• Please, Don’t Be Afraid by Harley Randy Green

    Photo Credit: dryhead on Flickr
    Hello, this is Briana! I’m on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I’m publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I’m back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

    I wrote my first novel back in 2004, which I put into a book with my other short stories from past years. I never really read it after I was done, so I had no clue how good it was or even if it was readable. I really didn’t want anyone to read it. I was more concerned with a short story I wrote being acceptable for publication.

    Finally, I allowed my then wife to read my first novel, fix the words here and there, and maybe critique it for me. I found out the book was worse than I had imagined. Even today when I try to fix it with my own editing process, I realize how bad of a story I had previously written. However, if it were not for asking someone else to read it, I would not have learned from my experience, and my next novel would probably be just as bad as the first one.

    You also can’t learn from mistakes if you are all afraid to have others read your work. Remember, your first rough draft is not an instant American classic, and you don’t have professional editors at the ready to fix the book so it’s ready to go; so the more insight from others, the better to learn. Find yourself alpha and beta readers, people you might know a little or others you just met with many different creeds and ages in their background. This is also a great way to learn about what demographics your work lands.

    Find yourself an editor, please—specifically, an editor who you believe is reasonably priced and you can get along with. Now I know this may be difficult, but they are indispensable in the creation of your final draft. Like alpha readers, editors always find things you’ll miss. They fix them and make them better so you look like the smartest person in the room. I found mine by using a short story of mine that I knew was good but needed an editor’s touch. I find it’s a lot easier than just giving them your baby and “ripping it to shreds!” The right editor won’t do that.

    Finally, you believe the book is done; now it’s time for the critiques. This is the hardest point because you have no idea you’ll get a good review. Amazon is a prime location, but not a perfect one, for this. Don’t be afraid to ask for those more established with widely read blogs or even columns to give your book a go.

    But none of this happens unless you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask and find your thick skin. What people say, you should use constructively, not negatively unless they are just brutal and give you absolutely nothing to work with so you can fix the writing. Remember, you alone are the end all; be all to your story, but in order to get there, you cannot be afraid to ask.

    The author was born in Port Huron, Michigan where he still resides. He has had a long time fascination with science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction.  H.R. Green has written three novels, Daemon, Shifter, and Machete Mauler, and one compilation, Listen Like Fiends.  You can visit his website here. Thanks for writing this post!

    When it comes to writing, what are you most afraid of?

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    Are you afraid to put your writing in the world? @daemondelall has something to say about that fear. (Click to tweet)

  • Bookish and Literary Uses for the Bullet Journal by Coryl o’Reilly

    Photo Credit: flakyredhead on Flickr
    Hello, this is Briana! I’m on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I’m publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I’m back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

    The bullet journal. It seemed to come out of nowhere. For some people, it may be too much flexibility and not enough structure. For others, the flexibility means freedom and creativity.

    If you’re new, the official bullet journal website outlines the basics. Give it a quick read. I can wait.

    Read it? You know what “Collections” and “Migration” are? Good.

    The beauty about bullet journaling comes from the customisation. The basics really are the basics: there are no limits to what you can include. My system has changed often since I began at the end of March as a to-do list and day planner. I’m now rethinking what I include. My brainstorming led me to ideas for bookish spreads to re-focus on writing and reading!

    Calendars

    Calendars can range from one month to multiple years, depending on your needs.

    New release dates: Don’t forget that amazing book coming out in eight months! See at a glance when you need to start saving for those new books.

    Deadlines and due dates: Mark your writing deadlines—from drafting to editing to marketing—so you can try to avoid procrastination and last-minute anxiety. Also avoid overdue fines from the library by writing books’ due dates.

    Collections

    Although I don’t use collections, I won’t discriminate!

    Plotbunnies: Jot down your random ideas. Seeing them all in one place can help find ways to bundle them together. Expand to bits of dialogue or description.

    Quotes: Inspiration, motivation, great lines… You name it, you write it.

    Books read: Goodreads can feel so impersonal. Jazz up your reading history by doodling a bookshelf of empty book spines. Go simple with just the title, author, and date you started and finished.

    Book statistics: How many female and male writers? How many indie authors? Make a chart to see your own reading habits and trends.

    Trackers

    Trackers are a simple way to see how often you do something. The scope can range from daily to weekly to monthly. You can fill in boxes, use checkmarks for successful days and X’s unsuccessful days, or try the sticker method Briana raved about to encourage you!

    Writing habits: See how often you’re writing. Daily? On weekends? In spurts? Track it!

    Word counts: Set a word count for that day, or decide a minimum word count per day. Check it off when it’s reached.

    Pages read: I can read a book in a day or go weeks without reading. I want to improve my reading habits by tracking a set number of pages or time spent reading each day.

