6 Holiday Marketing Tips for Black Friday

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free-vector-christmas-sales-discount-decorative-elements-vector_025150_Christmas_sale3There are two kinds of people: those who love Black Friday and wake up eleventy thousand hours early just to get the best deal on [insert highly desired item here], and then there are those that prefer the comfort of their own homes, all snuggly wuggly and safe from the mobs of bloodthirsty shopping zombies.

Of course, there’s a third type (and if you’re reading this post, you may be one of them): the writer/author/artist/entrepreneur who knows just how to market his or her work to garner uber #BlackFriday sales.

So, let’s say you are the third type. And you have an amazing, well-written (and professionally edited) book you’re ready to publish. How can you utilize the upcoming #blackfriday shopping frenzy (and the many holidays that follow shortly thereafter) to gain customers and rack up sales?

Here are 6 holiday marketing tips for Black Friday (and any other holiday):

  • Offer a #BlackFriday discount on your latest book (or use another holiday discount, such as #CyberMonday, #Thanksgiving, #Christmas, etc.)
  • Give away something for free with purchase, like a previously published eBook, access to services you might offer, or promotional materials (bookmarks, pens, mouse pads, etc.)
  • Run a contest to garner more interest and gain more customers. Give away a bundle of goodies (your own books/products and/or fellow colleagues who might be interested—it’s a great way to support other authors and creative).
  • Create an event. Have a live Google hangout, a webinar, or Twitter chat session. Add in one of the above strategies for a limited number of participants to gain even more customers.
  • Give love to your current loyal customers. Don’t forget to give premium treatment to those who are already followers and fans. Do one of the above to show your appreciation and keep your customers engaged.
  • Launch a new product/book/service (using one of the above methods can be even more effective). Holidays are great times to promote something new (or reintroduce something old).

If you’ve published your book on Kbuuk, it’s easy to use these marketing tips through the PubHub dashboard. Here you can “gift” your book, offer discounts and coupon codes, and utilize other features (like the direct link to your book’s page) for contests, launches, and more.

And with a rise in e-readers and tablets, you’ll want to take every opportunity to promote your books this season. Especially when some stores are already rolling out amazing prices on tablets (yes, the early Black Friday deals have already overflowed the Internet). There’s even predictions that the iPad Air 2, which debuted in October, will see a discounted price.

So get your #BlackFriday and other holiday marketing strategies on track with some merry discounts! Customers love feeling loved and important. Show them you appreciate them (the new and the current). Appeal to their desire for exclusivity (and shopping!) using the aforementioned marketing tips (and any others you might come up with).

Have a safe and happy holiday from the Kbuuk team!

NaNoWriMo is Coming!

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nanowrimo, #amwriting, #nano, #amediting, #writing, writersIf you’re a writer, it stands to reason that you’ve heard of  NaNoWriMo—unless of course you’ve been living under a rock. In which case, that would make a great story, so maybe you don’t need NaNoWriMo after all. Either way, chances are, you’ve heard of it, are participating in it, or have writer friends who are participating. If you’re still scratching your head, you might want to head over to the NaNo website to see what the fuss is all about. And if you’re the adventurous type, you might consider joining in on the festivities for the next thirty days.

For the NaNo heads out there already bursting at the seams with plot points, just a reminder that NaNo happens in less than two days. Are you ready?

Whether you’re a pantser, plotter, or a combo of the two, you’re probably already gathering your supplies, planning your meals, and sending out Do Not Disturb notices. If not, here are a few things you still have time to do to prep for NaNoWriMo:

  • Join NaNoWriMo.org, if you haven’t already
  • Create and fill out some character outlines for your novel
  • Write your NaNoFesto (Your personal statement about your goals and aspirations)
  • Buy some notebooks and pens
  • Stock up on coffee and good marathon-writing snacks
  • Read some of your favorite books to help you focus on your upcoming NaNoWriMo fest
  • Remind yourself to set your clocks back this Sunday (if applicable, of course)

There is always a lot of debate on the benefit of participating in NaNoWriMo. I consider it a jump-off point for focused writing rather than a month-long, one-novel writing session. I always get a ton of great raw material out, which I’m later able to edit and polish into something more. So don’t feel like you’re locked down into some committed writing relationship for the next thirty days. Use NaNo as you see fit. That’s what it’s there for.

