Saturday, April 22, 2017

Self-Publication Part 4 // Answers to Questions

Welcome to the part 4 of my self-publication series! It's been awesome hashing this out with you all and I'm so glad you've all been finding it helpful so far. Congrats for sticking with me this long!! :P Today I bring to you the answers to any questions I received that I haven't answered thus far.

1. How easy was it to go through the self-publishing process? ~ Bethany R.

It was doable for me, but it required lots of research and decision making. You have to be willing to spend lots of time and some money and possibly part of your sanity throughout the process. Knowing what to do wasn't as hard as picking the best iteration, finding people to help me, and trying to plan out the timeline for it all. You're given all of that with traditional publishing :)

2. Are there any major hindrances for young authors with self-publishing? ~ Phoebe K.

Well, to get a nice quality, you have to be willing to pay for services such as editing, formatting, and cover design. If you're looking at publishing for just your family and friends, you might be able to do some things yourself, but the quality won't be as good unless you're very talented. :) Other than that, not really! Self-publishing is pretty straightforward, especially when using something like CreateSpace where they lay out the steps for you.

3. How can you protect yourself from thievery when you self-publish? And are there any ways to protect myself from evil scum-bags who want to steal my work?? ~ H

This is a great question! I don't have any personal experience with Wattpad or Scribophile where you're sharing your unfinished work with the world, nor with anyone trying to steal my work. Printed books, even when self-published, have copyrights which make it illegal to replicate without permission or credit to the author. Going through a traditional publisher doesn't make your work any "safer." I stick copyrights on my blog, YouTube videos, and the like so there is a stamp somewhere saying "this is mine." It won't necessarily stop theft from happening, but it does make recovery simpler if it does happen. I do think theft rather unlikely as long as you're working through major platforms still like Wattpad, Scribophile, Blogger, YouTube, and CreateSpace who are accustomed to watching out for such issues and handling the problem. I am sure they all have policies in place to help avoid it if they can (like YouTube taking down pirated videos). Hopefully that helps :)

4. Where did you get your physical copies made of your book? And how was the process for that? Did you publish through Amazon as well as use something else to get the physical copies? ~ Emily M.

I got all my physical copies printed through CreateSpace. Once you actually publish something through them, it goes on Amazon and you can order print copies. You put in the quantity and the shipping and billing information. Ta-da! They print the books on demand and ship them to you. You have to pay the "production cost" which for Martin Hospitality is $5.50 a book and then some shipping. Selling them for $15 still, I get a really good profit off of them! I know you can get copies printed and shipped to you from Lulu as well without "publishing" which people often do for their drafts so they can have physical copies and fiddle around with fonts and cover and the like.

5. Do you have any ideas for other genres, or are you planning on sticking to contemporary? ~ Emily D.

Hehe. I have a lot of ideas in different genres. Christian Contemporary isn't really something I thought I'd want to write in the first place, but here I am!! I'd say most of my ideas are still real world Christian Fiction, but set in different 20th century decades. :) That's what most of my novels will end up being I think. ;) I tried drafting this Christian Dystopian allegory thing for NaNo in November and ... yeah, I don't think that's my genre. I'm hoping to get my medieval Pandora's Box retelling novella published soon, so that will be another new genre. :P And for July NaNo I've already begun planning a Fantasy bookish time travel thingy that I intend to release in serial form if it all works out. So yes!! I have lots of ideas. :D Check out my Pinterest to find all my storyboards {the ones in swirly brackets}.

6. What sparked the very first seeds of Gemma's story? ~ Emily D.

A crazy dream :P It's not my only story to be sparked by a dream, either. The dream was a combination of a Beverly Lewis novel, my aunt's move to Kansas, and my mom's work in our local Pregnancy Center.