    If you’re afraid to commit to a notebook, use a sheet of paper to experiment. Pinterest and Instagram are fantastic places to inspire layout designs. I’ve definitely lost sleep admiring the creativity in the BuJo community. . .

    So, have I converted you? Give it a shot—there’s nothing to lose but some ink and paper.

    Coryl o’Reilly is a Canadian writer, artist, and LGBT and mental health advocate. She intensely loves lemons, Studio Ghibli, and poetic prose. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog. Thanks so much for writing this post, Coryl!

    What do you think about bullet journaling?

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    If you’re interested in bullet journaling, you NEED to read this post by @coryldork. (Click to tweet)

  • 6 Tips for Defeating Writer’s Block by Louise Matchett

    Photo Credit: mikkime on Flickr
    Hello, this is Briana! I’m on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I’m publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I’m back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

    You should be writing. And yet whenever you open your manuscript and write a sentence you delete it, rewrite it and delete it again. Just like that you’re stuck, your mind goes blank and your character voices that live in your mind, who have always been there whispering to you, have fallen silent. And whilst you sit there your deadlines are creeping up on you, getting ready to pounce.

    Writer’s block. Hitting a wall. Falling out of sync. These are some of the many different names we writers come up with for one common problem and that problem is when you can’t make the words pour out onto a page, whether it’s a page in a notebook or a page on a computer screen.

    So what can you do to get the juices flowing once more? (Aside from making a sacrifice to the muses)

    • Sometimes all it takes is a re-read of the last paragraph or chapter you wrote to remind yourself of what might happen next. Though the urge to re-write a whole chapter can be tempting try to focus on just reading and not editing.
    • Take a break from your current project and start something new, it could be a blog post or even a competition piece. Anything that can wipe your creative palate clean.
    • Take a scheduled break from writing altogether, spend time with friends and family. But fix a deadline so that you know when that day comes you have to return to your current project.
    • Do something new. Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go, a new sport you’ve been wanting to try or maybe it’s something else. Whether it’s crossing something off of your bucket list or just following an impulse, give it a go. Take photos. Make the occasional note. If it doesn’t spark your imagination it can always make a great blog post.
    • Pick up your favourite book and read the first page, just the first page though. Done it? Now ask yourself questions; what makes me want to turn the next page? What do I learn from this page? Why is this book my favourite? This helps you identify what you find important in a story and if you apply these elements into your book it might help you get back into your writing.
    • Change your location. No I don’t mean you have to move house, what I mean is identify where you normally do most of your writing, then change location. You do most of your writing sitting in the living room? Try the kitchen. You write whilst lying on your bed? Try sitting on the stairs.

    I hope these tips can help you push through your writer’s block and get the words flowing once more.

    Louise Matchett is an author and photographer. You can visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks so much for writing this post, Louise!

    What tips do you have for defeating writer’s block?

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    Feeling stuck? Check out @louisematchett8’s post on defeating writer’s block! (Click to tweet)

  • Guest Post: What Makes a Writer?

    Today’s guest post comes from my dear friend Mariella Hunt! What makes a writer? Who decides? What do you think? Check out Mariella’s thoughts, and feel free to share your opinion in the comments!
    Guest Post: What Makes a Writer?

    During NaNoWriMo, I found several controversial articles stating that writers write. It triggered so many arguments, I couldn’t help meditating on the matter. I wound up agreeing with both sides to an extent.

    We have to remember that life makes it hard to just write, and it’s unfair to disqualify someone as a writer because they can’t do it every day. Sometimes writers can’t write, and it’s not that they don’t want to. Other duties get in the way.

    These are other signs you may be a writer. Pay attention to your daily routine—maybe you’ll notice a few of them! While these aren’t all the signs, they’re the ones I found most of my writer friends relate to.

    • Writers daydream when we’re supposed to be working on chores or school. We might be unloading the dishwasher, but our minds are somewhere else—not in a messy kitchen, but the universe we’ve crafted in our books.
    • Writers get frustrated when people say writing’s not a ‘real job.’ Those people don’t know the effort it takes to craft a story, let alone a novel. They’ve never faced the challenge of focusing on a storyline when we have so many ideas. They never felt restless staring at a blank document, praying for the perfect ending to write itself. Writing is work. You’re a writer if you’re passionate about helping people understand that.
    • Writers have a habit of correcting peoples’ grammar, sometimes out loud. We might spend long hours thinking of better ways to say what that other person said. Most of us have issues with chatspeak and harbor a fascination for big words, sometimes even dead words. Because of this, we might confuse people in daily conversation and enjoy it!
    • Honest writers are never satisfied with our work. We struggle to ignore the inner editor so we can reach the end of a chapter…then we scroll up and change things again, but don’t ask because we’ll deny it! After all, editing is for later drafts…or so they say.
    • We gaze out the car window at buildings, wondering what the background music would be if we were in a movie. Our imaginations panic over situations that will never happen; they whisper solutions we’ll never need.
    • It frustrates us that we can’t write our life stories to make them more exciting or comfortable. Since we can’t write our life stories, we write novels. Most of us don’t make characters representing ourselves, but we might accidentally give protagonists our traits!
    • We’re often caught staring into space with looks of contemplation. Most of us have had to assure people multiple times that nothing is wrong—we aren’t angry, and we’re not tired. We’re plotting!
    • We carry a bit of each book we’ve read in our hearts. Even if we didn’t enjoy the read, we catalog the book as an example of what not to do in our writing.

