Self-Publishing, Tips

Writing With Pitches

Writing With Pitches

Happy Monday! If, you know, there is such a thing.

I hope you all enjoyed my Writer Resources series. There may be a few more I add at some point, but my research on them is, as of right now, incomplete. If you haven’t checked those posts out, here’s a list of the resources I covered:

Trello
Wix
SkillShare
Marketing Edition
ProWritingAid
Legal Stuff

So, what’s this writing with pitches thing? I’m no baseball fan—much to my Braves fanatic husband’s chagrin—but I encountered a problem in my own writing this week and I found myself naming the solution with baseball terms.

I have no idea why. Seriously…I don’t do sports.

Except bowling, apparently.

As I relay this rather odd mashup of baseball and writing, the pitcher will be the writer and the hitter will be the reader. I will be the one gritting my teeth and hoping that any of this makes the least bit of sense.

The Change Up

In baseball, the change up pitch is thrown in such a way that the hitter thinks the pitcher has thrown a fastball, but really it reaches the plate rather slowly.

Change up_

The main goal of a writer is to engage readers, and predictability doesn’t exactly get the job done. Done the right way, though, you can lead your reader to think that one thing is going to happen, but then blow their mind and give them something else.

Not all that long ago on this blog we discussed tropes. Tropes lend some predictability to your stories, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. Romance readers want to see certain tropes, but imagine shaking things up just a little bit and giving them a moment that makes them gasp.

The Fast Ball

The fastball is pretty self-explanatory. It’s fast.

Fastball_One thing you might want to check the speed of in your story is pacing. Pacing can be difficult to get right, because while you don’t want it too slow, you also don’t want it too fast. The slower paced moments allow your reader to totally indulge in the emotions you endeavor to evoke or to take a breather after intense, fast paced sections.

What I am referring to as the fast ball is getting from one point in the story to the next by skipping the unnecessary bits in the middle. This might require a scene break or it might require recapitulation of the behind-the-scenes events.

Example 1:

Lucas hung his head as the clock ticked closer to the time his wife would come home. He’d fixed her dinner, bought her flowers, and even changed his shirt after work—something she’d cited as one of the many things she wished he’d do…and she’d cited it many times. The garage opened, and Lucas went through the motions, disinterested in eating but he was a man of his word. He knew they’d argue—again—afterward.

♦♦♦

“Thanks for dinner,” Tracy said. “But it doesn’t change anything. We didn’t solve anything this morning. And today, she called my office! Your whore. How do you think that makes me feel? Just when I think I can deal with this…I just can’t.”

In this example, we took the fast lane approach to their dinner. It wasn’t important to the story. Ironically, the dinner wasn’t the meat and potatoes of it. So, why waste three-hundred words on something that will likely bore your readers?

Example 2:

If we had decided not to skip the dinner scene, maybe we could recap it instead. That might’ve looked something like this:

It was just as he suspected: Tracy came home and dropped her keys before walking past him with nary a word. Her perfume stood in the doorway longer than she did. They ate, looking at anything than the other. The clink of their forks against their plates replaced the loving words they used to share. The quiet would last only as long as the potatoes.

It was no mistake he’d made so many.

So, if while you’re revising, you find you have some slower passages that aren’t giving you the desired effect, try tossing in a fastball.

The Knuckle Ball

The knuckle ball is thrown for unpredictability. The hitter has very little idea whichKnuckleball direction the ball is going to go, thus making it difficult for the hitter to decide how to swing.

The trick as a writer when deciding to write in your own type of knuckle ball is that you need to know where the ball (plot) is going to go. You may want to work up to a climax that has the reader guessing—maybe there are three people you want your reader wondering about when they’re trying to determine who the killer is.

Of course, you’ll want to weave in some subtle clues.

This was one of the pitches I threw into Alabama Rain recently. I found myself hating the words I was tacking on for a couple of days.

I am one of those writers who goes back and rereads the last day’s work before I get started on a new day’s work…and I couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was at first, but when it got to the point where I just couldn’t keep writing in the direction I was going, I knew I needed to backtrack and toss in knuckle ball and a change up.

Afterwards, the words flowed freely, and I was happy with them again.

Unlike in baseball, in writing we want these pitches to result in a home run for our readers. Can you think of any other names of pitches and how they might be a metaphor for writing? If you have any ideas to contribute, I’d be tickled pink.

Before we go, I’d just like to remind you that while my writer’s resources series may be over (for now) my giveaway for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid and a $15 Amazon gift card is still going!

img_3242

Have a wonderful week, my friends!


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Writer Resources: Legal Stuff

WR_ LEGAL

Today’s writer resource post is going to be a little different. It doesn’t have the flash or whimsical appeal of the fun stuff like design. It doesn’t usually incite excitement. It is probably something writers avoid even more than they do marketing.

Legal sh!t.

Does an indie author need to worry about the legal aspects of running a business?

It depends.

Are you writing stories and putting them onto Wattpad for free consumption? Do you primarily share your work only on your blog? If yes, you can probably skip all of this legal mumbo jumbo and instead enter my giveaway for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid.

If your ambitions carry you further than that, then you may want to start thinking about how to keep yourself out of trouble with local, state, or federal authorities. I want to make one thing absolutely clear before we continue:


I am in no way offering any legal advice. I am simply sharing my experiences and opinions. Please do not misconstrue any of this as legal advice. As with everything, you need to conduct your own research and proceed how you feel is best for you. I cannot, and do not claim to, replace the advice of legal counsel, an accountant, or a tax professional. Laws vary from country to country and from state to state. I can only speak to laws I have encountered in the United States.


Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to it.

If you’re an indie author who sells their work anywhere, including Amazon, guess what? You own your own business! It can be hard to wrap our heads around that, but it’s true.

When you’re starting up a business, one of the first things you need to decide is what kind of business are you going to be? The two types of businesses which will appeal to most indie authors are sole proprietorship or limited liability company.

Sole Proprietorship

This is the way most of us operate on default. There’s very little one must do to set themselves up as a sole proprietor—in fact there is no start up documentation required by the US Federal Government. Licenses and permits may be required and will vary from state to state, so check with yours if there are any requirements.

Sole Proprietorships often operate under a DBA, or a “doing business as” (think of it as the pseudonym of the business world) which will require some sort of filing most of the time.

In fact, if you use a pseudonym that could be your DBA. Or even the name of your imprint.

Acting as a sole proprietorship is usually just fine for most indie authors.

Limited Liability Company

It is my opinion that starting an LLC (which isn’t a cheap process) is overkill for most indie authors. I can see this becoming more important if you expand your business to offering services or goods that go beyond fiction.

If you offer editing services, design services, marketing services…any sort of service (like all of these for-profit coaching programs I’ve seen a few indies promoting)…there is always the chance someone may at some point sue you. The likelihood of this happening may not be high, but it is there. An LLC protects you from losing your livelihood in the event someone wanted to be litigious.

