Writing in different forms and for different audiences

Few writers stick to a single form.

We write for different audiences, different purposes, and different platforms.

We write copy for our websites, blogs, newsletters, and social media pages. 

We share advice, insights, and snippets of our lives to followers we may never meet but with whom we’ve cultivated a digital connection. 

We send emails, pitches, queries, and invoices to build a collaborative network from which our career can hang from.

We research, interview, criticise, and reflect so that we can craft an argument that is entirely our own. Then, we share it.

We use words to conjure worlds real and imagined; we are the tellers of stories.

Most contemporary authors (*obviously disclaimer) have a digital platform, a professional network, and a body of work that includes fiction or non-fiction publications (or both!).

We write a lot.

We are fluid and flexible.

But each of these forms of writing requires a different voice, length, and depth.

Who these works are for differs, as does our motivation behind creating them.

Contemporary writers hold all of these tasks, voices, and audiences in their head, they have to, but these tasks, voices, and audiences can easily become muddled and murky.

Below are three simple strategies any writer can use to help separate and to keep straight all of the tasks, audience, and purposes they need to write for on a daily and weekly basis.

#1 Managing Your Schedule

Create a schedule that supports the different forms of writing you have to complete in any given week.

Weigh your best working hours (morning/evening) against deadlines, priority tasks, and passion projects. You also need to consider your own personal work ethic.

Are you the type of writer who can work on a personal project (novel/course/book) before starting your work day? Or, do you need to tend to professional tasks and save personal projects for evenings and weekends?

You can also batch your tasks. Here’s some examples, you could …

Dedicate your mornings to creative work and afternoons to admin. Decide that you’ll work on your book for three hours on Tuesdays and Thursday. Chose to only reply to email between 2-3pm and let all your clients know.

By batching tasks, you’re allowing yourself to stay in one voice and to write to one audience for an extended period of time rather than toggling back and forward between different tasks.

# 2 Read and Reflect

Before you sit down to a writing task, read something that contains the voice and feeling you want to create.

If you’re writing a blog, you could read one of your previous posts.

If you’re writing a speech for a client, listen to a TED talk.

If you’re drafting an academic article, find one that has a voice or structure you admire.

Alexandra Franzen recommends answering these three questions before sitting down to write:

  1. Ask yourself who is this work for?
  2. What do I want them to think or feel?
  3. What do I want them to do when they’ve finished reading?

The answers to these three questions will direct the style and content of your writing.

# 3 Atmosphere

If you do all of your paid work in a home office, consider choosing a different location for our creative work.

Changing your location will signal to your brain that you are now working on a different task, you are writing for a different audience and for a different purpose.

If space is limited, experiment with changing your position. Decide that your paid work and admin will be completed at the desk, but that creative writing will be done standing up, or even facing in a different direction.

You could also change your atmosphere by dedicating particular music, scents, teas, or other tactile equipment to particular tasks. For example, you only listen to rain sounds when working on your novel; you drink peppermint tea when completing client work; you light scented candles when tending to your author platform.

Writers write to niches and wides audiences, publically and privately. We have our fingers in all different flavoured pies.

Holding all of these different styles and audiences in our mind can lead to muddled copy and confusion, but the above steps offer three simple ways to bring clarity to you and your work.

Do you struggle with this problem in your writing? How do you differentiate writing tasks?


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Make time for Writing: Five Laser Questions

The three biggest problems every writer has to deal with are motivation, procrastination, and time.

A lack of motivation and a tendency towards procrastination can be overcome with a variety of tactics and mindset shifts.

Time is a little tricker.

Yes, we can create schedules, time block, and batch tasks, but the problem goes deeper than that.

Time is a finite resource; unlike motivation, you can do make more time.

Our time is also impacted by external sources, many that we have no control over. We need to dedicate a certain number of hours to sleep, work, and rest in order to have a sane and healthy life.

Life makes demands on our time, and often without notice: unexpected emails, requests, emergencies, and urgent errands.

How we spend our time is the results of the decisions we make.

Saying yes to one option is saying no to another, at least in the moment.

We can achieve a lot over the course of a lifetime, but can’t stuff all those experiences into a single year.

We have to decide how we’re going to divide our time between paid work, passion projects, and our personal lives.

Saying yes to a gym session might mean saying no to an afternoon writing session. Both are important to you and your well-being, so how do you decide which task to say yes to?

Below are five laser question that will help you do just that.

# 1 Rate it

If torn between two tasks, take a moment to rate it. On a scale of 1-10, how important is this task to you? What payoff will you get for completing this task?

# 2 Macro

Take a bird’s eye view of your week or month, how much time have you dedicated to each of these tasks? Has one had more time dedicated to it? How do you feel about that?

# 3 Duty

Who is impacted by you completing this task? Who is impacted by you not completing this task?

NB: You and your goals are just as important as the expectations and deadlines created by others.

# 4 Sensation

Imagine completing these two tasks, which one has a bigger sense of relief or achievement? Which of these two (or more) tasks are you most excited by? Which task do you actually want to do?

# 5 Evaluate

Do you actually need to do this task at all? Why would you complete this task? What benefits will you get from completing it? Is this task valuable to you and your body of work, or is this just busy work?