7. How expensive is it to run a giveaway for your first release? ~ Olivia

To run a giveaway through Rafflecopter, it's free and customizable. So the only cost is the price of the product you're giving away and the shipping fees. For me, I have to pay about $6 for each of my books with the shipping it takes to get it to me. I spent $.50 per box I assemble to ship them in and about $3.50 US mainland shipping. So it's approximately $10 for me to giveaway one book. Shipping to Canada had a base cost of $15.50 and it was similar for England and Australia. So then it costs me about $22 per. An e-book copy doesn't cost me anything to e-mail to someone, but it's still money not earned :P Any other little things I've given away so far I got on Etsy with a gift card or at TJ Maxx for a few dollars. 

8. Do you have any tips or (even better) a checklist of things you should do when self-publishing? ~ Emily M.

Terrific question! I have given a plethora of well-hidden tips in the last few posts. Because you requested it, I have a self-publishing checklist in the works! I'll share a downloadable version of that with you on Tuesday along with my #typewriterprompt of the month :) Then on Saturday I will have the awesome Ivy Rose over here!


Any specific questions for me that I still haven't answered? Ask them in the comments!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Self-Publication Part 3 // Managing Marketing Myself

Welcome back to my self-publication series! Here's part one and part two in case you missed them ;) Today I'm covering how I market my book. It's an acquired talent and even harder as a self-published author, because it's all on you.
Ah, marketing. It's a beast. The trick with marketing is that it doesn't happen on it's own. Someone has to be behind the scenes pulling the strings. When you're self-published, you don't have a company doing any marketing for you. This is definitely a downside to self-publishing. However, I have managed so far and this is how!
 Obviously social media is a huge part of marketing. This really used to intimidate me, but I had to get over it. I have basically every account I'm going to now. (Instagram joined the ranks this week.) I've found that just giving updates on my writerly life keeps people engaged with who I am and what I'm doing. Share the little moments. It helps people relate and reminds them that (1) oh look she published that didn't she and (2) obviously people are enjoying this so I should go grab a copy.

And share the huge moments, too. When Martin Hospitality was up for awards and I was running a sale, I totally barraged people with that on all of my sites. I've found that to avoid doing so obnoxiously, I did it once or twice everywhere. (There's bound to be some overlap.) Be your honest self even in the blatant self-promotion posts.

Asking a question can often get people to engage you better. Even when I don't get on social media and engage with other people, I always make sure I interact with the people who choose to interact with me. That alone is a great start :)

That's basically how it works for me. I haven't gotten the consistency thing down to a tee yet.
 I tie all the accounts I have together by having a consistent bio and profile picture on each, so people easily know that I'm the same person. And you wonder why don't change my pictures much? :P
I use MailChimp to send out a monthly newsletter. It takes a lot of time, but it's totally free. I do this in place of monthly wrap-up posts, making it a little more official and writerly, but still giving a glimpse into my life. It's important to be personable!! You can't really force that, but I feel like I don't share much of my life with you guys on here :( So definitely subscribe to the newsletter in the sidebar ;) ➡ See, self-promotion's easy

I'm not sure I do it totally right, but I draft my post under "template" and then just have to send out a "campaign" and apply that template. Voila, my newsletter goes out to my entire list of 30 something readers. For the next post, I just replace the content under my newsletter template and do it again.

For the special sale and such I did a new template and customized it for a sale look. Next sale or whatever, I'll just swap out the info and send it again. It's been a nice tool so far and apparently most people open them and click on the links. A few lovelies even reply! <3 and="" are="" details="" get="" great="" insider="" newsletters="" p="" so="" yeah="" you="">
I obviously have a blog which is the main place where I attract new readers that I bond with. Honestly most of my internet friends have come through this blog!! *sniff*

I don't do a whole lot of blatant promotion on here, but that's okay. You guys get the neat stuff. I've shared the mock cover, first chapter, final cover, release date, blog tour, where to buy it, blah blah blah. And you all still put up with me! ;) Because it's not a part of everything I do, but you all know it's a huge part of me. That's the ideal balance, honestly.

And that's because I do try to share me on this blog. I have no character limits here and am dedicated to showing up every Saturday at least. I'm getting the hang of dropping links in everything I post though. This isn't always beneficial just to me, but linking to other posts I've done and such is a really awesome thing to do. People only click if they want to :) But I'd rather them hear it from me than Google it, and they would too since it's right here.
This is honestly the. most. helpful. form of marketing there is. And it relies on people reading and enjoying your book. I have older couples at my church who have bought it for their family members and recommend it to their friends, particularly our mutual friends who haven't bought it yet.

