A to Z Blogging Challenge: W is for Writers Conference

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“W” is for Writers Conference

A writers conference is a wonderful way to develop your writing skills and find fellowship with other authors.

Registration is open for the Catholic Writers Conference Live 2017.

When: July 18-21, 2017 (Tuesday to Friday)

Where: the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel, Schaumburg, Illinois

The theme for this conference is “The Catholic Imagination.” What makes Catholic creativity different, and how can we use that to craft works that are unique?


Come for:

  • workshops on marketing and writing
  • presentations on marketing and selling your work
  • in-person pitch sessions
  • group critique sessions
  • national CWG Members meeting (guest welcome)

You will have access to the Catholic Marketing Network trade show floor and an opportunity to meet publishers, vendors, and book store owners.

You will also have opportunities to visit the St. Maximilian Kolbe Shrine and the National Shrine of St. Therese.

This conference has much more to offer. So check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z Blogging Challenge: T is for Teen Fiction

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T“T” is for Teen Fiction

People love to buy books for children for so many reasons:

  • they want to encourage children to develop their literacy and language skills
  • stories promote imagination
  • reading provides a time of quiet and reflection in busy little lives
  • reading books gives parents and grandparents an opportunity to bond with their children and grandchildren
  • and these are only a few of the benefits

I would like to write children’s stories one day. I have several ideas in mind (I actually have several written as first drafts). But I love writing stories for teens, with teenage characters facing all the challenges, discoveries, and joys teens face. The teenage years can be trying in many ways, but they are also exciting. Adulthood is just around the corner. That can be terrifying but it also feels like the whole world is open to you! Where will you be tomorrow? What will you do? Whom will you meet? Sometimes the question is as basic as: Who am I?

Some studies show that kids read for fun less as they get older. But other surveys show that young adults are among those most likely to be book readers. According to one survey, over 77% of teens say they’ve read at least one extra book per month for personal pleasure.

Why should we write and why should people buy books for teens:

  • reading takes you on an adventure
  • reading can help develop the imagination
  • a person can discover new ideas, places, and people
  • reading develops the capacity to “see” the invisible, spiritual realities and moral concepts
  • it can help one to deal with our increasingly complex world and begin to understand some adult issues that a teen will soon have to deal with
  • one can find solutions to personal problems by seeing how characters solve problems
  • reading relaxes mind and soul
  • reading improves the thinking process
  • reading improves vocabulary and spelling while the reader is wrapped up in the story line
  • some fiction can even help a teen to know that they are not alone, that others may feel the same way they do
Over the years, I’ve met many authors of Christian teen fiction, and I’ve read and enjoyed their books. I’ve often shared their books with others, promoting them through social media or by word of mouth because I think others will enjoy and benefit from them.

Inspired to join together in sharing our stories, a group of Catholic teen fiction authors have recently created a website.
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Authors include:

Genres include:

Contemporary
Historical
Mystery
Romance
Speculative
Saints
Dystopian
This website also provides information for teachers, including themes and resources for each book.
An incredible amount of excitement surrounds this new website, including inquiries and comments from readers and authors alike. We hope to see it grow into something wonderful for God, helping young readers find books they will thoroughly enjoy and that support, rather than tear down their faith. We’ll be adding more authors and more books in the near future. So stop by often!

Do you read YA fiction? What are your favorite books and why do you read?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: S is for Scrivener

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“S” is for Scrivener

What do you use to write your story? For the longest time, I used Word. Then I discovered YWriter, a free word processor designed for writers. It breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of everything. And I liked it well enough. Until I discovered Scrivener!

What is so great about Scrivener?

Every writer has their own methods. My methods tend to take up space. In addition to writing software like Word, Open Office, or yWriter, I like to use note cards, pictures, maps, notebooks, and scraps of paper. Sometimes I print and sort an entire story to ensure consistency in characters’ story lines and threads. Unfortunately, I work on a laptop at the dining room table. Space is limited. Therefore, I’m happy to have discovered Scrivener!

Scrivener allows me to use my favorite methods but in a more organized way that saves space and time. Everything is kept in one file: outlines, scenes, research, character sketches, setting sketches, synopses, website links, and images.

I will share a few of my favorite features:

Scrivener offers several templates for fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, and more. While there is a learning curve to make use of Scrivener’s organizational tools, it is easy enough to start writing without instruction. Simply select a template, add a few chapters and scenes, and you’re ready to write. A work in progress can be copied and pasted into the new project file. A WIP with several chapters can be imported with chapters split into separate folders.