And remember, you aren’t alone in your writing journey. There are forums on the NaNo website, separated by region, genre, and everything in between. And that’s just a starting point. The Internet is chock full of resources for NaNo participants.

And remember, if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for a Kbuuk profile, so you can publish that novel once you’ve finished writing it (after you’ve hired your favorite editor, of course)!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, do you already have your novel outlined or are you a pantser all the way?

The Writer’s Notebook – An Essential Tool for Creativity

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writers notebook, writers journal, moleskine, nanowrimo, inspiration, writing inspiration, ideas, muse, writing muse, worldbuilding, fiction, authors, writers, #amwriting, #amediting, self-published authorWinter is coming! And so is NaNoWriMo. How prepared are you? If you are going to be participating in NaNo this year (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s a great way to get out some raw material), the best way to start preparing is to get yourself a spiffy new writer’s notebook.

The writer’s notebook is an essential tool for creativity. Every writer should have a notebook. Without a notebook, a writer is just a dreamer. It would be like a photographer not carrying his or her camera. Without a camera, a photographer is just a person, just a tourist, just a hopeful dreamer. Just as a painter without a paintbrush is just a person with an idea and a blank canvas.

Imagine what would happen if the paparazzi didn’t carry their cameras everywhere. There’d be no Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan gossip—ever (wouldn’t that be nice, though?). But that’s not the case—there are always cameras clicking, flashing, recording every single detail, every blink, every breath. Those photographers miss nothing. Why? Because they ALWAYS have their camera. Their camera is the heart of their craft (yes, even paparazzi-ing is a craft). And the writer’s notebook is the heart of our craft.

Writers who carry notebooks tend to be more creative, struggle less with getting stuck or dealing with writer’s block, and never run out of ideas. The writer’s notebook can be used for many things and is a great way to reflect back various ideas, delve deeper into the heart of your writing, and record thoughts, feelings, and desires regarding writing.

You can use your notebook to jot down ideas, snatches of conversation, observations about people, favorite words, beautiful or funny descriptions, character quirks, phrases you love, setting ideas, and more. You can even use a separate notebook for each story or book you’re writing. And you can buy a shiny new notebook, or create one yourself—whatever you like it to be, but without it, all the possibilities that exist within each moment pass you by because you have no way to record them.

But, you might say, I don’t need a notebook, I just sit down at my computer and produce amazing best sellers from thin air. In which case, the rest of us might not like you very much (Kidding! If you can do that, you’re pretty awesome.).

It’s not that you can’t write (and write well) without having a notebook. It’s that it can improve your craft in amazing ways. It’s an extension of your creativity. Think of it as storage locker for ideas, thoughts, manifestations, and all the amazing things that come out of a writer’s mind. What’s better is that it’s portable, it forces you to get more physical with your writing, and it puts pen to paper your very raw, unedited ideas—where your true spark of creativity comes from.

Do you have a writer’s notebook? If so, do you prefer a particular type (composition, spiral, binder, Moleskine, etc.)? We’d love to know!

Writer’s Block – Getting Unstuck

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writer's block, #amwriting, getting unstuck, muse, inspiration, writing buddy, natureAs a writer, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck, or dealing with writer’s block. Yes, rejection and the like is awful, but at least at that point on the writing timeline, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

There probably isn’t a writer that hasn’t suffered the unpleasant ailment of writer’s block—whether it is as small as figuring out the POV for your story, or as big as hitting the middle-of-the-novel slump. And getting unstuck can be incredibly difficult.

Imagine that you can’t even get to the finish line…that someone has glued your feet to the ground just before you reach your goal. You can see it—the end—you know it’s there, but you are unable to move, paralyzed by some unseen force (often it’s your own self-doubt). You’re stuck and you don’t know how to go about getting unstuck.