    Sometimes you can’t write as you’d like to, but that doesn’t make you less of a writer. Writers can’t always write. It would seem a true writer is the person who always wants to write (even when they put it off. It is a lot of work!)

    If you’re too busy to just write, don’t be discouraged…you’re still a storyteller with a heart full of ideas!

    Would you add anything to this list?

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    Check out this special guest post for @brianawrites in which @mariellahunt discusses what it means to be a writer. (Click to tweet)

  • When Should I Release My Novel? by Mariella Hunt

    Note: This advice is directed to authors who’ve finished editing their manuscript into something ready for release. How to know when that is would take another blog post, which I’m considering writing! I urge you to make sure your book has been edited—and possibly rewritten!—before you publish.
    When Should I Release My Novel? By Mariella Hunt

    With the choice to self-publish, an author faces many challenging decisions. While some people approach it as the “easy” way to sell your work, nothing worthwhile is easy. Though no self-publisher’s journey will be predictable, there are guidelines authors should follow to make the process smooth.

    As a first time self-publisher, I don’t claim myself an expert; however, if probed for one piece of advice by someone considering the route, I would say don’t get carried away in setting a release date. Let me explain.

    Dissonance is my first published book. Researching the process taught me how publication works behind-the-scenes. Most things I learned are common sense—get an editor, have a good cover, figure out a marketing plan. There won’t be a magic button to press for sales and pageviews, so you’ll spend a lot of time on social media spreading the word. These were things that, though challenging, I tried to follow faithfully.

    There are plenty of posts that give advice about book covers and marketing plans. If you’ve taken seriously the decision to self-publish, you’ve read a few of them; in my opinion, there aren’t enough posts telling us to be patient.

    I made the mistake of losing perspective in my excitement to be published. Nothing is set in stone, and it is better not to give yourself a release date, especially if you’re a writer undergoing this process for the first time.

    I can only recall being warned about the release date dilemma in Catherine Ryan Howard’s book, Self-Printed. It’s an excellent source of advice if you don’t know where to start! However, despite her warning, I wanted to claim the book birthday of 12/13/14.

    12/13/14—not only was it fun to put on announcements, my birthday was the day after! Convinced I could get things together in a year, I told everyone Dissonance would be available then—and complications arose.

    Though I’d chosen 12/13/14 with a year in advance, there wasn’t time to get everything sorted. As a friend of mine once said, nothing is finished until it’s published. I missed the release date and published five months later.

    As a first-timer, I am proud of my book and glad I chose this path, but learned a lesson: I can’t control everything. I won’t be setting a release date again unless everything is sorted, because life has ways to throw you off-course. Soon I’ll be working on the second book of my series, and this time when I publish, I’ll know what not to do—which things I have power over and what I should leave to others.

    I’m not ashamed of this incident because it gave me insight. However, I’d like to give you this word of advice if you want to self-publish a manuscript: Your book may not be ready when you are.

    It’s worth the wait—good things always are.

    About the Author:

    Mariella Hunt writes faery tales from her bedroom/library in Boise, Idaho. She enjoys reading the classics and hopes to one day write like Charles Dickens (hey, a girl can dream.) Her first novel, Dissonance, was published in June of 2015. Check out her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on her writing life.

    How do you know when your book is ready to be released?

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    In a revealing guest post for @brianawrites, @mariellahunt shares some wisdom about book releases. (Click to tweet)

  • Guest Post: My Top 5 Tips for Writing Fantasy Fiction

    Kristen Kieffer is the creative-writing coach behind She’s Novel, where she helps writers craft novels that will endear readers, excite publishers, and launch their writing careers. Her latest creation, The Pre-Write Project, is an epic workbook designed to help writers prep their next novel in just five days flat. Kristen loves coffee, geeking out over Tolkien, and editing her upcoming medieval fantasy novel, The Dark Between. Want to learn more? Click here!
    Guest Post: My Top 5 Tips for Writing Fantasy Fiction

    Three and a half years ago, I realized something crazy: I wanted to be a professional novelist. And once I had that dream in mind there was no going back. Ever since that fateful day, I’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours reading widely, writing generously, and studying fiction like a madwoman so that one day my dream might become a reality.