We’re all tending to a multitude of responsibilities and deadlines. We all have personal projects that we want to complete. We all want to live full, rich, big lives. Learning how to identify which tasks are worthy of our time and which will assist us in reaching our biggest goals is invaluable.

Our time is limited, and we all have stories that we want to share. So, how will you make time for your writing this week? What tasks will you say no to so that you can say yes to the stories inside you?


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

A Simple Writing Routine in 5 Steps

For writers, the boundaries between work and life have always been blurry — now even more so.

Most of us are working from home which means that we can dip in and out of our work whenever we want (more or less). Our schedules and routines have become more flexible, but they have also become messier. (*Insert obvious disclaimer).

For most of us, writing is a task that we fit around other responsibilities, and now we can tend to those responsibilities pretty much whenever.

When the normal structure of our daily lives is taken away it can feel liberating, but it’s not without its dark side. When this external pressure is removed, it is far too easy to put off the completing of tasks or the pursuit of personal goals and to give into procrastination and laziness.

The following five steps are designed to create a writing routine that is effective, robust, but above all simple.

And we can all do with a little more simple right now.

#1 Environment

Want to reinvigorate your writing routine?

Start with the lowest lying fruit: your environment.

Hate your office? Good, change it.

Move your desk to a different location; clear off all the scraps of paper, notebooks, pens that don’t work, pencil sharpenings, dirty mugs and plates, receipts (you still accept receipts?); wipe everything down and vacuum up them dust bunnies.

If you’re the kind of person who thrives in a state of chaos, skip the above step but be sure to follow the next.

Make your space aesthetically pleasing. We’re all spending a phenomenal amount of time in our homes right now, so the least you can do is make your space feel cosy and inviting, whatever that looks like for you.

Open a window; turn on the aircon/heater/fan; fill up your water bottle; make a pot of tea; put on some music; light a candle; wear whatever you imagine a ‘real’ writer would wear (black turtle neck and a scowl; a flowing purple kimono; plain white tee and no pants).

Make things pleasant for yourself.

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A writing goal must be specific, measurable, and have a deadline.

#2 Decide on a goal

Whether you make daily, weekly, quarterly, or yearly goals, this step is essential to ensuring that the ideas in your head become words on the page.

The easiest way to go from zero to completed draft is to first decide what your BIG goal is (essay/short story/novel) and map out all the mini-goals that make up the completion of the big goal.

A goal has to be specific, measurable, and have a deadline, otherwise how do you know if you’ve reached it?

Let’s say your goal is to write a first draft in three months. Great, you’ve identified a project and set yourself a deadline. How are you going to get there? What are the mini-step involved in completing this task?

Some ideas:

  • Set daily/weekly word counts: 500/1000/2000 words per writing session
  • Set time goals: 1-4 hours, Monday-Friday
  • Set page count goals: 3 pages a day

How you track your project is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that you decide on a tracking method that best support your working style and the completion of your goal.

#3 Identify your optimum working hours

What does ‘optimum working hours’ mean? Basically, it’s the time/s of day that you feel fresh, energetic, creative, and clear minded.

Put it another way, are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person?

Most of us know which of these three categories we fall into. Once you’ve identified your optimum working hours, look at your schedule and see if you can squeeze a writing session into this time period.

If that’s not possible, ask yourself what about this time of day works for you.

For example, if you prefer to work in the mornings, maybe it’s because this time of day is quieter as you haven’t been steamrolled by emails, texts, or requests. If that’s the case, you may find that you can also write after dinner when the demands of work and the house have slow down.

There are only so many good hours in a day, so make those hours count.

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When do you feel the most energetic, creative, fresh?

#4 The Pomodoro technique + rewards

The Pomodoro technique is super easy. Set a timer for 25 minutes, write in a feverish heat, take a five-minute back, repeat until your writing session is over.

That’s it.

The whole idea behind the Pomodoro technique is that it is easier (and more effective) to work in short, intense bursts. (Want the data to back this up? Read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work).

By setting a timer, you create an external sense of pressure, a false belief that you only have ‘this much time to work’, so you’re less likely to procrastinate on email, social media, or baking cakes.

A caveat: during your five minute break, do not check your email or go on to social media.

Why? Because you are unlikely to read and write an adequate reply to an email, tweet, or comment within this five-minute window.

If you read an email, run out of time to reply, and then go back to your manuscript, your brain will still be thinking about that email and crafting a possible reply. In short, you won’t be concentrating on your book.

During your break, get up, and do something unrelated to your writing. Get a drink of water, pat the dog, yell at the kids, read a news articles, stare out the window. Give your brain a legitimate break so that you can return for another session refreshed.

Coupling the Pomodoro technique with rewards is like cherries with dark chocolate; marshmallows with hot chocolate; chocolate with chocolate.

A simple reward is to stick a gold star sticker (or any kind of sticker … I suppose) in your diary/planner every time you complete a session, or you can track your sessions in a bullet journal.

If you respond to more elaborate rewards, you could watch a short YouTube video, listen to a song, read a few pages of a book, or eat a piece of chocolate.

Whatever. If you opt for a bigger reward, save your indulgence for when you’ve completed your writing session rather than splurging between Pomodoro sprints.

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Tracking your session creates accountability and momentum.

#5 Create a bad day goal

This is so important.

Sometimes, life gets a little crazy.

