Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Goals, Marketing, Positive Mindset, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset

All About The Indies

Author Event

I’m going to keep this evening’s blog post short and sweet, but I really didn’t want to sit on this news any longer!

If you follow me on Instagram (and if not, why not?) then you may have noticed I already spilled the beans there.

2018 Author Announcements (7)

Ayup, that’s me…breaking out of my shell and heading to Virginia to do an author event!

The coordinator is the super ambitious authorpreneur behind the MinxLit Box, Sade Rene, and I am delighted to meet her and see her in action.

If you are in or around the Arlington, VA area, I would be oh-so-very excited to meet you! Here’s the flyer, so go ahead and save the date. Put it in your phone. Mark it in your Erin Condren planner. Make a note for the fridge. Tell a friend. Tell two friends. Hell, tell all your friends. ūüôā

AAI Full Flyer

Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT (1)

August 18th. Shall we call it a date? ūüėČ Check back often for updates in regards to this inaugural author-outing, as well as my social media. If I’m going to do this, I might as well go all out. Stay tuned. I’ll be making some announcements.

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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‚ÄĒmuch to my Braves fanatic husband’s chagrin‚ÄĒbut 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‚ÄĒsomething 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‚ÄĒagain‚ÄĒafterward.

♦♦♦

“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‚ÄĒmaybe 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: 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. ūüôā

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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Q1: How’d I Do?

Q1 - How did I do

I promised I’d be honest with you guys. No matter how much it hurts. It’s time to pony up and tell you the truth about how I did with my goals for quarter one.

If you’d like to see the full blog post where I laid out my plans, click here.

Here goes nothing, ya’ll.

1.| Print business cards.¬†I did this, but I didn’t like them. Which, technically, wasn’t my fault. So, I’m going to count this as done, but it’s something I need to redo.

2.| Print bookmarks. DONE!

3.| Get signed copies of my books for sale. DONE!

4.| Write 65,000 words of Alabama Rain.¬†Oh, so not even done. I’m about 20k shy…which is embarrassing.

5.| Update the website at least once per month. DONE!

6.| Send three newsletters. DONE!

7.| Keep up with the blogging schedule. DONE!

8.| Utilize Instagram 5x per week. Oh, yeah, no, I did not do this.

9.| Update both the cover and interior of Sex, Love, and Formalities. DONE!

10.| Attend the Writing/Book Festival in Dahlonega, GA.¬†Sadly, I did not get to go. ūüė¶

So, I accomplished 70% of the goals I gave myself for this quarter…but I’m really upset for not hitting my word count goal. That one stings a¬†lot.

Going purely on testing standards, I passed for the quarter. By my standards, however, I should be flogged. I mean, sure, I could give some solid excuses‚ÄĒespecially for not getting to the book festival‚ÄĒbut I won’t. Besides, I said in that blog post that I’d only consider myself a success if I accomplished 8/10.

I am stupidly proud of keeping up with my blog schedule, and also for not giving up on my newsletter. Also, while I didn’t hit my count goal, I am proud of the feedback I’ve received on Alabama Rain thus far, so even if it is taking me a little longer to write, I am proud of how it is shaping up. I guess that matters more? I’m going to tell myself it does.

It was a busy quarter both as a writer and in my personal life, and I’m going to try not to give myself¬†too¬†much grief for not accomplishing one more of those goals.

So, what about Quarter Two?

Here’s what I hope to accomplish over the next three months:

1.| Tweak and reprint the business cards.
2.| Reach 80,000 words in Alabama Rain.
3.| Form a solid book launch sequence/plan.
4.| Send three newsletters.
5.| Keep up with the blogging schedule.
6.| Finalize Alabama Rain’s cover.
7.| Utilize Instagram 3x per week.
8.| Host a giveaway.
9.| Update the website at least once per month.
10.| Explore three ways of increasing sales of SLT & SLF.

Again, I will consider the quarter a success if I accomplish 8/10 of these goals.

I will update you on how I’ve done on Thursday, June 28, 2018! That’s all I have for you today! Have a fantastic weekend! xoxo

P.S. If you haven’t checked out the interview Vania Rheault did with me, click here to check it out! Her blog is fantastic…which isn’t a surprise, because¬†she¬†is fantastic!