If you are interested in learning more about these two business types, I recommend using Legal Zoom.

small_logo
Regardless of the type of business you choose to go with, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:

Budget

quickbooks_online_preview

Every business needs one. Figure out what is a reasonable amount of money for you to spend on your writing business and then figure out how to allocate those funds. There are many options for budgeting software. The first one that comes to mind is Quickbooks from Intuit.

Quickbooks

WaveAccounting_logo1

Once you start listing your expenses, it may be difficult to stomach adding on an additional monthly expense just for the…sake of keeping up with expenses…I get that. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t show you a free option!

Wave

Of course you can always do this for yourself using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. The more complex your business needs get, the less likely you’ll want to do this, though. Excel can be a bit intimidating to learn, but there are plenty of classes available on Skillshare to help you navigate Excel’s murkiness—as well as tons of business classes!

 *afflink*

If you’ve read this far, I’m going to guess at least a few of you have wondered why the hell all of this is important if you haven’t even sold your first book.

You’ll need to talk to your tax professional, but counting your losses on your taxes might be a very good thing for your bottom line come tax time. The list of things you may be eligible to deduct may surprise you.

You might be able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage as a business expense if you have a dedicated office space. From what I’ve seen you break your rent/mortgage down by the square foot and you can deduct the amount of the square footage. (So, if you have a 1000sqft apartment and your rent is $1000 per month, you could deduct from your taxes $50 per month if you have 50sqft of dedicated home office space.) Again, please check with your local laws.

You might be able to count mileage if you go to trade-related conventions or if you go somewhere for research purposes. Part of your utilities, internet, new tech, educational classes—there is a long, long list of things you may be eligible to deduct.

Here is a list of a few of the things am looking into deducting:

Images used for marketing
Stock footage used for marketing
Images used for book cover
ISBNs
Title setup fees for Ingram
Trade books
Website plan fees
Tickets to trade conventions
Gas/mileage to trade conventions
The cost of giveaway items
A portion of my internet bill
plus more…

Legal, shmeagle…amirite?

I know legal stuff isn’t sexy. But, congrats Indie! You are a small business professional, and all of this boring legal shit may be very important to you.

You know what is sexy? A FREE YEAR OF PROWRITINGAID, that’s what!

My giveaway is still going on strong, so don’t forget to enter!

Until next time! Have a fantastic week!


 

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Writer Resources: Marketing Edition

WR_ Marketing

I wasn’t supposed to blog about this today. I had intended on blogging about another resource, but as I was writing it, I realized I didn’t quite have enough information and it felt incomplete. So, here goes plan B.

It’s a three-fer.

The resources I’m introducing you to tonight will help as you dive into the wonderful world of marketing. [enter gagging sound]

Pexels

Cost: Free
Pros: Free High-Quality Stock Photos
Cons: Limited library
Ease of Use: If you can use Google, you can use Pexels
Website: http://www.Pexels.com

Pexels

This is pretty straight-forward. You enter a search term and you surf for images. Sometimes when you search for something, there will be pages upon pages of images to choose from…other times there will be only a few.

There is a sister site that advertises at the bottom, often times with nicer pictures you can purchase. My advice, though, is always search for free images before you decide to purchase. Especially on things such as a graphic for Twitter or Instagram. Save your picture budget for photo covers or paid advertising.

Let’s pretend I’m making some materials for Alabama Rain, and I’ll look up pictures of barns.

barns

Now, let’s say I want the bottom left-hand barn. I click it, and then what?

No attribution
There are a few things I want you to pay attention to after you’ve clicked on the photo and before you click the free download button.

Check to make sure the photo is okay to use for commercial use.

Check whether attribution is required.

Don’t be that person who uses an image you aren’t supposed to. You wouldn’t want someone to replicate or use part of your work without permission.

If the photo requires attribution, give it.

Now, do you see the down arrow to the right of the Free Download button? Hover over it and you’ll see a drop down menu.

Choose A Size
You can choose from several sizes or create a custom size if that works best for you.

Outside of this, there’s not a whole lot more to tell about Pexels.

Are you a photographer? You can also share your photos on Pexels to help other creatives.

So, now you’ve got your image, but what are you going to do with it?

Pixlr Editor

Cost: Free
Pros: Fairly powerful web-based image editor
Cons: Takes a little time to learn, sort of mimics Photoshop
Ease of Use: If you can use Photoshop, this is easy to learn, not for beginners
Website: http://Pixlr.com/editor

Pixlr

Create
The first thing you want to do is create a new image.

New Image
Name your image and give it some parameters.

A lot of people guess what their size should be or they aren’t concerned about it at all and think the platform they upload it to will automatically convert it…this isn’t always the case.

A simple Google search can tell you what size to make your image based on what you’re creating it for.

New Image AR

These parameters and file name can be changed if needed.

Anyway, let’s see what we can accomplish fairly simply with our barn image and some of Pixlr’s capabilities.

Here are just a few of the options and tools in the Pixlr arsenal:

 

As you can see, if you are familiar with Photoshop, there are a lot of similarities. Now, if there is any lingering interest in learning more about Pixlr, you’d do well to look up some tutorials on YouTube, though if you shoot me a message, I’ll do my best to help you.

So, what was I able to make really quickly in Pixlr with that image we got from Pexels?

The before:agriculture-barn-clouds-248832

The after:
New Barn

Not bad for about fifteen minutes.

PlaceIt

Cost: Varies
Pros: Simple, easy to use, takes little to no effort.
Cons: Could do this on your own if you learn Photoshop (Not necessarily Pixlr)
Website: http://www.PlaceIt.net

PlaceIt

Get ready to settle into your desk chair or couch, because if you’re anything like me you are going to find yourself obsessively searching through these mockups.

omg.PNG

SO. MANY. OPTIONS.

undone

While I was looking through the above page, this picture jumped out at me.

I hadn’t planned on actually creating a mockup for this post, but this one wanted me to. It practically whispered at me to announce my second summer project. So, this is a surprise even to me, but here goes nothing.

Within just a few clicks and uploading a few images I had a really nice little image for marketing. (Seriously, this took only about two minutes to upload all the images, crop them, and download it.)

Sure, I could probably make something similar in Photoshop with a little time and a lot more effort, but for $8.00? Think of all the time you could save making things like this and actually writing. Without further adieu, let’s see what two minutes and eight bucks got me:

placeit (1).png

That’s right, it’s time to release the prequel novelette I’ve had stashed on my hard drive for about two years. I’ll be doing this sometime this summer, after it’s all edited and polished. 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for you today, my friends. I hope these resources will help you along your marketing journey! Have something you’d like to share with the class? Please tell me all about it in the comments!

Sometime before this series is over, I’ll be revisiting marketing resources and giving you a glimpse of how I put together my book trailers.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

I know I’m not scheduled to write another blog post this week, but I’m doing something for myself on Wednesday, and I am going to be publishing an extra post on Thursday to tell you all about it.

