Ideas to Motivate Yourself to Write

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Sometimes I just don’t want to write. It’s true. Sometimes it’s because I’m at a point that I hate, such as when it comes to editing. Sometimes it’s because I have writer’s block. And sometimes it’s simply because I have zero motivation to do much of anything. Here are some tips I use to get moving again. You can use them to motivate yourself to write as well:

Take Ten for Writers

Writing Exercises – There are a lot of books and even websites out there that provide writing prompts for you. Try one. They’re not only motivating, but sometimes even inspiring. One of my favorite writing prompt books is shown above. If you don’t want to buy a book, try the story idea generator on SciFiIdeas.com. There are also apps for story ideas that you can get on your phone. I have one called Brainstormer.

Book Perfecting Plot by William Bernhardt

Read a Writing Guide – Sometimes when I review a technical writing book, I’m inspired to write better. I say reviewing because I’ve already read them. But even though I’ve already read them, reviewing them sometimes inspires new ideas or brings back that motivated feeling.

Do an Analytical Review – Don’t just watch a movie or read a book. Analyze it. Ask yourself what it was about the movie or book that made it worthwhile. Did it have good characters? Was the plot intense enough? Which parts were most intense and why? Which parts made you want to go to sleep and why?

black-and-white-music-headphones-life

Let Music Inspire You – I have certain music that I only play when I write. For a while, it was the music from the Lord of the Rings movies. Now it’s the Hobbit movies. Find your musical inspiration.

Nike Just Do It

The Nike Philosophy – Just Do It. No matter how you feel, just sit down and write. Write nonsense if you have to. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

buddha-india-mind-prayer

Meditate – Not in the zoning out way. Think about what you want and why. Something inspired you to start writing. Think back on what that was and try to grab onto that feeling again.

Take a Break – Yes, sometimes the key to writing again is to simply take a break. As much as I love to write, there are times that I hate it. And I’m afraid if I continue to force myself, I will come to hate it even more. So I take a break. Try it for yourself, but don’t let that break last too long.

What do you do to motivate yourself to write?

 

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Expenses to Expect when You are Self-Publishing Your Novel

Posted in Publishing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Writing a novel is not easy. But if you’ve done it and you think it’s a worthwhile read, you have a new difficult task ahead of you – getting it published.

There are many ways to get your novel published. They are the traditional way, self-publishing, and numerous ways in between. This article is about the newest and easiest way to get published—self-publishing.

Although self-publishing is the easiest way to get published, it is the most difficult for getting your name out there because you also have to self-market. And although it is often relatively free to self-publish, if you truly want your work to get read and possibly even popular, you will need to be prepared for certain expenses.

  1. Writing Supplies – This is an expense you will have whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. Writing supplies can include a computer, software, notebooks, notecards, pencils, etc. Costs may vary depending on your wants and needs.
  2. Beta Readers – Beta readers are the most basic type of reviewers. They are your friends, family, or other informal readers. They can help you find plot holes and minor errors. They can tell you which characters, scenes, chapters, and other things they like most or dislike the most. Keep in mind that these types of reviewers are not likely to provide a professional opinion and some of their feedback may even be wrong. Also, their opinions may be biased. Family and friends will probably do this for free, but if you want more objective reviewers you may want to offer an incentive to people who are not friends or family. I’ve paid between $50 and $100 per beta reader.

    I found some decent beta readers on Simbi.com. On Simbi, I exchanged services rather than paid them. They read and critiqued my book and, in exchange, I offered to do some art work for them. If you can provide a special skill, maybe accounting, dieting coach, or pet training advice, for example, you can offer your skills in return for beta readers. Keep in mind that some of the people you solicit will not follow-through. But at least all you’ve lost is time.

  1. Content Editing Service – Unless you’ve already had training as a writer, a content editor is a must. They not only provide an objective review, they also provide a more detailed review. They can tell you exactly what you’re doing right as well as exactly what you’re doing wrong. They will understand more about whether your book will capture a reader’s interest and keep their interest. They will be able to find plot holes better. The will tell you how to build your characters better, your scenes, and so many other things.

    I can’t stress the importance of this enough. When I wrote the first draft of my sci-fi, I knew and beta readers knew it wasn’t as good as it could be. But we weren’t knowledgeable enough to know what could be done to fix it. My content editor saved me. I think my book is ten times better now than it was originally, thanks to her feedback. Her services cost me about $500. And just so I can have a second opinion on the rewrite, I’ve hired another content editor for about the same cost.

