• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

Editing Tips- After You Think You’re Done

paper and pencil

You write something awesome, reread and edit it multiple times, maybe get an editor, and you think you’re done, right? Wrong. After being in a critique group for four years, I’ve learned some invaluable things that every writer should consider.

  1. The first time you introduce a character, use his or her name.
    1. Example: “She rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. Heather smiled.”
    2. Instead: “Heather rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. She smiled.”
  2. After that, you can mostly just use pronouns (he or she), unless there are other characters, and it’s getting confusing.
    1. Example: “Heather liked to watch people die. Heather waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
    2. Instead: “Heather liked to watch people die. She waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
  3. Put down your work for a minimum of a few weeks, so you can read it with fresh eyes.
    1. There have been COUNTLESS times I’ve received feedback and disagreed with it. Then, week or months later, I read my work again and realize I was wrong. When you are too “close” to your work, it’s hard to see the truth.
  4. Read through your work, look specifically at the adjectives and adverbs to see if you are over-using them or could remove them and use a better word.
    1. Example: “She spoke loudly.”
    2. Instead: “She shouted.”
  5. Don’t forget your character’s thoughts and emotions. Without them, you have more of an outline of a story rather than a story.

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Critique Groups

critique group

A critique group can be defined as a lot of things, but to me, it’s simply a group of people who get together to go over their writing. If you are a writer and you aren’t in one, I highly recommend either joining one or creating one. I spent years writing on my own, working my hardest to reach my goal of becoming a published author. Yet, it wasn’t until I joined a critique group that I not only grew a lot as a writer, but had the confidence and knowledge to become a published author.

But what makes a successful critique group?

  • The most important thing is that all the members have personalities that work well together. If everyone can’t get along, they can’t work together.
  • Trust is equally important. If you don’t trust the members of the group, it’s hard to accept and give critiques. The whole experience leaves you pretty vulnerable, which means you need people there you know want the best for you.
  • Depending on your groups goals, the members should always be thinking, “what can we do to improve their story so it can be published?” If the members are just trying to tear apart your work, the group isn’t helpful for anyone.
  • Keep the group small. More than ten members would make it very difficult to have time to read and review people’s work (well). I actually think five or so members is plenty.
  • Meet regularly. Every two weeks seems to work well for me, but each group will have different needs.
  • Submit each meeting. The only way you’ll see a lot of growth is if you have regular feedback. Each meeting you’ll try to apply the comments from the last meeting so that your problems change and minimize. This really helps your growth as an author.

I asked my fellow critique group member and friend Aeon Igni her thoughts about the benefits of a critique group, and I think her response was brilliant:

“If you’ve ever read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, you know that much of business success comes from individuals grouping together to accomplish greater tasks than any one person could accomplish alone. A good writing group gives an author this power. With several minds focusing on their process, product, and career rather than their single mind, it is almost assured that the end product will be exponentially greater than what the author could create without this feedback.

Critique groups share information, techniques, tips and tools of the trade, as well as powerful brainstorming sessions and constructive criticism. We can see the power of critique partners and critique groups among published authors today – many authors I follow reference each other on social media and post pictures of themselves dining out or taking cruises together. 

For me personally, it is comforting to know that I don’t have to go it alone – that there are others to turn to when I am struggling or need advice. Even a simple text with an article to read or asking how my writing is coming along can be powerful motivation to keep moving forward. I expect that I will always be part of a critique group, and I can’t imagine a writing life without one.”

So if you aren’t in a critique group yet, find one or created one. It may be the single most important thing you do as a writer.

Creating a Newsletter Using Mail Chimp

Quite awhile ago, I signed up for Mail Chimp. It’s a great website that many authors use to send out their newsletters. I’ve recently started playing with it and wanted to share my experience.

  1. I reached out on a couple social media sites and had 21 people agree to join my mailing list (many of whom are friends and family).
  2. I imputed their contact information into the “lists” section on Mail Chimp.
  3. In the “template” section, I started creating a newsletter (more on that in a minute).
  4. When I was satisfied with it, I created a “campaign” but only sent it to close family and friends for their feedback.
  5. The feedback was great, but I have one more problem. I want to include a “freebie” on the newsletter, for all my readers who join. Using a website called InstaFreebie, I created a link for my readers, but the formatting was a mess (it requires a different format than Kindle and Smashwords). So, rather than spending a few hours reformatting my story, I’m looking for a better option. (I’ll let you all know when I find one and share with you how I did it.)