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I love the “Corkboard” view. The visually minded and “plotters” who work with index cards will love this feature too. “Pantsers” will benefit from the organizational features during the revisions of their work. Chapters, sections, and scenes can be reorganized by dragging and dropping “cards” into place. Cards can be labeled and color coded. This is a great way to mark various points of view, threads, themes, and to note the stage of a scene: First Draft, Revised, Final Copy, etc.

“Collections” is another great tool. With it a writer can group scenes or chapters without affecting the order in the story “Binder.” I use this feature to focus on one character’s scenes at a time or to focus on a specific thread. While it has no effect on the true order of scenes or chapters, changes to the text are updated in the project.

A few other features: Scrivener opens where you left off, work is saved after a pause in writing, old versions can easily be saved. It has word count tools, a name generator, scratch pad, automatic synopsis generator, and several “view” choices that allow the screen to be split or the writing area full screen.

Finally, my original motivation for purchasing Scrivener: a manuscript can be published (exported) in several formats without making several copies or altering the original document. Formats include DOC, DOCX, RTF, PDF, MOBI, EPUB, ODT, TXT, etc. I can export a double-spaced document for my editor, a standard manuscript format for potential agents and publishers, and final files for self-publishing a paperback and various e-books. I’ve wasted so much time in the past, trying to create an EPUB that passes the test and is accepted by all publishers. But now, thanks to Scrivener, it’s simple.

To learn more and experience it for yourself, a free trial is available here: http://literatureandlatte.com/forum Scrivener is available for Mac and Windows, and there are plenty of “help” resources online, in addition to the built-in help file and tutorial.

I am not a Scrivener representative, just a happy writer who has stumbled upon writing software she loves.

What do you use to write your story?

A to Z blogging Challenge: Q is for Query Letter

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“Q” is for . . .  the dreaded Query Letter

Writing is hard work, but it’s also fun and rewarding. I would love the opportunity to write all day and all night for a week, sleeping and eating as necessary. Editing has its rewards too, as you tighten a plot and polish a manuscript. I love the English language and enjoy learning new words and grammar and punctuation rules. (Call me weird if you want.) But writing a synopsis and query letter has always posed a challenge for me. I don’t enjoy it at all.

By the time I’m ready to write the query letter, I should know the story inside and out and be able to convey it in two paragraphs. I should be able to explain to an agent why my story is worth checking out and worth representing. But I struggle with this. So I am writing this post for myself and for every other writer who struggles with query letters.

Writers Digest gives a list of “10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter.” I am summarizing their suggestions here.

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  1. First, research agents. We want to find an agent who is interested in what we write. And we want to be able to refer to an agent by name in our query letter. (Writers Store has an online list of free resources for researching agents. You can also use Writer’s Market or Literary Marketplace, both of which can be purchased online or found at your local library.)
  2. Next, develop a hook that will get the agent interested in your manuscript right away. Then sell your manuscript with a summary of the story. This is similar to the back cover copy and should be no more than 100-200 words. Pour all your energy and skills into this part. (We will need to include genre, word count, title/subtitle)
  3. Then we want to show that we’ve done our research when selecting this specific agent. Consider mentioning one or two of the books they represent.
  4. In the last paragraph, let the agent know your platform. Do you speak at author events or writing conferences? Do you blog, tweet, or use Instagram, and have a ton of followers? If you don’t have a platform, don’t worry about it, but consider building one for the future. You can also include other published books or relevant awards in this paragraph. Keep it tight; don’t add too much.
  5. End with a short thank you and closing.

Study other successful query letter. Writers Digest has a link to query letter examples. They also include a list of what not to do, things like being arrogant or giving your age, saying how much your mom loves the book, or including irrelevant credits.

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When developing the story hook in your query letter, consider:

  • What does the protagonist want?
  • Why does she want it?
  • What keeps her from getting it?
  • What is unique about this story?
  • Don’t reveal the ending of the story here; save that for the synopsis.
  • Don’t go longer than 200 words. The entire query letter should be no more than 400 words.
  • Don’t mention more than 3 or 4 characters.
  • Don’t go into minor plot points.

Make sure to show your voice and personality in the hook.

Here is another helpful website by Jane Friedman, who has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. She has good advice for us at this stage of the game.

What resources or tips have you found most helpful in creating a query letter?