    One thing about a content editor, they will be bluntly honest about your book. It will be very difficult to hear. You will want to get defensive about their opinions. But don’t. Listen. Listen to everything they say. Write it down. Then take a step back and think about it for a week or two. If you can learn not to take their advice personally, you will become a much better writer.

  1. Line Editing Service – A line editor will look for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Nothing is more irritating than reading a self-published book and finding dozens and dozens of errors. Hiring a line editor is very important for self-publishers. I’ve recently paid about $500, but the person was in my writer’s group and was doing a favor. I believe the service can cost much more.
  2. Art – You will need a book cover for your book. And unless you are an artist, you will need to pay someone else to do it for you. Although I am an artist, my specialty is not in sci-fi art so I’ve paid an artist to do my book cover. It cost me about $100 this time but I’ve seen sci-fi artists charge as much as $500 or more. I’ve also found art on photo sites. These look deceptively cheap so be sure to read their guidelines. Most photo sites require you to pay $100 or more if you plan on using the photo or art as a book cover.
  3. Publishing – Although it is possible to get your book published for free on some sites, such as Create Space or through Amazon’s e-book publishing service, other places may charge you. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. So while Amazon and Create Space is free, your only exposure for selling your book is on Amazon’s website. Plus, some writers believe the Create Space publishing format is not all that great. Other publishing sites can charge $50 or more to set up your book so that it can be available for print on demand. And they may also charge you for an ISBN, which is something all books will need before you can sell them. An ISBN can cost about $100 or so, I believe.
  4. Marketing – Since you are self-publishing, you really need to do a lot of work in order to market your book. There are so many ways to market and so marketing costs may vary. Here are just a few marketing ideas:

    -When selling on Amazon, Smashwords, or other online book-selling websites, make sure you use good keywords and that your book description, or synopsis, is very appealing for would-be readers.
    -You can pay for online ads on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites.
    -You can run your own blog and website, which may cost you in hosting services. If you have your own blog or website, you may need to spend a lot of time optimizing these sites so that they can be found ahead of other writers’ blogs and websites. Be careful about companies who say they can do this for you. They will charge you, but their practices do not always live up to their promises.
    -You can promote your book at book stores, which means you need to pay for a supply of books to keep on hand. Independently owned book stores may agree for you to do a book signing at their store.
    -Depending on your genre, you can pay for a booth at comicons, expo-shows, or local events. I have a friend who is rather successful at selling his books at comicons. But the booths are very expensive. Over time, he’s learned to supplement his book sale income with sales on t-shirts, art, mugs, and other things which have pictures of his book cover art on them.
    -You can try to find people to review your book and post their opinions on their own blog or website. This can backfire, though, if they give you a bad review. Some people will ask for small compensation for their time. Be careful with this because a paid review can come across as biased.

These are the expenses I’ve encountered in self-publishing so far. There could be others. I’ve heard of some people paying the self-publishing sites for additional services. This could be helpful for you, especially if you don’t know how to do something yourself. And despite your expenses, there is no guarantee that you’ll make the money back. Selling books is hard work. But at least you will have the good feeling of finally getting your novel published.

Creating a Plot Storyboard for your Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2017 by Dawn Ross
Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard – Print this out for your use or use note cards or a writers’ software program like Scrivener.

Remember last week’s post? I gave two tips for helping you get started on writing that book you always wanted to write. One of those two was to create a plot storyboard. Why? Because in order for people to like your novel, you need to have a good plot. With a good plot, even an beginning writer can write a worthwhile story. A plot storyboard can help guide you in developing your plot. Here is a basic plot storyboard outline to help you plan your novel:

