatures in your fantasy world, they don't need to be exactly as they are in our folklore. They are myth, and myth is built on stories, so create your own stories for them. Create something entirely new that none of your readers will have heard or read about before. The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling are full of creatures that borrow from mythology but are so different from mythological creatures that we are not entirely sure about the resemblance. The Harry Potter universe also has completely new creatures and mythos. J. K. Rowling's world has its own legends and stories, and fables about good and evil. If all of the creatures in the Harry Potter series were recognizable from our legends and fables, we, as readers, would not have become as enthralled with the fantasy world portrayed in the books. Not only are there creatures that are entirely different from what we expect, but they often act in a way that we do not expect. This keeps things interesting for the reader.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of allowing your imagination to be boundless when creating your fantasy world or characters. Werewolves don't have to change on the full moon, unicorns don't have to be on the side of good, there doesn't have to be only one moon and nothing has to be the way we expect. Build your world and build your characters as if you are their god of creation; your ability to craft this world and the creatures on it has no limits. Are you a loving god of creation, giving your most favored creatures an edge over others in this world, or are you a cold and uncaring god placing them in a hostile environment, where everything that exists in the world exist to kill or maim? As the writer creating your fantasy world and its characters, it's entirely up to you.



And now for the announcement of the winner of the "Novel Under Construction" mug, drawn by a random number generator.

The winner is:

Cecilia Clark

Congratulations, Cecilia! 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Day Thirteen: Creating Character Emotions #BYBin30

When writing a fiction novel, your portrayal of character emotions is a key part of the experience you create for your readers. You don't want your characters to come across as wooden and lacking in emotion. But how can you make sure you successfully convey your characters' emotions in a way that will enhance the story for your readers?

1. Show, don't tell. This is advice that is often used when it comes to writing a novel, but it is especially important when conveying character emotions. Don't tell your readers that Sally was tired. Show them the dark circles in her eyes and her constant yawning. Don't tell them that Jason is sad, show them the tears glistening in his eyes, his slumped shoulders and the trembling of his lips.

2. Use body language to convey character emotions. A person's body language can tell a story about what they are feeling, and this is never truer than when in a written story. It's another example of showing instead of telling. If your character is nervous, he might be pacing or fidgeting in some way. He might be sweating or jumpy. If your character is embarrassed, he might be blushing. He might be cringing or stammering. He might be looking down and avoiding eye contact. A happy person might have a smile on their face and a relaxed body. She might walk with a skip in her step.

3. Use internal physical symptoms to show what your character is experiencing. Your character might have a racing heart or quickened breathing. Or your character might have an upset stomach or loss of appetite. Maybe she feels her throat closing off or she's feeling a loss of energy. Maybe he's feeling an ache or pain in his heart or stomach or his mind is racing so much that he's experiencing insomnia. He could be feeling butterflies in his belly or his mouth has gone dry. All of these are internal signs felt by your characters that signal different emotions.

4. Use dialogue or the lack of it to suggest emotions. Sometimes the way a character says something can convey more emotion than through showing it in their body language, although a combination of the two usually works best. Instead of writing that your character thought Jason was an idiot, write: '"You're an idiot," Janice said.' Another way to use dialogue is by what your characters don't say. A poignant silence in response to a question can convey all sorts of different emotions, depending on the context. For example: 'Janice asked, "Do you still love me?" Jason looked away, silent.'

5. Use setting to convey character emotion. The way your character perceives the setting around him can suggest your character's mood or the emotions your character is experiencing. Your character might be experiencing a sunny day, but, while in a foul mood, all he notices are the clouds that linger. Or your character might be experiencing a grey and rainy day, but decide to go dance in the rain or be thinking about how nourishing the rain will be for the flowers in his garden.

There are numerous ways to portray your character's emotions without resorting to simply telling your readers what those emotions are. And if your readers are able to feel those emotions alongside your characters because you have engaged the five senses, used dialogue, body language and setting to help convey those emotions, your readers will be more invested in your story and in your characters.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Day Twelve: Taking a Break from Writing to Refuel Your Muse #BYBin30

By now, you have been planning, researching and writing your book for twelve days. You might be beginning to find your motivation waning or the idea for writing starting to fail you. Now is a good time to take a short break from writing your book. Taking a short break is not going to kill your manuscript or your momentum. In many instances, it is just what you need to fuel even more ideas and to prevent writer's block from creeping in and damaging your productivity.