 

 

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: P is for Perseverance

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P is for Perseverance

Perseverance – doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. (Oxford Dictionary)

Writers need it. Characters need it. We all need it. Nothing gets done without it.

Our stories would fall apart if the challenges we threw at our characters made them give up on their goal. And we would never complete our stories without perseverance.

“He conquers who endures.” ~Persius

Now, our protagonist might turn away from the “call to adventure” at first, but something must happen that forces him or her on the journey. And we as writers might face difficulties for a variety of reasons, and we might feel like giving up every now and then too. But we can’t or our story won’t be told!

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” ~St. Catherine of Siena

If you are a writer, you’ve probably experienced writer’s block. How do you get through it?


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A few tips for conquering writer’s block:

  • Stuck on a scene? Try switching gears. Work on research instead.
  • Do you have one part of the scene in mind but can’t see how it unfolds? Focus on the part that comes easily. For example, skip all other details and crank out dialog only.
  • Play games with words, keeping it somewhat related to your story. For example, make a list of the sensory details that characters might experience in a scene (use all five senses). Or create a list of similes and metaphors that might works somewhere in the story to describe a character’s mood or a situation.
  • Free-write without worrying about grammar, tense, person, or anything else. Simply get the words down!
  • If lack of character development might be holding you back, write a character interview or a scene from the character’s past (even if you’ll never use it).
  • Take a walk or stretch out on the couch, and let the scene play out in your mind. Make sure you have a notebook handy.
  • If none of these things help, take a break. Pray and evaluate whatever is on your mind. Maybe you have other responsibilities that require your attention at this time. Don’t feel guilty about it. God gave you the gift of writing, and He can give you the gift of perseverance too.

“We must pray incessantly for the gift of perseverance.” ~St. Philip Neri


Writers need it. Characters need it. We all need it. Nothing gets done without it.

This applies to every aspect of life, and especially the ones that matter most.

In the words of novelist, poet, essayist, and writer, Robert Louis Stephenson, “Saints are sinners who kept on going.”

And a final quote from a favorite saint, who was also a writer:
“Though the path is plain and smooth for men of good will, he who walks it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty, if he does not have good feet: that is, courage and a persevering spirit.” ~St. John of the Cross
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Keep on writing! And thanks for stopping by my blog.
If you are a writer, what is your secret for conquering writer’s block?

A to Z blogging Challenge: O is for Outlining

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“O” is for Outlining

Are you a plotter or pantser? Or a little of both?

I am proud to be a plotter. And here’s why: story ideas come to me all the time, and I don’t want to lose them. So I write down my ideas and I develop them into the outline of a story later, as the mood strikes.

When I am ready to focus on a particular story, I read the outline I started for that story. It’s usually something basic that doesn’t have all the plot points or development I’ll need.

So that’s my next step. I create character arcs, plot arc, and theme arcs. But I don’t get too detailed, plan every twist, or spend too much time on it. And I leave it all open to change, which inevitably happens as the characters come to life during the writing process.

Moving from a developed outline to writing a story has become even easier now that I use Scrivener. I’ll write more about Scrivener on the letter “S” day, but I love Scrivener’s outlining features.

I am also a bit of a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. When a scene comes to mind–which often happens on long drives or when I should be sleeping–I will devote my time to writing out that scene so that I don’t lose it. Sometimes a specific mood or scene will come first in my story development, and the outline is built around it.

I developed my story Roland West, Loner around a dream. I stood alone in a deep cave behind a waterfall. Rushing water thundered in my ears, and glassy and white sheets of water tumbled down a few inches from me. Sunlight glistened here and there on the water as it splashed to the pool below. I had a secret that I both wanted to keep to myself and wanted to share, something that had the power to reach deep inside and transform a person.

I wrote that scene and the characters, plot, and theme sprang from it!


Benefits of outlining:

  • It gives the writer a way to organize and develop thoughts about character development, plot, themes, and twists.
  • It helps a writer to focus right from the beginning on the characters, theme, and the story that you are telling.
  • I also believe it helps a person to write faster because you know what needs to happen in the scene!
  • It gives you a clear path from beginning to end, which is very encouraging on the days you struggle to write.

So, writer friends, what are you? Plotter, pantser, or both? What benefits do you see in either method?

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: N is for New Adult Fiction

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“N” is for New Adult Fiction

I can’t believe I am halfway through the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge! To all of you who read my posts, follow me, click “like,” or leave a comment, thank you!!! You help me to persevere with this challenge. And I’ve now developed a good habit of writing with purpose every morning–a habit I hope to maintain even after the letter “z.” (Oh no! What begins with “z”?)

