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Using Bio Poems for Character Development – #authortoolboxbloghop

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There are a lot of questionnaires and sketch activities out there to help you develop your characters, but I recently discovered a shorter technique that helps me nail down my characters’ interests and personalities – the bio poem.

Bio poems are not long (11 lines), but they cover some of the most important things you need to know about your characters, and they always follow the same format.

Here is an example of my bio poem for my main character of my current WIP.

Marianna

Intelligent, Curious, Kind, Perceptive

Sister of Annette, Daughter of Henry and Paulina

Lover of books, learning, and adventure

Who feels love, curiosity, and fear

Who needs to find real friends, the truth, and the strength to face it

Who gives kindness, friendship, and help

Who fears the unknown, Crothingham’s spooky hallways, and Dusten

Who wants Will to still be living, her family to be safe and provided for, and to be free of Bludington

Resident of Prosera

Locklear

I’ve also included a template you can use for your own characters: here.

How about you? What techniques do you use to develop your characters? Let me know in the comments!

On an unrelated note, I’m about to start Writing Down the Bones. Who has read it and what did you think?

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To find out more or join in the fun, go here.

#authortoolboxbloghop, For Writers

Tips for Finding Comp Titles for your Novel – #authortoolboxbloghop

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Comp titles – the dread of every author with a novel ready to submit.  (For those who may not know, comp titles stands for comparable titles and basically means titles comparable to your book. They should be books that your ideal readers may have already read or would enjoy reading.)

Many author friends have told me that it’s just so hard to come up with comp titles because their novel isn’t really like anything else they’ve read. And while that’s true in a sense and we all want to believe our book babies are unique and unlike anything else out there, there are still some basic rules we can use to find comp titles.

Sidebar: You have to be reading a lot and reading what is popular now (something published within the last ten years) to successfully find relevant comp titles. Check out my blog post on reading as a writer here.

1. Same Genre and age group: This is pretty much a given, but it is the first thing you need to look for – novels of the same genre as yours and written for the same age group as yours.

2. Same atmosphere: Is your novel light and fun-hearted or more serious? Maybe it’s dark and a little edgy. Whatever overall atmosphere your novel is portraying, you want to find  comparable novels that have a similar atmosphere.

3. Similar elements: What is a prevalent element in your story? Is it based on a fairytale, myth, or comic/superhero? Is it focused on music, movies, or other entertainment? Maybe it deals with a life-threatening illness or coming of age. Find comparable novels with the same element(s).

Here’s how I used these tips to come up with my own comp titles for my current WIP, The Blood-Stained Key. It’s a YA fantasy, a bit dark, and is a fairytale retelling of Bluebeard. So I chose some other dark YA fantasy fairytale retellings as comp titles:

The Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes (Alice in Wonderland retelling)

The Ravenspire series by CJ Redwine (a series of dark fairytale retellings)

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (A Little Mermaid retelling)

What about you? Do you struggle to find comp titles? Do you have any tips for determining comp titles? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

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Writing Exercises to Help You Get Through COVID-19

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Hope everyone is doing well! During these uncertain times, I know a lot of us are struggling with being focused and productive. For last month’s #authortoolboxbloghop, TD Storm shared some great tips for maintaining your focus during this stressful time , and you can find them here. Today, I want to share some writing exercises that can help inspire you to keep writing.

  1. Put the main character from your current WIP in a quarantine situation. Everyone has a myriad of emotions right now, and sometimes writing about a character facing the same kind of problems you are facing can help you sort through all those emotions. What would your character do in this kind of situation? How would it affect the plot of their story? What choices are they now going to make?
  2. Journal daily. For me, writing has always been a way to cope with the challenges I face, as well as a healing process for any injured emotions I’ve had. It’s helpful to get all the anxious thoughts out of your head and onto paper. It is a good way to let them go. Journaling is also a great for focusing on the positives in your life right now. Are you getting to spend extra time with your family? Have you been able to finish some projects that have been on your to-do list for months? Remember to focus on the things you can control, and not the things you can’t.
  3. Create some artwork inspired by your current WIP. I love doing this. Whether it’s a painting or drawing of something specific from my WIP, or just an abstract piece that evokes the mood of my WIP, I always have fun with this activity. And I often learn something new about my WIP.
  4. Work on some of the extra writing tasks you still have on your to-do list. When I say extra tasks, I’m referring to those things that aren’t actually writing, but they still have something to do with your WIP. This can be anything from making a playlist for your WIP, to drawing a map for your WIP’s world, or making some character sketches for your WIP’s characters. These type of activities can also give you some insight into your WIP that you might not have had before.
  5. Write a letter to a friend or family member. We are writers, right? So what better use of some extra time than connecting with someone via letter. Sometimes we can write down things more easily than we can say them aloud, and I’m sure friends and family would love to receive a letter from you during this stressful time.