 


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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‚ÄĒbut 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!

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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‚ÄĒbut 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:

‚ÄĘ Storycrafting
‚ÄĘ Outlining
‚ÄĘ Drafting
‚ÄĘ Editing
‚ÄĘ 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.

 

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Recommended Teachers

‚Äʬ†Daniel Jos√© Older
‚ÄĘ Jenna Moreci
‚ÄĘ Laurie Wang
‚ÄĘ Gary Vaynerchuk
‚ÄĘ 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! ūüôā 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‚ÄĒRhett 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‚ÄĒmy 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! ūüėČ

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‚ÄúI’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‚ÄĒand a rather heated one, in some circles‚ÄĒabout 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‚ÄĒpreferably through the woods for a few hours‚ÄĒalso 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. ūüôā

 

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‚ÄĒthis 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: SEX

steps up to 2018 (3)“Love scenes feel very mechanical. But our whole job is to make it look real.”
РErika Christensen 


 

**Disclaimer: This post may not be safe for work.**

When most people think of February, I bet Valentine’s Day isn’t far from mind. When people think Valentine’s Day, I bet sex isn’t far behind.

Sex has become less and less taboo over the years, but people still seem to be a little squeamish when doing the deed becomes the main topic of conversation‚ÄĒso as writers, let’s put aside the nerves and talk about it for the sake of well-written sex.


As a writer and a reader, I want a couple of things from sex scenes. I want a natural flow. I want showing, not telling. I want heat. I also want a point. This doesn’t necessarily apply to erotica as a genre, because the sex can be gratuitous, therefore this post is not about erotica. You erotica writers write your sex scenes with a flourish and without abandon!

But a gratuitous sex scene in any other genre is generally a no-no.

You’ve heard the advice before that everything,¬†everything,¬†should further your plot. Every decision your characters make. Every conversation. Every accident. Every minor character…everything should drive your plot forward.

And this definitely includes sex.

**Disclaimer: I am about to share three of the most common things achieved by writing in sex scenes, but these are not the only reasons to include them.**

1.| Start or end a relationship.

I do not mean that a new relationship can’t occur without sex. Of course it can. Most of the time it¬†should¬†begin without sex to keep things realistic. But, it can be used to strengthen bonds between two people, or if used to show infidelity, it can be used to shatter bonds between two people. Sex can cause conflict just as easily, if not more so, than it can solve it.

Maybe two people have what they think will be a one-night stand, only to discover there is a much stronger connection than originally thought.

Maybe a husband succumbs to the flirtations of his next door neighbor.

Maybe a married couple make love before one of them goes off to fight in an intergalactic war, one where no one has returned alive…and a pregnancy results.

The possibilities are endless.

2.|¬†Change a character’s personality.

This could be a good thing or a bad thing that happens to the character. In Sex, Love, and Technicalities I wrote a very bad experience for one of my characters that led them down a self-destructive path. I’ve read other books where a character has exceptionally good sex and came out of the experience renewed with self-confidence. Either the light or dark path can change the trajectory of a character’s path.

Maybe a princess is violated by one of her suitor’s guards, and she abandons castle life to live among the commoners.

Maybe a slightly depressed woman in her mid-fifties is pursued by a younger man, and when she gives in she realizes how much more she has to live for and it turns her whole life around.

Maybe an otherwise sweet and unassuming young man has a sexual experience that leads him down the dark road of sexual addiction.

Again, the possibilities are endless.

3.| Achieve a goal.

Let’s not pretend sex can’t be used as a tool to get what one wants. A promotion, maybe. To get out of trouble. Revenge. To gain information. There are any number of things one might obtain by using sex.

Maybe a young spy uses sex as a way to gain entry into someone’s room and finds the incriminating evidence she needs.

Maybe a young teacher has sex with a school board official to secure funding she needs for classroom materials.

Maybe a reporter has sex with a politician to get the big scoop.

If you guessed I was going to say the possibilities are endless, you’re right.