So what is New Adult fiction? And, no, I am not referring to recently released adult fiction. Okay, but isn’t New Adult the same as Young Adult?

No, it’s not the same. There is a new category now!

It sprang up around 2009 when St. Martins Press called for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”

Characters: Both Young Adult and New Adult have young protagonists. YA tends to feature characters aged 14 to 17 while NA characters range from 18 to mid-twenties. Many adults enjoy YA fiction, but it is geared toward teens with issues teens can relate to. And the teen voice needs to be strong.

New Adult fiction is written for brand new adults!

The characters in NA fiction are now officially adults, but they don’t really feel like it. (Us older folks, we remember that feeling, right? Moving out and living in your first apartment on your own or with your new spouse, it didn’t feel real for a long time. Am I right?) NA characters are trying to understand what it means to be an adult and discovering how they fit into the adult world. They are faced with new responsibilities and adult issues.

Themes:  first jobs and financial independence, starting college, living away from home for the first time, making the decision to live by faith, wedding engagements and marriage, starting new families– and all the fears, challenges, and failures that accompany these things. Protagonists in NA fiction gain insight and perspective from life experience in a way that characters in traditional YA don’t.

Style and voice: New Adult fiction has emotionally tense story lines and fast-paced, dramatic plotting. It is often written in first-person, but it must have an engaging narrator.

New Adult titles appeal to both the young-adult and adult audience. Many (currently most) are contemporary romance, but NA combines all genres and sub-genres: fantasy, mystery, romance, science fiction, paranormal, dystopia, etc.
I would love to see more New Adult fiction in different genres.

My current favorite NA dystopian is by Erin McCole Cupp, The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan. The first book begins with the protagonist as a child, but the character soon grows up and is thrown into the world. The insights she gains as a young woman as she finds her place in the world are what I believe make this NA fiction. If you’ve enjoyed Jane Eyre and you love dystopian or steampunk, check out this trilogy. ALL of the Jane E ebooks will be FREE April 17-21, in honor of Charlotte Brontë’s 201st Birthday on April 21. FREE on Kobo too.
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“Classic Gothic heroine rebooted”


I will soon be seeking representation for my New Adult mystery romance, Anyone But Him. This is a love story that is light on the romance and heavy on the mystery.

anyoneTagline: A young woman wakes with no memory of the past three years and finds herself far from home and married to a boy she hated in high school.

Her perfect husband would love Jesus above all
and would love her because of her love for Jesus.
He would be faithful and gentle and have a heart for others.

So how did Caitlyn Summer end up marrying the guy who got her high school best friend pregnant then pressured her to abort?

Unable to remember the past three years or understand why she would’ve moved so far from home, Caitlyn can’t believe she willingly married such an overprotective, bossy, and jealous man. In this emotionally charged mystery romance, Caitlyn struggles to solve the mysteries of what caused her amnesia and of why she married this guy. Suspicious circumstances surrounding him tempt her to leave and start life over, but they also force her to evaluate the strength of her Christian faith.

The arrival of her first love, her husband’s younger brother, intent on helping her regain her memory, offers a glimmer of hope. Together they uncover secrets involving her coworkers and the local abortion clinic, but nothing to explain her marriage. Had he changed, or had she?

 


Happy writing! If you are a fan of New Adult fiction, please share your favorites in the comments!

A to Z blogging Challenge: M is for Mystery

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“M” is for Mystery

What are your favorite genres? I love reading fiction with a hint of mystery. Books in the mystery genre often involve a mysterious death or has a crime to be solved. But sometimes a mystery can have a twist. And every good book, it seems to me, has that mysterious, unknown element that keeps you turning the pages.

A writer friend of mine, Judith White, writes 1940s detective mysteries, and she puts together a fun 1940s newsletter every month that is really worth checking out. You can follow her on Facebook too.

If you like a bit of faith with your mystery, here are some Catholic Fiction Mysteries you might enjoy:

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The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl

Fresh off a championship medal, Jake Taylor’s parents have dragged him to a middle-of-nowhere town in Colorado, far from where he wants to be. Smart and savvy, Sophie has spent the summer before her junior year of high school avidly following Jake Taylor in every article she can find, but now she sees the “truth” behind the story — he’s really just a jerk. When the only thing they can see is each other’s flaws, how can Jake and Sophie work together to figure out what’s really been happening at the abandoned silver mine? Follow Sophie and Jake into secret tunnels as they unravel the mystery and challenge each other to become who God wants them to be.

bird18 Notes to a Nobody by Cynthia T. Toney

Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks–until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even the best friend she always counted on, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the spring program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn.When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall? 