    And all the while, I’ve focused on the one genre I knew I wanted to one day be known for: fantasy.

    Three years of experience certainly doesn’t make me an expert on fantasy fiction, but I have picked up a few valuable tips and tricks along the way that I wish I had known when I first began.

    Today, I’ll break down five of these tips and include lessons from my own experience, as well as action steps you can follow to take your fantasy novel to the next level. Ready to get started?

    • Pre-writing is essential.
      No matter what type of fantasy you write, pre-writing your novel is crucial. The very definition of fantasy states that it includes or addresses otherworldly elements, such as magic, mythological races, or imaginary worlds.

      If you don’t fully understand how these otherworldly elements work in your fantasy world before beginning to write, you’ll spend countless hours struggling with plot holes, inconsistencies, and other errors when it comes time to revise your manuscript.

      My Experience: With my first fantasy novel, The Dark Between, I failed to explore all of the fantasy elements I planned to include before drafting. Instead, I focused solely on the elements I already had laid out in my head. By pushing these other elements aside, I ended up having to spend the first three weeks of my second draft painstakingly seeking solutions to the plot holes I had created.

      Action Step: Pull out a notebook and write down every fantasy element you plan to include in your novel (magic, secret societies, mythological races, etc.). Include anything you believe readers wouldn’t understand without an explanation. When you finish your list, spend as much time as you need ironing out each element’s exact details.
    • Less is more.
      Building a fictional world – or altering the boundaries of our real one – is always a fun process for fantasy writers, but sometimes we become so engrossed in world-building that we forget what our main focus should really be: crafting a killer story.

      When it comes to what readers truly want from your novel, it’s not an elaborate fictional world; it’s a story that will sweep them off their feet. Allow your fictional world to serve as the backdrop of your fantasy novel rather than the main attraction, and you will take one giant step towards achieving success.  

      My Experience: One of the reasons it took me so long to finally complete the first draft of The Dark Between was because I spent nearly a year building my fantasy world. Yes, you read that right. A full year. Needless to say, I regret spending that time world-building when I could have been discovering my story’s incredible secrets.

      Action Step: Take a step back from your work and do your best to identify only the essential elements of world-building. What do readers need to know in order for your story to make sense in the context of your fictional world?

      If you’re struggling with this exercise, ask yourself this: “If I removed this piece of information from my novel, would readers still understand what’s going on?” If the answer is yes, then it’s time to kick that element to the curb.
    • The Hero’s Journey is your friend.
      The Hero’s Journey is the most popular plot structure for fantasy novels – and with good reason. In his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the essence of this structure:

      A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

      Sound familiar? The Hero’s Journey is the very plot structure used to craft famous fantasy novels like The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Eragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and more.

      And though a few renowned fantasy novels break from this classic structure, chances are that your tale will benefit from a few hours spent getting to know The Hero’s Journey.

      My Experience: The Dark Between is a multiple point-of-view novel, but I utilized The Hero’s Journey to construct each character’s plotline. Using this set structure not only made the plotting process easier (goodbye Sagging Middle Syndrome!), but it set my story up to follow the same successful pattern readers recognize and adore.  

      Action Step: Read up on The Hero’s Journey plot structure and consider how your own story might follow its path.  
    • Keep it grounded.
      In a market saturated with modern fantasy fiction, it can be hard to write a novel that stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Recognizing this, many fantasy authors make the mistake of over-complicating their novels in an attempt to make them original. This is a huge mistake.

      Nothing is worse than cracking open a new novel, only to find that you can’t pronounce any of the names, visualize any of the supernatural races, or identify with any of the problems the characters face.

      By writing a novel that instead focuses on creating a simple yet profound connection with readers, your book will be far more likely to find success.

      My Experience: I have nothing against well-crafted novels with complex plots, such as A Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but I’ve read so many over-complicated fantasy novels in my lifetime that I’ve made it my mission to avoid this issue in my own work. And I know that my story will benefit from it.

      Action Step: Take an honest, open-minded look at the otherworldly elements included in your novel. If you suspect even for a moment that readers won’t be able to pronounce, understand, or relate to one of these elements, consider giving it an overhaul or cutting it altogether.
    • Characters come first.
      Speaking of making a profound connection with readers, the only way you’ll be able to accomplish that is to craft relatable characters your readers will adore.