Getting that little push from people who aren't me is really great! Hearing firsthand from a reader that a book was awesome is the main thing that causes me to read a book for sure.

You obviously can't force people to talk about your book, but you can 

As far as doing things on a more personal level locally, I have done three things so far (woohoo):

  • stsocked my book in the local Christian bookstore
  • had two book signings downtown
  • participated in a local church's book club for MH
These have all been great ways to connect to some new readers who are now fellow enthusiasts spreading the word for me. More details on them in my newsletters ;)


Any specific questions? That was a lot to cover and I want to make sure it enlightened you! For an additional resource, check out the social media posts I've been doing on Teen Authors Journal:
Next week I'll be answering some more specific questions I've received that haven't made it into the posts and hopefully providing you with a simple self-publishing checklist as well.

Until then, have a fantastic Easter Weekend!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to Hook Your Readers with Your Opening Line // A Guest Post by Madison Guy

A Tuesday post! Today I'm giving you all a break from my self-publication series and letting my friend Madison take over the blog. She's got some amazing content here for you. You may remember her from her previous guest posts introducing her blog Miss Maddy Cakes and tips on character creation. She's recently celebrated her first blogging anniversary and has moved sites. Her stunning blog is now A Little Southern Grace. Make sure you not only click that link and drool over it, but also give her a follow! Enjoy the post. I'll see you Saturday :)

I'll get straight to the point: writing the first chapter of your story is extremely hard.  A bundle of doubts and questions come to your mind before you even begin typing.  What is the perfect first impression to give your readers? How should I introduce my characters?  How do I keep it interesting when nothing has happened yet?

Sometimes the hesitation comes from realizing you don't know where the rest of the book is going.
But writing a killer first line is so important.   The first line - or the first few lines, we'll make an exception - is the most important aspect of your book.  It could be the difference in someone buying a book at a bookstore or not.   It could be the reason someone decides to check out a book at the library.
That's a lot of pressure!  WAY too much when you're staring at a blank page.  But don't worry.  Here are a few tips for those of us who get intimidated (cheers to you if you don't!):

1.  Provoke questions.

This one is a biggie.  If there are no questions, your reader won't have any interest following your story.  You want to leave unanswered questions and cliffhangers;  who here has binge-watched a not-so-great show just because we want to know what happens to that one character? *raises both hands*
So make your readers ask questions.
Let's take this first line from a well-loved book:
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
What's the first thing that comes to your head?  For me, who would name child this and why did he deserve it?   It makes you want to find out what Eustace did in order to deserve a name like his.

2. Add a little pizzazz (aka a hook).

Make your readers interested right off the bat.   Make them want to read the rest of the book.
This could branch off number 1, but it is slightly different.  While you want the reader to ask questions, you want them to ask the right questions.  Don't make them wonder why your character wants a pb and j sandwich for breakfast, make them wonder something important and plot-related.
Make it interesting and give us a snapshot of your story all in one sentence.  For example:
"It was a pleasure to burn."
- Fahrenheit 451
This author did a fantastic job giving a punch and making you want to read more.  First of all, who thinks it is a pleasure to burn?  Second, it gives the readers a picture of what makes this story interesting.

3.  Introductions.

Next, introduce your readers to what kind of a world your character lives in.  You can be upfront and tell them where the story takes place or you can hint at what makes your world different.  Are we in modern-day England or are we in a futuristic tavern with crazy aliens?
Here's an example:
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
- 1984
This quote from 1984 shows us how the world is different from our modern-day world - clocks striking thirteen?  Wouldn't you want to keep reading?

