• Why You Should Post Your Novel on Wattpad

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    This might be news to some of you who don’t follow me on social media, but I just started posting my novel to Wattpad. It’s called BLOOD AND WATER, and it’s about a 17 year-old named Jay Harris who is living in the midst of a deadly pandemic. It’s the first time I’ve posted a work-in-progress to Wattpad. When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now, I adore it.

    Let me tell you why you should post your novel to Wattpad: whether it’s finished or not, it’s a great way to get free feedback on your writing. Wattpad is an active community filled with tons of people who love engaging with writers. If you’re worried about receiving criticism, you can relax – the majority of comments made on the site are overwhelmingly positive. Speaking from personal experience, it’s tough to run into someone who’s outright rude or disrespectful.

    Another great thing about posting your novel on Wattpad is that it motivates you to keep writing. When readers are asking for your next update, you feel compelled to write it. If I fall behind schedule with updates, I feel like I’m letting my readers down. That feeling motivates me to keep going and to post as soon as possible. Also, there’s something addictive about getting feedback for each chapter. The potential for engagement keeps me posting chapters, too.

    “But Briana,” you say, “I can’t post my first draft on the Internet!” Well, why not? If it’s because the prose isn’t perfect, don’t worry about it. Like I said before, the Wattpad community is incredibly positive. Moreover, putting up your first draft gives readers a peek into the writing process. A lot of people believe the prose is polished right when it flows out. When you post your rough draft, you’re showing everyone how much work it takes to turn the coal into a diamond. You’re letting them in on a secret. They’ll love you more for it.

    “Okay, but what if somebody steals what I’ve written?” I understand this concern because it’s one I also struggled with when I started posting; however, the reality is that stealing is highly unlikely. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s hardly ever done. The same philosophy that applies to publishing applies to Wattpad, too – most people would rather come up with their own ideas than steal someone else’s and risk confrontation.

    As you can see, I’ve learned a lot from posting on Wattpad. Sometimes I doubt my decision, but on the whole, I’m happy with it. If you’re considering posting your novel to Wattpad, go ahead and take the plunge. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

    Feel free to follow me on Wattpad – I almost always follow back! 🙂

    What do you think about Wattpad? What’s keeping you from posting your novel online? Leave your thoughts and answers in the comments below.

    Tweet tweet:

    Have you thought about posting your novel on @Wattpad? @brianawrites has a few reasons you should. (Click to tweet)

    The @Wattpad community is amazing. Read why @brianawrites thinks you should get involved. (Click to tweet)

  • Why I Won’t Stick to Scrivener

    Woman Typing on Vintage Typewriter
    Photo Credit: Lívia Cristina on Flickr

    Earlier this week, I was telling my friend Rae that I was trying to get into the hang of using Scrivener when she mentioned that she didn’t use it. I feel like every other writer I meet uses Scrivener, so I was taken aback. Put simply, Rae prefers simplicity. She can’t resist the shiny lure of Scrivener’s buttons and folders, so she doesn’t write there. It makes sense.

    Of course, the conversation got me thinking: why was I even using Scrivener? I’ve never had any real issues with Word. Sure, it lags with some of my longer documents, but I can deal with that. Like I said, a lot of writers I know love Scrivener. Maybe their influence led me to purchase the product? I’m not blaming anyone for my decision, but I’m interested in finding out why I thought I had to have it.

    I still don’t know anything about Scrivener. I’ve been trying to use it for months, but I haven’t been able to make it work for me. Like Rae said, there are too many distractions. I spend more time moving folders around and clicking things than actually writing, which is a problem.

    Author Ksenia Anske (she’s FANTASTIC) just sticks to plain old Word. She’s found what works for her, so why change anything? Sometimes simplest is best.

    Writer Stephen Moran expressed a similar sentiment to me the other day when we were talking about computers. I mentioned wanting a Mac so that I could take advantage of iMovie. He told me that he had a Mac for the longest time and loved it, but he seldom used it for writing. Now that he has a basic PC, he gets much more work done (check out my review of his novel ELLA here – it’s an excellent book).

    I’m not telling you to uninstall Scrivener. If you’re using it to write and it works for you, great. I just don’t want you to think you have to stick to something because it’s what everyone else uses. When it comes to achieving success as a writer, your best bet is to do whatever best suits you. For me, that means writing in Microsoft Word, outlining on index cards, and printing the MS before I read through it. That’s what works for me. I hope you find what works for you.

    What do you think? How do you feel about writing software? What programs or technologies do you use to write?