You over schedule yourself; book back to back meeting; have back to back deadline; a laundry list of errands (because you’ve put everything off for a month); wake up to pandemic …

And sometimes, we’re emotionally, energetically, or mentally exhausted.

On these bad days, what is the least you could do that would still feel meaningful?

Feeling burnout or stressed out? Maybe you could write one crappy sentence.

Have six meetings scheduled? Maybe you could write a five minute outline for the scene you’re going to write tomorrow.

Do you need to go to the bank, grocery shop, mow the lawn, and scrub every surface of your house? Maybe you could spend that time reflecting on what will happen to your protagonist next.

Creating a bad day writing goal means that you are less like to throw in the towel and say, ‘Oh well, I just can’t write today.’

Your goal may be small – heck, that’s the point! – but completing this task will give you a deep sense of satisfaction, because in the middle of a bad day you still made time for your writing.

There you have it, folks. Now, I’d love to hear from you. What does your writing routine look like? How do you track your progression? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment below and tell me all about it.


 

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

You Are A Writer.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I wasn’t really sure how to say the thing I wanted to say without it sounding like a thirteen-year-old’s diary entry.

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I am a writer. I am a writer! I AM A WRITER!! Wrote the angsty little girl.

It’s pretty simple, but maybe you need to hear it anyway, because everybody need to hear it at some point.

You are a writer.

Or, put another way: don’t fall into the trap of listening to your own bullshit (or somebody else’s).

One of the reasons I desperately wanted to publish Every Time He Dies was because it is awesome, but also because I’ve had a writing advice blog for three years.

Yeah, I had some successes that gave me a bit of cred (degrees + publications), but I was yet to plant my contribution to literature flag.

I needed to published a book. My book.

Then I DID publish a book. I become an author. GO ME!

Then someone insinuated that I wasn’t “really” a writer because my novel was self-published, I’m not making a full-time living off one book (*insert confused face*), and I have a non-fiction blog.

All of that is 100% true, except for one tiny part …

It’s true that I chose to go indie and publish my own novel. You can read all the five star reviews here.

It’s also true that I have a non-fiction blog, you’re reading it right now.

What isn’t true is the ‘not a writer part.’

I am a writer because I wrote a book, I published it, and then other people (who aren’t related to me) bought it. Some even said some pretty nice stuff about it (thanks guys!).

Why am I sharing this?

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A signs that you are a writer: you write.

Because maybe you’ve had someone tell you that you’re not a ‘real’ writer either.

Because sometimes, when people say this to us, we agree with them.

Because sometimes, people know how to reach into the darkest, stickiest parts of our soul and they intentionally/unintentionally hit the nail on our self-conscious heads.

Maybe you say this to yourself, ‘I’m not a real writer because x, y, z.’

But I want you to know something super important … you ready?

You are a writer if:

  • You publish stories (traditional OR indie).
  • You write stories.
  • You write articles.
  • You write essays.
  • You keep a journal.
  • You dedicate time to your creative practise.
  • You think about stories while standing in line at the grocery store.
  • You read passages of poetic prose a loud to your spouse, friend, or dog.
  • You feel elated at the idea of being left alone in a room with a notebook and pen. For hours.
  • You identify as a writer.
  • You once seriously considered getting a typewriter tattooed on your derriere.

If you dedicate time in your life to creating SOMETHING with words (fiction or non), you, dear friend, are a writer.

So, go write something. A chapter, a scene, an essay, a book review, a blog post, a comment on Instagram, a tweet. Just write and be good at it. Or bad, that’s okay too. Just write because that’s what you do.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

 

10 Things You Need to Know About Plot

If character is the heart of the story, then plot is the skeleton.

Getting plot right can be tricky and other variables can often influence it; things like pacing, theme, and even character, all inform how a story unfolds.

Nailing plot can be hard, and it can often take multiple re-writes to get everything just right.

Whether you need help drafting your first manuscript or if you’re a seasoned author, the following points are a humble reminder of the various elements you need to consider when working on plot.

#1. What happened?

Yup, that’s plot summed up in two words: what happened?

Some authors figure this out ahead of time by creating an outline that they then work from (whether closely or loosely), while others create outlines after they’ve completed their first draft as a way to see at a macro level what is actually happening.

Whether you invest this time at the start of the project (during outlining) or at the end (during revisions) it doesn’t matter, because it takes a long time to write a book and every writer has to pay off their debt somewhere along the line.

#2 Structure

There are many ways you can structure a story, but the two most obvious are linear and non-linear.

There are freaks of nature authors out there, such as Dianna Gabaldon, who don’t write in a linear fashion and others write their stories from start to finish, but how you write the story may not be how you publish the story.

Messing around with all the different ways the story could be told is one of the great joys of revision and it’s well worth experimenting with different orders to see what effect they have on your story.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to write out all of the major central plot and subplot points on post-it notes or index cards and then arrange them on the ground in different orders until you find a sequence that feels just right.

#3 S**t keeps getting worse

The main thing you need to remember about plot is that stuff has to keep getting worse.

Having a character encounter one obstacle that they easily overcome isn’t very interesting and victory without sacrifices isn’t satisfying.

When things get worse – especially when things get worse because of a decision that the character has made – tension increases and your reader will be hungry to see how exactly the MC and their motley crew figure things out.

#4 The promise 

Every story makes a promise, usually in the beginning.