4. Give your character a voice.

This is especially fun when you're writing in first person.  Your readers want to know what kind of character they will be following, so give them a distinct voice.
For example, take The Book Thief:
"First the colors.  Then the humans.  That's how I usually see things.  Or at least, how I try to. HERE IS A SMALL FACT: you are going to die."
-  The Book Thief
Okay, yes, this isn't ONE line.  But it's still a brilliant example because it gives you an idea of who the narrator is.  He calls people "humans."  He's blunt.  It gives the readers a glimpse at what your narrator is like and how the rest of the story is going to go.
Here's another one:
"Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie."
- The Princess Diaries
This quote tells the readers something about the character before we even know her name.  She lies, and sounds a little tired of lying.  Why does she feel like she has to lie? Who is she? Bam, instant hook!

You might be thinking, how the heck am I supposed to fit all this in ONE SENTENCE?!  Honestly, sometimes you won't.    Sometimes it will take a few sentences to give the reader that punch (The Book Thief example).  So I could call this post: "How to Hook Your Readers With Your First Page," but it is so much more powerful to find one line that accurately represents your story.  Try to find a way to squeeze the idea behind your story into a few words that'll lead your readers into the rest of your plot.
"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."
- The Old Man and the Sea
In this first line, the author tells us who the character is (an old man), where he lives (off the Gulf Stream), what the problem is (not catching a fish), and makes us ask questions (why does he fish alone?).
It's not the most "pizzazz-y," but it's one of the best classic first lines that I've read.
And don't worry, the amazing opening doesn't always come to you in the first draft! I've gone through multiple first lines in my novels before landing on ones I love. And, even then, it will probably change many more times...  so next time you're trying to find that perfect opening line, you can use this handy little cheat sheet!

How does your story start?  Does it draw your readers in?

*pops back in* Here's her blog again: A Little Southern Grace

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Self-Publication Part 2 // How to Hire Help

Happy Saturday! If you missed Self-Publication Part 1 // What It Is & Why I Chose It, go check it out! For the second part of my self-publication series I'm here to talk about hiring people.  It's a huge part of the self-publication process so let's look at what you should hire people for and how to about doing that!
Self-publication is called self-publication because everything is on you, the author. However, that does not mean that you have to do everything alone! Chances are you are not skilled enough in writing, editing, formatting, and cover design to handle it all yourself and still have a professional look at the end of the day. I certainly wasn't!

The parts of publication I handled myself were:

  • writing 
  • applying feedback
  • making the fine print decisions
  • getting everything onto CreateSpace
  • marketing
I hired people to do my:
  • editing
  • formatting
  • cover design
And let me take a moment to emphasize that it is important to hire people if you're serious about being an author. You want a professional look that shouts quality. Don't do it alone! One-man-band books don't necessarily sell better. Professionalism is worth the time and money it takes, I promise.

Before I hired anyone, I wrote the first draft of Martin Hospitality alongside my alpha readers who gave me feedback. I revised it and sent the draft that resulted to my beta readers, who gave me a ton of helpful feedback that resulted in the most extensive changes to the novel. At that point, I was confidant that plot holes were resolved, my story made sense, people kept the characters straight... Basically the content was ready for publication. I still wasn't 100% certain that the presentation was technically flawless. It needed a formal edit, formatting, and a snazzy cover.
This is when I used my editor, Kelsey Bryant. I had hired her about a month before, knowing I would still want a professional look over, especially after my brain was tired of so much editing. I had left myself two weeks to cram all the beta feedback into my draft before I sent it off to Kelsey.

Finding an editor was a little tricky. I knew I was looking for a freelance editor for a reasonable price, and preferably Christian since that would put my book in the best frame for them. First, I asked friends who they had used. Kelsey was one of the main people who came up multiple times. I also got a few tips on who not to use ;) 

Then I did try Google. Most editors have the kinds of edits they offer and the price listed on their websites. For a few who had the delightful "message for pricing," I did message them. For my 100k novel, one ran $700 and another $1,250. Obviously more than I was hoping to pay!

Kelsey charges $3/1,000 words and is a very flexible, lovely person to work with. She was Christian, available, comparatively inexpensive, and willing to edit my entire novel in two weeks. That's why I chose her.