      I’m always telling my readers to spend more time developing their characters than they think necessary. Why? Because it is their characters’ actions that make up the journey, their personalities that bring them to life, and their hearts that grip readers by the shirt collar and refuse to let go.

      As a fantasy writer, if you want to hook readers in for a thrilling read then you must find the heart of your characters’ stories in the midst of all the fantasy fun. Once you’ve found it, make sure that this heart finds its way to the forefront of your novel as often as possible.

      My Experience: I spent a lot of time world-building and plotting before I wrote the first draft of The Dark Between, but because I didn’t also develop my characters I found it very hard to write from their perspectives. As I struggled to get inside their heads, I unknowingly slowed my writing process down for months on end, not to mention that my first draft read without any sort of emotional attraction.

      Action Step: If you haven’t spent time developing your characters yet, take a step back and write down a list of every character whose actions affect the plot. Spend time getting to know each of these characters. Discover their personalities, goals and motivations, and the character development they’ll undergo before beginning to draft again.

    Do you have any additional tips or tricks for writing fantasy fiction? How will you take the tips we discussed today and apply them to your next novel? Sound off in the comments below!

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    In this guest post for @brianawrites, @ShesNovel shares some tips for writing fantasy fiction. (Click to tweet)

  • Marketing Your Book As You Write It

    marketing-your-book-as-you-write-it
    How would you like to start marketing your book while you’re still writing it? By the time you finish, you can already have a dedicated fanbase and network of readers eager to purchase your book! How great would that be?

    If you’re interested in learning more, check out my guest post on Kate Mitchell’s blog. And while you’re there, go ahead and subscribe to her because she’s fantastic!

    Want me to write a guest post for you? All you have to do is ask!

  • Guest Post: How to Beat Writer’s Block (A Few Tricks I Learned in School)

    Guest Post: How to Beat Writer’s Block (A Few Tricks I Learned in School)
    Inspiration is the soul of creativity. Without it, characters fall flat, stories feel contrived, and the writer struggles to create a narrative that resonates with herself, much less readers. Often, creativity seems more like a precious drop of rain than an endless well of ideas.

    There is no cure-all for writer’s block, but one thing is sure: finding a vein of inspiration is like striking gold.

    These veins come in many forms: culture, love, family, experience, and imagination. One of the most valuable forms is your childhood. If you hit writer’s block like a brick wall, revisiting the past may be the perfect way to discover new ideas and characters for the future.

    Why Your Childhood is Valuable

    You only get one chance to see the world through the eyes of a child. It’s a radically different perspective than an adult, but don’t discard it because you were young. In fact, a nine-year-old knows enough about life and love to fear death and flee pain.

    These, consequently, are the most basic and essential ingredients of story. Why not use your early years, when everything was new and interesting and bright, as a starting place for inspiration?

    A Few Words About Power Rangers

    Power Rangers were a new phenomenon my first year of school. I was five or six at the time, and my mom emphatically told me I wasn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers because it was violent. My classmates, on the other hand, were obsessed.

    Not only did they watch the show, they became the show. When the bell rattled for morning recess, the kindergarten playground exploded into a dusty battle between humans, monsters, and power rangers.

    There were specific rules. For starters, there could only be one of each power ranger. This meant two things: First, roughly 60 percent of the class had to play civilians or bad guys. Secondly, all the girls would fight over the pink power ranger.

    I didn’t watch the show, so I spent these recesses taking mental notes on the battles instead of participating. This didn’t bother me; I enjoyed observing the game as much as the idea of participating in it.

    One girl, Cameron, was always the pink power ranger.  She would flit across the monkey bars, firing an occasional pew! pew! at the boys and run away, a blonde ponytail bobbing in the wind behind her. Another classmate, whose name was Robby (he was also my kindergarten boyfriend, but that’s another story), was the self-proclaimed red power ranger. He spent most of the game saving civilians from the jungle-gym-turned-jail.

    I tell you this story not because it’s fuel for great literature, but because it sparked a chain reaction of memories, people, places, and events from my past.

    What do you remember from your first year of school? If you’re struggling to find new ideas, flashbacks like these can kick start your creativity. You may even find a character from these ramblings wander into your next story.

    A few prompts to help you overcome a creative dry spell:

    • Who was your favorite elementary teacher and why?
    • Who were your friends? What did you do together?
    • What did you talk about around the lunch table?
    • What was your favorite subject in the first and second grades?

    What happens if I can’t remember the details?

    When people ask me what I write, I usually say “fiction,” and follow it up with a comment about fictionalized autobiography. Fictionalized autobiography is a great tool for writers. Firstly, it gives you the freedom to bend and shape memories into a cohesive story.