So, now you know what you want to accomplish in your story by having your characters hit the sheets. How do you go about writing the act?



**Disclaimer: I am about to share with you three of the most popular ways to approach sex scenes, but these are not the only ways to approach them.**

1.| Hide it. 

I know. How is this writing in a sex scene? More or less, the sex is hinted at, followed by a scene break. Let’s look at what hiding the sex looks like:

Fiona and Devon enjoyed their bottle of wine, laughing at each other’s bad jokes, and learning about one another’s childhood fears.¬†When her glass emptied, Fiona slipped off her heels and let them fall to the floor. “Come with me,” she said, and held her hand out for his.

Devon paused a moment before entwining his fingers with hers. He had an idea of what she wanted, and the bulge in his pants proved he wanted it too, but what about their working relationship?

“Don’t be frightened,” she said, leading him into the bedroom. “I don’t bite…unless you ask me to.”

We don’t see them have sex. It’s heavily hinted at, what with the wine and presumed excellent conversation and entering the bedroom, but then we’re left to wonder what went on once the door shut. How might the next scene begin, then?

Devon woke at the squeak of the bathroom door. He sat up in bed, his head still swimming in the clouds. “Everything all right?” The memory of their earlier activities stirring his manhood to attention again.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Fiona said, peeking her head from around the door, her toothbrush dangled from mouth. She disappeared again for a few moments, finally emerging wearing nothing but a sparkling smile. “Since you’re up, mind if we renegotiate the Parisian contracts?”

When might hiding the sex in a story be better than actually writing it?

1.| Writer inexperience or discomfort. Nothing reads as awkwardly as a poorly written or rushed sex scene.
2.|¬†The act of sex in itself isn’t significant.¬†In the above example, it didn’t matter that Devon had ripped abs, or that Fiona looked like a Greek Goddess in her black, lace teddy. All that mattered was, from what we can surmise, Fiona used sex as a bargaining chip for contract negotiations.
3.|¬†Genre/age appropriateness.¬†If you’re writing something younger audiences might pick up, it might be better to leave a lot to the imagination.

What about when things need to be shown?

2.| Go for emotional vs. physical reactions.

This is actually how I prefer to write my sex scenes, and how I wish some other authors I’ve read would’ve written theirs. We aren’t so focused here on the mechanics of sex: His arm here, her legs there, the angle of thrust, etc. Let’s rewrite Fiona and Devon’s scenario so we don’t see a scene break, and instead we see more of what happened in the bedroom.

Fiona eyed Devon as he sauntered across the room.¬†Delicious¬†was a word that came to mind, and one she hadn’t expected. Eager to get things over with, she’d already abandoned her dress in a heap on the floor, but Devon seemed pleased to prolong the experience, leaving a trail of clothes with each step.

She gulped. “You must do cross fit.”

“I do. Yoga?”

“Pilates. Only for a year,” she said behind a smile. “Thanks for noticing.”

He snaked his arms around her waist and eased her onto the bed, pulling her into a kiss so laced with desire she lost all memory of how she’d gotten there. He moved with much more expertise than she thought proper for a pencil-pusher. Fiona knotted her fingers into the sheets and cried out in glorious release. She had had no intention of enjoying herself, but the evidence of her good time pooled beneath her.

We still didn’t get into the mechanics of sex, but now we are at least in the room with them. Without a flashback, internal dialogue, or future conversation, we could never have known by skipping the sex scene that Fiona enjoyed herself despite only intending to get her way in negotiations.

When is this route the most appropriate way to write the sex?

1.| The details are in the emotions. If you need your character to experience something emotionally during the act of sex, but the mechanics of the sex aren’t of high importance, this is a much more highly effective way to write it.
2.| Writer ability.¬†This particular way of writing a sex scene is more palatable than writing it explicitly for writers who aren’t comfortable with it, yet who still need to convey something with sex.
3.| Genre/age appropriateness.¬†If you’re writing for an age bracket where sex is a part of life and it wouldn’t be natural not to include at least someone having sex, but it also wouldn’t convey what it needs to if you hid the scene, then this gives you a happy median.

3.| Get down and get dirty.