  1. Character in a normal world – Don’t make this part too long or boring. In the old days, writers took a lot of time to develop the characters and setting in the first chapter or two. But in today’s world, you want to grab the reader’s attention as soon as possible. I, personally, stick to about half a page and add other details to scenes and characters as the story progresses.
  2. Inciting incident – This is the incident that forces the character to act. For a romance, it could be him meeting a woman who captures his interest. For a mystery, it could be a murder of a friend. For an adventure, it could be a call to war from the authorities.
  3. Character must make a choice – Do they pursue the woman, try to solve the murder on their own, or honor the draft?
  4. Character begins his journey
  5. First complication arises – This is going to be the character’s first indication that the journey is not going to be as easy as he first thought.
  6. Complication grows
  7. A new and larger crisis emerges – This is going to be much larger than the first complication and will cause the character to stop and wonder whether he should go on. It may also send the character in a new direction. This complication will be approximately midway through your story.
  8. Complications increase and become more complex – Your character may want to turn back, but keeps moving forward.
  9. A breaking point complication arises – Your character is going to be at the lowest of the low. The task is going to seem complicated. Your character is going to want to give up. The situation looks hopeless and it’s your character’s darkest moment.
  10. The character decides to finish what he started – Your character needs to go against his natural inclinations and do something he never would have thought of himself doing before. Make sure that whatever it is that instigates him to move forward despite the new and more complicated situation that it’s not a deux ex machina. This is something that miraculously shows up just in the nick of time without any indication previously in the story that this might arise. A deux ex machina would be a sudden change of heart with no explanation or a friend who has had very little interaction in the story suddenly shows up with awesome skills to help.
  11. The drama is resolved – The drama is resolved, the antagonist is defeated, and the character has changed. For a romance, the character is now a person in love. For a mystery, perhaps the character has a darker view of humanity. For an adventure, the character has learned more about the world and more about himself.

This is just a basic storyboard outline. Your story can have more than three increasingly difficult complications, but at least three are needed. And your story can have smaller side-plots. Also, remember not to get too caught up in the planning process. It’s good to plan because it gives you a place to start. But too much planning can cause you to lose steam and you’ll never get to the fun process of writing your book.

Two Tips to Help You Start Writing a Book

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Ideas for Writing a Book

Sorry I’m late today. I took the kids on an unexpected trip. Here’s your article this week for what I believe are the two most helpful tips for getting started in writing that book you’ve always wanted to write:

Have you ever had a great idea for a project, but never really started it? This happens a lot when it comes to writing a book. It all starts with an idea, but then ends once you start thinking about all the complicated aspects that go into it. Some people can just sit down and write. But they either know enough about writing to know exactly what is needed to make a good story, or they’re just winging it and hoping a good story will turn out well on accident. You’re probably not the first type or you wouldn’t be here. 🙂 And if your the later type, you probably don’t want to simply just wing it on your great idea. So here are two tips to help you start writing a book.

Break Down Your Tasks

Writing a book can be a very daunting task. If you’ve done some research, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the things you need to do. So the first step in getting that books started is to stop thinking about all of it at once. Break the tasks down into pieces and do one piece at a time. If you’re not familiar with all the aspects of writing a book, this list could change. But at least your brain isn’t trying to process everything at once.

What I’ve done is created a folder on my computer. The main folder is the title of my book. When I open that folder, there are more folders. There are folders for writing tips, research resources, my character journals, publishing information, and more. Several documents are found in the writing tips folder. One document covers plotting tips, another for character development tips, one for tips on adding conflict, and so on. The documents contain things I’ve typed out or links to websites I’ve found that provided good information.

You don’t have to do yours on your computer. You can also create a binder. At first, your computer folders or binder will have very little information in them. But as you write, you’ll find other things to add. This process will help you grow and help you keep organized at the same time.

Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard

Create a Plot Storyboard

To write a good story, you MUST MUST MUST have a plot. If your good story idea is about someone who gets into a lot of adventures with no end in sight, your readers are going to get very bored. A well-organized plot can turn even the most amateur writers into good storytellers.

To create a good plot, you need to think about what your character wants to achieve by the end of the book. They have to really want it and you have to help the reader really want it for them too. Then you need to think of complications that your character encounters that make it difficult for him to reach his goals. And these complications have to escalate to a point where your character considers giving up.

The above image is something you can use. You can also use note cards or consider software such as Scrivener. I, personally, like note cards. Note cards allow me to create subplots that I can put in story sequence around the main plot. I’ve heard a lot of other writers praise Scrivener and other software programs. Find what works best for you.

Next week, I’ll provide a generic outline for a storyboard. In the meantime, feel free to comment on this post.

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

Posted in About the Author with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes one just need to take a step back. In this case, it’s a little of both.