 

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(Feel free to share this graphic!)

 

So, what about you? What kind of things have you been doing to help inspire your creativity? Let me know in the comments!

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To find out more or join in the fun, go here.

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10K words in a Day – #authortoolboxbloghop

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Today I’d thought I’d share about a challenge I participated in and found helpful, the #10kwritingchallenge. It is hosted monthly by Mandi Lynn, and you can find all the details about the challenge here. (she also has a lot of other great resources for writers 🙂 )

The object of the challenge is to write 10K words within one day. I know that sounds like a lot, but it is more doable than you might think. I have participated once in the challenge with plans to participate again soon.

A few things to keep in mind when deciding to do the challenge:

Be sure it is a day on which you can dedicate a significant amount of time to your writing. I plan for these days (I actually put it on my calendar), so I know I can’t be doing a lot of other stuff on these days.

Make a plan for the day. Are you revising work or writing from scratch? Do you have the outline or notes you need? What chapters/pages do you need to get finished?

Prep your writing space. Set up a quiet place where you know you can be productive with all the tools, snacks, and drinks you might need.

Plan for breaks. Obviously, you’re going to need to take breaks. What kind of things get you most inspired? You could go for a walk outside, or do whatever kind of exercise relaxes you. The key is to get up and move around so that when you come back to the keyboard you are ready to write.

These were all things I did to help me reach my 10K goal.  And spending a day working on my manuscript proved quite beneficial.

I found that I became excited about my manuscript once more, and I wanted to delve deep into my story’s world. I had more confidence in my novel as I had made a significant amount of progress on it in just one day, and I gained more confidence in myself as a writer, knowing that I could accomplish this thing I had set my mind to do. I also had some enlightening moments where I was able to figure out how to fix some things that were not working in my story.

What about you? Have you ever participated in this challenge or one like it? What kind of things do you like to challenge yourself to do to help you stay motivated and improve your writing skills? Let me know in the comments.

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To find out more or join in the fun go here.

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The Benefits of Writing By Hand

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I’ve heard many fellow writers laud the benefits of writing by hand, but I had never really given it much thought. I mean, really, it’s so convenient to type, and writing by hand seemed so old-school.

But then this year’s NaNoWriMo rolled around, and I found myself without access to a computer, but wanting to write and get my word count in for the day. So I wrote several decent sized chunks by hand (1500+ words). And I discovered why all these writers talk about how great it is to write by hand.

So today, I wanted to share some of the benefits I got from writing by hand.

1. The slower pace gives you time to think about where you’re going next. I found that when I had to slow down a little bit to write, I was able to think about “where am I going with this?” versus just typing out the words in a frenzy.

2. The change of pace gives you a fresh outlook on your WIP. I think this was also because of the slower pace, but I was able to think about my WIP in new ways and I actually had a couple of “aha moments”. I figured out exactly what I needed to do with certain pieces of my manuscript.

3. It’s exciting. Probably because of the first two reasons, I found this venture exciting. It gave me back some passion for my manuscript and I just wanted to keep writing. I couldn’t wait to discover what would happen next!

4. You can do it anywhere. Handwriting is, of course, the original way novels were written. All our eighteenth and nineteenth century idols wrote their great novels by hand. And all you need is a writing utensil and paper. 🙂

So if you’re looking for a change of pace, maybe this is your answer. Try handwriting a couple of pages and see what it does for you.

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.

What about you? Have you ever given handwriting a try? How did you like it?

#authortoolboxbloghop, For Writers

Creating a Worthy Hero – AuthorToolboxBloghop

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Since NaNoWriMo is nearly here, I thought I’d share some things about creating a worthy hero. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you might want to check out this post a did a couple years ago about prepping for NaNo.

One of the most important things to consider when writing your novel is whether or not your main character is captivating. Does your MC inspire your readers, making them care about him and his journey? Is your MC moving the story forward, or is he being dragged along with it?

One way to answer these questions is to ensure your hero has the things he needs to own his story. According to Save a Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, The three things every hero must have are: a want, a need, and a flaw. (I did a review of this book in an earlier blog post, you can check it out here.)

1. A Want – This is the thing that your MC most desires. This is the goal he is trying get to throughout the book. Your plot builds when you add obstacles or things that stand in the was of your hero getting what he wants. Sometimes this want can change as you’re writing the novel because the MC’s circumstances change. But your MC must have a want that propels the story forward.