As Chekov said, if there’s a gun on the wall in Act One, then it must go off in Act Three.

The promise may be take a backseat to other aspects of the plot, but by the end of the story, you’re going to have to deliver the goods.

If our hero had heart palpitations for the love interest in chapter one, then there better be a kiss in the final scene. If the novel opens with a MC who dreams of leaving their home town, then they either need to do that or they must find a new sense of purpose in staying.

#5 Character driven

The best plots are those that are character driven.

Q: What does that mean?

A: The character takes action and makes decision that carry the plot forward. They are not standing around waiting fo the Almighty Narrator to dump obstacles on them which they then respond to.

Not sure what character agency is? Check out this blog here.

No one like to hang out with boring kids that sit around complaining about being bored, it’s way more fun to hang out with restless rebels who are hungry to get out  and do something.

#6 Don’t add ‘dummy’ obstacles

Dummy obstacles can be spotted a mile away.

Ever read a chapter and thought, what was the point in that?

This is a seriously amateur move and should be avoided at all cost.

Better to have a short, sharp, tight plot than one that is fluffed out with filler action scenes that are pointless and go nowhere.

Can’t think of any good additional obstacles to add to your story? Try your hand at Productive Meditation or sit down and challenge yourself to come up with fifty (yes, fifty!) potential obstacles, pick the best one/s and add them to your story.

Or you can decide that maybe your novel is going to be a really short novel (The Great Gatsby is 47, 094 words), or a novella, or a short story.

Better to be short and good then long and bad. (That’s what she said).

#7 Light and dark

We need variation in our plot in order to keep things interesting.

A plot that is all action is just as bad as one that is filled with internal ruminations.

We want to see action, story beats, things happening, as much as we want to read deep exchanges between characters, poignant moments of reflection, and internal realisations.

A car needs breaks and an accelerator; if missing, you’ll either be going nowhere fast or you’ll be heading for a brick wall and praying that the airbags work.

#8 Subplots

Subplots, like light and dark, add variation, nuance, and additional layers to the story.

Nobody has one thing going on in their life, so your characters shouldn’t either.

Your main plot may be about solving a crime, but we also need to see other aspects of your MC or other cast member’s lives.

Do they have a romantic interest? Skeletons in the family closet? Work with an antagonising colleague?

Subplots help flesh out a character and they mix up the plot so that the whole book isn’t simply about one thing. That being said, subplots can also inform the central plot, and if you can pulls this off it will make the novel so much more exciting.

#9 Micro-plot

Micro-plots are events that happen in a single scene or across two scenes.

Again, this could be a romance narrative between two secondary characters – which shows that these characters have a life independent of the MC – or it could be a small glance into another aspect of your MC’s life or personality.

You don’t have to include micro-plots in your narrative, but they can make a novel feel more complete compared to narratives that only contain a central plot and subplots.

#10 Description, info dumps, and other bad manners

Description is so hard to get right.

How much detail to include is tricky, especially as our taste my differ from our readers, the standards expected of the genre we are writing in, or even our level of skill.

If in doubt, send your work off to betareaders and let their critiques guide you through the refining process of how much, or how little to say at any one point.

Same goes for info dumps.

This issue is more prominent in some genres (sci-fi and fantasy) then it is in other, but learning how to seamless and convincing feed your readers the information they need to know (vs all the information you as the author know) is vital if you want your book to read like a story rather than an Wikipedia entry.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. How do you approach plot? What strategies do you use to solve plot holes? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


 

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

10 Things You Need to Know About Character

There are many ways to approach character development.

Some writers create elaborate profiles, others develop their character through revisions, some discover them via writing exercises, and some mystical unicorns get them right straight from the start.

Characters, whether they be human, animal, or mineral, are the heart of any good story.

If your reader doesn’t like, connect, empathises with, or at least feel intrigued by your character, they probably aren’t going to get that far into your book. (Insert obvious disclaimer).

But for those of us who are not exceptional unicorns, here are ten tiny lessons to consider when constructing or revision your characters.

#1 Where are they and who are they?

Before you slap your reader over the head with an inciting incident, we need to know where in time and space the character is located and we also need to know who the character is.

Not in like a philosophical, who are we all anyway? type of way, but in a name, age, gender, occupation kind of way.

Obviously, what you share and when is completely dependent upon the type of story you are telling, but as a rule of thumb we at least need to know the character’s location and name before we’re willing to follow them into the centre of the earth or save the galaxy.

#2 What do they want?

This may seem like banal writing advice, but ‘What does your character want?’ has become a cliché for a reason — because it’s true and it’s important.

When we know what the character wants, we instantly know what they value — which reveals character.

It also tells us what the plot is going to be about (whether that be on the surface or as subtext).

When you know what that character wants, you know what their weakness is, and a writer can play off this to great effect.

And this my gentle friends, is called tension.

#3 Why can’t they have it?

Of course they can’t actually get what they want, at least not in the beginning, because if the did then your novel would be very short.

When a character doesn’t get what they want, we learn what they are willing to do to get it and what that character is made of.

Will they risk their reputation, their family’s reputation, money, safety, or their life? Will they crumble under pressure, give up, break, or rise to the challenge?

Remember, watching people engage in difficult tasks and overcoming them (or failing) is a beloved human past time. Don’t disappoint your readers by skipping this step.

