“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Maya Angelou
Writing as an art form comes from expression of an emotion, feeling, or idea through the written word. It has been found to be therapeutic, even used as a form of psychological treatment in the form of journal therapy. Goodtherapy.org describes journal therapy as, “primarily used with people in therapy to increase awareness and insight, promote change and growth, and further develop their sense of self.” By expressing your own emotions and experiences through writing – whether it is channeled through fiction or non-fiction – you create both a personally relaxing and therapeutic outlet for yourself as well as a relatable scenario for your readers.
The old adage to write what you know is truer than you think. There is no interest too obscure to become the basis for a piece of writing. If you have a real fascination with grasshoppers, write about grasshoppers! How they live, what they’re thinking, or how they respond to the world around them. Maybe you had a truly horrendous first job, why not give it to a character? Readers respond particularly well to a story that they can relate to and imagine themselves in the midst of. When you write what you know, you add credibility and appeal to fans with similar interests.
Tell your story, like Maya Angelou!
We don’t know who first said that you should never judge a book by its cover, but its safe to say that they were not in the bookselling business. A great cover is key to a successful novel, and getting the cover copy right is a vital part of this.
Cover copy, commonly known as the blurb, is the text on the back of your book. It is your “elevator pitch” to the reader, your twenty-second window grab their attention and convince them that they need to read your book. So how do you hook them?
Ideally you might want to start with a logline, a single sentence that sums up the entire novel. This might be an actual synopsis like:
She said she wouldn’t date him if he was the last man on earth…and now he is!
Another great option is to use a line from the book itself, assuming that you have one really succinct line that sums up the whole novel.
This logline is just a way to grab attention so that they will go on to read the rest of your cover copy. The ideal blurb is around 200 words broken up into three or four paragraphs, giving your reader a strong flavor of the book but leaving them curious to find out what’s inside. What to include is entirely up to you but remember you’ll need to convey the following:
Even if you think your genre is obvious from the cover design, don’t be afraid to explicitly state it in your cover copy. Also, try to write your copy in the same genre as your novel: for a thriller, use taut language focusing on action; for romance, use evocative language and focus on relationships.
The particular tone you use in the novel can play a big part in keeping your readers hooked, and the cover copy should give them a taste of that tone. This is especially important in a well-defined genre like crime, romance or sci-fi, where readers have a vague idea of the story you’re going to tell, but want to know how you’re going to tell it.
The one thing that sells books in any genre is this: a terrific protagonist. Your hero or heroine is going to be your reader’s new best friend if they read this book, so you have to make it clear why they would want to meet this person. Who are they and what makes them unique?
Fitting your plot into the cover copy can be a real challenge. The best advice is to not try to summarize it as such, but to pick out a few key plot elements and include those. What challenges will your protagonist face? What dangers must be survived, what questions must be answered? In essence, what elements of the plot drive your hero on through the novel? Focus on those, and it should help drive potential readers to the cash register.
Any pre-publication praise you’ve received can go at the end of your cover copy and this can help sell novels. But the quality of the praise is important. Unless the praise is coming from a household name, try to state exactly what qualifies them to offer an expert opinion. For example, if the praise is from another author, be sure to put Author of… after their name. Reviews are even better and if you can include the name of the publication it lends a real legitimacy to your book.
Writing your cover copy might seem like a small job after you’ve completed an entire novel, but getting it right can take a long time. Be sure to show it to others for feedback and tweak every single word until it’s just perfect. Good luck!
There are many benefits of reading regularly. Here are a few good reasons why you should read every day:
Improves Vocabulary & Speaking Skills
A good vocabulary can make you a better writer and speaker. Make it a point to look up the meaning of new words you come across while reading. Keep your mind open and constantly try to learn new words and use them in written and spoken sentences. Literate people are able to articulate themselves much more proficiently. Reading can help you speak and converse more skillfully. This can boost your social life and professional career. Knowledgeable people with a rich vocabulary stand a better chance of getting promotions and moving ahead in their careers. Also, a regular reading habit can boost your creativity and help you feel more confident when speaking.
The more you read, the better you will write. Reading a wide range of authors and genres helps you learn different writing styles. Whether you read classic literature, or today’s bestsellers, you will learn the art of crafting compelling prose that will hook readers. Read and write as much as possible and you are sure to become a better writer.
