Plotter or Pantser


Are You a Plotter or Pantser?
What is your preferred method of writing. Do you like to write freely with little more than a main idea as your direction? Or, do you prefer to outline your story or novel first, then allow your fingers to fly over the keyboard? I find that I write with more clarity and more efficiently if I have a plan. When I just “go for it” with little more than a main idea my rewrite is so laborious that I avoid tackling it for weeks at a time. So, I prefer to outline the basics of what I want to say, and let my creativity fly within that framework.

Considering what Plot is can be confusing. If Plot is “what happens”, why does the discussion instantly branch out to character development, inciting incident, tension building to the climax, etc., etc., etc. The answer is—story plot and story structure always go together. You cannot have one without the other.

Plot is “what happens” in a story. In essence, Plots are the events that move a character from one point to another shaping the story with conflict: inward and outward, emotional and physical. Each event brings an element of tension and conflict to the story. What should be the first step to developing the plot? Knowing what we want to say—then theme, and the creation of a main character, the protagonist.

The protagonist needs an intense goal with obstacles in the way of the goal. He or she must overcome each obstacle to reach the goal. The path through each event is dynamic as internal and external conflicts arise.  This drives the action of the plot forward, and grabs our reader’s interest in such a way that they don’t put the book down. 
 
Writing a story involves creativity and discovery. Ask yourself questions to uncover the events, the setting, and the conflicts. Ask, ask and ask some more. Follow the answers and keep asking why? Important connections will follow from this way to discovery.

A one-sentence premise is essential to a strong story. The premise will serve as a map to guide and focus the writing. It is a tough job to condense the story idea to one sentence, but it’s important and will be used again, and again as you pitch your book to agents, publishers, and consumers.

Plotting is an involved journey. Have fun with it!
 
Deborah Lyn Stanley is a writer, artist, and editor.  She is a retired project manager who now devotes her time to writing, art and caregiving mentally impaired seniors.  Deborah writes articles, essays and stories. She has published a collection of 24 artists’ interviews entitled the Artists Interview Series.  Careful editing preserves the artist’s voice as they share their journey. The series published as monthly articles for an online news network, can also be found on her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley - Writers Blog.  Her “How-To” articles have appeared in magazines. 
“Write your best, in your voice, your way!”
 
 
 

Does Your Business Card Include the Basics?


By W. Terry Whalin

Because of my years in publishing and attending many conferences, I've become an expert at skimming business cards on the spot with writers. My actions spring from my own frustration with missing information. Over the years, I've exchanged thousands of cards with people at writer's conferences. When I did not glance at the card on the spot, I would tuck it into my pocket, take it home, then discover missing information like a phone number or email or mailing address. As an editor, it would force me to email this person and gather the missing information (wasting time and energy).

The best time to gather this missing information is when you are meeting face to face with this person. Recently I was in Nashville for a Morgan James Publishing author event. I met a number of authors at this event and exchanged business cards. One of these authors, a medical doctor-turned-writer-podcaster, lived nearby in Boulder, Colorado. When we exchanged cards, I glanced at the information and it only contained his website. There was no email address nor phone number. He said, “My email address is on my website and I want people to go to my website.” It was good to know he had a rationale for the missing information—but I still collected it on the spot and wrote his email and phone on his business card. Others might not have his information from his business card but I gathered this important data on the spot.

When I attend events, my business card is one of the key tools that I use. Some of my long-term friends are amused at the changes in my business card over the years. I've added and improved my cards. Each time I reprint, I evaluate the information to see if it contains what I need. Because I work for a New York publisher, I have a business card which contains my photo, direct dial phone number, work email, and other information. Here's my Morgan James business card:
Whalin Morgan James business card - front
Whalin Morgan James business card - back
Yet I live in Colorado and I'm also an author with my own blog, local mailing address and books. In recent years, I've been carrying two business cards. The local card shows off this information. Here's my personal business card:


Whalin Personal business card - front
Whalin Personal business card - back
Since I've shown you what I'm using for my business card. Now take a minute to review your card and make sure it includes the basics:

*a current photo

*your phone and email address

*your physical address (or at least your city to give the receiver your time zone)

*twitter name

*blog website

*giveaway to build your email list (one of the most important author tools)

How did you do on the basics? Are you missing something? The most difficult element to proofread is something that is missing. That's why we need a checklist to make sure you cover everything. If you are missing some element maybe it's time to reprint your business cards.