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath

I admit I have gotten stuck more than I would care to admit, and for years, I would dig my heels in and ride that slump like a creative martyr receiving her lashings. We grow as writers believing it’s the price way pay, don’t we? Death, taxes, and writer’s block—all absolutes in our world.

Despite the millions of tips and tricks for overcoming writer’s block and getting unstuck, I find there are two very real things that inspire me and motivate me to find words again.

Wisdom from other writers

Sometimes it’s through words of encouragement from someone who isn’t stuck, and sometimes it’s just witnessing the struggle of other writers. Or seeing their triumphs against the same odds you’re up against. It’s knowing you aren’t alone. That there isn’t some secret everyone else knows but you (I promise you, there isn’t). Writing is hard and the only way you can get through it is to write. That’s it. And getting visual proof of that in someone else’s writing life can inspire you to push forward in your own. Or at the very least, having someone else give you some tough love and a swift kick in the pants can get you going.

The great wide open

Nature, the elements, creation, atmosphere, the cosmos, outdoors—whatever you call it, stepping outside away from your writing is one of the best ways to find your way back to it. As Jill Jepson states in her book Writing as a Sacred Path, the most essential qualities valued by writers and monks alike are that of silence and solitude. One of the best ways, Jepson says, to nurture those qualities is to create space for them—reducing noise, finding time away from others, and creating a state where our inner voices are still and we stand in unison with the Mystery.

The closer you get to real matter—rock, air, fire, and wood—boy, the more spiritual the world is. –Jack Kerouac

Sometimes, writer’s block is carried on the back of our own self-doubt. But sometimes it’s something else. Maybe we’re burnt out and our body is telling us we need a break. Maybe the story itself knows it’s heading in the wrong direction. Your Muse may be ready to put her foot down until you do her bidding. Or maybe you’re just the type who’s creative juices need recharging. Whatever the case, don’t see writer’s block as blockage—see it as a blessing. You can use writer’s block to your advantage.

Do as Jepson said—make room for the silence and solitude. Meditate on your story. Have conversations with your characters. Recharge your mental and emotional batteries (because your story may carry baggage you aren’t even aware of). Just allow yourself the break without breaking yourself down. Take a walk and indulge your senses. Seek that wisdom from a writing buddy. And when you feel the gentle tug of writing pulling you back, go gently but steadily.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

The Great YA Debate: #YASaves Revival

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ya fiction, young adult fiction, ya literature, ya authors, #yasaves, ruth graham, meghan cox gurdon, slate article ya readers, #amreadingRaise your hand if you remember the #YASaves hashtag frenzy that blazed a trail across the Internet back in the summer of 2011. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? (as an aside, can you believe it’s already 2014? I still find myself writing “2010” on things!)

But I digress, if you don’t remember, that’s OK. Allow me to refresh your memory:

Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote an article on WSJ about the darkness of YA literature, claiming (quite honestly) that much of young adult fiction is “rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity.”

I say “quite honestly” because she’s right—more and more YA fiction touches on grittier subject matter. But Miss Gurdon’s belief that a penchant to read dark YA fiction “does not merely gratify taste…but creates it” is a bit absurd to me. I don’t believe the darkness is gratuitous or unnecessary or in any way influential of real-life abuse, violence, or depravity.

What we choose to entertain ourselves with, no matter what the media says, is not a direct reflection of the morals and values we hold. Nor do I believe for one minute that seeking out darker subject matter to lose oneself in is an absolute perpetuation of a hunger to do evil, which Miss Gurdon seemed to allude to. Perpetuating that kind of thinking is nothing more than fear-mongering and reduces our society to spineless jellyfish with our morality shaped by musicians, movies, video games, and…wait for it…YA authors.

*Head scratch*

The #YASaves hashtag and social media firestorm that followed Miss Gurdon’s WSJ article was an incredible testament to the power of a reading (and writing) community that banded together in support to show just how amazing YA fiction can be…and not just for adults. Some very notable authors of YA fiction got in on it—Maureen Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, and John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars. Even Cheryl Rainfield responded, whose own novel, Scars, was one of the YA books Miss Gurdon used to illustrate her point.