    Tweet tweet:

    Don’t feel guilty for not using Scrivener, says @brianawrites. (Click to tweet)

    According to @brianawrites, when it comes to writing, you should stick with what works for you. (Click to tweet)

  • How to Blog When You’re Busy

    Busy City Street
    Photo Credit: Matthias Rhomberg on Flickr

    As someone with a full-time job and a lot of errands to run, I understand how difficult it can be to blog when you’re busy.

    If blogging is important to you, a loaded schedule can be frustrating. You want to post consistently (the most important part of blogging), but you just don’t have the time. “If only there were a few more hours in a day,” I can almost hear you say. Well, that’s where I might be able to help.

    Based on my personal experience, I’ve compiled a list of tips on how to blog when you’re busy.

    • Go for quality over quantity. When you’re busy, remind yourself it’s okay to keep blog posts short. After all, the average person isn’t going to want to invest more than ten minutes reading any given article. People like short and sweet. As long as you’re posting regularly, you can get away with writing articles between 250 and 500 words. Save the long posts for weekend writing… which brings me to my next point.
    • Write your posts ahead of time. Regardless of your posting frequency (I do three blog entries per week), the easiest way to update your blog every week is to compose your posts on the weekends and schedule them to go live while you’re at school or work. That’s what I do with about 80% of my posts. If you want to interact and share your blogs on social media, do that in real time. But schedule the posting. It helps more than you think.
    • Focus on being helpful and informative, not on crafting viral content. If you set out to write the *perfect* blog post, you’re going to let yourself down. Instead of getting discouraged, be careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As a blogger, you should strive to educate or help other people in some way, not to create something gimmicky that might just go viral (spoiler: you can’t make something go viral; it happens organically). People reading your blog want to gain some kind of insight from it. That’s why they’re there.

    Running a blog when you’ve already got a full plate may seem daunting, but it can be done. I’ve managed to keep this blog active through college, retail jobs, and my current full-time work. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been rewarding. Give these tips a try and see what happens.

    What tips do you have for blogging on a busy schedule?

    Tweet tweet:

    You can still blog on a busy schedule! @brianawrites tells you how. (Click to tweet

    Want to blog but don’t have time? @brianawrites shares some helpful tips. (Click to tweet)

  • Coffee Shop Etiquette for Writers

    Cup of Coffee

    I love writing in Barnes & Noble.

    There’s a big one in my hometown with a little Starbucks in it and I love to sit down there and get some work done. There’s nothing like being surrounded by books and inhaling the scent of fresh roasted coffee while pounding away on my laptop.

    I spend so much time in coffee shops that I’ve noticed an unspoken code of behavior for working from a coffice (coffee shop office).  If you like working in coffee shops, there are a few rules you should follow.

    Share Your Space

    Stick to the one chair per customer rule. Your butt gets a chair. Put your stuff on the floor. Don’t hog the seats. Also, if you’re sitting at a table and the coffee shop is busy, don’t spread your stuff out all over the place. Share the table. Basic stuff.

    Buy Something!

    If you’re sitting in a coffee shop, you’re a customer. It’s your duty to purchase something. You should be buying a drink or snack every ninety minutes to two hours. If you don’t want to buy anything, try to keep your visit to an hour or less – just know that you’re disrespectful for using the space without giving back,

    Be Kind to Other Customers and Workers

    Most coffee shops have tip jars. I encourage you to use them, especially if you spend a lot of time in that particular location. If someone asks you to watch their stuff, watch their stuff. If you need to listen to something, bring headphones. Take calls outside. Don’t hog power outlets. Here’s a bright idea – bring your own power strip and make some new friends.

    When it comes to writing in coffee shops, these are some simple rules for human behavior to follow. It all boils down to this: don’t be a jerk.

    Do you like writing in coffee shops? What are some other unspoken rules for working there that you can think of?

    Tweet tweet:

    The key to coffee shop etiquette for writers? Writer @thecollegenov says, “Don’t be a jerk.” (Click to tweet)

  • Watch Your Mouth: Tips for Writing Profanity

    Photo credit: Christian Bucad on Flickr

    Many writers worry about putting swear words in their writing. For one reason or another, I’ve had several people tell me that they want to keep curse words out of characters’ dialogue. I believe in using profanity, but only when it’s needed. Cursing works well if it’s done correctly. Check out these tips for writing swear words without going overboard.