Let me know your experience with business cards in the comments below.

Tweetable:

Business card basics. Get the details to make sure you aren't missing something here.  (ClickToTweet)
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W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books including his latest, Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist. Also Terry has written for more than 50 magazines and lives in Colorado. Follow him on Twitter where he has over 214,000 followers.
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Must You Write Every Day?


If you’re trying to become a successful writer, most people will tell you to write every day.

And generally, that is good advice.

However, I think it’s more important to write regularly than it is to write every day.

In fact, when someone thinks they must write every day in order to be a “real” writer, and then they are unable to do that, they often give up and quit writing altogether.

And I think that’s not only a mistake, it’s a real shame.

Why You Don’t Have to Write Every Day

As long as you create some sort of regular writing schedule for yourself, I don’t think you must write every day.

At least not every day of the year.

In fact, I know some very successful authors (with many books to their credit) who don’t write every day.

They don’t even write every month.

They have their writing months and their marketing months.

During the months they set aside for writing, they write.

They develop the manuscript for a new book during this time.

During their marketing months, they market their books – the ones already published or a new book that has just been released or is about to be released.

If these authors got the memo that said, “Real authors must write every day”, they would have stopped writing long ago. Instead, they created a writing schedule that worked for them.

You should do the same thing.

First, take a look at your writing goal or goals.

What do you want to accomplish as a writer in the next few months?

Next, look at your schedule for the coming months.

How much time can you devote to writing?

Is your goal realistic when you consider the amount of time you can work towards it?

If the goal isn’t realistic because you simply won’t have enough time to work towards it in the next few months, change the goal.

Usually, this just means creating a narrower goal.

Once you have created a more realistic goal, use your calendar to set up a regular writing schedule for the coming months.

If you know you’re planning to take two weeks vacation in August, for example, don’t plan to get any writing done during that time.

But do plan to double up on your writing for a few days or a few weeks once you return from vacation.

Are you usually very busy during the holidays (most people are)?

Then don’t schedule any writing sessions during that time.

Instead, plan to write before or after the holidays.

Create specific and realistic writing goals, and specific timeframes for working towards those goals and you’ll be able to become a successful writer.

Sometimes you’ll write every day.

Other times, you write very little or not at all.

But it won’t matter because you’ll still meet your writing goals, and that’s really what matters.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 30 published books.

For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing from Suzanne, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

5 Things to Write During a Power Outage


I don't know about your part of the world, but it is super-hot in sunny Southern California. There have been power outages throughout the city, and last night it was my neighborhood's turn. 

This got me thinking ... what can you do during a power outage ... aside from hoping your food doesn't spoil or you don't melt.

As I was waiting for my lights - and air conditioner - to come back on, I came up with this list. I wanted to save the battery on my computer, so I grabbed pen, paper, and my Huglight flashlight.

Here are 5 things you can work on when the power goes out.

1. Draft an Article. Whether you're on a deadline or there's a story or essay you've been meaning to write, draft it out on a piece of paper. You can do an extra edit when you transfer it to your computer later on.

2. List Ideas. Let your mind run wild. Brainstorm ideas for upcoming articles, stories, books, screenplays, poems, etc. Or start writing them.

3. Outline a Story. Did you just come up with a fabulous idea for a plot? Write it out in as little or much detail as your want. 

4. Work on Character Development. I think the most fun part about writing fiction is creating new characters. Spend some time and really get to know them.

5. Journal. My favorite go-to writing activity is journaling. Get everything - good, bad, fiction, non, ideas, issues, etc. - out of your head and onto the page. Then you can reboot and revisit, or not, at a later date.