Be sure to check it out because I’m also going to announce the super-awesome-mega-amazing giveaway that is accompanying this series. Trust me when I say, you are not going to want to miss out on this one.

Until Thursday, lovely people!


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Writer Resources: SkillShare

WR_ SKILLSHARE

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you’re in for a fantastic, productive week! I had a really nice weekend, though not as productive as I’d hoped—but our oldest nephew spent the weekend with us, which was worth it. My husband took him to the SC ComicCon, and then we went downtown for some Pokemon Go, and stayed up late playing Boss Monsters…a card game based on 8-bit video games. (Side note: I’m the reigning champ!)

But the weekend is gone, and it’s time to get back to all things writerly. This week, in my Writer Resources series, I am super excited to introduce you to SkillShare!

*Afflink*

Costs: You can access SkillShare for free, or you can upgrade to a Premium Membership
Premium Membership Costs: Monthly: $15.00 or Annual: $8.25/mo billed once
Ease of Use: If you can navigate YouTube, you can navigate SkillShare.
Usefulness: Amazing

What’s The Big Deal?

Being an indie author means you must wear a lot of hats. You’re a writer, an editor, a designer, a marketer, a publisher, an accountant, a social media manager. You are taking on every single role filled at a publishing house and the ones they outsource.

It’s all on you, baby. 

Your forte may be crafting your story, but you don’t have a clue about design—but you need an advertisement, or a book cover, or a simple blog post visual. You might be tempted to jump onto Microsoft Paint and give it your best shot, thinking you’ll do better next time.

Don’t.

You owe it to yourself and your work to give every aspect of the writing process the best chance it can have. If you can’t afford to outsource everything (which, most of us can’t), then you need to make learning these things a priority.

Enter SkillShare.

What Kinds of Classes Are There?

SkillShare1

As you can see, there is a category to help the indie author in almost every stage of the writing process.

Here are just a few writing-centric things I’ve personally sought help with in SkillShare:

• Storycrafting
• Outlining
• Drafting
• Editing
• Character Development

There are literally thousands of classes for writers.

SkillShare2

Take a look at the enrollment stats of some of these classes! This is because these teachers have incredible passion and have gone to great lengths to provide you with a valuable learning experience.

Some of the classes are shorter, around a half-hour long, whereas you can see some are longer, like the one approaching two hours (top, middle). Never fear, though. These longer classes are broken into shorter, more appetizing bites, making it a lot easier to complete classes on your own time table.

What about those other hats we talked about moments ago? You know, the ones that are a little more difficult, the ones that might make us scream into our pillows or drink an extra scotch. Let’s look at just a few of the other topics close to the writer’s heart:

SkillShare3

A quick search for cover design gave me over six-thousand results.

Whether you’re aiming to learn how to design in Canva, PhotoShop, InDesign, or GIMP…there are classes for you. Learn to use the program, then learn steps to design something highly professional. There’s something for every skill level.

SkillShare4

Marketing: Aila hates it. It’s true, I find marketing to be the single most-daunting aspect of being an indie author…but with SkillShare, I’m trying to change that.

Classes Vs. Videos

I’ve talked about SkillShare with someone before and they asked me what the point of it was, since there’s this little thing called YouTube where you can learn stuff, too.

Well, here’s the thing: YouTube is great, and sometimes I also go to YouTube in order to learn something…but SkillShare is comprised of classes.

Enrolling in classes means you’re going to have teacher-led videos. Many, if not most, of the teachers I’ve found on SkillShare have homework assignments or projects attached to their classes, and you have the opportunity to complete solo-projects, interact with other students for support, guidance, or simply to do a little networking.

Often times when you complete a project, the teacher will review it and give you personal feedback…not something you’ll find on YouTube.

SkillShare5Why Premium Membership?

I wholeheartedly recommend signing up for the free membership first and looking around to see if SkillShare is for you before signing up for the Premium Membership. But, it does have its perks. (See the list on the left.)

Regardless of which membership level you choose, I truly believe you’ll find SkillShare’s platform beneficial for you and your creative business endeavors.

Do I Use It?

I do.

I’m currently taking marketing classes, but I’ve also used it to help strengthen my storytelling, learn new methods for outlining, and web development.

My experience with SkillShare has been nothing but positive.

 

Learn on Skillshare*Afflink*

Recommended Teachers

• Daniel José Older
• Jenna Moreci
• Laurie Wang
• Gary Vaynerchuk
• Mike Pickett

If you’re tired of feeling like everyone else is passing you by or that you’re the last to know something, but you aren’t being proactive in your own journey…what are you waiting for? Sign up. Take some classes.


**Disclaimer** Afflink means an affiliated link. Clicking and using one of my Afflinks in no way changes the price of any product or service you sign up for, but does provide me a small commission. I will never post affiliated links for products or services I do not believe in or use myself.


That’s all I have for you today, folks! I do hope you’ll give SkillShare a shot! If you do, give me a shout in the comments below and let me know which classes you’re taking and if you discover a favorite teacher.

See you Thursday when I get to tell you about all the quarterly goals I’ve failed…yeah, I’m not looking forward to writing Thursday’s post.

At all.

Wait! One more thing!

Just a little head’s up…Check out Vania Rheault’s blog tomorrow, March 27th! 🙂 Actually, check it out any time, but most definitely tomorrow. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Have a fantastic week, my friends! xoxo



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Writer Resources: Wix

WR_ WIX

Welcome back! In this week’s post, I am bringing you Wix. I’m sure you’ve seen their advertisements on YouTube—Rhett and Link from Good Mythical Morning are currently spokespeople. You might have seen some advertising on television too, though I’m not entirely sure about that, since I haven’t had television service in about five years now.

If you’ve seen it and you question whether it could really be as simple as they make it out to be, let me spoil the rest of this post for you: IT IS.

The Particulars

The Price: You can use Wix for free. You won’t have a custom URL, which I like, but it will look like this: username.wixsite.com/sitename/page-url. If you want to upgrade to a premium plan so you can use your own domain, here is the price breakdown as of today’s posting:
Wix Prices (1)

Ease of Use: ♦♦♦♦♦


What’s The Fuss?

Before I stumbled onto Wix, I spent several weeks fighting with another hosting site which, at the time, seemed to advertise more. This other website, let’s call them SquireSparce…claimed to provide a website building platform which was super simple and gave highly professional results. It…didn’t.

Wix really does.

Not only can you drag and drop, resize, and generally edit your website flawlessly, they also make it super easy to edit the way your mobile site looks and feels, too.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is this crazy, headache-inducing hullabaloo that eludes almost everyone. It is important, though. Wix guides you through all the tough stuff, though, and within a few clicks you’re far better off.

Newsletters

If you tossed a virtual rock around the writing community, you’d hit on at least three-dozen separate blogs and vlogs advising that writers have a newsletter and email list. You can absolutely use a service like MailChimp for this, but if you have your website with Wix, you needn’t look any further than their integrated Shoutouts system. It is just as easy to create professional-looking newsletters as it is to edit your website.

