Tag Archives: writing

The Self-Publishing Roadmap

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How to self-publish a bookWoooooo! It was a year and a half in the making. Lots of coffee and trips to Panera. Writing and editing and editing and editing…. I am so excited! My first book signing was at Delaware Authors Day in Lewes, DE with more to follow.

After I wrote my first book, The Almost Perfect Birthday Party, people asked me about my self-publishing journey. I began to write a few notes, which turned into a few pages until I discovered that I had written a book. It has been a year full of research and discovery. Now, I embark on the second phase of the process with a book launch and promotion.

Here is a brief description of what you will experience with this book:

Whether you are a business professional looking to brand yourself as an expert in your field, a first-time novelist dreaming of seeing your name in print, or someone who wants to hand down a treasured family history, The Self-Publishing Roadmap will guide you through each step of the process. This book is designed for those who are new to the self-publishing world in an easy-to-follow format with numerous resources to help you on your journey. The time has never been better to tell your story.

In the days and weeks to follow, I’ll post more writing, publishing, and book marketing tips to help you along your way, too. Feel free to ask questions and join the discussion. I would love feedback on the book. Please leave your reviews on Amazon.

Where are you on your writing and publishing journey?

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Every Word Counts

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I’ve been revising the same 25 words for 3 weeks. As a picture book writer, I’m forced to care, forced to be precise.  Every word counts.  With only 500 words to tell an entire story, every word must develop the character, define the plot, and move the story forward.  If it doesn’t, it’s out.

While it may be easy to tell a child a story that they like to hear, it is quite another to write a manuscript that an editor wants to publish. Picture book publishing is trending toward spare language. Most are now fewer than 700 words and the greatest percentage of those are under 500. A walk through a bookstore will reveal this reality.  Wordy picture books are out.  That is a little disheartening for those of us who have a passion for words.

At the same time, using fewer words creates a fantastic challenge.  It’s a game.  In the same vein as Name That Tune, I can write that story in 300 words or 200 or 100.  Can you?

Many of us write a free flowing style of draft and then chop words off to get to the desired (or tolerated) length.  Try this:  Write your story from the least amount of words and add a few as you need them. For example – Harry. Beach. Scared. Sharks. Jellyfish. Crabs. Teddy bear drowning. Harry saves him. Harry loves water.

OK.  It’s not a good story, but an illustration of how few words you need to convey a story.  I bet your mind even filled in the description of the scene and the characters. If each of you used this template for a story, we would end up with dozens of different stories.  And if each of those stories were given to different illustrators, the variations would become even greater.

Go ahead.  Take the challenge. Then let me know how you do.

Pardon Me While I Hyperventilate

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We all know that dirty little 6-letter word…change.  Whether it occurs through our own conscious decision or is thrust harshly upon us, change carries with it varying amounts of anticipation and consternation. Often, we have to endure the hard part before we get to the reason we get out of bed every morning.

In the past 2 weeks, my son turned 18 and graduated from high school.  It’s truly a celebratory time in our family, but also a time of reflection.  He’ll be off to the College of William and Mary in the fall leaving his childhood behind him. More importantly, he’s leaving us behind him. It’s everything that I could have ever dreamed for him yet it may take a crane to dislodge that lump in my throat.  There it is. Change.

This post isn’t really about him or me (although I could go on).  It’s more about using change as an opportunity.  The Comic Toolbox equates comedy with pain. The emotional upheaval that comes with change is an opportunity to make your writing deeper, richer and perhaps funnier.  Your characters will come alive with real emotions once you have experienced them for yourself. The results of change may not only shake you out of your box, but send you into a different orbit altogether.  You may be seated behind your keyboard with from a totally different perspective.

Of course, the changes may be more subtle.  For me, after the initial sadness (and subsequent bottle(s) of Chardonnay) with sending my eldest off to college, there will be a time of joy and pride for a job well done. The long term difference will be the time I have that used to be used for soccer games, band concerts, and the art of constantly feeding a hungry teenager. So, what do you do if you have more time?

Maybe that time is best used writing your manuscript or blog or a letter to your mother.  Maybe it is taking the time to get inspired. Take a walk in nature. Take a few pictures. Take yourself to a museum.  Maybe it is spending some time with those you love and meeting some people you don’t yet know.  The one thing that you can control in an uncertain time of change is you.  You will change, too.  How and how much is up to you.

What changes have occurred in your life that have affected your writing or writing life?

Recommended Reading:  Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

Using Pinterest for Inspiration

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Just a week into using Pinterest, I’ve found it to be not only another way to suck time from busy day, but also to be a great source of inspiration for writing. Considering I’m a very visual thinker, Pinterest’s visual format is like coming home. Each picture has a story to tell. Listen closely and you’ll hear it, too.

Inspiration for Characters

Main Character

From Leotine de Hollander

Inspiration for Scenes

Setting or scene

From Nikoletaa Argirova

Obstacles for Characters

Obstacles for main character

From Umah

Inspiration for Villains

Villains

From Marlene

Have you found inspiration using Pinterest? I love hearing comments.