Do your research and don't be afraid to message people and see what you can arrange before making your final decision. Editing is overall more expensive than I expected. I have the skill of Natalie Hanemann and Nadine Brandes on good authority, but they both cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for a complete, in-depth edit of a 100k novel. So I might be able to afford them for a short story ;)

Since I'm still in the process of educating myself as an editor, I currently charge $1/1,000 words. You can learn more about my editing here.
Once I had revised my novel according to my editor's feedback, it was time for formatting. Again, I asked my friends who they had used. It's the easiest way to make sure people are legit and their talent is satisfactory. Perry Elisabeth Design was who came recommended and they have the best formatting price I've found by far. They do paperback & Kindle formatting, and are very prompt and easy to work with. Also, whatever font and size they chose was perfect for my interior :)

The only thing I wish I had known was what the standards are, so I could have had them do it they way I wanted from the very beginning. I felt bad making them redo stuff because I didn't think about the million ways to format. For example, what page is numbered as the first? How do you want them to handle the "widows and orphans" paragraph splitting at the bottom of pages? Consider your preferences before you get started. 

Also, make sure your novel is 110% complete. I kept finding a typo and word change to be made after I had submitted the manuscript for formatting and so had to pay extra for those tweaks. (Not a huge deal, but don't put yourself or your formatter through that for the sake of a deadline. Take the time to perfect it first.)
Cover design is hard. I have no skills and knew I wanted to hire someone to get a professional look, but I really had no idea of what I wanted for the cover. Eventually my sister helped me decide that a different art medium would be pretty. A watercolor corn field is what I went with, but no designer wanted to do a watercolor cover for under $600. Again, more than I wanted to pay! 

Even when I found people with portfolios I liked (which is rare; I'm picky), they were well outside my budget. I was hoping for a cover definitely under $500, but wasn't finding anyone willing to do my look for that amount. Some more "normal" photo covers might fit into the $400 range, such as Perry Elisabeth Designs with their most extensive option at $300.

My uncle helped me mess around with photoshop and text to formulate ideas and had an acquaintance who was a watercolor artist. Mandy Cave is an absolutely amazing artist and wonderful person. I got to meet her at her adorable house on a rainy day and see her talent in person. After talking through some details and getting a bid under $400, I knew she was exactly what I wanted! The fact that she was also a Christian, thrilled about getting to do her first cover, and sent me the original paintings (!!!!) made her just that much more amazing and compatible!

The only other cover designer I have hired is Anika Walkes (currently charges under $30). Her photoshop skills and fonts are some of the best I've seen, although I don't know how her sizing skills transfer for a print book. Alea Harper also does gorgeous work, but doesn't sell her skills yet. For professionals whose portfolios I enjoy (but I don't know their pricing), try Kirk DouPonce of DogEared Design and Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio.


Did that clear some things up? There really is no magic formula. Hopefully knowing what is standard and asking for personal recommendations will get you on your way to some amazing service. Don't go it alone! Professionalism is so worth the money. Make sure at the end of the day you're happy, even if it's a long road getting there. Worst case scenario, you learn a lot for next time! You've got this :)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Self-Publication Part 1 // What It Is and Why I Chose It

Are you ready for this five week series? Today I'm talking about what self-publishing is, comparing it traditional publishing, and explaining my decision-making process.

Self-publication is all the rage today. Before this option emerged (largely with the Kindle's birth in 2007) the only way to get anything published was through traditional methods: a publishing house for books, a newspaper for serials, and a magazine for articles. You had to prove that your book is worthy of publication to a publishing house, and then give them most of the control over your manuscript. But having a significant publisher represent you is profitable for sales, and they arrange lots of the marketing and laborious details for you. So the real question is, do you feel comforted by that process? Is that what you want for your manuscript that you've worked so hard on? It often involves rejections to your queries, but an agent to help you, and only some control over the details, which can be a blessing or a curse.

Self-publication opened up a whole new world where anyone with the willpower (not necessarily the talent) could publish without the big names. There are online companies such as Lulu, BookBaby, and CreateSpace which only require the inputting of information and the uploading of files in order for you to publish your book. BookBaby requires payment to use them up front, CreateSpace takes part of the royalty, and from what I can tell Lulu charges you per copy you require. Depending on your funds and their services, you can decide which method is the most appealing.