    Moderation is Key

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I enjoyed reading the book, but there was too much profanity. It was distracting.” When it comes to using swears, a little goes a long way. When every other word sounds like sailor speak, you’ve ventured into dangerous territory. Try to use profanity only when it feels absolutely necessary.

    Diction Reveals Character

    The words that your characters use say a great deal about them. If a character would swear, let him swear; if not, you shouldn’t force it. In one of my short stories, a woman preaches against profanity and disciplines her son whenever he uses “off-limits words.” However, when the woman finds out that her husband is missing in action, she is so shocked that she curses: “You’re shitting me… what the hell does ‘missing’ mean?” In this example, the shift in diction shows the woman’s inner turmoil.

    Consider Your Audience

    You should probably steer clear of using foul language if you’re writing a novel for the Christian fiction market. Likewise, if you’re writing YA, make sure you’re aware of profanity guidelines. For example, words like f***, g*d***, c***, and m*****f***** are hot-button swears that a lot of YA publishers would prefer not to see. Also, just so we’re clear, Go the F*** to Sleep, is not actually a children’s book (though it is hilarious).

    When in Doubt, Take It Out

    If you don’t get the warm fuzzies reading something you’ve written, make some cuts. Most likely, your work won’t suffer if you take out some bad words.

    You’re more than welcome to use profanity in your writing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The key is making sure you don’t use them excessively. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you write swearing and you should be good to go.

    How do you feel about reading profanity? What about writing it?

    Tweet tweet:

    Afraid your swearing will scare off readers? Writer @thecollegenov has some advice about profanity. (Click to tweet)

  • Maleficent and Writing Villains

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    The other day my mother and I went to see Maleficent. In spite of not knowing much about the film going in, she and I both thoroughly enjoyed it. From the cinematography to the makeup to the characters themselves, everything was wonderful.

    What captured my attention most of all was Maleficent.

    Why?

    Because she was portrayed as a sympathetic character rather than a one-dimensional villain.

    I’ll refrain from spoiling as much as I can. All you need to know is that in this version of the classic tale, we get much more of Maleficent’s backstory. We see her as a young faerie and learn about the events that have hardened her heart. It is easier for us to understand her (otherwise questionable) actions because we know her past experiences and have a better sense of her wants and motivations.

    Most importantly, Maleficent is dynamic. At the end of the film, she is a different woman than she is toward the beginning. Once again, I don’t want to spoil, so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

    Maleficent was delightful, refreshing, and entertaining. While watching the film, I also learned a great deal about writing likable and three-dimensional villains. Whenever you want to add depth to your baddies, make sure they have a backstory, clear motive for what they do, and some kind of arc.

    If the villain hasn’t been changed by the events of the story, then what is the point for the story at all?

    Have you seen the movie? What did you think? What do you think is the key to creating quality villains?

    P.S. The 4 “A”s of Characterization, How to Develop Stronger Characters, and How to Get into Your Characters’ Heads.

  • Twitter for Writers

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    Twitter is one of the greatest under-utilized resources for writers at the moment. It’s a great way to promote your work, communicate with other writers, find some writing advice, and have a fantastic time. I only recently started spending some serious time on Twitter, and I could kick myself for not using it sooner.

    So why should you set up a Twitter account?

    Well, this social media platform is a spectacular way to get your name out there and build up a following. You can promote your work, support other writers who want to promote their work, and link to content that you think other people might find interesting. I promote my blog posts and freelance work through Twitter and it’s gotten me a lot more exposure than I would’ve gotten otherwise.

    Twitter is also a great place to get in touch with other writers. I’ve met so many wonderful people on Twitter, most of them writers. They support my work and I support theirs. We talk about all things writing and non-writing. If you’re not currently involved with groups of other writers, Twitter is the best way to meet like-minded individuals. Whenever I interact with other writers on the site, I feel as though there is a sense of community.

    Another good reason to use Twitter? Writing advice. Seriously. There are so many amazing tips that get passed around for free. All you have to do is type “writing tips” or “writing advice” into the search bar and millions of helpful Tweets will pop up. The internet is truly a glorious place.

    If you don’t have a Twitter account, you need to sign up. If you already have one, you should be using it more. And you should definitely be following other writers (*ahem* ME). Tell me you followed me over from this blog and I will most likely follow you back.

    What do you think of Twitter? How does it help you as a writer?

    P.S Avoid Distractions While Writing.

  • Book Review: The Successful Novelist by David Morrell

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    David Morrell is a genius.

    There’s no getting around that fact. After reading this book, I am more than convinced that this man has more writing talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body.

    I digress.