In my humble opinion, we writers should focus the majority of our time to our books. The platform-building and marketing stuff is important, too, but if you can streamline your marketing time and keep yourself in as few places as possible, that just frees up more writing time. Boom!

Tons of Apps

Want an easy-to-customize contact form? They’ve got it.
Want to integrate your Instagram feed? It’s simple.
Want to add a status tracker your readers can see on where you are for your WIP? Not hard at all.

There are hundreds of things you can add to your Wix site,
so simply you won’t find yourself reaching for the aspirin.

Easy to Use

I know I’ve said this a few times in this rather short post, but it deserves to be repeated. Instead of attempting to show you its beautiful simplicity through a series of screencaps, though, I found a short video on YouTube I recommend watching if you’re interested in learning more about it.

I Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

$14 per month, to be exact.

If I didn’t make it clear in my last post, no matter my skill level in the resources I’m bringing to you in this series, I believe in them 100%. I use Wix for my website, and WordPress (obviously) for my blog. Why? Because there is no other blogging platform I’ve found that compares to WordPress.

If you’d like to see what my Wix-built website looks like, please give it a gander, by clicking here. (Bonus points if you sign up for my newsletter!)

That’s all I have for you today, friends. I hope you have an excellent, super-productive week! See you soon!

xoxo,

Aila


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Writer Resources: Trello

Copy of WR_ PWA“Why do anything unless it’s going to be great?”
Peter Block

 

Welcome to my next blog series: Writer Resources!

I’ve been told on more than one occasion I come across some of the most interesting resources, and sometimes I mention one of them in my blog and I’ll get a DM on Twitter (or an email, actually) for more information about it.

So, I figured I’d bring you a series dedicated to some of my favorites, as well as navigate a few still new to me. The lineup I’m bringing you samples everything from organization, to editing, to design, and everything in between.

It was difficult to decide where to start, where to end, and how to get from A to Z! The natural choice, however, was Trello—my favorite organizational app.

The Particulars

Price: Free for Personal Use | 9.99/mo for Business Class | 20.83/mo for Enterprise
Ease of Use (Web): ♦♦♦♦♦
Ease of Use (App):  ♦♦♦♦♦

Introduction

I was first introduced to Trello shortly after its release and I used it to help me organize a 10k word paper I had to write for school. If you are familiar with the “pin board” concept of Pinterest, then you’ve already got an idea of how Trello works. Let me show you:

Trello - Web Boards

 

Great for Web | Great for Mobile

photo (1)

If you’re anything like me, you float from using a desktop or laptop to using your mobile device for all things regarding your writing career. It was important for me that however I organize my thoughts and ideas be just as useful on my desktop as it is my phone, and Trello does not disappoint.

In fact, it’s the most seamless web/mobile transition I’ve ever encountered. It is nearly instantaneous to add something on your Trello app and then find it on your desktop and vice versa.

This is EXCELLENT for people who design something on their desktop and then want to add it to Instagram.

I take full advantage of any opportunity I have at work or during travel to go over my Trello boards and examine how I’m doing on my goals (which each board contains goals) and I’ll work on my plot and character outlines.

Creating a Trello Board

Creating a board is super simple.

Trello - Web Boards (1)

I don’t want to show the contents of my active boards, so for the sake of this blog post, let’s start a sample board.

But sample board is kind of boring, so let’s make a fictitious story board. We’ll use one of my scrapped titles: Someone Else’s Dream.

Trello - SED Added to Boards

Add it to one, and it’s automatically on the other.

Now let’s enter the board and start fleshing out this novel.

Trello - SED Adding Cards
Ever had an app that didn’t function as well in landscape as portrait or vice versa? Trello works well in either. Actually, I can’t think of a thing I don’t like about it.

The first card I always add when I’m starting to organize my novel is the first little spark of the idea. I know the heading says synopsis, but that might not always be the first card I add, especially if it is a brand new idea and I haven’t actually made a synopsis. I never want to forget the first thing that sparked the idea, because, in my opinion, no matter how much the book changes from inception to publication, that little nugget of inspiration is the truth of the novel.

 

For instance, the idea that sparked Alabama Rain was a little line of dialogue from the voice of an elderly lady. “Besides, don’t God’ner the Devil want me.”

Therefore, that is the first card on my Alabama Rain board. I never want to forget the surge of energy those few words gave me, and it comes back to me whenever I read it.

(Bonus points if you guessed what I’m watching in the background by reading the character names…for the seventh time.)

Inspired Organization

Did you notice how my existing Trello boards all have different pictures for their thumbnails?

Once I have really narrowed down the feel of the book, I change the background image from the default color to an image in keeping with the tone I’m going for. It’s just one more little way I can get slip myself into the mood for writing.

See where it says menu on the right-hand side? Click that and then you can decorate!

Trello - SED New BG
Once I start getting ideas for scenes, I add a list for scenes and I start adding in cards with very loose ideas for them. The great thing about Trello is that you can drag and drop them to rearrange them.

Power-Ups

Let’s take a closer look at the menu bar.

Trello - SED Menu

If you’ve been saying to yourself that you can more-or-less do all of this in Scrivener so far, pay attention. Now, I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve toyed around with Scrivener, so I apologize if I have missed something, but these Power-Ups are something you cannot do in the popular writing app.

Trello - SED Power-Ups
There are an astonishing number of power-ups you can integrate right into your Trello Boards.

If you are using the free-version, as I suspect you are, you are limited to only one power-up per board. The paid-versions do allow you to use as many as you want.

There are power-ups for just about everything, from calendars to MailChimp and so much in-between.

For the sake of this demonstration, let’s set up a calendar that will help you track your word counts and writing goals.

Trello - SED Calendar

Once you enable the Calendar, you need to assign yourself some goals. Create a list of word count goals.

Trello - SED Word Count Goals

When you click on the goal, it will open up this menu:

Trello - SED Adding Due Dates

Once you’ve added in a due date, it will show up in your calendar. I will go ahead and set several due dates so you can see what it looks like.

Trello - SED Calendar with Due Dates

photo (9)

Reminders

It’s a good thing those are fictitious word count goals! 😉

The cool thing is that you can set your calendar to give you reminders. In fact, earlier, while I was writing on this very blog post I got a reminder from Trello that I had a blog post due tomorrow.

There have been a few Thursday blog posts that wouldn’t have been written if it weren’t for these Trello reminders.

Also, thanks for all the Instagram love. ♥♥♥

 

Information Hub

Beyond keeping up with word counts and scenes, Trello is great for keeping absolutely everything about your book in one place. As you’re writing and plotting and planning, it’s a great idea to start planning for how to market your book, so I always keep a marketing list in the story’s board.

I am a huge fan of having a book trailer, so let’s look at how I might go about planning for this book trailer. If your thing is getting into bookstores, or printing up bookmarks, coffee cups, pens, or anything at all, this will be helpful.