There are plenty of creative things you can do when you waiting, whether it's for an appointment, standing in line, or for your electricity to come back on. Besides the time passes much more quickly when you are being productive.

What do you do when your power goes out? Do you spend it being creative? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group

She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast.

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Amazon Giveaways


I've been eyeing Amazon Giveaways for a while, now that they work for e-books as well as physical items. Giveaways help create buzz, cultivate potential future readers, and possibly earn those much-needed reviews.

So yesterday I decided to try it.

You can run a giveaway on any item you like, even if it's not yours, but I did it for my new e-book. Another idea is to give away prizes that are somehow related to your book. Then you can change the settings to make it less public and send the link only to your readers as a sort of loyalty reward. Various other possibilities make this a versatile tool.

This is how a giveaway goes:

-Go to your book (or whatever item you want to give away) and click on “Set up a Giveaway” near the bottom.

-Buy as many copies as you want to give away (so doing this on a sale day might be a good idea, depending on your pricing). You can choose from 1-50 copies, which means it's economical to play around and do small test giveaways. Pay as normal through Amazon. If you're giving away your own book, you will recoup some of this money as royalties when the sale goes through.

-Set various parameters, like if you want a random drawing at the end or if you want, for example, every 100th entrant to win.

-Decide what people must do in order to enter. Possibilities include following you on Amazon or Twitter, tweeting a message, watching a video, or answering a poll. You can also do it without requiring anything from the entrants, but I think getting followers or having people tweet about your book would be helpful marketing tools. It's a bit unclear how useful Amazon followers are. You can't see how many you have or contact them directly, but Amazon supposedly sends them e-mails when you publish new books or have other big events. Amazon may also ask you to write messages which they send on to your followers. If anyone has experience with this, it would be interesting to see in the comments below.

-Create a title for your giveaway.

-Write a short welcome message, a message to people once they've entered, and a message to the winner/winners (maximum 250 characters each). Look at some other giveaways to see examples of their welcome messages (usually a snappy contest or product description) and decide what will work best for you.

-Upload a photo of you (or your logo, etc). Don't upload your book cover here, as they'll automatically show the book cover below and you don't want to duplicate. Something went wrong with my picture, as it didn't appear when the giveaway went live. Unfortunately there's no preview.

-Submit it. Mine went live within a few minutes, though it can take several hours.

-Post your link on your social media, blogs, etc. For legal reasons, be sure to include wording like “enter for a chance to win,” not “enter to win.”

For more information, see Amazon's FAQs.

My Experience So Far:

In the first 4 hours that my giveaway was live, without me doing any advertising at all, 129 people entered the contest, and they all had to follow me on Amazon to do so. Then the rate slowed so that in 24 hours the number was about 180. 

 Obviously I wish one of the requirements were to subscribe to my mailing list, but it still seems a positive thing. Now I'm going to do a bit of promotion and see what happens.

If you're interested in Alaska, or just want to see how it works, check out my giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/76034327196b88cf

Your Experience?  

If any of you out there have done Amazon Giveaways, we'd all love you to share your wisdom in the comments below.




Being an Arizona girl, Melinda Brasher loves glaciers, streams, whales, bald eagles, and real trees with green leaves.  That's why she's in love with Alaska.  If you want to see a bit of Alaska for yourself, check out her latest book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; A Cruise and Port Guide.  Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.


Mindfulness and Writing

The other day I was in the grocery store and saw on the cover of Time Magazine the words “Mindfulness” with a corresponding story inside. Mindfulness has become the new buzz word. I recently attended a webinar to incorporate mindfulness into the classroom. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for about 5 years now. So, what is this crazy all about and can it help with our writing?