7RiddlestoNowhere2-500x750-17 Riddles to Nowhere by A. J. Cattapan

Because of a tragic event that took place when he was five-years-old, seventh grader Kameron Boyd can’t make himself speak to adults when he steps outside his home. Kam’s mom hopes his new school will cure his talking issues, but just as he starts to feel comfortable, financial problems threaten the school’s existence. Then a letter arrives with the opportunity to change everything. Kam learns that he and several others have been selected as potential heirs to a fortune. He just has to solve a series of seven riddles to find the treasure before the other students. If he succeeds, he’ll become heir to a fortune that could save his school.The riddles send Kam on a scavenger hunt through the churches of Chicago.

a single bead (002)A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

On the anniversary of the plane crash that took the life of her beloved grandmother and threw her own mother into a deep depression, 16-year-old Katelyn Marie Roberts discovers a single bead from her grandmothers rosary-a rosary lost in the crash. A chance encounter with a stranger, who tells Katelyn that a similar bead saved her friends life, launches Katelyn and her family on a mysterious journey filled with glimmers of hope, mystical events and unexplained graces.

bf6a14_2c0c44a06b9f4fc6b7e1490d5b09c76a~mv2Mission Libertad by Lizette M. Lantigua

Crack the Biblical code in this story of suspense, adventure, discovery, and faith! Fact and fiction converge in this thrilling tale of 14-year old Luisito Ramirez—a courageous boy who daringly escapes from 1970s communist Cuba— as he becomes immersed in American culture, and carries out a secret religious mission under the eyes of spies. Integrating Spanish vocabulary and Cuban culture, this novel for ages 10-14 provides an exciting story of the Catholic faith lived out during turmoil.

I’ve read and loved three of these books and the other two are on my “to read” list. But I’ve heard good things about them.

Happy writing and happy reading!

 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Letter I ~ Inkscape for Cover Creation

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“I” is for Inkscape

writerSo you’ve finished writing the most awesome book ever. You’ve gone through it with critique partners, sent it to beta readers, and revised it fifty times. It’s been edited, proofread, and formatted. And now it’s ready for the world!

Okay, so maybe every man, woman, and child in the world won’t be interested in your book.

While our books may have universal truths or material that would benefit everyone, we know that our book isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, we also know that there are many who would truly enjoy and benefit from our book. We want to reach those people, our audience.

The back-cover blurb is very important for letting potential readers know what they will find inside. It needs to be well-crafted so that it hooks readers and gives them a feel for what they’ll find inside and for your writing style, whether you write fiction or non-fiction.

No matter how many times Mama tells us, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” we all know we do.

The first thing your readers will see is your book cover. This is true whether your book is primarily sold on Amazon or other online stores, at physical bookstores, or at author events. So you need a cover that compels readers to pick up your book and flip it over to read that back-cover blurb.

To reach your specific audience, your cover needs to convey these essential elements:

  • let readers know the genre
  • capture the theme and mood
  • visually represent the entire story or subject
  • it must also look professional and appealing

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When I design a book cover, I use Inkscape, a free professional quality vector graphics software, and free images or images provided by the author or publisher. If you are interested in cover design, check out these resources!

Inkscape: https://inkscape.org/

Images that are free for commercial use can be found at the following sites, but please make sure they are public domain, CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.

In addition to creating book covers, you can use Inkscape to create all the promotional materials you need and to prepare files ready for the printer. I use it to make bookmarks, flyers, and graphics for social media. Youtube has several Inkscape tutorials to help you get started.