Now Ruth Graham, like Miss Gurdon, has a problem with YA fiction on some level. Graham recently wrote an article on Slate, taking issue with adult readers of YA fiction. She believes that adults should feel ashamed for reading YA novels because they were “written for children.”

I don’t profess to know the minds of the great YA novelists, like John Green and Suzanne Collins, but I am quite sure that as they were click-clacking away at their (probably cleaner than my) keyboards, they weren’t saying to themselves, “Gee willickers, I really hope no adults read this,” while shaking their fists in mock rage at the very idea that anyone over the age of seventeen would dare pick up their books.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it was quite the opposite. I mean as a writer, I know that I personally want to appeal to a broad audience…and no matter what age my characters may be, I want their struggles and their triumphs to be celebrated by anyone that can sympathize or understand them. After all, we write to create. We write to express. We write to connect.

And YA fiction allows us to connect…to our youth, to each other, to ourselves. Because the beauty of YA fiction is that every single adult that reads it was once a child. It’s not like we’re reading something we know nothing about—we experienced the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, some of us with more trials and tribulations than we’d care to admit.

And as a thirty-something adult, my life is already too grown up for my liking. Honestly, don’t we spend the better part of our adult lives looking back, wishing we could redo certain things? We want to recapture our youth. And as youths, we are looking to understand our paths, to get a sense of direction, to not feel so damn alone. Because adolescence can be a lonely, scary place.

YA fiction has bridged gaps that no other genre has done before. It is an ageless, genderless, factionless genre—an all-encompassing genre. As a writer of YA fiction, my love for it lies with the limitless possibilities of subject matter. There is no pretentiousness about YA literary fiction versus YA paranormal fiction versus YA science fiction versus YA romance. YA fiction does not discriminate. It loves. It nurtures. It inspires.

And why would we want to close ourselves to that because our birth certificate has a particular set of digits? Isn’t anything that gets us reading beautiful and amazing? Shouldn’t we nurture literacy without discrimination? What are we showing our youths if we tell them that reading matter is segregated by age?

And while I’m at it, I’m the mother of two teenagers. YA fiction has not only given us common ground to build on, it has also fostered an environment for conversation and discussions about the things they’re witnessing or dealing with: bullying, unhealthy relationships, violence, drugs, discrimination, sex. It helps to remind me that their struggles are just as real as mine.

YA fiction does many things, none of it shameful in my opinion. It gives us—adults AND children—a reason to read, to be creative, to see things in a new light. It breeds compassion and empathy. It inspires thought processes that are not rigid. And it offers possibilities and hope and a sense of fellowship with one another.

The truth is it’s hard to pigeonhole any person’s reason for what they read. And anyone who shames another person for their creative choices should be ashamed themselves.

Read what you love. Write what you love. And everyone else can, in the great words of the Violent Femmes, kiss off into the air.

 

5 Gifts for Writers: Father’s Day Version

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father's dad, gifts for dad, gifts for writers, dad writing, publishing, #amwriting, #writers, #amreadingJune means Father’s Day, and like Mother’s Day, it falls on the second Sunday of the month. While Mother’s Day is one of the most celebrated non-religious holidays in the US, Father’s Day is still a pretty big deal. There are more than 70 million fathers in the world, and according to the US Census Bureau  there were an estimated 1.96 million single fathers in 2012.  And with the rise of caretaker fathers and stay-at-home dads (189,000 in the US alone), there’s even more reason to celebrate Dad. Especially writer dads.

So what do you get for the writer dad in your life?

You can always get him a sweet tie, but if you’re looking to celebrate your literary papa in a more unique way, here are a few gift ideas you can get him for Father’s Day.