In regards to life getting in the way, be assured that it’s nothing bad. As some of you may know, my husband and I foster kids. Generally, we only foster one at a time and one between the age of 6 and 12. A few months ago, though, we were talked into taking two teenagers, a brother and sister. We were told they were well-adjusted, well-mannered kids and this has turned out to be totally true. Still, parenting can be a busy job.

We are also in the process of adopting a two-year-old boy from China. The paperwork for this process has been a terrible headache. It’s not just a matter of filling out forms, but also a matter of gathering specific documents and making sure they are from the right sources, in the right format, with the correct information, with the right signatures, and with the right dates.

Eddie

I can’t show you pics of our foster kids, but here’s the boy we’re in the process of adopting. We’re naming him Edward, or Eddie for short.

I had to take a step back from my writing and from blogging for other reasons as well. To put it simply, I just needed a break so that my mind could recharge. Not too long ago, I told you how I received feedback from a content editor. She pointed out several core story problems that I needed to work on. Although it was hard to swallow the criticism, I knew she was right. But I wasn’t entirely sure how to fix the problems.

That was back in March, 2017. Rather than ponder the problems right off, I took a few weeks off and completely stepped back from my novel. I binged on Netflix and read a few fantasy and sci-fi novels.

When I felt I had wasted enough time, I dived back in. And when I dived back in, I devoted almost all of my free time to the novel itself. I didn’t blog.

So where do things stand now? We still have our two teenagers so I still devote time to them. The adoption process is pretty much done and now we’re just waiting for the government organizations to get organized. I’ve found the time to ponder the story problems and have come up with some great ways to fix them. And now I’m in the process of rewriting parts of the novel. In fact, I believe I’m almost done.

Now that I’m back to writing and nearly finished with the rewrite, I figure it’s time to get back to blogging. This post is a rather boring and personal post, but hopefully next week I’ll be able to post something more useful for you. Any topic in particular that you’d like me to cover? Writing tips? Publishing tips? Editing tips? Or perhaps you just want to read a part of the rewrite? Feel free to comment below.

Do You Really Have to Kill Your Darlings?

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Stephen King Kill Your Darlings

First of all, what are darlings? To writers, the term is used when referencing a piece of the story or a character that the author loves but really has little to do with the story itself. The advice you’ll hear from many writing experts is that you need to kill them, murder them, or to put it simply, get rid of them. Take them out of your story.

Eliminate or Change?

The problem I’ve encountered more than once is the assumption that they always have to be killed or gotten rid of. This is not always true. After all, if you as the writer love some element of your work, why should you get rid of it? For example, you really love a certain character but he or she doesn’t really add value to the story. How about changing your story or your character a bit so that they do add value to the story?

Moana’s Hei Hei Changed

I read that when Hei Hei the rooster was originally written in the story of Moana, he was a cranky and proud rooster (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Heihei). But his part in the story really had no purpose other than to be annoying. So the writers had to rewrite him or he’d be cut. Hei Hei is a much different rooster now. He’s also a more important element to the story—he’s a source of comical trouble. Perhaps the character in your story won’t need such a dramatic change in character. Maybe he or she just needs a more dramatic part. And if, after trial and error, you just can’t make this character fit into the story, then you can reconsider eliminating them (or save them for another story). The same can be said for certain scenes or other parts that aren’t contributing to the story.

Don’t Force It

You might be told that you shouldn’t try to force it. This could very well be true. So ask yourself why you want to keep this darling in your story. Is it because you worked so hard on it and it seems like a waste to get rid of it? Sorry. This probably isn’t a good enough reason to keep it. Is it because you really like it? If it doesn’t fit in your story, save it for another story. Or is it because you think it’s an important part of the story? If you think it’s important but your professional critiquers doesn’t, try to figure out why. Then consider changing things so they see the importance too.

Listen

As a writer, we need to be willing to listen to the advice of a professional writer. We need to be willing to make changes to our stories in order to make them better. If you really want your story to shine, if you really want people to love your story as much as you do, you need to listen to and learn from your betters.

You are the Writer

Ultimately, though, it’s your story. Don’t let a strong critique force you into doing something you don’t want to do. Don’t be pressured or let your critiquer make you feel stupid when you say you don’t want to change this or that and the critiquer responds, “Ugh. This is why I hate little darlings.”