While tradition publication requires you relinquishing some control, self-publication has no such demand. In fact, everything is on you. What you can't do yourself, you must hire to do for you (more on that in the next post). You are in every part of the decision-making process and it takes a lot of time and research to decide what's best for your book.

When I published Martin Hospitality, I self-published through CreateSpace. I liked that they were an Amazon company and would automatically stock my book on Amazon upon publication. They also print-on-demand, meaning a book is made when someone orders. There are no "extra" books on hand for either of us to lose money on. My royalty is the list price minus production cost and CreateSpace's share.

While I did look at the differences between traditional and self-publishing, it was not a hard decision for me. I am a control freak. I knew I wanted the control that comes with self-publishing. I didn't mind having to do the dirty work of publishing. I also liked the idea of finding my own services--people I could trust to handle my manuscript well. It's an uphill battle to prove that your book is quality and to get it noticed by people. I didn't mind having to work for it since I could publish on my own timeline and know the book was completely mine when it was finished.

I don't regret self-publishing in any way. It's been a wonderful experience, even though it is daunting. I love that I was so involved in the process even if it requires a lot of work from me even after publication. I have nothing against traditional publication, though, and might even give it a shot someday for a separate book series. It's still the "normal" way to do things and it's a big deal to get accepted by a publisher. And it certainly isn't impossible.

My brothers watch The Incredibles recently and when I overheard Edna, I couldn't help thinking "traditional publishing." Mr. Incredible wants a cape. She says "No capes." She's the pro ... no capes it is. That basically sums up why I chose self-publishing ;)

In summary, here's a pros and cons of both methods:

Self-Publishing Pros
  • you have all the control
  • you are free to do what you'd like
  • you're involved in the entire process
  • you don't have to wait for a contract

Self-Publishing Cons
  • you do everything yourself or hire people
  • you have to educate yourself to make the right decisions
  • self-publishing is often assumed to be lower quality
  • marketing is all on you
  • many distributors do not consider self-published items

Traditional Publishing Pros
  • an agent represents you and does your marketing
  • you have more time to write with less on you
  • readers will find you easier (and chains accept you)
  • traditional publishing is often assumed higher quality
  • your agent can find you unique opportunities

Traditional Publishing Cons
  • you are subject to their deadlines
  • you may not have much say in their choices for details (cover, editing, formatting, release date, etc)
  • you have to get noticed before you can publish
  • lots of other people are very involved in your work
I assure you none of this is all-inclusive. As you can see, the routes are very different. They both require a measure of bravery and dedication. You've got this!


Thank you all for submitting questions to the survey so I could plan out my posts. What questions do you have about self-publishing? Will I be seeing you on the bookshelves?

For other resources on the differences, pros, and cons, try Victoria Minks and Jansina :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tips for Creating Well-Rounded Characters

Reviewing the surveys on my blogiversary post (which you guys can still submit answers to), you all asked for more writing tips. So here you have it: characters. Stick around for my newest #typewriterprompt ;)

I was scared to figure them out for Martin Hospitality and now? They're my favorite thing to plan! Here are some of the things I use:
I'm listing this one first, because it's one of my favorite things to do! If you're not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicater, learn more about the personalities here (there are 16). Figuring out what personality type my characters have is extremely helpful. It makes me think harder about them and once I've pinpointed them, all I have to do is type in their result on Pinterest and a plethora of "what they're like" pins appear. They're great for giving me new ideas and making sure I got the character's personality right :D

For example, I'm an INTJ or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging. This pin sums me up so I'm pretty certain my personality type is correct.

I also love naming characters. I try to keep a running list of names going for my own sanity, because sometimes nothing perfect comes to mind. When I get really stuck, I research names. (And trust me, I do get stuck; it took me hours or research to name Gemma's next child.) Names have meanings and literally every person I have known in real life lives up to that meaning in some way.