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What is you character willing to do to get what they want?

 

#4 What aren’t they willing to do

Learning what a character isn’t willing to do is just as interesting as what they aren’t willing to do.

These two factors reveal so much about the character: their values, morals, strength, and determination.

What they aren’t willing to do can be just as powerful as what they are willing to do. Choosing to not sell out a friend- — or better yet, an enemy — in order to be victorious will warm readers hearts even more than a clean easy win.

#5 Likability isn’t that important

It seriously isn’t.

You don’t have to like a character, but readers should at least find them interesting or intriguing. You have to give them a reason to invest in your story, why do they want to follow through until the end with someone they don’t like?

Maybe we want to see them get theirs; maybe we want to see them redeemed; maybe we enjoy vicariously living out our shadow-selves via this character?

Like everything to do with writing, there are no rules, you just have to know why you’re doing the thing that you’re doing.

#6 Have agency (and making bad decisions)

Agency means that the characters have the power to make decisions and take action.

They should not be passive paper people who merely respond to outside stimuli, but that doesn’t mean that every decision they make has to be a good decision.

In fact, it’s better if they make some really bad decision that then result in obstacles they have to overcome.

There is a horrible delight that happens when a reader knows something the character doesn’t — “Don’t go into the basement!” – and seeing characters make mistakes can add freshness to the story through unexpected twists. And as an added bonus, it also makes them more believable.

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Stories get even juicer when characters makes bad decisions.

#7 They should be kinda consistent

Characters should be consistent … mostly.

They need to be consistent enough so that the reader feels as though they know them, but inconsistent enough so that we can be taken by surprise.

All humans contain a unique set of contradictions: vegans who eat bacon on Sunday, neat freaks who let their dogs sleep in their bed, new junkies that make fun of the media…

It’s exciting to see that we don’t know a character as well as we think we do.

#8 Evolution in three easy steps

Ideally, your character should evolve over the course of your novel or series.

This evolution occurs in three stages. Let’s use an example (fun!).

At the start of our novel, the protagonist is an alcoholic, through a series of events they realise they have a problem and they start to make changes; they go cold-turkey, have some success, but eventually relapse. Eventually, humbled by their experience, they realise they can’t go it alone and they join AA and begin their long-term road to recovery.

The character can’t go from A to C, we need to see what happens in B, and this should usually include an obstacle or two which forces or supports the change in C.

#9 Start with archetype, then flip it and reverse it

Modelling your character on a certain archetype is a great way to introduce them to the reader as it supplies them with a lot of information quickly.

Oh, she’s a geeky girl who loves computers and gaming. Oh, he loves sport and parting. Oh, she’s a hippie activist and he’s a trickster etc.

Archetypes are a good place to start, but don’t stay there. Finding innovative ways to subvert or make strange these recognisable characters will keep readers intrigued and reading to the last page.

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Imagining your character in different scenarios can reveal their personality in new and exciting ways.

#10 Get to know them 

As mentioned at the start of this blog, there are many ways to get to know your characters, but if you get to the end of your first draft and all the characters sound kind of the same, consider getting to know them outside of the story – everyone’s different when you meet them outside of work!

Give them a birth date, look up their astrological chart, create a profile or template that includes the info you care about, and try experimenting with different writing exercises.

For example, write a few paragraphs about what your MC would do if they were stuck in an open grave. Then write about how their best friend would respond, then the love interest, the antagonist and so on.

There you have it, those are the ten things you need to know about character. Now, I’d like to hear from you, which of these tactics will you apply to your novel? How do you approach character when writing your fiction? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


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Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

6 Ways to Marketing Your Book Post Launch

It’s easy (or at least easier) to develop a pre-launch marketing campaign for a variety of reasons: your excited, your readers are excited, plus there is a slew of information out there online about how to plan and execute a strong marketing campaign for your release.

But what do you do one, three, six, or nine months after your book has come out and all that initial buzz has worn off?

It might be easier than you think to keep that momentum going (at least until your next book comes out) if you follow some of the below strategies.

#1 Discounts

We’re used to seeing discounts on older books, but the bonus of being an indie author is that you can apply discounts to any of your books — including new releases.

If you’ve published multiple books, you could promote this discount for your new release in the back matter of older books. Indies often use this tactic in the lead-up to a book launch, but it’s also effective post-release.

People have mixed opinions about lowering their prices.

The debate between $0.99 vs $1.99 has been going on for a while with some authors arguing that a lower price is better as readers who are unfamiliar with the author are more likely to purchase a book at this price, while others argue that lower prices mean you need to reach/find more readers in order to make the same money you would selling fewer books at a higher price.

How cheap you go totally depends on which module of self-publishing your author business is based on and how many books you have in your catalogue.

Discount new release books
Don’t limit discount strategies to your backlist.

If you’re a rapid release author, selling ebooks for $0.99 is perfectly normal, if you’re a slow release indie, you may want to stick with $1.99 (or higher!).

Whatever dollar amount you decided, the important thing is that you know how long your discount will run for.

Will it be one day, two day, or three?

Once you’ve got that handled, be sure to promote the new discount on your social media pages, author website, and your newsletter.

#2 Recruit more reviewers

In the led up to publishing Every Time He Dies, I emailed 150 book blog reviewers.

Why?

For validation, not for me but for the reader.