2. A Need – This is the thing that your MC needs, but most likely doesn’t realize it. Sometimes  the need and want can coincide, and some people lump the want and need together, but often your MC will have a need as well. This need will tie into the flaw, as it’s usually a life lesson your MC must learn.

3. A Flaw – This is your MC’s problem. This is part of what is keeping him from reaching his goal. Once he realizes his need, he will be able to overcome this flaw and you’ll have reached your novel’s end. Both the MC’s flaw and his want need to be specific, so that the reader will be able to tell when the flaw has been resolved.

If you want to dig even deeper into these concepts, check out the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel. The book has helped me improve all aspects of my manuscript. And hopefully, this helps everybody whose doing NaNoWriMo this year.

What are your best resources for characterization? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know in the comments!

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.

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Save the Cat Writes A Novel (Book Review) – #authortoolboxbloghop

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Lately, most of my writing time has been dedicated to revising my Camp NaNoWriMo project, and I’m feeling good about the progress I’ve made. I’ve discovered several new things that have helped make the process easier for me. One is the chapter overview which I shared for May’s #authortoolboxbloghop. (If you missed that one, you can read about it here.)

Today, I wanted to share about another great resource – Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.

Originally taken from Save the Cat, a book about screenwriting, this book takes the three act structure of a story and breaks it down even farther into 15 beats. It also tells about the ten types of stories and gives examples from best-selling novels like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

I love this book! It’s really helped me with my revisions. Using the fifteen beats, I’ve been able to see where things needed to be moved around so they fit better into my story. I’ve also been able to determine whether or not scenes are necessary. And I’ve been able to lay everything out to see how it’s working together.

One of Brody’s suggestions is to use index cards and a big cork board to set up the fifteen beats. I love this idea and while I haven’t got the board yet, I’ve started making the cards and can’t wait to see how it will all look once it is all put together. (I’ll be sure to share my results.)

I think any fiction writer would benefit from this book, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. This is one of my favorite writing books and one I’ll be keeping close whenever I’m working on revisions. (If you’re a planner, you’d probably use this book before you write your novel.)

How about you? Have you read this book yet? What’s your favorite craft book? Let me know in the comments!

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.

#authortoolboxbloghop, For Writers

Revision – Chapter Overview #authortoolboxbloghop

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Last month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, and I worked on revising a WIP. Revision/editing can be overwhelming at times. I know I’ve often felt that way. Recently, I’ve started using a new strategy – chapter overview. And it is so helpful, I wanted to share about it today.

I’m a total pantser. When I start to write a novel, my planning consists of thinking about my story idea and possibly jotting down a few stray ideas. Then I just sit down and type. So when I start to revise, I really have to analyze each part and determine if I need to keep it or not. This is where the chapter overview comes in. (Before I start this process, I’ve already done one read-through so I have a general idea how the story is flowing.)

First, I note the chapter number, the number of pages, and the act in which the chapter takes place. Next, I write a one-line summary of the chapter and write out the purpose of the chapter – What is this chapter doing to move the story forward? This is key in helping me determine whether this is something that needs to stay or go. I also list the characters and the role they play in the story, and then I do a short summary of each scene in the chapter.

I’ve made my own Chapter Overview template that I use to help me with this. I’ve seen other versions floating around online which I’ve also used before, but none of them had exactly all the things I wanted to include, so I made my own.

example chapter overview

Here’s a printable copy: my chapter planner

For me, this has really helped me dig into my story and find what’s working and what isn’t. But more and more, I’m realizing that people learn and think differently, so you just have to find what works for you. If you’re a hard core planner, you might do all this before you even start to write because that’s what works best for you. I find that if I try to do too much planning before typing out my story it interrupts my flow and the story seems to crumble. Either way, I hope you find my chapter overview helpful.

What about you? How do you work best? What are some of the things you find helpful when you’re revising? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Side Note: Earlier for the bloghop, I did a post on the different kinds of editing. If you missed it, you can read it here. (Cataloging chapters is part of the developmental edit.)

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.

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Prepping for Camp NaNoWriMo – #authortoolboxbloghop

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I’m going to be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month. For those who might not know, Camp NaNo is an extension of NaNoWriMo (where you write a novel in 30 days throughout the month of November).  There are two sessions of Camp Nano, one in April and one in July. You are sorted into virtual cabins with like-minded writers who support you throughout the month. You can sign up and find out all the details here.