Taking a day off from writing might cause you to fall behind on your preferred word count, but it is only a day's worth of writing that you will fall behind on and, with your creativity and motivation renewed by a day of rest, it will be a simple matter to catch up on that missed day of writing in the days ahead.

Taking a day off from writing doesn't mean that you only take a break from writing; it also means you take a break from other writing-related tasks, such as researching your book, working on the plot structure or outline of your book and even planning the next scene in your head. A day off from writing means taking a complete break from your book.

Use the day off to experience things away from your desk or computer. Go on a picnic with your family. Go see a movie that you've been wanting to see. Go out to dinner with your significant other or a good friend. Spend a day cooking up some of your favorite dishes. Go on a hike somewhere pretty and lush with nature. Go volunteer at a shelter, soup kitchen or food bank for the day. Take your kids to the aquarium or spend a day at the beach with family and friends. Go swimming. Spend time working out at the gym. Read a book you've been wanting to read for ages. Take a luxurious bubble bath. Go for a massage or spend the day at a health spa.

Spend the day refreshing your mind, relaxing and pampering yourself. Feel yourself living in the moment. Then, a day later, when you get back to your writing and working on your book, the ideas will flow and your creative muse will be just as refreshed as the rest of you.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Day 11: Writing a Series Book #BYBin30

When people discuss series books, they very rarely are referring to non-fiction books, but, in the non-fiction context, a series book can be several books on different aspects or subsets of one more general topic. A good example of this is the writing books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Currently, they have three books which all fall within the same topic, but are more specifically targeted. Their series of writing books, "The Emotions Thesaurus," "The Negative Trait Thesaurus" and "The Positive Trait Thesaurus" are all thesauruses written for writers, but they each address a different sub-topic within the writing paradigm.

More commonly, when people reffer to series books, they are referring to fiction books.

A stand-alone novel is one that can be read on its own. It does not continue in a later book and every issue or conflict introduced in the book is successfully resolved by the end of the book. These books can be long or short but must always resolve the conflict within the one book.

A trilogy is, essentially, a much longer stand-alone book that has been divided into three separate books. Trilogies must resolve all of the conflicts and issues that are introduced within all three books by no later than the final book in the trilogy. Some trilogies work like series books in that they have an over-arching conflict that doesn't resolve until the final book, but also have smaller conflicts that are individual to each book that are resolved within that specific book. Other trilogies leave major cliffhangers at the end of each book, waiting for the final book to resolve the cliffhangers from the previous two books.

Series books usually differ from stand-alone books but not always. Occasionally, series books function as stand-alone books but have the same characters dealing with different conflicts in each subsequent book. The Nancy Drew series is a good example of this. Each book is about a different mystery that the main character, Nancy, solves, but each book can also be read as a stand-alone book because each mystery is introduced at the beginning of the same book that it is resolved in by the end. And there is no over-arching conflict or mystery that remains unanswered from book to book.

More often, series books differ from stand-alone books because of an over-arching theme or conflict that carries over from one book to the next, usually not getting resolved until the final book in a series. These books usually have a sub-conflict which each particular book deals with, successfully resolving towards the end, while still keeping the main conflict unresolved. Each book continues with the same characters and, normally, the same setting. They tend to be plot-driven, but, because they can cover a long span of time, they often have characters who grow and change throughout the story.

A good example of series books is The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. The books deal with the same characters and they happen in the same world, but each story is self-contained, while at the same time leaving something to be resolved by the next book. The over-arching theme sometimes changes after being resolved in a previous book, but, though it changes, there is always one that carries over to future books.

Series books are usually not overly long books, but there are some series books which have successfully overcome that trend. A good example of a series of books that has very long books for each book in the series is the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin. The first book in the series is over 800 pages long and has won several awards.

One thing to consider when writing a series book is foreshadowing. In foreshadowing, you lay the seeds for future events in the book early on in the storyline. In series books, these seeds can be laid down to sprout within the storyline several books later.

Some series authors choose not to resolve any of the conflicts introduced in the first books, and sometimes not even in the second or third books in the series. They leave major cliffhangers at the end of each book. For some authors, this can work as a device to keep the reader interested and wanting to read more. But there is a significant number of people who do not like reading books with this type of cliffhanger ending within a series book. Writers need to keep that in mind that with a book that doesn't resolve anything; they might be alienating some of their readers.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Day Ten: Making Your Blog Attractive to Readers #BYBin30

One thing that you want your blog to do for you while you blog your book is to bring in readers. In order to do this, your blog needs to be pleasing to the eyes; you need your blog to be attractive to readers.