Quit wagging your tail, I’m not going to be rewriting the scene again. There’s plenty of good smut for you to turn to after this post. (Might I suggest three of my favorite writers with erotic works out there: Vania Rheault, Jewel E. Leonard, and Joshua E. Smith, all links to Twitter.)

Tips if you choose to go this route:

  • Don’t get bogged down in the mechanics. Unless it matters where her elbow is, or that his foot is balanced on the second shelf of her bookcase, don’t include details like this, they’re distracting. You also run the risk of head-hopping and giving details that shouldn’t be known. If someone is on all fours, they aren’t likely to know their partner is gritting their teeth.
  • Don’t use silly euphemisms for genitals.¬†¬†In fact, most of the time you may not even need to name body parts, silly or otherwise. If you do, and you start using names like¬†her secret garden¬†or his glorious man-rod,¬†you’re going to lose your readers. This reads comically. If you’re writing a sexy comedy, then these may work for you. Your readers will get the giggles. Clinical words don’t work well either most of the time. People read penis or vagina and they’re sent straight back to sex-ed, where, again, they got the giggles.
  • Focus on other body parts, instead.¬†When you have your characters in the throes of passion, readers know they’re connected at the genitals. Stretch your skills and expand the reader experience by directing our attention to other areas, evoking all five senses. The scent of her perfume mixed with perspiration. The guttural growl he makes. The crispness of champagne juxtaposed with saltiness as it is lapped up from one’s navel. The glimmer of moonlight striking her diamond necklace. The sting of a riding crop on one’s buttocks. All. Five. Senses.
  • Make it real.¬†Real sex isn’t a highly choreographed pornography. People think during sex, they get toe cramps, they laugh. Positions sometimes do not work. Sometimes climax isn’t achieved. Real sex is far more interesting to read than porn. Let your characters be vulnerable to all that can go wrong during lovemaking. This especially holds true if you’re writing about someone’s first sexual experience. First times are often times awkward and the things someone notices or obsesses over during their first time are different than someone who frequently has sex.
  • Don’t forget your research.¬†I’m not being coy here and encouraging you to watch porn. But if you plan on writing about something you have no experience in, you’d damn well better research it because someone out there, lots of someones, are experienced and they will call you out on it.¬† Want to write about a man using Viagra, but you’ve never encountered it? Research it. Want to write about a dominatrix, but you’ve never made it out of missionary? Research it. Don’t talk about butt plugs and nipple clamps if you flush at the mention of flavored lube.

Aside from writing erotica, where this type of sex scene reigns supreme, the number one¬†reason¬†I can think of to incorporate this type of scene is because it is what works best for the story. I have read a few books over the years where this sort of scene was used, but it was apparent there was little to no thought behind¬†why.¬†Perhaps it’s just fun, and that’s okay, but it should never come across as thrown in just to, I don’t know, pad your word count, unless you’re aiming to win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award‚ÄĒyep, that’s a real thing.

That is all I have today. Feel free to tell me your favorite and least favorite traits in sex scenes, you never know who you might help.

Until next time, my lovelies! Happy reading and writing! xoxo


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The DNA of Bad Cliffhangers

www.ailastephensbooks.com (1)‚ÄúWould you dare to walk with the beast on the dark side of the moon?‚ÄĚ
– Demetri Daskova

The other day I was firing off what I had hoped would be the last few emails before I could punch out for the day and come home. It was all standard stuff: Warning about system updates, W-2 notices, meeting reminders. I was even chatting with a coworker friend of mine on the phone, indulging in a little light, office gossip. As she and I mused over trivialities, several emails piled up in my inbox in rapid succession.

See, if I’m on my office phone and someone calls me, an email automatically pops up telling me I am missing phone calls and from whom.

Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.

Within the span of thirty seconds, I had a total of six missed calls from my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss.

I hung up on my friend and started dialing.

No answer.

Where were they? They just called.

Another email pinged, from the boss’s boss: “I just called you twice. Don’t leave. We need to talk.”

Five minutes later, as I stared blankly at my computer screen, three stern knocks at my door were almost my undoing.