I love the name Miriam, but it means "sea of bitterness or sorrow," "rebellion," "wished-for child," or "mistress or lady of the sea." Thus, an edgy MC in my pirate storyboard is named Miriam instead of my future daughter :) As with Miriam, names often have several meanings that can inspire plot bunnies.

Another way to name a character by meaning is to research foreign words. Google Translate has never been more helpful. "Hope" is amal in Arabic, nadezhda in Russian, and esperanza in Spanish. Esperanza actually gets used as a name.

Just please make names easy to pronounce correctly by sight. Kari is a simple name, but how do you say it? KAR-ee or KEH-ree? And maybe don't use twelve apostrophes. I get tired of reading names like L'af'ka'h. L'afka looks just as foreign ;)
Your readers will be able to keep track of your characters more easily if they are unique. J. K. Rowling has more characters in her story than any other I've read. But I can still name most of them, a physical feature, and a role they played in the story. Watching the movies may have helped me remember them all, but that's because I'm visual. That's still a lot of names!

In Martin Hospitality, I gave Gemma several friends while she's in Wichita. Hollie James is a vibrant, bubbly, cheerful character. But Ginger Martin could be described the same way. So I gave Hollie eccentric style, crazy driving skills, and a pet name for Gemma. Ginger is a sweetheart and a star baker who would hesitate before speaking her mind quite as freely as Hollie does :) Thus, they became very different characters in my mind. It also helped that they never shared "screen time" together.

Whether it's a speech tic, an item of clothing (asparagus green fedora*cough*), a nervous habit, eye color, or a unique personality ... you have plenty to make your characters stand out from one another. 
Every character has backstory even if it only gets mentioned in passing. Everyone's coming from somewhere. It's important when you form their character in the present, that you keep them consistent with their past. (This is one reason I love character charts that make me consider their past before I write.) Maybe it's their accent or ethnicity. Maybe it's something more fine print like having a certain reaction under pressure because of a past circumstance. What kind of education must they have gotten to have the kind of job you gave them?

It's important to think about these things because they become inconsistencies in the story if they don't line up. While there are ways around some standards (MINOR SPOILER EXAMPLE: Gemma worked at a law firm without qualifications due to Mr. Martin and a glitch.)
These are the best! If you haven't used character charts (sometimes called character sheets) to plan your characters, you are missing out! They're so much fun!! I have used this one and this one from Pinterest, but this one from Jill Williamson is my absolute favorite. It combines everything above. Obviously that last one is pretty in depth, so I only use it for my main characters: antagonist, protagonist, villain, any POV peeps, and any other characters I want to understand more. I love charts because they don't just make me think about the character more, they make me think about their role in the story and where they're coming from. Scribbling all that down on one piece of paper for reference is SUPER helpful! I've thought about designing my own, but that's been really hard ;)

Characters will make or break a book. Have fun with them!! They may sound like a lot of work, but it's not as hard as you might think once you get in there, and they're worth it. They've become my favorite part of planning a story. I'll wing everything else if I have to ;)

Aaaand it's the last Saturday of the month whaaat?! so I need to share another writing prompt with you!

What kind of characters does that bring to your mind? If you missed the reveal of #1-12, you can view them on my blogiversary post, or view them on this Pinterest board. Repinning them would be awesome (#typewriterprompt)! Thanks to all of you who already have ^.^ 


As an announcement: I just found out that I won all 5 of the indie awards I was nominated for as a part of Kendra's e-con!! What?! *screams* *tears up* Thank you all so much for voting! The beautiful badges are on my Shop page ^.^

Next Saturday begins the self-publication series you've all been waiting for!! Definitely submit questions to me through this survey if you haven't already! It's been immensely helpful for my planning.

Also, I blog over at Teen Authors Journal now on Thursdays and I am super proud of my latest post: 7 Writing Lessons from Beauty and the Beast. I would love it if you'd check it out (and share it around ;D)

Have a great weekend! :)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Banishing Plotting // What to Plot & What to Not

With Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, everyone's scrambling to plot their stories. Maybe you don't ... need to.