    When I mentioned on Twitter that Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most influential books about writing that I have ever read, someone suggested that I look up David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing.

    I’m delighted I did.

    This book, like King’s, provides a veritable treasure trove of knowledge regarding the craft and the business of writing. However, Morrell takes a much more practical approach, giving out advice for you to use in your daily writing sessions. King’s book is largely memoir with some practical bits sprinkled in. On the whole, Morrell seems so much more approachable.

    The Successful Novelist is suitable for writers of all skill levels. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been writing for ages, this book is for you.

    It’s also short, succinct, and easy to read and understand. What more could you want?

    Go out and pick up your copy today. This book will change your life.

    Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What book would you like to see me review next?

    P.S. Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown.

  • 3 Types of Scenes to Cut from Your WIP

    Upturned Silhouetted Profile Against a Blue-Green Background

    It never ceases to amaze me how much bad writing there is in the world.

    Truly, when you think about it, you can most likely remember more poorly-written books you’ve read than well-written ones. Why is that? Bad prose tends to stick in our memory. Think of it as a kind of gruesome car accident–you know you shouldn’t watch it, but you can’t look away.

    Bad writing is almost predictable in its awfulness. That is, there are several contributing factors to a poorly-written piece that can be seen almost across the board.

    If you want to avoid bad writing, you need to avoid the factors that contribute to bad writing. One way you can do that is by cutting these scenes.

    1. Mirror Scenes

    Nothing in prose irritates me more than getting character description from a reflection. Most of the time, these scenes consist of a character peering into the nearest reflective surface–whether it be a mirror or a lake or even a spoon–and commenting on his or her appearance as though noticing it for the first time. How many times do you look in the mirror and look yourself over from head to toe, noting your “caramel-colored eyes” or “luscious red curls.” Probably never. Honestly,there are better ways to reveal a character’s appearance.

    2. Dream Sequences

    Oh, goodness. Dream sequences, for me, are right up there with mirror scenes. The only difference is that, unlike a mirror scene, a well-written dream sequence can serve the plot. For example, in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, dreams form an integral part of the story. Unfortunately not all dream sequences are created equal. I’ve seen authors slip in dreams seemingly only for the sake of making word count. Don’t do that. If you’re going to use a dream, make sure it’s relevant to what’s going in in your story.

    3. Commonplace Exchanges

    I once read a novel in which a whole chapter was spent chronicling a trip to the grocery store. I wish I were kidding. If your scene or chapter doesn’t reveal character or move the plot along, you’re better off without it. No one wants to watch your protagonist picking out produce. We do that enough in our own lives as it is.

    These are just three types of scenes that can be removed for the sake of strengthening your piece. I know there are others, but these cover most of the big-picture problems.

    What types of scenes do you cut from your work? Do you agree with these three?

    P.S. The Art (Not Science) of Chapter BreaksAvoiding Genre Fixation, From Daily Writing Tips: 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer, and Said Isn’t Dead.

  • Time Limit versus Word Count

    Typewriter Sitting in the Middle of a Field

    As writers, daily writing is absolutely vital to our success as artists.

    I’ve discussed the merits and strategies of daily writing before. There’s not much sense doing it again.

    Instead, I’m going to share my new outlook on daily writing with you: focus on writing for a set period of time each day rather than a specific word count.

    Why? Because it works.

    I used to believe in making word count every day. The number varied from 500 to 2000 words, depending on my project at the time, and I made sure to reach that word count no matter what happened each day.

    Or at least, I tried to.

    The problem with writing to reach a certain word count is that life happens. For people like Stephen King, whose entire lives revolve around and are dedicated to the craft of writing, it’s easy to sit down and pound out 2000 words or more each day. For the common man or woman, however, this feat is far from easy.

    I now write for half an hour each and every day. I don’t necessarily have to add anything new to my manuscript, but that time must be spent doing something related to my current project. For example, if I’m busy, I might spend this half an hour working on my characters or doing some research. That way, I’m still getting work done, but I’m not killing myself over it. I’m not stressing out about reaching some number.

    Time limits are flexible. Time limits understand. Time limits help you focus without losing your mind; allowing you to write without taking away the fun of writing.

    If you’re feeling overworked, why not drop the word count? Try setting a timer for thirty minutes instead.

    What do you think about writing for a set time? What are your thoughts on reaching word count?

    P.S. The Kurosawa Guide to Daily Writing, The Importance of Daily Writing, Finding Time to Write, and The Beginner’s Guide to Daily Writing.