This is a true story, and after everything was settled (which, by the way, while I was being blamed for something, it turned out not to be my fault) it took a few minutes for my adrenaline to die down.

On my way home that day I couldn’t help but replay the events in my head and it dawned on me how perfectly this cliffhanger had been set up and it got me to thinking about how to build a successful cliffhanger…and how to build an unsuccessful one.

For the newbies in the back, what is a cliffhanger?

It’s a plot device where something happens suddenly and there is no immediate solution. (Like how I couldn’t figure out what the pandemonium was for) Sometimes there is a physical danger, sometimes the cliffhanger is emotional.

Authors want to construct a cliffhanger that compels their readers to keep reading in order to find out how the character is going to be affected. Will they die? Will they get the girl? Were they in the car crash? Did they get out before the house fire? Did they burn dinner? Did they have the dress in the right size? Did they get into their number one school?

I’ve read, or attempted to read, lots of Indie novels over the course of the last two years and one thing I’ve seen many authors forget is how and where to incorporate a cliffhanger.

Notice how I said I’ve attempted to read lots of Indie novels? Yeah. There’s a reason I, and many other readers, have put so many Indie books in the DNF pile.

Let’s look at some of the common issues I’ve had with cliffhangers in Indie novels.

1.|¬†Not enough cliffhangers. I’ve tried to get through more than one Indie novel where the author seemed hellbent on waiting until they reached the climax to give any sort of cliffhanger. When someone is reading a novel, the place they are most likely to put it down to tend to other things is at the end of a chapter or at a scene break. I’m not saying every scene break needs a cliffhanger, but it might be a good idea to sprinkle in some mini-cliffhangers to spur readers on to the next scene, and¬†definitely¬†a good idea to do something at the end of each chapter that will captivate readers and make it hard to put the book down. If the writer doesn’t make it hard to put the book down, they make it easy not to pick up again.

2.|¬†Repetitive cliffhangers. The one I have seen several Indie novels use over and over again is the will they/won’t they cliffhanger in more than a few chapters. Repeating the same cliffhanger creates the-boy-who-cried-wolf scenario and quickly leads to disinterest. I read a certain fan-fiction-turned-major-Hollywood-film and found myself thinking¬†oh good, they’re fighting again. Look, they’re in love again, I wonder if they’ll argue again…yep, yep, there it is…well, this chapter is about to end, so I guess they’ll think about breaking up, yep.

Inversely, some cliffhangers are unsuccessful because they came from far out in left field. If an author is writing an epic western drama, and the first fifteen chapters give no indication of science fiction but then out of nowhere an alien spaceship lands in the middle of a shootout at high-noon…that’s just…no. The cliffhanger needs to make more sense than that.

3.|¬†Not enough emotional development.¬†Cliffhangers should happen to characters in which your readers have invested some time. A writer can’t expect readers to be all that concerned someone mentioned once, sixteen chapters ago, was shot…There should be enough of a bond between the reader and the character the writer is inflicting fear/pain/harm upon that finding out what happened is a necessity.

If at the end of a chapter a writer wants to entice me by having the great uncle I’ve never heard of call to say he’s coughing up blood, I’m going to be left with questions, yes, but not ones the author wants me to ask.

Let’s look at couple of examples:

A.

After shopping, Leslie walked her usual path home. She and Greg had worked out a lot of their issues and she looked forward to their night. As she waited for the crosswalk, she blacked out and hit her head on the asphalt, moments before the bus was due to arrive.

B.

Dangling her shopping bags from her index finger, Leslie’s heart skipped a beat thinking of what Greg’s reaction would be to her new lingerie. They had worked through so many issues, and he’d taken therapy much more seriously than she ever imagined.¬†Maybe we have a chance,¬†she thought while waiting for the crosswalk light to give her permission to cross.¬†Eleven years.¬†She still couldn’t believe they’d made it to their anniversary. Her thoughts drifted to what wine would pair best with their dinner when her lungs failed to draw in her next breath. She looked down at her arms which now felt like anvils. She dropped her bags and fell forward, her head bouncing on the road’s fresh asphalt.

Onlookers screamed as a bus screeched to a halt.

I won’t believe you if you say¬†A¬†gave you a more emotional response.