ETHD was my debut release and as a way to convince readers to take a risk and buy my book, I knew they had to be able to read at least some reviews.

Reviews are vital to a book’s early success, but their value continues long after their release. The more reviews a book has, the more appealing it will be to readers. Reaching out to reviewers and encouraging your readers to post their reviews in the first few months following the release will help drive sales later.

In fact, offering a limited time discount can also lead to an increase in reviews, but there are other tactics you can take to improve your ratings and review count.

Consider contacting the top Amazon reviewers for your genre and emailing them a free digital copy of your book. These reviewers are experienced, and therefore are more likely to write a genuine review – quickly too!

You can find these reviewers by browsing through books that are similar to your own and by looking for posts published by readers who have the Top Reviewer badge.

From here, you can check out their profile page, have a look at the other types of books they’ve reviewed, and then send them an email (provided they’ve included their contact details!). If you need some help drafting your email, check out my post here.

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Sample chapters are a great way to entice new readers.

#4 Make the First Three Chapters Free

If you haven’t used this tactic in the lead up to your release, I urge you to give it a try now!

Offering a sample of your book on your website for free is a great way to entice new readers, particularly those who may be unfamiliar with you and therefore hesitate to purchase your book.

There are several ways you can do this, but the easiest way is to create a PDF file and to providing either a download link on your site, or you can upload the document to a page on your site.

On the final page of the sample, be sure to include the links to the product page for each retailer from whom the book is available.

#4 Paid Advertising

If funds allow, consider running an Amazon, Facebook, or Bookbub ad campaign.

Before you start throwing your money around like you’ve already won the lotto, be sure to consider who your audience is, what platform they are most likely to be on, and take the time to learn how ads for each of these platforms work.

It’s also a good idea to research the psychology behind advertising and to see what strategies people in your genre are using right now.

Finding a free picture online and slapping some sales text on it in Canva is a great way to throw your money away.

#5 Target Email Campaign

If you have an email list, go back and check the open rate for the emails promoting your latest release around the time of the launch.

Here, you can create a campaign that will specifically target subscribers who opened these emails – indicating that they were interested in your book – and you can send a new email that gently reminds them about your book while inviting those who have read it to write a review.

Next, you can target all the subscriber who did not open these emails. And you know what you should send them? A free sample of your book of course!

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If you have an email list, don’t be afraid to use it!

#5 Marketing opportunities

Publishing guest posts about your book, or the writing, marketing, or publishing process is a great way to reach new readers.

You can easily spend hours finding and then contacting reputable sites for guests posts, but you can also allow publishers to come to you.

Have you heard of Help a Reporter Out (HARO)?

This site connects reporters with experts which allows business, brands, and artists to share their story. When you create a free account, you’ll receive up to three emails a day containing media opportunities you could be quoted in.

Of course, you can also customise this feature so that you only receive the opportunities relevant to you.

While online and digital marketing is great, don’t forget your local journalist and publishers! As a former journo myself, I know how hungry reporters for a fresh story.

To read more about how to reaching out to your local media, read this blog.

#6 Make the most of current events

Within the first six months of your book’s release, consider how you can stylise your marketing in accordance with specific holidays or events. For instance:

  • Compare your novel to relevant TV shows that are currently ‘hot’ and target their audience.
  • Do a marketing campaign focussing on the romantic subplot of your novel around Valentine’s Day.
  • Promote your cosy mystery during winter or your chick lit novel during summer.

You could also consider running a discount sale to take advantage of timely news events, we all know how well ebook sales did during the start of lockdown …

While all of these strategies will help keep the beating heart of your novel alive, one of the best ways to ensure your success as an indie author is to keep on writing.

Seriously, you don’t want to be that guy promoting that one book he publishing twenty years ago …

Having a long and strong backlist is what will get you that Caribbean beach house, or at least pay half of your quarterly electricity bill.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What did you take away from this blog, which tactic are you going to implement, or do you have some of your own strategies that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


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Four Examples of Bad Writing and How to Fix Them

There are many ways in which your writing could be thought of as bad, but in this week’s blog, I want to unpack just a few:

  • Sentimental
  • Melodramatic
  • Lazy
  • Overwriting.

Sentimental

As with all writing rules, there is a place for sentimental writing. When used sparingly it can be emotionally evocative, when used in great swathes it becomes heavy handed.

One of the biggest problems that can occur with sentimental writing is when cruel, oppressive, pitiful, or difficult issues/situations are romanticised.

Think of the portrayal of black domestic workers in The Help, the violence these women would have suffered is swept aside in place of a pie joke.

There is nothing sentimental about inspiring compassion in our readers, and writing manipulates its audience one way or another, but when facts, history, or suffering are stuffed into the back of the closet or concealed by an ornate mask … that is a problem.

Melodramatic

In terms of writing exercises, melodrama can be fun; however, no one wants to read a 600+ fantasy novel dripping with over the top emotions or purple prose.

Melodrama is exaggeration, extreme emotions, and unbelievable dialogue (“nobody talks like that!”).

Basically, it’s another form of telling instead of showing. Rather than establishing the mood through language, the writer is relying on the melodrama to communicate the seriousness of the situation.

Yes, life can be dramatic, but melodramatic writing can break believability and your reader may struggle to take the story seriously.