Here are some tips to help your blog's appearance shine:

1. Make sure your blog has plenty of white space. White space automatically gives your blog a cleaner appearance. Don't clutter up the side bars with too much information, because all of that extra information can be distracting to your readers.

2. Make sure the things you do include in your side bar and the pictures within your content fit within the space they are given. Nothing looks worse than when pictures bleed over the edges of their designated area. If something sticks out, your readers will think it is a mistake and it will give your blog a less-than-professional look.

3. Make navigating your blog simple for your readers. If your readers need to hunt for a topic, there is a good chance they will give up and go read someone else's blog with easier to access content. One simple way of doing this is by adding a search bar.

4. Make sure your color scheme is easy on the eyes and the font is easy to read. Using a black background might look pretty to you, but it is not recommended. Readers prefer light backgrounds (see #1 above about white space). Also, if your font is a light color on a light background (for example yellow on white) or a dark color on a dark background (for example, blue on black), your readers are going to find it difficult to read your blog and will feel the strain in their eyes. You also should avoid using overly fancy fonts.

5. Make sure your contact information is easy to find. Many of your readers will want to e-mail you or ask questions, and the easiest way for them to reach you is if you have an easy-to-find "contact me" button or link. Make it your goal to always respond in a timely fashion to legitimate questions.

6. Make sure you have an attractive header and logo. Your header should fit perfectly along the top of you page. your header is often the first impression that your readers will have of you, so make sure it represents your blog well and is not in any way offensive.

7. Add colors to places on your blog where you want your readers' eyes to be drawn. If you have a splash of color in your header and maybe little bits of color added to the newsletter sign-up or anything else of importance is a good way to get your readers attention to those areas on your blog.

8. Make sure your pages load quickly. Readers will give up on your blog is they have to wait too long for your pages to load. Many things can have an effect on how fast your pages load. Too many high resolution images and having auto-play videos can sometimes cause the problem.

9. Avoid using pop-ups and auto-play music. Many of your readers will visit your blog while they are at work and nothing will keep them away from your blog faster than if, whenever they go to your page, music starts blaring from the page. And not all of your readers will have the same taste in music, so you could be alienating some of them just by your choice in music. Pop-ups that appear as soon as a reader clicks on your page can also be very annoying and turn readers away from your blog.

10. Use headlines that will grab your readers' attention. If you use a title that doesn't give your reader any idea of what the post is about, your reader will not have any reason to visit the post. For example, using the title "Blogs," doesn't give your reader much to go on when figuring out what your post is about, the same goes with the title "Attractive Blogs." That title could mean any number of things; it could just be a list of blogs that are attractive to the author. "Making your Blog Attractive to Readers" is a better title because it tells your readers exactly what the post is about. Another title that would work well would be "Ten Tips for Making Your Blog Attractive to Readers." But make sure your titles aren't too long or wordy.

11. Use pictures in your posts. This helps draw readers' eyes to your posts, and is especially effective in gaining readers' attention while sharing on other social media sites.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Day Nine: An Alternate Method of the Hero's Journey #BYBin30

Trade paperback of Buffy: Season Eight, Volume One,
The Long Way Home, written by Joss Whedon
The Hero's Journey was first written about by Joseph Campbell in his "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." He called it the monomyth. He posited that numerous myths from different times and places all shared similar stages and structures.

In the Hero's Journey, Joseph Campbell describes 17 stages. But for the modern day writer, the breakdown of a simple hero's journey can take far fewer stages than that.

His first stage, the Call to Adventure, is one that every story needs. This is where the protagonist lives an ordinary life and something happens to change it. Either information is received or an event occurs and this leads to the protagonist needing to start their adventure. In the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series by Joss Whedon, the protagonist, Buffy, is living an ordinary life as a cheerleader at her school. She is not aware that there is anything special about her. Then vampires attack and she learns that she is specially equipped to fight them. I call this the Call to Action, because whatever has happened, it has called the main character to take action.