These nifty little literary cuff links that just scream style (and literary genius):
literary cuff links, gifts for writers, father's day, #amwriting, book nerds, writing gifts, dad gifts,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This totally unique book rest and toilet paper holder for the king’s throne room:

toilet paper, bathroom reading, dads gift, father's day, #amwriting, gifts for writers, reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some noise-cancelling bluetooth earbuds to block out all those noisy distractions:

bluetooth earbuds, headphones, headset, music, writers, gifts for dads, gifts for writers, #amwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (note: papa doesn’t need to be an easy rider to read this!):

Books, reading, gifts for writers, dad gifts, father's day, #amwriting, #amreading, #zen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A personalized pocket watch to help him keep track of time when he’s lost in Writerland:

gifts for dads, gifts for writers, #amwriting, #amreading, writers, Father's Day, pocket watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, if you don’t like any of these gift ideas, you could just publish your novel with Kbuuk and give him the best dedication a dad ever did see.

What are you getting your writer dad (or your dear old regular non-literary dad) for Father’s Day?

6 Google Chrome Apps for Authors and Writers

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google chrome apps, apps for writers, #amwriting, productivity, white noise, text editor, evernote for writers, authors, kbuuk, publishing, blogging, creativity, mindmap, mindmapping, brainstormAs a writer, I need all the help I can get being more productive and limiting procrastination. My preferred browser of choice is Google Chrome. The apps and extensions for Google Chrome have probably inspired me, helped keep me organized, kept me focused, and saved my butt more than I’d care to admit (I say that in all honesty!). If you use Google Chrome, you can also become more productive as a writer (and hopefully less distracted by the Interwebs).

Six of my absolute favorite Google Chrome apps and extensions for writing and productivity are:

Writebox – Writebox is a text editor that works offline. It works with Dropbox and Google Drive for easy syncronization. You can use it directly in your browser and helps you concentrate on writing without a ton of distractions. The writing environment is simple and text is saved automatically with every key stroke. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but that’s the allure. It has to be one of my favorite text editor/writing apps that there is. There are a few other text editors that offer similar features, such as Write Space and Quite Writer. Check them out to find out which one you like best!

Evernote Web Clipper – Probably one of the most used extensions in my browser. And it’s the go-to extension for industry leaders like Michael Hyatt. You can easily highlight text from any webpage and add it to your folder. You can add any of your favorite content and access it from any online computer, phone, or tablet. Find a line you love? Highlight and add. Find an entire page with info for your next #NaNoWriMo novel, highlight and add. And it’s versatile enough to use for anything else. Shopping, studying, researching, marketing. Just highlight the content you’re interested in and add it to your Evernote folder. It’s that simple!

MindMeister – MindMeister allows you to create, edit, and share mindmaps—all online. It’s an awesome mindmapping app that allows you to brainstorm and mindmap to your heart’s content. Even better, it works for collaborative projects. So you and your co-authors can mindmap the next great nvoel you’re writing! Some of the other uses listed are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Project planning
  • Competitive analysis
  • Notetaking
  • Innovation
  • Lists/Task management

You can also export to Word, PowerPoint, PDF, and image, and more. There’s live chat between collaborators and offline editing and syncing with your Google Drive! Also available for Android, iPhone, and iPad.

White Noise – I don’t know if you’re like me, but I need the buzzing of a fan or humming of an appliance—or some other white noise—to keep me going. Now, this app isn’t for everyone of course. Maybe silence makes you more productive, or classical music…I don’t know. But if white noise helps to drown out the outside world, this app is pretty darn amazing. “Some people find that a white noise source improves their ability to concentrate by covering over irritating or distracting sounds like an annoying neighbor’s stereo or the loud traffic outside.” If you aren’t one of those people who finds white noise soothing, this app isn’t for you. But if you are, it will definitely help you to relax, reduce stress, and increases focus while enhancing privacy.

StayFocusd – Is a wonderful extension, and one of the best in my opinion. It’s also a godsend during Nanowrimo. “StayFocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay fofucsed on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.” This definitely helps to cut down on unnecessary Imgur browsing, Facebooking, and time-eating YouTube watching so you can focus on your writing.