Cover Design Basics

  1. Brainstorm. Think about your book’s theme. What symbols might convey that theme? You don’t want too many symbols or images cluttering up your cover and you don’t want meaningless symbols or your book cover will look amateurish. You want to focus on one element that gives a good feel for your story. So brainstorm and come up with the best.
  2. Show don’t tell. In the past, designers tended to illustrate or photograph the characters in action during a scene taken right from the book. Instead, use symbolism and give hints or sneak peaks into your story. Experiment with symbols. A simpler and more symbolic design draws readers in better. You don’t need to tell everything in the cover design but you do need to hint or give a feel for everything.  Avoid being too literal in your design.
  3. Color plays a big role in conveying mood and genre. The dominant color is most important and can draw attention to the design. Limit the number of colors to 2 or 3. Complimentary colors create energy while analogous colors (the ones next to each other on the color wheel) provide harmony and tranquility. Keep the contrast high to increase visibility, making sure your title and author name stand out on the shelf or online. Contrast can be increased not only by using complimentary colors but by combining light and dark shades. You can have eye-popping contrast even with analogous colors this way. If you are using a photo, your color choices will be driven by the color that dominates the photo.
  4. Study other book covers in your genre. You will notice that each genre leans toward specific color combinations and font styles. Don’t avoid them, trying to be original. Readers instinctively use them to identify genre, tone, and mood of a book.
  5. Keep it simple. Don’t use too many font styles, colors, symbols, or images. Keep it clean and appealing. Consider using a subtitle if you think it will help identify your target audience, set your book apart from others, clarify a benefit of your book, create a strong brand for your book, or add clarity to your title. Try to get your point across in as few words as possible. Keep it clear, tight, and memorable. Don’t repeat words from the title and again, consider your target audience.

If you want to talk cover design, leave a comment!

 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Letter H ~ Help!

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“H” is for “Help!”

This post in the #AtoZChallenge is all about writing. Regardless of the unique ideas and talent you possess, if you want to improve your writing skills and publish an awesome book, you need to seek help.

Fortunately, you can find help in many ways:

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Libraries and bookstores – no matter where you are on the writing journey, there is always room for improvement. Check out a few books on writing. Make them part of your home library and read them regularly.

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Online resources – make a commitment to regularly search out writing tips and advice online. Learn from your peers. Learn from the pros. While you’ll often come across people who want to sell you something, a ton of information is available at no cost. And it can transform your writing and take it to the next level.

  • Writers Helping Writers – Home of the Bookshelf Muse. This website offers a variety of helpful information (much of it free) for writers, including writing book recommendations and (my favorite) the Thesaurus Collections. The Thesaurus Collection contains “hundreds of descriptive entries to help you add texture and authenticity to your writing.” These descriptions include colors, textures, shapes, character traits, setting details, symbolism, and motifs.
  • The Snowflake Method – you can do an online search to see if this method is for you. Advanced Fiction Writing describes the method, giving you enough fun information to make use of it. Without buying the book or program, I’ve found it helpful in learning the specifics of designing a scene and overall story design.
  • Novel Writing Help and other blogs also offer an abundance of great information from finding ideas to creating compelling characters and developing plot. And everything in between.

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Critique groups and partners – if you are new to writing, this might be a scary step. But you’ve got to do it! We love to hear how awesome our writing is, but we need to hear how to improve. Show other authors your work and get their advice. Your local library might have a writers group. But you can join online groups too. Each group will offer something different.

For many years I was a member of the online critique group called Critique Circle. It is free to join. Here you can exchange chapters with other writers and give and receive advice. This was where, many years ago, I first shared chapters of my stories. My writing was wordy and clunky. My readers couldn’t tell how my characters were feeling. And my critique partners weren’t afraid to tell me so. When I received critiques on the first chapter I submitted, I admit I decided I wasn’t cut out for writing. And I gave up. Of course that is not the end of the story. I got back up, smoothed out the balled up pages of my manuscript, taped the critiques back together, and learned how to improve my writing.

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I currently belong to a critique group in the Catholic Writers Guild. No matter how great you become at writing, I recommend always being part of a critique group. Critique partners can help ensure a scene or character is coming across the way you intend. My critique partners are awesome and indispensable! And it’s helpful to have critique partners that write in your genre too.

Writers Digest has an article about finding the right critique group for you. Check it out.

Beta readers – these indispensable people can make your story stronger, catch plot holes and other inconsistencies, and so much more. How do you find them? You can find them on Facebook or the other social media platforms you frequent. I recommend choosing from avid readers and/or writers. They will be able to give you the best feedback.

More suggestions: Don’t send a first draft to the beta readers. Give them your very best.  And go ahead and ask them for specific feedback. You can even create a checklist of questions that you’d like them to answer or things you’d like them to look for. Be sure to thank them when they’re done and try to return the favor!

Everything that I suggested in this blog can be accomplished for free. You don’t need to spend money to grow in your craft. But you do need to be committed to it, determined to be the very best and to continually grow.

Happy writing!

I would love to hear about your favorite writing books and online resources! Please share in the comments.