Many studies show that reading reduces stress. It slows your heart rate and it takes your mind off the stresses of work and every day life. Because reading is so relaxing, it’s a good activity to do before bed, rather than watch TV or play on your phone.
Good For Your Brain
Reading regularly helps keep your brain strong. Your brain is a muscle and reading is exercise for it. The mental stimulation you get from reading helps keep your brain healthy. Reading often, especially as you age, can help fight off dementia and alzheimer’s. It also improves your memory, critical thinking skills, and your ability to concentrate.
“On Friday night, I was reading my new book, but my brain got tired, so I decided to watch some television instead.” —Stephen Chbosky
Good general knowledge is important for academic and professional success as it can help you excel in tests, interviews, etc. You can boost your knowledge about all things under the sun by reading. This knowledge will stay with you throughout your life. So, invest in an e-book reader or join a library or book club today.
We’ve only listed a few of the many benefits of regular reading. Books are a wonderful source of knowledge that can be tapped for professional success and personal fulfillment. Make it a point to read every day. It is good for your health and can improve many aspects of your life.
It doesn’t matter if you’re self-publishing or writing ebooks that can be corrected later. Your work is not perfect and can always be improved.
Chances are good, you’re acutely aware of the need for editing. However, if you’re just getting started, you may think you can’t afford an editor and instead, you ask a friend or relative to review the piece.
That’s not the best idea. People you know don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they won’t offer truly unbiased feedback. Therefore, you won’t receive the kind of constructive criticism that ultimately improves your work.
The best editors are professionally trained. You need an expert who is skilled in language and can correct your mistakes. So even if your mom majored in English, she probably won’t find all the grammatical errors in your manuscript. (No offense to English-major moms.)
Here are some other reasons you need to hire a professional editor:
Cost-effectiveness. Professional editors review other people’s work for a living. Therefore, they can do it faster and better than you can do it yourself. At some point, you must consider your own time as a resource and the more of it you spend editing, the less time you have to send query letters, market yourself and work on new projects.
Reputation. Even if you self-publish, the work had better be edited. Otherwise, you risk your reputation before you even get started in the publishing world. Readers won’t come back for more if they find tons of grammatical errors and poorly constructed sentences in your books.
Sounding board. Editors and writers must work together for product development. True, your words are like your children and you probably think they’re perfect. But books – regardless of how they’re published – are a product that must be packaged in a way that’s attractive to consumers. Editors can help you see aspects of your work that need to be improved before being offered to the masses.
Writers need professional editors to help them correct mistakes and prepare their books for sale. Find a way to hire a skilled editor who can move your career forward instead of relying on the good intentions of friends and neighbors.
We have heard great things about Janet Angelo, an Editor at IndieGo Publishing. Janet is a perfectionist of an editor with more than ten years of experience, and her rates are reasonable. Check out her portfolio of edited books on Reedsy, just a small sampling of the hundreds of books she has edited for independent authors.
What makes the perfect writing soundtrack? To my mind it should consist of music that is as familiar to you as possible so as to create a minimum of distraction. In other words, instead of really listening to it you know the songs so well that they become a sort of mantra that repeats over and over again in your ears. In this sense the music becomes almost like white noise, blocking out all other potential distractions and allowing you to immerse yourself as far into the story as possible. (This principle also applies equally to when you’re on a long flight and are trying to sleep. In fact, in both situations I sometimes simply put on a short playlist of songs or even just ONE song and put it on repeat. Under normal circumstances that would become annoying, but as mantra-like background noise I find that this works incredibly well.)
But music has something that simple white noise and mantras don’t have. Music carries with it emotions and feeling and energy and power. (Everyone who’s been for a run with their headphones on and some high-energy track playing at high volume knows what I am talking about.)
So my goal is often to try and match emotions in the music to those that I am trying to bring out in whatever story I am currently working on. Stories are usually a tapestry of very specific emotional and energetic moments, each one leading to the next. The trick is finding the music that compliments that.
Maybe it’s something from the soundtrack of your own life? Perhaps your characters in writing are going through something that you yourself once experienced and you put on the music that brings those memories rushing back. Or maybe something a bit less close to home, something happy, something sad, something that makes you feel uneasy or slightly off-kilter? Somewhere out there in your music library there is the perfect song to match whatever it is you are writing.
As for me? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly (and definitely narcissistically) I find that quite often my own songs that I’ve written and recorded can match the moods and emotions that I am looking for. I am, after all, writing those feelings and emotions from within. Check out www.secretworldonline.com for free downloads. Maybe there’s a perfect song in there for your writing too?