ScribeFire – For bloggers, this extension is a full-featured blog editor allows you to easily post to any and all of your blogs. You can also edit, update, schedule, and delete blogs, as well as tag, categorize, save drafts, upload images, use html—you are even able to post to multiple blogs. This is great for those with author websites in multiple places. And if you’re serial blogging a part of your novel, this makes posting to multiple blog platforms easy peasy!

There you go, six Google Chrome extensions to help you stay focused, productive, and creative as you write that novel. And once you’re done polishing that manuscript, you have Kbuuk to help you publish and market! Isn’t technology amazing?

What are your favorite writing or productivity apps?

10 Writing Lessons from The Wizard of Oz

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writing lessons, wizard of oz, ruby slippers, wicked witch, auntie em, writers, #amwritingThe Wizard of Oz is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. I was always enraptured by the story of Dorothy traveling to a lush beautiful land, full of magic and wonder, only to want to go back home in the end. The message in The Wizard of Oz is timeless. We’re all a work in progress, each and everyone one of us, and we’re all on some kind of journey. And there are always lessons to be learned in everything we experience. Especially when it comes to us writers. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to juice the muse again.

So, here are 10 writing lessons from the Wizard of Oz to help you get back on track.

  1. Running away doesn’t solve anything. When it comes to writing, some of us run away by procrastinating, some of us do it by feeling sorry for ourselves, some of us do it by getting is distracted, giving in to writer’s block, etc. Whatever way you “run away,” know that the only way to get back to your writing is to write (trust me, this is a lesson I learned the hard way).
  2. Sometimes you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. Yes, things happen. Tornadoes can literally and figuratively rip through lives, disrupting things, throwing us off our game, halting our progress. That’s okay, just remember that it doesn’t last forever and make sure to hold on tight while it’s happening.
  3. Don’t get sidetracked by your opponents and naysayers. Writers are feral creatures. We are overly-sensitive, neurotic animals and we’re going to occasionally run into one or two people that want to get us and our little dog, too. Don’t waste time on mean, green witches and flying monkeys. What goes around comes around, and you’ll be a better person if you stick to your yellow brick road.
  4. Listen to the little people in your life. They’re the ones that will help you reach your destination. Whatever your goal or destination, don’t forget the ones who helped you get there. Be thankful for all the help and generosity of everyone along the way.
  5. Follow the yellow brick road. We all have our own path to follow. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked along the way (whether by someone or something). Many of us stray from our path at some point, but that’s okay, just don’t stray too far for too long. It might seem like it takes forever to reach your goal, but it’s worth it in the end.
  6. Friends help you get where you’re going. We all need friends to help us on our way. And true friends will accept you for who you are—flaws and all. Especially if you become a coffee-guzzling keyboard monster whose eyes have turned red from staring at a blank screen for three straight days (not that I know what that’s like!). True friends will also be the ones to help you find your way home when you need it (or give you a swift kick in the pants when you aren’t writing like you should be!)
  7. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Authenticity is important and pretending you’re something you aren’t will come back to bite you in the butt. Don’t try to write in a genre that you aren’t comfortable with or try to be a certain kind of writer when you aren’t. Follow your own natural flow. Because it’s entirely too much work keeping up with your created persona. Be true to yourself and the right people will adore you (and hopefully you’ll sell millions of books!).
  8. Don’t give up your ruby slippers for anyone. Hold tight your values and principles. Keep a good rein on your own passions and don’t let them get watered down by someone else. In the end, those “ruby slippers” may just be the catalyst to get you where you’re trying to go.
  9. The real power is within you. It always has been. Don’t let yourself be fooled by gimmicks and props. You are the key to reaching your goals, you just have to believe…and stop playing on the internet.
  10. Dream in as many colors as you can. Dorothy said it best. “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” So don’t limit your imagination. Dream big and dream hard. And write like there’s a storm a-brewin’!

There you go, 10 writing (and life) lessons from The Wizard of Oz.

Do you have any others to add from The Wizard of Oz? What’s your favorite writing lesson from a book or movie?