    It also helps you fill in the blanks. If you don’t remember your best friend’s name from the third grade, that’s okay. Make one up. If you don’t recall exactly what the weather was like your first day of school, no one is going to travel back in time and correct you if it’s wrong.

    In fact, one could say there is a very thin line between autobiography and fictionalized autobiography. After all, the way you remember the past reflects you, even if it isn’t 100% factual.

    Closing Thoughts

    Childhood is full of first impressions. I am not blessed with a reliable memory, but I recall certain experiences from my early years with startling accuracy. I remember the first time I felt ashamed for failing in school, the first time I regretted being tall because it made me different, and the time I won a class prize for the second-best finger painting of a pumpkin.

    Step away from your computer or close your notebook. Take a few minutes to revisit some impressions from your childhood. Chances are, somewhere in the past, you’ll find an experience, situation, or person worth writing about.

    For more tips and blogs about the writing craft, visit Emily Brady at www.plotboilers.com.

    What are your tips for overcoming writer’s block?

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    Check out this guest post from Emily Brady on @brianawrites’ blog with tips for overcoming writer’s block! (Click to tweet)

  • Guest Post by Kelly Sedinger: What Might Have Been

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    Hello to all of Briana Morgan’s readers! Our host has been gracious enough to offer me space here to write a guest post, so here it is. By way of introduction, my name is Kelly Sedinger, my official website is ForgottenStars.net, my personal blog is Byzantium’s Shores (byzantiumshores.blogspot.com), and my Twitter and Instagram handles are both “@jaquandor”. I have one book out right now, Stardancer, which is Book One of my space opera series, The Song of Forgotten Stars.

    It’s been a dream of mine to be successful enough to be interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Obviously now that can’t happen, but…here’s how it might have gone down:

    JON STEWART: My guest tonight was supposed to be a young singer, very promising, named, uh…[checks piece of blue paper]Beyonce. She couldn’t make it tonight, and apparently neither could anybody else, so we have here an author I’ve never heard of and neither, likely, have you!

    [Audience laughter]

    JON STEWART: He has one book out, called Stardancer, and he’s here to talk about self-publishing. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kelly…Sedinger!

    [Nobody notices that he mispronounces the surname. I come out, shake his hand, and wave to the baffled-looking audience, which is applauding politely but still making clear their disappointment that I’m not Beyonce.]

    ME: Thanks, Jon.

    JON: Hey, like I said, I have no idea who you are.

    ME: That’s gonna make this interview hard to get off the ground.

    JON: You’re telling me.

    [We stare at each other.]

    JON: Uh, why don’t you tell us about yourself?

    ME: My name is–

    JON: How about this. Tell us why we should read this book.

    ME: Well, it’s about…it’s…well, the hell with it. It’s awesome. I wrote the shit out of that book. Seriously. If you like stories about princesses who are lost in space, this is the book for you.

    JON: I didn’t have time to read it.

    ME: Well, I hope you will. [I face the audience.] Goes for all you people, too.

    JON: Princesses. Lost in space.

    ME: Yup. I love space opera – that’s the part of science fiction that’s about, you know, big ships and galactic wars and lost alien civilizations and all that. I’m playing at the Star Wars end of the pool. And if you like strong female characters, I’ve got those.

    JON: Yeah, why are the characters all women?

    ME: It’s sort of an homage to the films of Hayao Miyazaki. He’s always been great at writing good female characters, women with agency and with strengths and flaws who don’t take back seat to men. I like to think that if Miyazaki ever made a space opera film, it would look a little like Stardancer.

    JON: So here’s the question. If it’s that good, why did it have to be self-published?

    [Audience laughter]

    JON: No, really, I’m serious. There’s a perception about self-published books that they’re the books that nobody wanted to publish because they–

    ME: They suck?

    JON: I wasn’t gonna say suck. [laughs] Yeah, I was gonna say, they suck. [Audience laughs] Or that there’s a drop in quality, without the professional work being done to make the book really good. Is that fair?

    ME: Nope. Not even close, Jon.

    JON: OK! Tell me why I’m wrong.

    ME: Well, for one thing, let’s stop calling it “self-publishing”. I think a better term would be “Independent publishing”.

    JON: Isn’t it the same thing?

    ME: Well, here’s the thing. We love independent film. We love the idea of a nobody named Kevin Smith, deciding that he’s gonna make a movie and he’s gonna max out his credit cards to do it and that he’s gonna wind up with a movie called Clerks. Right? And we love independent music, too. Everybody knows that really good local band, right? The one that makes its living touring and playing gigs and selling CDs that they make themselves because they’re not sitting on a big contract with Geffen Records or whoever. Maybe it’s a bit more esoteric, but independent comics are a thing, too. Go to any big city comic book convention or a nice-sized comics store and you’ll see independent comics, stuff not published by the Marvels and the DC’s and the Dark Horses of the world. See what I’m getting at?