Trello - SED Marketing

Trello - SED Book Trailer

Notice how I added a due date, and added reminders such as which website to check out? These are things I would likely forget if I just scratched out “Book Trailer” in my planner.

One of my favorite things about these cards is the Checklist feature I’ve circled in the picture above.

What I use this for the most is when I want to do a giveaway. (Hint, one will be announced really soon.)

I will list everything I want to include in the giveaway and check them off as I acquire them.

Trello - SED Book Trailer Checklist

I hope this has convinced you to at least give Trello a try.

You can find the app in your App Store, or you can visit the Trello website to sign up.

If you already use Trello, I’d love to hear any hints, tips, or tricks you use to maximize your organizational experience, and if you haven’t tried it but this post has inspired you to do so, please let me know in the comments!

***I get absolutely nothing if you sign up for an account. This post is not sponsored, and all opinions are my own. I am a long-time user of this service, and am only sharing it with you because I believe in it.***

That’s all I have for you today! Don’t forget to tune in next week!

Happy organizing and happy writing!

Xoxo,
Aila


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Combating Writer’s Block

Combating Writer's Block“I’m sitting in my office trying to squeeze a story from my head. It is that
kind of morning when you feel like melting the typewriter into a bar of steel
and clubbing yourself to death with it.”
-Richard Matheson

It’s 5:03 pm on Sunday and I am just now getting around to my blog post. It isn’t for lack of desire to write, but let’s just say it’s been a really, really bad few weeks, and today just kicked it up a notch.

My husband woke me a little less than twelve hours ago and not long thereafter I had to take him to the emergency room. I won’t get into the particulars because I respect his privacy, but he was being treated for about five hours before we could come home…with a few follow-up referrals with specialists and a few prescriptions to boot.

If you read my post from Thursday, you’d know I was already having a stressful year, so his hospital visit didn’t do me any favors. But, I am taking my own advice, and I am going to keep powering through. It actually ties in quite nicely with what I am set to blog about today.

I considered eschewing today’s post entirely. I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed me…except me, of course. I checked my blogging board on Trello just to see what I’d be skipping, and I LOLed at what I had scheduled for myself for this particular day:

photoThis was so funny to me, because I remembered hating the placeholder title and subtitle I’d given myself when I was mapping out this quarter’s blog posts all the way back in December.

I almost never use the placeholder titles I give myself.

But it just fits so perfectly for my state of mind right now. It’s not that I feel like I’m suffering “writer’s block,” it’s just that I’m unable to concentrate on my world of fiction when my reality seems so hellbent on my mental destruction.

I know it’s just a coincidence, but it was almost as if I was giving myself a little push for today, even from way back then. Past me knew that future me was going to have a really crappy March.

Anyway, it’s inspired me to go on with today’s post, so let’s get started.

 

Writer’s Block: The Debate

Because we cannot have anything in this world without a debate, naturally there is one—and a rather heated one, in some circles—about the existence of Writer’s Block. We aren’t here today to decide whether it exists. I’ll let you do that in the comments below.

We can’t deny that sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re more like a trickle, and sometimes it’s too laborious to pull them from wherever it is they hide in our cavernous writer brains.

To the naysayer’s credit, though, sometimes we only think we’re blocked. Sometimes we’re just so steadfast in the scenes we’ve written, we forget we often times just need to change the direction of our story in order to keep it moving.

For instance, recently I was having an extremely difficult time deciding how to proceed with a certain section of Alabama Rain. It took a lot of erasing, writing, erasing, and writing before I determined the story just needed a shift. Once I zigged instead of zagged, the words began to flow again, fast and free.

For the sake of the block, though, we aren’t going to rule anything out. If you’ve never experienced a period where the words are clogged and your imagination is more stale than yesterday’s toast, then lucky you.

For the rest of us, sometimes we need to get rebooted. So, without further adieu, here are three things I do to get things moving again.

Get Outside

One of the first things I do when I’m feeling a bit stuffy in the idea department, I get out of my apartment. Writing somewhere else might do the trick, so I might take my laptop to the library or to a coffee shop.

My apartment is tiny and in itself is a rather stuffy place, therefore finding myself in a new, fresh environment helps me think of things from a new perspective.

Clingmans-3-plaas_1
View from the parking lot – Clingman’s Dome, NC

Sometimes, however, I have to go for a longer drive. There’s something about driving through the mountains with my windows down and the wind in my hair, the radio on…it’s desperately hard not to refuel my creative batteries. In fact, it was at the approach to Clingman’s Dome where I had a spark of an idea that snowballed into the loose plot for Underthings. I also had to come here when writing Sex, Love, and Formalities.

 

Going for a walk—preferably through the woods for a few hours—also helps. Exercise releases endorphins…and I think endorphins aide in creativity. Let’s not get all sciencey to prove me wrong here. It works for me. 🙂

 

Channel Your Inner Child

lego-2428035_960_720
Lego pizza, anyone?

Think about it. Children have wildly creative imaginations. I don’t have kids of my own, but I love to listen to my nephew babble on about what his vast collection of toy cars and trucks are doing, how their races turned out, etc. He’s got such a vivid imagination, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in his little tales. So, it only makes sense to me that our own, adult imaginations might check out for a vacation because they’re so keen on having fun. Bills, work, and day-to-day adult stresses aren’t fun. What are my favorite activities in which to indulge?

 

  • MadLibs | Not only is this fun and good for a few giggles, it’s also writing. 
  • Lego | It’s like real-life Minecraft. Sort of. Just don’t forget to put them away, they hurt like hell when you step on them.
  • Tactile play | Playdoh, magic sand, silly putty, polymer clay

 

Interpret A Scene

This little secret of mine is probably the one most people would scoff at, but hear me out. What I do is I’ll either turn to Netflix or YouTube and choose something I’ve never before watched—this is important. Once I have selected something, I turn off the sound and I begin to watch. I don’t want to hear their voices or the scene’s background noises.

Sometimes I take notes, sometimes I just start typing away while I watch, but I write a scene based off what I’m seeing. I’ll make up the dialogue based off the actor’s body language. If they’re in the city, I interpret what the city sounds like (are their sirens, barking dogs, people shouting, etc.)

Sometimes, I feel, our imaginations just need a little help getting restarted. I take out some of the work by watching something on my screen, but I enjoy filling in all the details.

 

Writer’s Block Traps

Hand (1)
Don’t accidentally put your muse in a cage.

Though we all have our own tricks to combat Writer’s Block, there are definitely things that only serve as distractions from it, as opposed to working through it.

  • Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration isn’t the same as a dog, it doesn’t come when called.
  • Don’t watch television. I know I just said to watch a scene and write what you see…but what I don’t suggest is binge watching something for hours on end.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just because another writer has hit the word lottery and is dropping thousands of words a day, does not negate the fact you’re a perfectly valid writer. When you hit your stride again, the other writer might hit a slump. (So, when you are trending thousands of words a day, remember to encourage others!)