8 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel

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editing, self-editing, novel, writing, #amwriting, #MyWANA, self-publishing, authors, indie authors, writers, editors, freelance book editor, createspace, amazonAs a book editor, I’ve edited my fair share of novels, with clients that have ranged from self-published authors to international bestsellers. I’ve even worked as a contract editor for Amazon’s Publishing Imprints. And while I recommend hiring an editor for anyone seriously considering publishing as a source of income, I know that it’s not always financially feasible to hire an editor—at least until that first book sells like hotcakes.

So, whether you hire an editor or not, here are a few self-editing tips to help you polish up that novel for publication:

  1. Read your work aloud – This is the most important tip! You’d be surprised how much this helps…and how many people don’t do it. It’s one of the easiest ways to spot errors—spelling, syntax, and other grammatical issues. Read it aloud to yourself or a critique partner. Read it more than once. Use inflection when you read. Ensure it all makes sense, that the story moves forward, that your grammar and spelling are correct, and that the language doesn’t sound weak or repetitious.
  2. Use spell check…but don’t rely on it – Spell check is great for finding spelling errors—most of the time. But what happens when you spell a word correctly—but use it incorrectly—and spell check doesn’t catch it? You end up with a sentence that reads: “Check your infection” instead of “Check your inflection.”
  3. Eliminate unnecessary words – Unnecessary words, such as fillers, zombie nouns, adverbs, fish heads, and fish tails should be eliminated…stat. There are some common culprits that can usually be deleted without worry (as long as the sentence/meaning still makes sense without them). Words like: was, were, had, that, and, really, then, and then, just, about, so, but, like, against, all, little, totally, suddenly, just then…and many more are just fillers. Read the sentence aloud without the word. If it still makes sense without it, delete it.
  4. Check your tenses – Whatever point-of-view you choose to write in, make sure that your tenses are consistent with that POV. If you write in First Person Present Tense, ensure that your usage reflects that consistently. You don’t want to write about Johnny Sexypants with: “He looked longingly at her lips as she bit them, so he grabs her arm, pulled her to him, and kisses her passionately.” That’s all kinds of wibbly wobbly timey wimey messed up.
  5. Beware your dialogue tags – First of all, you don’t always need a dialogue tag. If you set up a scene well enough, your readers will be able to figure out who said what without you saying “he said” or “she asked” after every piece of dialogue. In addition, try to avoid using dialogue tags that aren’t necessary. If your character says, “How dare you, you harlot!” you don’t need to say she screamed. Nor should you use an adverbial dialogue tag—“How dare you, you harlot!” she screamed angrily. The exclamation point, word choice, and inflection already let the reader know that a) she screamed and b) she did it angrily. And “show, don’t tell” works well with dialogue. You can show how a character is speaking through their accompanying actions (did she cross her arms, roll her eyes, tap her foot?). Use dialogue tags wisely and sparingly.
  6. Repetition – Check for repetition. Check for repetition. No, really, make sure you aren’t using the same words over and over again. A classic example of this would be “mercurial” and “inner goddess” a la Fifty Shades of Grey. Repeating words too many times makes for a poor read—and it stifles your story, limits your characters from growing, and tells your readers you lack a varied vocabulary.
  7. The words were written in passive voice – Please, for the love of all that is scrumdiddilyumptious, do not write in the passive voice. When you write in the passive voice, things happen to things, instead of things doing things. “The chair got kicked by him” gives that darn inanimate chair capabilities it actually doesn’t possess. “He kicked the chair” flows better, is more immediate, and gives the action to the person or object causing it.
  8. Sentence Structure – Make sure your sentences are varied, without weird syntax or odd rhythms. Try to change up the start of every sentence. “He jumped. He fell. He was in pain. He died. He went to heaven.”—this is repetition, and it makes your language weak. Watch out for present progressive verb tenses, -ly adverbs, possessive pronouns, prepositional phrases, and those silly dangling modifiers.