    JON: No.

    ME: That’s OK.

    [Jon laughs. I’m starting to win him over.]

    ME: Independent film, independent music, independent comics. Why not independent books?

    JON: So, why then has there not been independent books until now? Why now?

    ME: I think it’s about infrastructure, Jon. Independent film can be a thing because every city of any size, or any small city with a big university, will have film festivals or film clubs where small pictures can be seen. We all know how independent music works – local festivals, selling CDs and MP3s on your websites, touring, playing shitty gigs and not-so-shitty gigs. Comics, same thing. But until now, there really hasn’t been that same kind of infrastructure for independent books. That’s finally changing now, with print-on-demand and with e-readers.

    JON: So it’s been a matter of availability.

    ME: To a large extent, yes, I think so. The only way to sell books, for the most part, has been for people to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelves. That’s pretty engrained as our way of buying literature in this world. But now, things are shifting. Bookstores are still huge, and that’s a tough nut to crack, but we’re working on it. Anyway, it’s possible now to sell a book in a real independent way and do well with it. Maybe not like a new Stephen King book, but who knows? Maybe we’re just not quite there yet.

    JON: OK, that explains the entire self-publishing thing.

    ME: Independent, Jon. Come on, now.

    JON: OK, independent. I’ll bet your teachers loved you.

    ME: Not really, no.

    JON: Well, that’s surprising. So why didn’t your book sell, though? Is self-independent publishing for people whose books aren’t quite good enough? How do we combat that?

    ME: By doing the hard work of selling our own books and advocating for other independent authors and letting word-of-mouth work its magic. It’s hard, but we’ll get there.

    JON: But back to your book–

    ME: I don’t know why it didn’t sell. I do have some ideas. In terms of writing and reading level, I think it’s YA – that’s Young Adult – but it’s way too long for a standard YA book. Maybe JK Rowling can come along with a 250,000 word Harry Potter novel, but she’s JK Rowling and she didn’t get to do that until the fifth one. I’m only me. So there’s that.

    JON: Why not just write it shorter, then?

    ME: Because I’m stubborn and pigheaded and I’m willing to take a risk on my own behalf. Industry standards are industry standards, and when you flout them you’re rolling dice, obviously. But they’re not immutable laws of nature. Look, the great William Goldman said something famous about Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.” They don’t know why anything ever really clicks with the public or why it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean they can just make any piece of crap they want, but nothing ever goes the way they think it’s going to go. Everybody thought Titanic would fail, until it went out there and beat everything. You never know.

    JON: What’s that have to do with–

    ME: I don’t know why the book didn’t sell. They don’t tell you when they reject you. But writing and publishing aren’t like baseball. Getting published isn’t like when a Triple-A player gets called up to the Majors, and independent authors aren’t lesser writers. Publishing is a business, and a lot of good work goes unpublished for lots of reasons. My book is a space opera. Maybe the publishers I submitted to had enough space operas for one year. Maybe they just bought a book kinda like it. Maybe they only had budget for one more book in their fiscal year and someone else’s was better. And maybe it just didn’t click with the editors. There’s always personal taste involved. But none of that means that my book isn’t worthy of being read. And none of that means that any book is unworthy of being read. If an author has skill, and if they have worked hard to make the book as good as they possibly can, then who knows? The gatekeepers are still there, but it turns out that the gates aren’t the only way into the Promised Land. The flip side of all this is, though, that maybe your book is really good and disappears without a trace because you’re bad at marketing. That’s the part of the game I still need to work on.

    JON: So, what you’re saying is–

    ME: My book doesn’t suck.

    JON: OK. What’s next for you?

    ME: Book Two, later this year. It’s called The Wisdomfold Path. Next year, Book Three, and a supernatural thriller I’ve been working on. And there’s a long-term fantasy adventure novel I’ve been kicking around, but that’s a really big project.

    JON: So hopefully we’ll all have heard of you soon?

    ME: That’s the plan.

    JON: OK. The book is Stardancer, available online. Author Kelly Sedinger, everybody!

    [Audience applauds.]

    AFTER THE COMMERCIAL BREAK

    JON: Here it is, your moment of Zen.

    [CUT TO a funny video of something….]

    What do you think of Kelly’s imaginary interview?

    Tweet tweet:

    In this funny guest post for @brianawrites, @Jaquandor imagines what an interview with Jon Stewart would be like. (Click to tweet)

  • Guest Post by Rae Oestreich: Getting Things Done and Keeping Life Organized

    calendar
    Trying to grow a platform or social-media presence while also making time for your day job, family, and the multitude of other responsibilities that you’ve signed up for is, in a word: difficult. Not in the actual things that need to be done, but rather in finding the time to do them.