I can already hear the cheers from the pantsers and the gasps from the plotters.

While I've always considered myself more of a plotter, my to-do lists began to look like this:

from Dreamstime

I would add things to my lists just so I could have the pleasure of checking them off (especially when I didn't finish some of the larger items).

At that point, planning things is no longer helpful; it was just a tool to make me feel productive, when in fact I was wasting my time and energy. In Michael Hyatt's webinar on productivity, he called "tracking obsessively" a "deadly sin."

I couldn't help thinking as I listened to him that this applies to writing. I have tried to excessively plot my stories and even when I succeed, it's not helpful in the end. I've learned all of this the hard way, and while it's bound to be somewhat subjective, perhaps it will help you weed out some unnecessary plotting.

1 // Characters

Characters are the foundation to any story, so it's very important to have these nailed down. A plot hole dims in comparison to a character with no backstory and depth. My favorite character chart I've found so far is from Jill Williamson of Go Teen Writers. If you need something a little in-depth try this and this from Pinterest.

2 // Trajectory

Especially since I don't plot my entire story in detail anymore, I think it's important to at least know where I'm headed. That's enough for me to get started writing and see where the process of actually writing takes me. This usually takes the form of a chronological sequence of scenes that have popped into my head.

3 // Game-Changing Element

It's nice to know what your plot twist and the climax of your story are before you start writing. That way, you can do foreshadowing and properly build the story around those elements from the beginning. Writing this down longhand in a notebook is usually the best thing for me. Revise it as you come up with developments.

4 // Setting

If it's in this world, this shouldn't take a whole lot of time. Decide what era, and at least what country/state. Do some research on that environment if you need to before you get started. The goal is not to be switching things around too much in the middle of a draft because that makes editing a real pain.

1 // Minor Characters

While you should definitely nail down your protagonist, antagonist, and anyone else you're going to use for POV ... that's about it. The pet dog, mother-in-law, and siblings #4, 5, & 6 have to be vital to the story. As long as you know what makes them vital, there's no reason you have to plan them out any more than that from the beginning.

2 // The Entire Plot

Trust me, I've tried this. I thoroughly outlined the first half of a novel by chapter. It was a stiff and boring outline, but it helped me think through a few little details. After I got past the first chapter, I wrote without ever looking at that outline again. A bunch of bullet point scenes and conversations is enough for me now. You have to be willing to let your mind and story take their own path once you actually sit down to write.

3 // Dialogue

Again, some bullet points of issues you want to be verbally discussed in your book is probably a good idea. That way you don't forget anything. But there's no reason to form a diagram of conversations, because you're not going to follow it. It's a waste of time. You just have to be careful not to give every reply as you instead of as your character.

4 // Themes

This is kind of a halfway one. It'd probably be good to know what one of your themes is going to be. In Martin Hospitality hospitality (generosity, kindness, etc) was a decided theme before drafting. I added stronger threads of grace, forgiveness, fear, finite-ness, trust, & courage than I thought I would once I began writing.

In short, don't overdo it. It's a waste of time if you do. Just make sure you watch for the things you didn't plan, so that you can find them and continue to use them in your story as you write.


What are some things you don't plot? Are you a plotter, plantser, or pantser?? (Obviously I'm a plantser).

Also! The Martin Hospitality Kindle e-book is on sale for $0.99 HERE through March 19th!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

E-book Sale // Indie E-Con

Hey everyone! I'm participating in Kendra's Indie E-Con which means the Martin Hospitality e-book is on sale!

Martin Hospitality is usually $14.99 paperback and $4.99 ebook. The e-book is on sale for just $0.99 all the way through March 19th here, so be sure to grab a copy while you can! The voting for the awards it's been nominated for begins March 20th, so give it a read and I'll direct you to the voting location once it's open.

You can find the other awesome books on sale right now on Kendra's blog.

Thank you! I can't wait to hear what you think :)


If you've already read my book, definitely stick around for voting and write me a review on Amazon and Goodreads! What do you want to see in book 2, Martin Crossings? I've begun writing it!