These tips are just a start to help you polish and tighten up that writing. Consider hiring an editor if you plan to publish for any reason other than the gratification of having your name in print. A book worth writing is worth writing well, and sometimes that means outside help.

May the muse be kind to you today, and all the days forward (and if not, feed her chocolate!).

6 Unlikely Places to Write and Find Inspiration

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writing, places to write, laundromat, free wifi, best places to write, where to write, writers, muse, writing promptsAs a writer, you know how important setting is to your stories. But what about your own setting—the place(s) where you do most of your writing? Where you write can be just as important as what you are writing (poetry, psychological thriller, vampire unicorn dystopian novella?), how you’re writing (pen and paper, laptop, old Remington typewriter?), or even when you’re writing (morning, noon, midnight, 7:33 p.m.?). Sure, you can plop your writer butt down in a coffee shop and attempt to bang out the next great American novel, but why be like everyone else? You certainly don’t want your writing to be like everyone else’s, do you? Of course not, so open your mind, think outside the proverbial box, and try some place new. You just might be surprised where you find inspiration…

Here are 6 unlikely places to write and find inspiration:

Laundromat

Yes, the Laundromat. Nowadays, many of them have free Wi-Fi and little tables—some even have full-blown cafes. Which means you can order a croissant and an Americano while you clickety-clack away on your laptop. And the spinning of your delicates can be quite mesmerizing as you’re brainstorming about who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.

Train Station

It may seem counterproductive to drive all the way to the train station to sit amongst the comers and goers. But trust me, the hustle and bustle of real people coming to and fro can lend quite a bit of inspiration—and reality—to whatever you may be working on. And many train stations now have the old Internet up and running, so there’s a win. Plus, if you get stuck, you can just people-watch until the muse is back. Not to mention, Amtrak now offers a Writer Residency Program, which means you can write that novel AND have a mini “moving vacation.”

The Airport

While you probably can’t get up to the gates without stripping down and getting a hands-on meet-and-greet from a TSA agent, you can sit in a designated lobby. Like train stations and laundromats, many airports offer free Wi-Fi (which may or may not have a time limit). This is a great way to people-watch and glean a little inspiration for new characters. And you can always daydream about hopping on one of those planes and flying away to Paris for a real coffee and croissant.

The Gym

OK, so maybe you’re allergic to exercise. I’m not saying you should get on the treadmill or anything. But going to the gym (if you have a membership or if they allow non-members in certain areas) can be another great source of inspiration. And if you’re writing a novel about an ugly-duckling-turned-swan who finally gets the guy (or girl), well, you’ve got inspiration at every elliptical. Plus, possible free Internet, a café (with healthy shakes to keep your brain boosted!), and the whirring of exercise equipment can all be meditative and foster some serious creativity.

The Mall

The go-to place for people-watching. Families, couples, teenagers, old folks—you name it, there is character inspiration everywhere. And the dialogue of mall-goers is generally unfiltered, so feel free to take some snippets here and there from anyone walking by. Again, possible free Wi-Fi, tables (or even those awesome massaging recliners), and Auntie Anne’s (because pretzels and writing go together like…pretzels and writing). Just try not to go on a shopping spree in the middle of your writing session.

Cemeteries

Yeah, this can sound creepy. Unless you’re writing a creepy novel, in which case, creep on. Some cemeteries are well-kept, with beautiful grounds. And if you’re writing a ghost story or zombie novel, well, you’ll already be smack-dab in the middle of inspiration. Plus, it’s peaceful and quiet and you’ll have a plethora of names to choose from. And at least you know the “patrons” won’t bother you—well, let’s hope not.

Honestly, you can find inspiration anywhere—even the bathroom…sometimes it just takes a change of scenery (and a little peace and quiet) to get the words flowing.

Just use your imagination. Put on your raincoat or your swimsuit, slather on a little sunscreen, and pop in a CD of ocean sounds and boom, you’re on a tropical island. Do whatever you need to do to trick your mind into thinking you’re somewhere exotic and get those creative juices flowing.

Where are your favorite—and unlikely—places to write and find inspiration?

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