 

When all else fails: Fake it until you make it. Take your cue from one of our favorite Disney pals and just keep writing. This is what the pros do. They don’t wait for the words to magically reappear, and if you want to be a pro, neither can you.

That’s all I have today, my friends. I hope those of you who are struggling with your own dilemmas, find peace soon. Take comfort in your words.

Don’t forget, my next blogging series will start up soon. You really don’t want to miss this one, so don’t forget to subscribe! There’s going to be an amazing giveaway!

Until next time, my lovelies!


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Let’s Talk: THE SENSES

The Five SensesAll our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
– Immanuel Kant

Sight.
Hearing.
Touch.
Smell.
Taste.

Since grade school, we’ve known about the five senses. We know the general functions of them and why they matter…what we weren’t taught in grade school was how to write about them.

It might seem easy, but evoking the five senses in your writing can be terribly difficult.

First, a quick note about Deep POV:

When you’re writing deep into someone’s POV, you shouldn’t use the obvious words:

She sees/saw
She hears/heard
She feels/felt
She smells/smelled
She tastes/tasted

I will schedule a blog post about getting deep into POV at some point, but there is plenty of information on the ready out there already.

Eye


Sight

Obviously, setting the scene is important whether you’re writing Women’s Fiction or a Dystopian Fantasy.

Don’t Describe Everything | How annoying would it be if the book you were reading had its characters going for a walk through the woods and the author described every stinking tree?

…then Denny and Suzette passed the sycamore tree which was thirty-six feet tall, and had four-hundred little branches, next to it was a small crop of magnolia trees, with white blossoms and three birds’ nests. One was a red bird, and the other two were pigeons, or at least they looked like pigeons, but Denny wasn’t too sure.

None of those details were important to the story, so don’t bog your readers down with information they don’t need. It’s one thing to set a scene, but if you find yourself describing every tree in the forest, you’re describing far too much.

Take the time to describe the anomalies. For instance, in Alabama Rain, my characters go through a walk in the woods, and while I don’t describe the trees, I do describe the absence of trees in the middle of the forest, and a nearly-dried up creek running through the middle. I also point out that there are dozens of little blue flowers–which is significant since they’re in the middle of a drought.

Tighten Up | This is good advice for all aspects of writing, but here’s what I mean:

The clouds hung low in the sky. [The clouds hung low.]
The recovered dolphin swam through the water with ease. [The recovered dolphin swam with ease.]
He tripped on the maze of roots in the ground. [He tripped on the maze of roots.]

Your readers will know the clouds are in the sky, where else are dolphins going to swim, and where else do tree roots trip people? Save your words.

Ear
Hearing

Very few scenes are silent. In the city cars are always honking, in the country, the birds are almost always chirping. Evoking sounds can help set the scene in your story.

Get Beyond Volume | This goes hand-in-hand with showing vs. telling.

Don’t tell me the orchestra is loud, let the timpani rumble the seats.
Don’t tell me someone whispered softly…for that is the nature of a whisper.

Smile, You’ve Got Similes | If you can’t think of a way to describe the way something sounds, you can fall back on a simile.

The violin hummed like a songbird.
The emergency test on the radio screamed like a toddler on a plane.

Hand
Touch

Sometimes a Touch is a Touch | Does the thing’s texture need to be described? If you’re in the middle of a poignant scene, where a father and son embrace for the first time in years…do you think it matters that the son’s sweater is soft? Probably not.

Good or Bad | I’m not necessarily talking that sort of good touch/bad touch. (That’s another blog post for another time) but the sensations you assign to things can have them go one way or another:

His velvet kiss…
His gritty kiss…
The silky sheets…
The stiff sheets…
The dewy grass…
The dried up grass…

 

Smell
Smell

Nostalgia | Nothing can stir someone’s memory like the sense of smell. Every time I smell bacon frying, I instantly think of my great uncle John, who carried that aroma deep within his clothes.

The sense of smell is so strong (for most people) that you can convey a lot while saying very little:

The warmth of cinnamon wafted through the house, as grandma had set a pie to cool on the windowsill.
As the children leapt from the bus, they delighted in the return of freshly cut grass–a sure sign that Summer was fast-approaching.
His cologne overpowered the entire theater.

Tongue
Taste

Food & Stuff Most of the time you describe the taste of something, it’s going to be because your characters are eating or drinking. Describing the way everything tastes is probably unnecessary. If it is important—such as your MC is a chef and it’s part of their job—or it’s the first time they’re tasting something, then it’s probably okay to describe it.

But if your character eats pepperoni pizza sixteen times in the book, don’t describe it sixteen times.

It can be hard not to use “taste” when describing the flavor of something, but it’ll read much stronger if you get the hang of it:

The dark chocolate tasted too bitter.
The dark chocolate made him sputter and spit and gargle his water.
The wine tasted expensive.
The wine smoothed over her tongue like cherry-flavored silk.

As you start your editing/revision process, be mindful that you’re using all five senses to help ensure you’ve got a balanced approach to scene-setting.

That’s all I’ve got today.

I’ve got a fantastic series of posts coming up with an awesome giveaway hitting the blog in April, so please, please, please hit that subscribe button and share my blog with your friends.

Maybe afterwards I’ll finally give in and write about dialogue.

Maybe not.

Have a great week my lovelies!

Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT (1)
Aila


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Let’s Talk: Character Building

Character Building“If you treat your characters like people, they’ll reward you by being
fully developed individuals.”
Don Roff

Happy Monday, y’all! I hope, unlike me, you had a spectacular weekend. I did manage to add a few thousand words to my manuscript for Alabama Rain, but even doing so I know I’m behind on my goals for it. Being behind is no reason to give up, though!

I had a shortlist of things I wanted to blog about today, so how did I pick the winner? How did we land on character building, you ask. Because it’s a thing I’ve seen popping up in several book reviews lately.  (Luckily not of my own.) There seems to have been a shift away from character building, and lots of reviewers are pointing it out.

DNF, too many flat characters.

I couldn’t keep reading, because the characters were so underdeveloped.

The author didn’t give me anyone to root for or against.

These are just a few examples of the reviews I’ve seen lately for books I’ve been interested in reading. I don’t always pay attention to reviews, but when one book gets multiple reviews like that, it makes me reconsider.

So let’s do something to prevent the continuation of that cycle.

Let’s talk about the six areas you need to consider about your characters so by the time your readers get hold of them, they’re reading stories about believable fictional folk and not just…mannequins with dialogue.

Growth (1)
Let’s be honest, it’s next to impossible to get the amount of physical descriptions just right for every single one of your readers. Therefore, I offer you no such advice here. Your beta readers will probably let you know if you’ve gone too far on either end of the spectrum.

When describing your character’s face or body, it might be helpful to you to look at pictures of people who look similar to the way the character looks in your mind…but don’t just describe the color of their hair or eyes, though. Literature is littered with women who have flowing blonde hair and men who have piercing blue eyes.