Many books, though not all, include Campbell's stage Refusal of the Call.  This is where the hero doesn't want to be special or needed. The protagonist just wants to continue living in their ordinary world and doesn't want to answer the call to adventure. In the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series, the protagonist, Buffy just wants to be an ordinary girl, and she tries to deny her calling at first. I think the current name for this stage fits it perfectly.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is the perfect example of Campbell's next stage in his Hero's Journey, called "Supernatural Aid." This is the stage where the protagonist comes across a mentor. For Buffy, this mentor is Giles, a librarian at her school who is also a Watcher and on a council whose members have studied vampire slayers and learned how to train them. Not all novels include a supernatural element, so I call this stage the Meeting the Mentor stage.

Campbell's next stages in his Hero's Journey are Crossing of the First Threshold, where the hero starts her adventure, leaving the known and crossing into the unknown and Belly of the Whale, which represents the hero's willingness to separate from his known world and enter into the adventure fully. In many cases, these are not separate from the Supernatural Aid stage but happen concurrently, and the two stages can actually be combined. In "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the protagonist accepts her role as vampire slayer, but she never really gives up on being able to lead a somewhat normal life, so the Belly of the Whale stage doesn't fully come into the story as she never fully accepts that she is not going to ever have the same things that normal teenagers get to have. I call this stage the Journey Begins. This stage, as I see it, is interchangeable in order with the Meeting the Mentor stage. Sometimes the mentor will be needed to convince the hero to accept the adventure, but sometimes the hero will start on her journey before she meets the mentor.

In Campbell's Initiation stage, the hero undergoes a series of tests or trials. These tests or trials often come in threes and the hero doesn't always pass them all, sometimes failing one or more of the trials. Taking our hero Buffy into account again, because her story is a series of stories, we find she faces many more trials than just three. It's true that she doesn't face all of her trials successfully. I call this the Three Trials. Many book forms, including picture books, chapter books and adult books, include the three stages of the main character trying and failing to succeed at their goal, usually only succeeding on the third attempt. If the book is the first in a series, then there may be three trials in the first book and three new trials in the second book, and so on.

In Campbell's the Meeting with the Goddess stage, this has to do with the hero encountering an all-encompassing love. In many cases, this is where the hero is meeting the love of his or her life. The difference between Joseph Campbell's theory about this and modern day novels is that a modern protagonist does not always meet only one love. Using "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as an example again, she meets the love of her life, Angel, early on in the series, but later, he leaves and a new love is introduced, Riley, and, when that doesn't work out, another love is introduced, Spike. In "The Hunger Games," the all-encompassing love is the protagonist's love for her sister. I call this stage the Reason for the Journey. If not for love of self (i.e. the hero does not want to die) or love of others, then why is the hero on this journey?

Campbell's stage Woman as Temptress is another frequently found stage in novels. In this stage, the hero faces a temptation, or perhaps many temptations, which tempt her to leave the adventure and give up her quest. This is not necessarily a woman, but can be many things. The "Woman" in the title of this stage is merely a metaphor. For Buffy in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," this temptation rears its head in many forms, usually in the form of a way to leave her responsibilities. In one instance, she is led to believe that she is insane and that if she just kills everyone she loves within her "dream world," she will wake up in that normal life she has left so long ago. In another instance, she dies and is, presumably, in Heaven, but her friends and family bring her back and she must choose to continue to fight. I call this stage, simply, Temptations.

In my method for writing a good fiction novel, once these things have occurred, there should only be four stages left. There should be the Complete Failure stage, where the hero is at the bottom. In this stage, the hero has failed utterly and it is difficult to see any way that the hero can now turn things around.

Then there is the Refusal to Give Up stage where the hero finds an inner strength and resolve not found prior to this point in the story. The hero can even find something that will help them in the battle ahead.

Then there's the Final Battle, where the hero battles to save the world or save her family or just to save herself. This is where the hero finally confronts whatever antagonist she faces within the story structure and wins. Taking Buffy as an example again, this stage occurs when she and her friends have the final battle in the depths of the Hellmouth against hundreds (or thousands) of master vampires.

And lastly, there is the Winding Down stage where everything is tied up neatly into a happy ending.

So here are the 11 stages in the alernate method of the Hero's Journey:

1. Call to Action
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Meeting the Mentor (not in every story)
4. Journey Begins (can come before or after stage 3)
5. Three Trials
6. Reason for the Journey (can occur at any point in the story)
7. Temptations
8. Complete Failure
9. Refusal to Give Up
10. Final Battle
11. Winding Down