You Can’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover

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How to Write a Great Cover Letter

The Cover Letter Guy

We’ve all been told not to judge a book by it’s cover.  I agree that not everything is as it appears. Take for instance the stunning dress that turns a plastic mannequin into a supermodel, but makes you look like a guest on the Richard Simmons Show.

I absolutely judge an actual book by its cover.  Why wouldn’t you? If it’s got a bloody dagger on it, I’m guessing it’s not a comedy.  If it’s got curly-Q font with bunnies on it, my dad won’t like it.  If it has a couple embracing wearing period costumes, I’m guessing I’ll gag.

I have excluded lots of books simply because I don’t like the cover.  What have I missed?

Editors and agents judge a book by its cover letter. It must be short, to the point, and captivate the reader enough to to make him/her want to read the actual manuscript you spent half your life writing. If it does not dazzle, it follows that your story will not either.

While there are many resources for formatting your cover letter like The Purple Crayon or Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenberg, a few basics are in order.

  • Include your name and contact info
  • Include the actual name of the editor/agent – do your homework
  • Include a compelling “hook” – a one sentence description that grabs the reader
  • Include a brief engaging description of the story – 1-2 paragraphs
  • Include genre, word count, and target audience
  • Define how your manuscript will stand out in the marketplace
  • Include your bio, if relevant, membership in writing associations, and any publishing credits – leave out that your kids loved your story
  • Thank the reader for their time.
  • Fit it all on one page

While there is some debate over whether some editors and agents actually read the cover letter, there is no question that it should be as good as the manuscript it proceeds.

Just Breathe

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With thunder rumbling overhead and rain pouring down, I feel like I’ve received a little gift from Mother Nature.  Games have been cancelled and errands delayed. The rush of spring has been put on hold, if only for a little while.  I guess I’ll  take this moment to breathe.

I’ve noticed that whenever I have taken a moment or stolen a moment, if necessary, the mind-clogging crapola of the day gets flushed out like a mental dose of Milk of Magnesia.  Bathroom metaphors aside, I feel more free to think and create when I take advantage of those few precious moments in the day, or month, to slow down and breathe.

While I’m not into Zen meditation, perhaps I can learn from the practice of stillness.  Of course, 5 minutes is my limit.  I’m in the perpetual state of ants-in-my-pants and I doubt that I could manage if I tried any longer.  Maybe that’s all I need.  Just 5 minutes to block out all the noise, both actual and emotional, that halt the creative process.  Just 5 minutes for a little sanity and clarity.

If you are into apps, there is a free one from Breathing Zone.  It is pretty no frills and for good reason.  Your goal is to concentrate on your breathing for 5 minutes and gradually slow down the rate of your breath.  While not nearly as much fun as Angry Birds, you may be more equipped to handled your children if they start acting like some.

The rain stopped and the thunder rumbled on to the east. My momentary respite is over.  I’m left with a lingering calm and a sink full of dishes.

Now it’s your turn. Breathe.

SCBWI Writers’ Conference Wisdom

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I recently attended the SCBWI regional writers’ conference near Fredricksburg, Maryland.  There was a packed house of eager writers scribbling notes, hoping to absorb great wisdom from a few goddesses of the publishing world.  In case you didn’t make it, I scribbled a few notes myself.

SCBWI

Marilyn Brigham, editor from Marshall Cavendish, started the event.  Hardly a warm up act, her talk kept my pencil moving from the first utterance. I’ll highlight her tips, at least the ones I can read.

  • Use powerful words and sentence structure.
  • Repetition is bad. (You could feel the picture book authors gasping.  She later explained that she wasn’t talking about purposeful repetition.) Watch for words that keep creeping up in your language. (ie, though, just, so, really, etc.)
  • Along the same lines, watch for echoes like unfair and unfairness or phrases like “of course”, “I was like,” and “I couldn’t help but wonder.”
  • When fleshing out ideas for ideas for a story, mix it up and keep it fresh. Lots of stories or themes have been told over and over, but in a unique way.
  • Don’t overstate the message in the story.
  • Don’t use adult language in a children’s story.  Seems obvious, but she’s seen everything.
  • Don’t use out of date language.
  • Cliches – editors hate them – repeat – editors hate them.
  • Cut out the clutter – adverbs are mostly unnecessary.  Watch for too many adjectives, too.
  • Cut out unnecessary prepositions. “face up to the problem.”
  • Cut out words that are implied. “tall skyscraper.”
  • Use parallel sentence structure. “I came. I saw. I conquered.”
  • Use active voice. “The letter was mailed by Dad.” vs. “Dad mailed the letter.”
  • Look to the writers you admire.  Read. Read. Read.
  • Writing is HARD WORK!

Thanks, Marilyn, for all of those great tips.

As tough as it is to give up the money and the time to go to a conference, it is part of how you become a writer – a better writer, that is.  One who can write a book, package it, sell it, and get it into the hands of readers, many of whom are writers. Thanks to Edie Hemingway and the rest of the SCBWI MD/DE/WV organizing team for putting on a such great conference.