These cliche descriptors are completely forgettable. Instead, give your readers something they’ll remember. For instance, in Alabama Rain, one of my characters has an ear that was half-chewed off by a dog…that’s not likely something my readers are going to forget.

Does your character have a tattoo? Of what, where, and was it botched?
What about that birthmark?
Surgical scars?
An amputation?

Challenge yourself to go beyond just brown hair and pale skin.

Another thing to remember about physical descriptions: Make them organic. Don’t plop your character down in front of a mirror and have them dictate every nuance of their own face to the reader. Unless this person is a model who is having their makeup done before a runway show…most people do not do this.

 

Growth (2)

I don’t recall the exact source, but I remember hearing a piece of writing advice a while back that said if a character is worthy of a name, they’re worthy of a backstory.

This is so true. Does this mean you have to write out a lengthy paragraph or two detailing every named character’s life?

Absolutely not. But, just because you aren’t going to include it in your manuscript, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a general idea of what they’ve gone through, what shaped and molded them into who they are in your story.

Knowing your character’s backstories will help you navigate the actual story for them. If someone nearly drowned as a child, are they going to hesitate when crossing the raging waters of a river? Probably.

• Was your character bullied in school? That’s going to affect them!
• Were your character’s parents alcoholics? That’s going to affect them!
• Did their dog get kidnapped and held for ransom? That’s going to affect them!
• Did your character win a slew of pageants? That’s probably going to affect them!

We’re all products of our pasts, so you need to give your characters one. It will guide you when you have to make decisions for them.

How do you do this, you ask? How much should you know? That depends on how vital the character is. If they only appear in a few chapters, you might get by with a paragraph or two. If it’s a primary character, you should probably be able to talk about them like you’ve been acquainted for a long time.

 

Emotional

Your character’s starting emotional health is directly affected by their backstory, so now that you’ve fleshed that out, you will have a better grip on what they’re like emotionally at their introduction.

It’s important to know so you’ll be able to write how they react emotionally to the piles of heartache you’ll shovel onto them. If it is inconsistent with who they are, your readers are going to point this out. For consistency’s sake, don’t skimp on learning their emotional state.

• Is your character hot-headed? Then would they really sit idly by as someone berates them? Probably not.
• Is your character afraid of conflict? Then would they really lash out at a teacher because they scored lower on a test?
• Does your character harbor a grudge against love? Then would they really instantly succumb to the batting blue eyes of their new next-door neighbor?

If you’re going to make your characters go against the grain of their typical emotional reactions, this is something your readers will sit up and take notice of. It’s not always a bad thing, and it can lead to some great developmental points. That character from the first bullet point, the hothead? Maybe he has to bite his tongue as someone shreds him a new one because they’ve got a gun pointed at his wife’s head.

Your readers will know he’s being made to do something he normally wouldn’t, and they’ll feel the tension it creates for your character as he fights his baser instincts.

 

Emotional (1)

Just as with knowing your characters emotionally, you need to know them spiritually.

Are they religious? Yes, what do they practice?

This will also dictate how they react in certain situations…so I want to focus less on that aspect, because it does mirror emotions so closely, and focus on something I’ve seen a few authors get horribly wrong. Can you take a guess at what that is? No? Yes? If you guessed they don’t know the spirituality or religion they’ve assigned their character, then you guessed correctly! Give yourself a candy bar.

If you were raised in a predominately Christian home and you decide you want one of your characters to be Buddhist, then…you should know something about Buddhism.

I won’t name the work, but I have seen an author write about someone’s religion being Atheism, and then go onto say that character was a devil-worshiper. Only…atheists don’t worship the devil.

So, please, do your research.

 

Intellectual
This is another area I’ve seen in several books that needed a little more attention.

How many times have you read a book where the character is said to have attended some major university, graduated at the top of their class, and now they run a multi-billion dollar corporation…and then they do the dumbest shit you’ve ever read in a book? Come on…how many? I’m guessing it’s been more than once.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of highly-educated idiots out there, but your novel probably shouldn’t be filled with them.

If you’ve got a character who never made it past the sixth grade, then they’re not likely to have the same vocabulary as their long, lost sibling who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton.

But let’s reverse this. Your Princeton grad is also probably going to sound crazy awkward if he tries to acclimate to an inner-city way of speech. Ebonics is going to be hard, foreign even, when you’ve spent over twenty years speaking straight out of an English textbook.

Also: intellect doesn’t just come from the classroom, remember that. Wherever your characters got their education, be it school, college, on the job, the streets, the military, or on the farm, make sure their intellectual voice coincides with it.

 

Strengths
As we’ve made our way down this list, you can probably see how all of the above traits have mingled with one another and how they can all have an effect on one another.

This one is no different.

Your character’s strengths and weakness can stem directly from their physicality, back story, emotional health, spirituality, and their intellect. So, when you’re getting to this stage in the character mapping process, take all of those things into consideration.

All that said, I want you to keep one thing in mind: Characters need Kryptonite.

Is your steadfastly Baptist woman unable to have a weakness for bondage? Nope, not at all…this would be an incredibly interesting juxtaposition to flesh out, don’t you think? There is all sorts of internal and external turmoil that might come from such a fascination from such an unlikely person.

Hell, Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.

Sure your Princeton grad might be hella strong in all things science, but what if he develops a fear (or weakness) of fire? That Bunsen burner is now something he can’t face…so what is he to do?

Do you see where I’m going here?

This brings me to the bonus point I’d like to make about Character Building:

 

Growth
This is perhaps the number one complaint I’ve been seeing in reviews as of late. These complaints are coming in from both Indie novels as well as highly-anticipated traditionally-published novels:

Lack of personal growth.

One of the first things I said about getting to know your characters emotionally was that their backstory would help you learn about them when you first plop them in your manuscript. That is your baseline. That gives you their starting point.

You’re going to mess them up, though. You’ll give them conflict and challenge their beliefs. They need to change as a result. They need to have learned lessons and applied new knowledge and skills they’ve learned during their journey.

So, when you’re plotting your characters, don’t just plot who they are at the beginning of your manuscript…plot who you want them to become by the end. Draw a character arc, do a bullet list, anything to help you visualize where your character is going.

Any number and combination of these areas we’ve talked about today can and should go through a personal growth transformation.

A long time ago I came up with some Writing Aides that may help you as you’re outlining your characters. If you’re so inclined, have a look and let me know if they’re in any way helpful. (Which might inspire me to make similar things in the future.)

That’s all I’ve got for you today!

Just a head’s up, I am working on a series of posts dedicated to some amazing writerly resources I’ve found over the years—you aren’t going to want to miss out on those, so click subscribe!

xoxo


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Let’s Talk: ROMANCE

steps up to 2018 (5)Romance makes the promise that no matter how bleak things sometimes look,
in the end everything will turn out right and true love will triumph — and in
an uncertain world, that’s very comforting.
-Leigh Michaels

We’re just a few days away from Valentine’s Day, so it’s only fitting we talk about romance. What makes a romance story a good romance story? Is it the flirting? The first kiss? The tension? The sex? The constant fear it might end?