I just made that shit up, but let’s pretend that is the end of an amazing chapter. My readers are thinking¬†oh, no! What happened to her? Did the bus hit her? Is she dead? OMG!¬†OMG!¬†OMG!¬†OMG!¬†OMG!¬†OMG!¬†OMG!

I’ve successfully created a cliffhanger my readers are invested in, and they’ve decided to forego finishing the laundry to keep reading. Is my job as an author done?

Nope. A successful cliffhanger must be followed by its resolution‚ÄĒand a bad resolution will ruin the cliffhanger. How might a resolution kill the cliffhanger, you ask?

4.| Rushed resolutions. Cliffhangers are supposed to be a swift kick in the groin. They happen and then the writer enters a page break. Your reader should feel a reaction. They need to think oh shit! What just happened? I need to know! And be inspired to turn the page.

I’ve seen Indies who write a decent cliffhanger and then resolve it before they start the next chapter or scene, leaving no sense of urgency to turn the page. We don’t want this.

The resolution should¬†usually¬†come in the next scene or chapter, but not right away. Milk this emotional thing your reader has going on for a little while. Get them invested in the chapter. If the resolution happens in the first sentence or two, the reader isn’t likely to keep going, as they will have gotten the instant satisfaction of knowing what happened next.

Which sounds like a chapter opening that will get the most out of this emotional buck?

A:

Sitting up in her hospital bed, Leslie stretched and took a sip of cool water.¬†I wonder where Greg is, I’d like to do a crossword puzzle together.

B:

The incessant beeping of machinery would be Greg’s undoing. He couldn’t peel his eyes from his wife, her face was so swollen he barely recognized her. All he wanted in the world was to trade places with her. He had been the one who screwed things up for so long, it wasn’t fair she had to fight this battle, too.

Greg closed his eyes and pictured their last fight, the one where he came so close to hitting her. He was a different person then. Never again, he thought.

“Greggy,” Leslie said, her voice soft and scratchy‚ÄĒjust like the doctor warned would happen from the feeding tube. “Greggy, where I am I?”

If¬†A¬†really sounds better to you, then you’re going to¬†love¬†a lot of Indie books.

Does the resolution¬†always¬†need to occur in the next chapter? No. Delayed satisfaction can be a powerful tool, but it shouldn’t feel forgotten. Maybe Leslie doesn’t wake up in the next chapter. Maybe there are two or three chapters where it is touch-and-go, but if in the next chapter Greg is out drinking with his buddies and never once mentions his wife, and in the next two or three chapters he starts seeing some chick named Hildi and finally in that fourth chapter Greg gets the phone call his wife has woken up…readers are going to be a little angry.

An author can also delay gratification by giving the resolution in smaller doses. Leslie is awake, but can she remember who she is? Can she walk? Will she be in a wheelchair? Will she ever dance again?

5.| No resolution at all. This is the king of cliffhanger mistakes. A writer has successfully gotten his reader to turn the page, desperate to find out what happens next, and then nothing ever happens. The cliffhanger has turned into a loose end. A plot hole. When, if, the reader finishes the book, they are going to be bummed they never found out what happened. This is not a good feeling when one has finished a book.

But what about endings, you ask?

If an author is writing a stand alone book, I caution using a cliffhanger at the end because of the fact there will be no resolution and the reader will be left unsatisfied. I can’t think of a time this is a good idea. Feel free to show me one in the comments.

If a writer plans on a sequel and wishes to employ a cliffhanger, the author should be aware that¬†this¬†cliffhanger isn’t just getting someone to turn over to the next chapter, but it must entice them to¬†buy another book. People don’t part with money easily, so plan on making a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

Also keep in mind that no matter how good your cliffhanger, if you wait to publish the sequel, people will probably have forgotten the first book¬†and¬†the cliffhanger. So make sure the second book is ready relatively soon thereafter…if you’ve succeeded in developing an amazing cliffhanger, you’ll increase the sales of book two by leaps and bounds.

What is your favorite cliffhanger, either on the page or on screen?

That’s all we have today, my lovelies! Until next time, happy writing! xoxo


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