Mindfulness, at least to me, means to be aware of yourself in the present moment. If you stop right now and think about yourself sitting wherever you’re sitting and reading this article and experience the feeling of being aware of yourself in the present moment, what do you feel? If you feel a sort of exhilaration then followed by anxiety, well, you’re normal. When we are really “present” or living in the moment, it is exciting and thrilling. But, then, suddenly our minds take over and it kind of creeps us out and gives us a sense of anxiety mainly because we’re not used to it. However, with practice, you’ll get more and more used to it and even enjoy it.

When you think about it, life occurs in present moments—not in the future and not in the past. We tend to live in either of these places. We are either making plans for our future and indeed we do need to do this or we are ruminating over something from our past. And as a therapist, I can say that some looking back is necessary for healing. However, we tend to ALWAYS live in either one of these places and not in the present moment. What if we started living in the moment and then moment by moment? It would revolutionalize our lives.

For us writers, we live in shall we say “other” worlds, at least us fiction writers do. We can forget to eat when we’re writing because we are so engrossed in what we’re doing. But, sometimes we feel a bit stuck. We can’t think what to write next. We can’t think of how to bring a character to life or create enough tension in the story or how to write a decent ending. My suggestion to you is next time you feel stuck, take a moment and walk away. Do something else entirely. Play with your kids; play with your dog or cat; play with your spouse; enjoy an outdoor sport; eat something delicious—whatever floats your boat. But, more importantly, though, than just doing this activity is practicing mindfulness while you’re doing this activity. Really be in the moment. When you have done this, it will unstick your mind and when you return to writing, you’ll be surprised at what comes up for you.

I’d like to challenge you to practice mindfulness at least once a day. Take a deep breath and feel yourself in your body being in this moment. And then, by all means, please write about this experience. Come back here and share your thoughts and feelings. Come on writers, let’s become mindful!

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She has self-published 4 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, and Little Birdie). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at www.wandaluthmanwordpress.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wluthman.

Sneak Peek in Next Book in the HowToDoItFrugally Series


Book Covers for Book Series Demand Extra, Loving Care
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers

Considerations for covers for series aren’t really so different from any book except that an author and her cover artist must consider whether the elements can be sustained and there are several ways to do that with the cover.

One of the most sustainable elements of marketing a book series is the author’s name. New authors and artists without special training in book cover design often under emphasize their own name. I tell them to look at the books in the window of Hudson’s bookstores in airports. The authors’ names are huge. The authors’ names are sometimes gilt. The authors’ names are often embossed. That’s because (you’ve heard this before from me in my multi award-winning book, The Frugal Book Promoter), an author’s name is her true brand. Or soon will be. And an author planning a series is even more dependent on his or her own name for recognition and identification than most.

In addition to the size of the author’s name, authors of book series should consider repeating its position on the cover, using the same solid—very bright—color, that metallic look, embossing if the publisher can afford it, or all three.  The font should be repeated, too—preferably one that’s identifiable even if only subliminally.

Of course, it’s the overall look of the cover that interests most authors and that brings up genre. All the elements of all the covers in the series must evoke the genre. This is one time that being super-original may not be best for sales. The look must suggest to the reader exactly what he or she will find inside the book. Think Picault’s images for Danielle Steele’s books. They catapulted him to fame in the world of fine art. Internationally known Park West carries his originals and prints even after his death. We may not be able to name him on sight, but we know it’s his work when we see it and that when they appear on a book cover, they are Steele’s books.  To evoke a feeling of familiarity among readers usually means using the same artist on each of the books in a particular series—perhaps even across different series.

Note: Consider negotiating with your artist that he or she will do book cover art only for your series. This probably will require a renewable stipend for exclusivity, but it may be worth it.

These are all considerations for series written by nonfiction authors, as well. Notice the unique font/art developed by Chaz DeSimone (http://DeSimoneDesign) for my HowToDoItFrugally series. Those coins say something visually and they are memorable.