Yep. It’s all of that.

Today I’d like to examine what might make a successful fictitious romance, and what might make a not-so-successful one. Also, peppered throughout the post you’ll find tips from fellow writers, and even a couple of excerpts from their work. Feel free to click on the images, they’ll take you directly to the author’s Twitter page.

Where should we start first? I vote tropes.

Is there any other story line as bloated with tropes as a good old-fashioned romance? I struggle to think of one. Let’s have a look at five common tropes.

1.| Billionaires. Someone rich falls in love with someone poor, but they struggle to woo their intended because they rely on their money to do so—effectively offending them.

In a certain trilogy-turned-major-motion-picture-trilogy, however, we see a BillionaireWriting Tip_ Allison Temple, Large who most definitely flaunts his wealth on every page. Occasionally it amuses his love interest, but often it just offends her. He still manages to get her in his red room, though, because…well…reasons full of clichés. More on that in a few.

2.| Forbidden Romance. Your two lovebirds’ passions are flamed by the fact something, or someone, wants to keep them apart. The most infamous example of this is Romeo and Juliet. They loved one another dearly, but their families were long-standing enemies.

Writing Tip_ Vania Rheault3.| Love Triangle. Three hearts, two loves. Usually this pits two men against one another as they vie for the affections of a lovesick, indecisive woman…or sometimes a woman torn between a vampire and a werewolf.

4.| Reformed Playboy. The hero in the story is known for his roguish ways. He’s had many lovers, he doesn’t play by the rules, he’s tatted up and drives fast cars…until the day he meets her, that is. I don’t know why, but when trying to think of an example of this, I instantly thought of Uncle Jesse and Rebecca Donaldson’s budding courtship in Full House. Have mercy. 

5.| Scars. Be them physical or mental, one person cannot fully give themselves to the one they love until they overcome the anguish of their scars. The movie Pay It Forward comes to mind.

Writing Tip_ Tante Willemijn, LargeFor a complete list (if there is such a thing) of all the tropes, you should do a Google search. It’s mind-bogging.

My least-favorite tropes:

Instant-Love: Instant attraction is one thing, but if two people go on a date and at the end of the night they’ve already said they love one another? Yeah, I’m probably going to pass.

On again/Off again/On again/Off again: I am all for a break up. Have the fictionalHot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT1 couple argue and dissolve their love, and then have them fight to repair it. Just…don’t make it happen in every chapter. More than two (maybe three) break-ups in a novel would be hard to keep my interest.

Wimpy Woman: This might be a case of lacking character growth, but I’ve found more than one book where the woman is abused, whether physically or emotionally, and she just accepts it. I often write about abuse, but I hate when the abused doesn’t do anything to change their circumstance. I haven’t come across a book where the abuse happens to a man, but I’m sure it exists and it’d be just as wrong. Let your characters grow and evolve.


Tropes vs. Clichés

Tropes are bad, yes?

Not necessarily.

Tropes are common plot devices, like the ones we just discussed. They’re familiar and grant your readers an idea of what they might expect. You can turn a trope around and make it your own. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done. (Boy meets girl is a trope, perhaps the oldest trope, but you can expand upon it and make it unique.)

Writing Tip_ Harley La Roux, Large

Clichés are what readers usually find annoying: The virgin who is suddenly a sex kitten. The hero who can fight in epic battles and then make love to a duchess, despite having a slew of new wounds he should probably have seen. The woman who runs off at every misunderstanding. Avoid clichés at all costs. Readers have seen them more times than they’d wish to count.

 

Keep it real.

Just like last week when we discussed Sex Scenes, your love scenes and romances should usually be realistic. That isn’t to say you can’t have aliens who are in love with warlocks, but there are certain things to keep in mind when attempting to make the heart sing.

Writing Tip_ Christina L. Olsen, Large

 

1. | Keep Your Characters In Mind. This may sound like duh advice, but how many books have you read where the heroine does something wildly out of character, and for no apparent reason? If your characters are straight-laced, would they really jump in the sack after just meeting each other?

2.| Don’t Forget It Needs a Purpose. If you’re writing a romance novel, then the romance is definitely the point of the story. If you’re writing a paranormal thriller with a romantic subplot…that subplot needs to do something. Everything, including your romance, should further your plot. If it’s just tossed in, it’ll read that way.

 

3.| Keep your purple prose in check. 

I am all for a Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHTbit of flower in my descriptions from time-to-time, but if your love scenes are overstuffed with long sections sugary-sweet prose, the effect you’re going for is ruined. It probably shouldn’t take four paragraphs to describe the fleck of gold in the lover’s eyes.

4.| Milk the tension. Don’t underestimate the enormous power of milking both romantic tension and sexual tension. The will they/won’t they trope is one with the capacity to keep your readers turning the page…and it also prevents the Insta-Romance. Love at first sight isn’t really a thing. Lust at first sight is. Know which one you’re writing, if you must.

5.| Don’t forget about chemistry. Your characters need it. Opposites might attract, but it has to make sense. A billionaire isn’t likely to fall in love with someone who is homeless. If they do, then there needs to be a solid reason, otherwise no one is going to believe it.

Excerpt_ Vania Rheault6.| Each of your lovebirds should have their own issues. If Partner A is always the one who has problems to work through that put a strain on the relationship…your readers are going to wonder why Partner B is even sticking around. Let there be some back and forth, for tension’s sake!

7.| Keep it age appropriate. I’ve seen way too many young couples written as if they’re in a mature relationship like middle aged married people. This just isn’t realistic at all and may contribute to unhealthy relationship goals for younger people. If you’re writing for young people, it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle difficult subjects, just do so for them.

8.| Don’t forget your research. Love is love, right? Maybe, but it was handled differently throughout time. If you’re writing about a romance in 1545, it’d behoove you to research what the dynamics were between men and women during that time. Don’t forget about age of consent when writing historical romances…it might be younger than you’re comfortable writing.

9.| Are your characters flawed? (They should be.) So should their romance. I’ve read one or two books in the last two years where the author attempted to write the perfect romance. Meaning the couple always stood by one another, never argued, had a string of tender moments, and nothing ever threatened their happiness. This isn’t only unrealistic, it’s also boring. Bring on the tension, baby!


That’s all today! Please give my contributors a click and check out their social media pages and websites. They are dear, sweet people and I couldn’t be more thrilled they were willing to participate.

I had dozens of submissions and couldn’t use them all, so if you don’t see yours today, I apologize. I appreciate so much your time and effort, and I promise I will keep you in mind for the next blog post like this one.

Until next time, I hope you have a lovely, romance-filled Valentine’s Day! Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT (1)

 

   Love ya!

   Aila xoxo

 

 

 

 


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