    Knowing how to manage your time is an extremely useful skill you can always work on growing. Plus, it’s a challenge, and I love a good challenge. Who doesn’t?

    Without further ado, here’s a short-ish list of my advice for staying organized and getting everything done (a.k.a. a list for staying organized and not freaking out)-

    Put Your To-Do List into a Calendar

    Above all, giving yourself a schedule is going to be your friend. Block out your time and know your deadlines. You don’t have to have every minute of every day blocked out for one task in particular; simply know when there’s a specific place you have to be. That way, you can plan around those things in your “free” time: writing blog posts, Twitter chats, reading and writing book reviews, commenting on other blogs (and commenting back on yours!), etc.

    There’s two ways to keep schedules that I like (out of personal preference, but I’m sure there’s more):

    • A Weekly Planner
    • Google Calendar

    A visual schedule like the two options above is going to help you keep appointments and deadlines straight at a glance, and keep you from accidentally cross-scheduling (planning two things for the same time; that’s bad).

    Once your to-do list is out of that tangled knot in your head and down on paper in an organized fashion, everything will look  a lot more do-able. Here’s a few more hints on managing that calendar:

    • Give everything a solid deadline instead of a loose, “do it when you have time.” That “time” will never come. If a task doesn’t come with a hard deadline, then give yourself one. Otherwise, you’ll keep pushing it off and it’ll never get done.
    • Remember your constants. Your “constants” are things like writing (if you’re a writer), reading (for readers), responding to emails, and other daily responsibilities. Once you get the hang of a schedule you might not need to put these things into your calendar, but it might be useful until you get the hang of regularly/naturally carving out time for these things.
    • After you have your schedule, keep to it. It takes about seven consecutive days to build a habit—keep going! Your schedule might seem stiff and hard to stick to at first, but give it time and it’ll help you stay organized.

    Remember Your Deadlines

    Probably shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it: once you put all that time into making a schedule, remember to look at it every now and again. That way, you’ll know what needs to be done and when. A few tips:

    • Complete your tasks in the order they’re going to expire. Kind of self-explanatory, but yeah.
    • Use Post-It notes to give you a visual of your most pressing tasks. Writing one obligation per Post-It note and sticking them onto your desk/work area means that once something’s done, you get the satisfaction of crumpling it up and throwing it out.
    • If you’ve got a few small projects, and one large one, complete the small ones first. They’ll take less time, and by getting them out of the way you’ll leave a larger, consecutive chunk of time to focus on only the large project, without the sheer number of things to do making you nervous (example: writing your few blog posts before reading that next book you owe a review).

    Plan Ahead

    This one’s simple: when you’ve got the opportunity to plan and work ahead, do it. Even if it’s one blog post, one book, a few emails, Pinterest images (for those of you who cross-post there), etc. Writing and scheduling these things beforehand is going to be your friend. Don’t wait until the last minute to try to get things cranked out; it adds unneeded stress to see your email get backed up, for example, or to know you have a nonexistent blog post publishing in two hours. If you find the time, see what small tasks you can get done now, rather than later.

    Be Aware of Your Limits (a.k.a. It’s Okay to Tell People ‘No’)

    Guys, you can’t do it all. I know you wish you could, but you can’t. There’s going to come a time when somebody asks you for something – a favor, a beta-read, a book review, etc. – and you’re simply going to have to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time.” It really sucks, especially if it’s something you really want to do, but it happens. Know your limits.

    Remember to Sleep, Eat Right, Hydrate, and Relax

    I’m not even kidding. Try getting yourself into bed and your head on the pillow at a minimum of seven hours before you’re planning on waking up; if you can get into bed sooner, great! Remember to eat: breakfast, lunch, and dinner; or, breakfast, and a few well-sized snacks as the day goes on. Drink lots of water. Every now and again, give yourself a break so you can recharge. You’re not the Energizer bunny; you don’t have to be “on” all the time.

    *

    And that, folks, is really all there is to it: staying organized and getting things done. Calendars are your friend when it comes to life – both online and on social media, and in life. A final tip: don’t sacrifice your passions. Find time for the things you care about, be it writing, drawing, painting, family, friends. Don’t let the things you care about suffer because you think there’s more important things because, well, there’s always going to be “more important” things.

    Thanks so much, Briana, for inviting me in, and please let me know in the comments how ya’ll get things done and stay organized as you juggle your responsibilities! I’m always looking for new ways to stay organized!

    What are your tips for getting things done and staying organized?

    Tweet tweet:

    “Don’t sacrifice your passions,” and other great time management tips from @Rae_Oestreich on @brianawrites’ blog. (Click to tweet)