This bad habit can be avoided by focussing instead on a few craft basics such as, character development, obstacles, and feelings.

Readers need to care about the characters enough (or at least the MC) to be invested in what happens to them, they need to encounter obstacles, and the reader needs some access to their interior landscape.

Lazy Writing

There’s a huge difference between simple writing and lazy writing. Simple writing is clear, lazy writing is boring and unspecific.

Simple writing: The room was empty when he entered.

Lazy writing: He walked through the garden.

We’re all guilty of slipping into this lazy form of prose, hell, first drafts are usually full of these types of sentences as we’re trying to figure out the story!

Lazy writing relies on overused and unspecific verbs.

Not every sentence will be a work of art, but a bad sentence can be fixed simply by exchanging the dull verbs for lively and surprising ones. (NB: you cannot solve this problem with adverbs!).

Take the above example, what would happen if we exchanged ‘walked’ for another verb?

Edited version: He skipped through the garden.

What if we added some adjective, nouns, or even proper nouns to spice it up further!

Edited version: Larry skipped through the luscious garden.

The sentence is still simple, but now it is clear and specific. We can see Larry, his actions, and the setting, whereas before we could not.

Lazy writing can also be an over reliance on cliché’ or your specific writing ticks – words or phrases that you unconsciously use … a lot!

Weeding these bad boys out and finding new ways to say the same thing will ensure that your sentences remain surprising and delightful.

Overwriting

I’ve previously blogged about how to reduce your word count, but there are several different ways in which we can overwrite.

First there is the inclusion of too many adjectives or adverbs.

For example: The chipped and worn door flew open with a bang to reveal a stately man with quite the pronounced belly and exceptionally large nose.

While this sentence is a bit fun in its’ over the top nature, reading an entire novel in this manner would be … unpleasant.

Edited version: The door opened with a bang to reveal a well-dressed man with a pronounced belly and large nose.

The edited version is tighter (18 words instead of 24) and more specific (well-dressed instead of stately).

The second way you can overwrite is by either saying the same thing two different ways (tautology) or by over explaining things.

The door, which is a large piece of wood that separates two rooms and is secured to a frame by hinges, flew open with a bang.

Emily is Erin’s sister. Emily is Erin’s female sibling.

I don’t think I really need to unpack these …

Look, there are times when bad writing is okay.

Your first draft for instance will be bad, but when we becoming aware of what bad writing looks like, why it is bad, and most importantly how to fix it, we can effectively revise our prose and publish stories that we are truly proud of.

Now, over to you. What are some examples of bad writing that you can think of? What areas in your own writing do you need to work on? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know.


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Can you Teach Someone How to Write?

Can you teach someone how to write?

As a sessional creative writing teacher, I believe the short answer is: yes!

As a creative writing student, and author, I believe the long answer is: it depends.

Depends on what?

You. Basically.

Perhaps the better question is, can someone be taught how to write better? Absolutely.

 

 

Two things need to happen before you even pick up a pen or open a word document:

  1. You need to be genuinely interested in writing (and hopefully, you’re an avid reader too).
  2. You need to be humble enough to recognise that there is room for improvement and getting an A+ for a short story in high school English does not mean said story is ready for publication.

Why?

Because the standard of writing expected of a high school student (or a graduate from a non-creative writing university course) is different from the standard expected by publishers and industry professionals.

But like I said, writing can be taught.

It is possible to learn grammar rules, sentence structure, plot, characterisation, narrative drive etc. You just have to want to learn it and you have to practise.

Your writing can improve with time and effort. 

When I was a creative writing student, I watched my peers develop their writing alongside me.

When I compare the short stories they wrote at the start of the program to the one they submitted at the end (we were constantly reading and critiquing one another’s work), it was often difficult to believe it was written by the same person.

Here’s a few things I’ve noticed …

Students got better at writing when they experiment with different view points.

Some found that when they wrote in third person, they tended to ‘tell’ more than ‘show’, but when they switched to first person this problem was eliminated and vice versa, because they intuitively understood the mechanics of that POV.

What’s interesting is that the students who were good at the beginning of the program were still good at the end of a program, but what was thrilling was seeing all the ways that other students improved over the course of the year.

How did they do that?

By take the lessons learned in class and applying it to their writing and by coupling this learning with their own independent study, which included reading craft books, critically reading fiction books (reading like an author), listening/reading author interviews, and practising various writing exercises.

It sounds intense, I guess, but when you love what you do it doesn’t seem to really matter.

I would like to add a small caveat …

Writing can be taught,  but it’s difficult to teach someone how to have something to say.

It’s possible to write a story that is technically correct – the commas are in the right places, the dialogue is witty, the setting visceral – but by the time the story has concluded the reader is left wondering, what was the point in that?

Now, having something is say can have many forms, some more subtle than others.

A space opera could be an analogy for global warming, a novel about high school social hierarchies could be an exploration of classism, a short story about a woman wearing a green ribbon may actually be about female oppression.

These are all big ideas, but maybe your story is exploring smaller, more personal ideas.

Maybe your short story is an attempt to articulate what it is like to live rurally or regionally, to have a health scare, or uncover a family secret.

Maybe your novel is an attempt to create something beautiful and the goal is simply to make the reader feel something.

The rules of writing, if they can be called that, are learnable.