Iain Reading is passionate about Root Beer, music, and writing. He is Canadian, but currently resides in the Netherlands working for the United Nations.
Iain has published 4 books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold (book 1), Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost (book 2), Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue (book 3), and Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic (book 4). He is currently working on the fifth book in the series. For more information on the Kitty Hawk series, go to http://www.kittyhawkworld.com/.
Iain is also the author of The Wizards of Waterfire Series. The first book in the series The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire was published in April 2014.
Many writers struggle with character development, and it is sometimes one of the main sources of writer’s block. Here are some tips for creating characters that make an impression and a strong work of fiction:
1. Work Backwards
Brian Kiteley, author of The 3 AM Epiphany and The 4 AM Breakthrough creates practice exercises for writing, using restrictions or pre-planned scenes to explore character creation and development. Try outlining a specific situation, mapping a character’s reaction and building your characterization based on how or why they react in that scene
2. Show, Don’t Tell
This is a tip that you will get from everyone from college professors to best-selling authors. Rather than telling your readers about a character, let them figure it out. Animate them. Make them real. Show what they are wearing by describing the sound their shoes make on the tile or what they look like by their reflection in a store window. Spending pages on character description will drive readers crazy.
3. Draw Inspiration from Real Life
Virginia Woolf said in her essay Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown that practicing character reading and development does not have to be about creating experiences that are outside of the realm of daily life, but simply learning to “live a single year of life without disaster.” Learn people, study their accents, their reactions, their habits, and create characters based on things you might see every day. This allows your readers to easily envision your characters and connect with them.
4. Do Not Be Afraid to Stray from Reality
This tip seems contradictory to #3, but it is important not to stifle your creativity. In an interview with Amazon, JK Rowling explained her own experience with this:
“Mostly, real people inspire a character, but once they are inside your head they start turning into something quite different. Professor Snape and Gilderoy Lockhart both started as exaggerated versions of people I’ve met, but became rather different once I got them on the page”
Remember to allow for your imagination to run freely, even if you are using reality for inspiration. It is okay if your original ideas do not pan out; sometimes, that process creates the best fiction.
5. Get to Know Your Characters
Ask yourself questions about them. What do they eat for breakfast? What is their favorite way to spend free time? What are their flaws and deepest secrets? You should know your character better than you know yourself and be able to explain their actions, reactions, feelings, and desires. That is the only way to create characters that make an impression and keep readers wanting more.
Do you struggle self-editing? You are not alone. Many authors waste time and effort trying to improve their writing. This article provides methods you can use to edit your work more efficiently, improving its quality and reducing your publishing time.
Editing can transform an ordinary piece of writing into a great one. Yet many authors struggle to recognize and correct their own mistakes, resulting in finished work that is far below their own expectations. Fortunately, anyone can learn to become a better editor by following a few simple tips.
Use editing sites.
Many writers are unaware, or skeptical, of editing sites and applications. Not only are they designed to point out spelling errors, but they can also catch complex expressions, redundant phrases, and passive voice. While they are still limited to eliminating simple mistakes, they are a great tool for authors of all experience levels. Take care, however, to always double-check your work, as even the best editing sites won’t catch every mistake.
Get a second opinion.
Writers typically commit the same unique errors over and over, and this repetition can make recognizing and correcting these mistakes difficult. This is why many authors get a second opinion of their work, whether it is by a friend, family member, professional editor, or another author. In fact, many online writing communities are eager to look over the work of their members, although this does pose a risk of plagiarism. A second opinion should always be taken with a grain of salt, however, as not every suggestion will help improve your work.
Find the techniques that work best for you.
Writers use many techniques to recognize the mistakes in their work, from reading out loud or backwards, to focusing on a single word at a time. But finding the techniques that work best for you can be awkward and difficult, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Start by trying one technique at a time on short pieces of writing, keeping track of their overall improvement. This way, you can quickly find the methods that help you improve your writing the most.
Wait to edit your work.
Many authors make the mistake of editing their work too soon after it is written. Since their own writing is still fresh in their minds, they can fail to see typos, incoherent sentences, and other mistakes. Even waiting a single day before fixing your work can help, but you should wait at least a week for the best results.
Editing is a necessary part of writing well. Although some authors may find it intimidating, it requires only dedication and the willingness to learn.
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