Consider All Your Options

There is nothing wrong with keeping something or some character you love in your story. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the story to end a certain way because you plan on writing a sequel. If the person or persons critiquing your story think a certain element or a certain character is useless and should be gotten rid of, consider their advice seriously. But consider all your options. There’s more than one way to do something.

Get Multiple Critiques

It also helps to get the advice of more than one professional writer. This way if everyone is saying the same thing, you know the critique is valid and not just an opinion. Critiques are invaluable in that they can help you become a better writer. But the line between critique and opinion can sometimes be blurred.

What are your feelings or opinions on “darlings”?

Core Story Problems with “StarFire Dragons”

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Book Cover for StarFire Dragons

Last week I discussed the core story problems my content / development editor pointed out. But when I discussed these issues, I discussed them in a general manner. The following applies those issues to my own story, “Starfire Dragons”.

Making the Primary Protagonist Face a Hard Choice

I seemed to have two primary protagonists, J.D. and Jori, neither of which had to face a truly difficult choice. Jori was faced with a choice where he could either please his father by hurting J.D. or not hurting J.D. and suffering the consequences of his father. But he makes his choice too easily. And the idea of consequences from his father is too distant for the reader to grasp. J.D. is faced with a choice where he could either go against his superiors to help the enemy child he’s come to care about or follow orders and betray the child. Again, he makes the choice too easily and he slips out of the consequences.

I admit, making characters I love makes it really difficult to put them in tight spots. But it’s got to be done if they’re going to truly grow, which leads to the next heading.

Helping the Primary Protagonist Grow

Both J.D. and Jori grew as people but not in a profound way and not in such a way where they had to face a final antagonist in order to grow. J.D. became less wishy-washy, but I think he’s still too wishy-washy in the end. At first glance, it would seem Jori made the most growth, but when you consider some of his history and his teachings with Master Jetser, he already had a foundation to build on.

Choosing One Primary Protagonist and One Primary Antagonist

As my editor, Kristen Lamb, pointed out, my story had no primary antagonist for the primary protagonist to fight. I thought my antagonist was more of an intangible one—our human tendency to hate someone because they are different than us. But how can there be a final battle with a human flaw? If I were to keep this human flaw as my primary antagonist, I would have put it into a single human form.

Jori as the Primary Protagonist?

If I choose Jori as the primary protagonist, who will be his primary antagonist? It can’t be J.D. because he would be downgraded to secondary protagonist. It could be the captain, but this would cause me to rethink the entire series I have mapped out. If I made Rear Admiral Zimmer the primary antagonist, I’d have to bring him more into the story. If I make Calloway the primary antagonist, I will need to give him a higher rank. Things to consider.

J.D. as the Primary Protagonist?

My other option is to make J.D. the primary protagonist. His primary antagonist can’t be the captain for the same reason indicated above. It could be Zimmer, maybe even Calloway. In a way, it could be the Alliance itself. After all, he’s struggling with a dilemma of duty versus morality. If the Alliance represents duty, he’d have to make a hard choice regarding morality. But the Alliance itself can’t be a defeated antagonist without a human form. Jori comes across as his antagonist at first, but my future stories won’t allow for him to be the primary antagonist.

Terk as the Primary Antagonist?

Perhaps Terk could be J.D.’s primary antagonist. Terk would have to wake up sooner and his father’s beliefs would have to be stronger than Jori’s. The only thing is, I will need to think of a way to defeat Terk without killing him (as Kristen suggested) because he’s an integral part of book two. I know, I know, Kristen. Having a “little darling” as you call it could be a huge boulder in the path of a successful story. But I will find a way to blow up that darned boulder and still keep my character. Perhaps defeat could mean thwarting Terk’s plans.

Creating a Final Epic Battle

No matter who I choose as my primary protagonist, I need to make sure they defeat my primary antagonist in a battle of some sort. Battles don’t always have to be with actual fighting. But considering Jori and Terk are warriors and J.D. is a strategist, I think this makes the most sense. I see a huge space battle scene forming.

Conclusion

If I really want to improve my writing and make this story great, much of it will have to be changed. A lot will need to be cut out. And some things may not go the way I had originally planned. While this seems harsh or even discouraging, I’m not put off by it. If anything, I’m raring to go. My mind is churning with ideas. “StarFire Dragons” isn’t going to be published when planned, but it will be published. And it will be my best work ever.