How long it takes is obviously depended upon the person who is learning them, the time they are able to devote to the endeavour, their personal discipline (ie: turning off the wifi during writing sessions), and the amount of effort they are willing to put into the work.

There is a myriad of grand and humble activities you can engage with to become better.

Grand Activities:

  • Sign up for a writing course (undergraduate course, diploma, an online short course, or through your state’s writing centre)
  • Hiring a mentor
  • Hiring an editor
  • Become a member of a national or state writing organisation
  • Submit your work to competitions or magazines (NB: Do not submit a first draft to a publisher or agent, you have one shot at a first impression so don’t blow it!)

Humble Activities:

  • Reading like a writer (this may mean highlighting interesting sentences, dissecting plot/character/structure etc.)
  • Actively improving your vocabulary (see here)
  • Joining a writing group or starting your own
  • Establishing a writing routine 
  • Reading craft books and listening to writing podcast
  • Reading writing advice blogs …  🙂

Writing can absolutely be taught, but the difference between an aspiring writer and a published is self-motivation.

Do you want to improve?

Do you have something to say?

The story inside you is hoping the answer is yes.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you enrolled in formal education as a way to improve your writing, or are you more of a boot strapper? Is your writing continuing to improve or have you hit a plateau? Leave a comment below and let me know!


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The Emotional and Cognitive Benefits of Writing

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘the starving artist’.

The average Australian author make $12, 900 a year from their books and writing.

That being said, it is possible to make much more than this and these types of statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt.

If you want to hear a counter agreement to the idea that being a writer means accepting a life of poverty, please read this excerpt from Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing. 

And yet, we need to acknowledge that most writers do not make a living wage from their writing.

Let’s be honest, writing books is not a great way to get rich fast.

So, what are some of the other benefits for writing?

Of course, there are all kinds of ways we can engage with writing: journaling, creative writing (fiction), and non-fiction (memoir, biography, blog, journalism). And these three categories can easy blend together if you’re creating something experimental.

While each form contains its own unique benefits, all forms of writing share a few essential boons.

Transformation

Writing is a transformational process. This is especially true if you are working on a long-term project, but this transformation process can also occur through journaling and morning pages.

If you’re working on a novel, memoir, or non-fiction book, chances are you’re going to change a lot.

The way I see it, this transformation occurs on three levels…

On the basic level, you developed knew skills that you didn’t have before: how to write a sentence, how to write a better sentence, how to structure this project etc.

On the medium level, you acquire knowledge through whatever research supported the narrative or argument.

On the top tier, you achieve the impossible, you said you were going to do something and then you actually did it! You followed through, you complete a massive task that was years in the making — congratulations!

This same transformational process can also happen through journaling as you may develop a deeper understanding of your own interior world, clarify your thoughts, and figure out what you really think about personal and global issues.
NB: novel writing can also do these things because it is the most magical of unicorns.

Unless your ghost writing a book on statistics, you’ll experience a myriad of emotion rewards throughout the writing process. Why is this important?

Because expressive writing has been linked to improvements in mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels, but only if you engage with it regularly.

I’ve blogged previously about the benefits of journaling, which you can read here, and there is some pretty cool research being conducted into how journaling about one’s feelings and goals can lead to practical results.

One research investigation lead by Laura King, showed that writing out goals for the future made people happier. Similarly, keeping a gratitude journal can also increase happiness as the writer becomes more aware of what is working in their life, rather than fixating on what is not.

You are also forty percent more like to achieve a goal if you write it down.

In one study lead by Jane Dutton, it was discovered that people running stressful fundraising initiatives became twenty-nine percent more productive just by journaling about how their work was making a difference in the world.

Improved cognitive abilities and communication skills

In terms of emotional intelligence and the “hard sciences”, writing forces us to articulate complex ideas and feelings in a way that allows others to understand us.

Good writing happens when a writer is able to communicate clearly and concisely what it is they are trying to say.

Brevity, word selection, cutting adverbs, and sentence structure are just some of the things we need to consider when writing.

“It’s difficult to describe” isn’t going to cut it if you are a writer, and these types of statements don’t serve you or your reputation.

Writing can make you a better learner

If I’m researching a blog post or for an academic article, I don’t just read one source, scurry off and type up my spin on it.

Depending on how complex the topic is, I can interact with three to fifty different sources before and/or during the writing process.

I will read articles or journals online, watch YouTube videos, or listen to podcast. When completing a major project, I also interview experts in their field (this goes for novel writing and my research as an academic).

Additionally, I also believe that there are times when we need to consume before we can create.

If you have nothing to say, then you have nothing to write, and if you have nothing to write it’s because you haven’t been taking in any new ideas.

People talk about replenishing the creative well all the time for good reason, because it’s true.

The sources that inspire you and that gift you with new ideas may very well change over time which is yet another reason why we must continue to read widely and expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are different from our own.

Creating work in a vacuum will lead to dull, unimaginative prose.

Writing is a skill, it’s one that we can develop with practise and intentional effort.

Writing a good book will not guarantee you a truck load of money, but are other benefits that are just as valuable and frankly, longer lasting. 

However, the core reason why you should make time for writing is because you want to write.

If you feel pulled to take up a morning pages practise or to finally finish that novel, there’s a reason why.

And the only way you’re going to discover that reason is by opening a notebook, or a word document, and following that thread one word at a time.


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