It’s not always possible to be that creative, though. Chaz said my frugal titles were like the perfect storm. Everything came together for inspiration. But that’s still possible, even without that once-in-a-career brainstorm. Consider the famous Dummy series. In addition to carrying through a specific, very bright contrasting color scheme (yellow and black).  These books also all place logo in the same place on every cover  (I plan to talk about logos later in this book to be published in 2018). Consistency in image placement is important, too. In the Dummy books, they use  realistic images-- usually actual photos or true-to-life illustrations.

The Dummy graphic designer knows that the font is still important. He or she uses two fonts in the titles and both have a kind of do-it-yourself character. “Dummies” is in every one and connotes a small child’s first approach to printing without using too-obvious backwards letters or mixed caps and lower case. The other part of the title very simply tells the reader what he or she will learn. Word. Home Buying Kit. Mortgages. And because it slants right in a sort of italic look and is black and white, it evokes a chalkboard and—once again—a new learner. These cover took a lot more thought than is at first apparent.

There are other tricks for books in series, too. The visual can be maintained throughout a series in a geometric shape—a circle, oval, triangle. By using blocks of color that repeat themselves. We mentioned overall color schemes in the analysis of Dummies.
Obviously much will depend on an author’s publishing situation. When an author is traditionally published he may have very little control over his covers or none at all. Still—if possible, he should let the designer know the genre, his preference for an artist or style, and that it will be a series. That means that he must work to work as a partner with the designer and the more he knows about covers, the better partner he will be.

Note: If your book lends itself to using a reproduction of a famous painting in the public domain, put that idea on your list to consider. It has been shown that these images increase how well a reader remembers the cover, title and content of a book.
One thing the author will usually have complete control over is the size (thickness or page number) of her books. If one is very fat and another very slim, much will be lost in terms of a cohesive brand.
As you can tell, I am big on using the author’s name as a major design element, but there are times when the emphasis may best be put on another element of the cover. Sometimes it’s hard for an author to be open to something different from their first concept. Many authors fear looking too commercial or are very shy and loathe the idea of making their name the main design element. Many authors have an artist they want to feature (a mother who does water colors or uncle who does killer charcoals). That would be nice and personal, but if it doesn’t fit the topic, they should be open to rearranging their demand. Beyond the basics, I believe in giving the most professional designer you or your publisher can afford full reign to allow her creativity to shine. Sometimes it’s easier to make suggestions and fine tune afterward, anyway.

After you and your designer have settled on the look of your cover, you want to carry the branding sensibility you’ve begun to the interior of your book. Many graphic designers can help you with that, too. And you’ll want to keep all of this branding you’ve done in mind for the entire marketing campaign. A prissy, wedding like launch party with canap├ęs doesn’t cut it for a series on caring for your car.

Note: If you are self-publishing and have decided to use a template like those provided by Createspace, be very careful to choose one with a structure that is most likely to be carried though for the entire series.

Those elements of your marketing campaign—Web site banners, the site itself, logos, business cards, bookmarks, signs for book fairs and on and on will become more apparent to you as you read the first
in my HowToDoItFrugally book series, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo). If this is your first book in a series, your campaign will grow as your plan—even if you are one of those who maps out the campaign carefully. A good map, though, will help you avoid having to make too many corrections as you go. That is both smart and frugal.

Note: Before making your final decision, reread the chapter in the flagship for of my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter. There you will find what you need for writing the copy for our book’s back cover like the mini biography, the oft-ignored (sadly!) second subtitle, and the pitch or mini synopsis. This may be an area that you are better at than your designer, though many graphic artists or cover designers who have lots of experience with books are also excellent copywriters and marketers. So do ask for advice and listen to the answers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article is destined to become part of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s fourth book in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers set for 2018. It will have a foreword written by her book designer Chaz DeSimone and the frugalish coin design of the How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews) where you will learn Carolyn’s secret to getting review from big journals by going through the back door and how to use reviews to access commercial catalogs.
first two will be carried forward to this book, too. Her newest book in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is

Learn more about Carolyn including her poetry and fiction at http://howtodoitfrugally.com where you can also see some cover designs for her series of poetry books that were courtesy of free templates offered by Createspace.com.