The thing I like about Camp Nano is that you can choose to do whatever writing project you would like. Some people work on a series of short works such as poems or short stories, others work on nonfiction pieces, some focus on revising and editing a novel, and still others follow the traditional Nano and write 50k words in a month.

I’ve chosen to do a revision project. I pulled out a manuscript I stored away several years ago and am going to see what I can do with it. It’s a nice chance to step away from my current WIP and focus on another project.

Here are some tips I found helpful. I hope they can help you get ready for Camp NaNo too:

1. Decide on your project. What are you going to do? Is there something you need to finish with an impending deadline? Maybe there’s a piece you’ve set aside that you’d like to reexamine. Or maybe you have a series of shorter pieces you want to complete. This is one of the best parts of Camp NaNo – picking what you want to do!

2. Gather your supplies. For me, this included some research materials, which you may also need if your project requires it. I always have a specific notebook assigned to each project I do so my notes are all contained in one place. Maybe there are some specific resources you might need for guidance. (I’ve included a list of resources at the bottom of this post.) You’ll want to have you planner/calendar for the month handy too (more about this in the next tip). And then there are the obvious things you’ll need – pens, laptop, a favorite writing snack and /or drink, and any other essentials you use when you write.

3. Set up your timeline/calendar. You need to decide on a plan. How many pages, hours, words, ect., are you going to write each day? Make little goals and create a reward system for yourself to help keep you motivated. I start with little rewards like a candy bar or a Starbucks drink, and then build up to larger things like a new mug or book. I usually choose a big prize for completing my final goal at the end of the month, something I’m really excited about that will help motivate me to finish. I’m still working on setting my plan up, but when I finish I’ll share what my calendar looks like.

4. Last but not least – Have Fun! Make this a fun event. If it’s something that will be a lot of stress for you right now, maybe decide to try July’s event instead. If now is the right time for you, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You want to reach your goals, but also be realistic. Don’t set goals that you will be unlikely to attain. And remember this is something you tailor to you – so you can make it as big or as small a project as you’d like.

These helped me with my plan for Camp Nano and I hope they’ll help you too. I know some people don’t like NaNo because it’s too much pressure, but this is a more relaxed version since you’re picking the project and the goals. So even if you don’t like NaNo, you could still give Camp NaNo a try.

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Resources:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron This is a craft book with tips for creating your novel.

Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. This is a great resource to help with revisions on your novel.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. This is a great guide on how to self-edit your novel.

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty. This book is by one of the creators of NaNoWriMo and is an inspiring and quick read. Very helpful if you’re not sure what you’re going to write about.

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop. It’s hosted by Raimey Gallant. For more details and to join in the fun, go here.

What about you? Are you participating in Camp Nano this April? What do you do to prepare? Let me know in the comments!

#authortoolboxbloghop, For Writers

Connecting With Your Readers Through Instagram – #authortoolboxbloghop

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My past two bloghop posts have been about different ways to connect with your readers. (If you missed them, you can check them out here and here. )

So this month, I wanted to share some tips on how to connect with readers on Instagram. (And again, I find Instagram is really effective for me as I write YA and there are a lot of YA readers who use Instagram. It might not be as effective for those who write in other genres.)

As with all social media platforms, you want to be commenting on and liking posts from your readers. In addition to that, you can use hashtags to connect with your readers. With Instagram, hashtags are key. Hashtags are how you find people with similar interests. There are several ways you can use hashtags to connect with your readers.

  1. Use several hashtags when you post. (Ten is considered the optimum number.) Some good hashtags for connecting with readers include: #bookstagram, #yabookstagram, #bookworm, #booknerd, #yalit (or whatever genre you write in), #bookdragon #toberead #currentlyreading
  2. Hashtag challenges – There are always plenty of monthly challenges you can participate in.  Each day of the month you are given a prompt which you use to stage your picture for that day. One example of the monthly challenge is #octlitwrit. There are also some challenges where you only post weekly.  My current favorite weekly challenge is #fantasyonfriday
  3. Daily hashtag themes – Similar to the challenges, you use a theme on a particular day like #mondaymotivation, #throwbackthursday or #fridayreads. There is no prompt, you just use the day’s theme to post something.
  4. Tagging games – In the tagging games, you take something like #spellmynameinbooks to complete and then tag several friends to do so as well.

Also, just a note on hashtags – Don’t use hashtags that don’t apply to the picture you’ve posted just to try to get more likes.

What about you? Do you have a favorite hashtag on Instagram? What’s your favorite thing about Instagram? Let me know in the comments. And you can connect with me on Instagram here.

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop. It’s hosted by Raimey Gallant. For more details and to join in the fun, go here.