Now, as far as creating my newsletter, I wanted to structure it consistent with my “brand.” Here is a preview of it (in Mail Chimp):

Mail Chimp Preview

It’s very simple, but there was one idea that guided me as I created it:

  • My newsletter is for my readers, not for me. Therefore, I want to show them I value their time by making it a quick read and sharing information that I think they would want. Hopefully, I was successful in my goal.

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Book Covers and Blurbs with that Extra Something

Creating a cover is such an emotional process. “They” say the two things that help to sell your book the most are the cover and the blurb. It’s heart-wrenching to create a book that makes you sing with pride, but worry that no one will ever read your story if the cover and blurb aren’t good enough.

Luckily, I have a friend who has some computer magic and was excited to use it on my book cover. It was awesome to sit down together and come up with an idea of what I wanted it to look like, but then to actually have him create it. Because the truth is, I have some skills, but creating an amazing cover is not one of them.

I also luckily have an amazing group of writers, the 7 Evil Dwarves, who were willing to look at my blurb and help give it that extra something. Most people have no idea how hard it is for a writer to try to sum up their book in just a few paragraphs, but trust me, it’s painful. A special thanks to Jami Gray who sprinkled some writer-magic on it.

After several drafts, and countless hours spent constructing my vision, here is the cover to my first young adult fantasy novel, along with the blurb:

Book- Without Back Cover- 1500Pixels

When eighteen-year-old Rose is chosen to join a mysterious order of women known as The Protectors, she hopes to escape a forced marriage and a miserable life. Instead, she unveils the dark secrecy surrounding The Protectors, and uncovers the horrific truth behind their power source. With her loyalty in tatters and her best friend’s life held hostage, she must learn to unlock the powerful magic slumbering deep inside her.

But time is running out.

The Undead Wizards, a dangerous enemy, have re-emerged from the Underworld, plunging The Protectors and the kingdom into a brutal war. Unfortunately, The Fates decree that Rose is the answer to the war may cost her more than she ever imagined. To win, she must decide whether to join them and betray the man she loves, or risk the annihilation of all she holds dear.

What are some of your favorite blurbs or covers?

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Navigating Kindle Direct Publishing

KDP

Learning to use Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my novel To Kill a Wizard wasn’t nearly as hard as learning to properly format my book for Kindle readers. Both, however, had their challenges, which I’ll share here, as well as, some tips on how I formatted my novel.

Things I learned:

  • First, I uploaded my book and made sure there were no basic issues.
  • After that, I looked at how my book actually appeared on my Kindle Previewer. I found I needed to adjust my spacing, indents, and font size, depending on what I thought looked best.
    • In “page setup,” I changed the page size to be six-by-nine.
    • Then, I had to select a “custom margin” based on the size of my book. I believe I went with the “top,” “bottom,” and “outside” being .5, the “inside” being 0, and the “gutter” being .75.
    • I selected “mirror margins” and applied it to the “whole document.”
    • But these numbers vary based upon the number of pages in your book.
    • A lot of writers also choose to space their lines by 1.5, but I found that it looked like way too much, so I played with it until I found the perfect number (for me) 1.35.
    • I finally changed my “style set” to “simple.”
    • (For more information on formatting these areas for Kindle, check out: Createspace Help.)
  • Youtube was my friend for the next step in formatting. Creating a table of contents within the novel, with links to each chapter in my book, sounds like an easy process, but it wasn’t. I used buttons in Microsoft Word that I’ve never used before. I’ll sum it up below:
    • I changed the “style” of my document to “simple.”
    • Then went to “Insert” and “Table.” It then warned me “No Table of Contents Entries Found.”
    • I highlighted each chapter title, clicked “Heading 1” under the “Home” menu in Microsoft Word.
    • When I was done highlighting each chapter, I hit “Update Table,” and it all showed up.
    • Finally, I highlighted “Table of Contents” and made a “Bookmark” (Found under the “Insert” menu). When the box pops up, name it “toc” for table of contents.
    • And that’s about it!
    • (For more information on formatting your table of contents, check out: YouTube Video.)
  • Finally, I uploaded my cover. The first time, I included the entire cover. But then, I realized that the image people saw when searching for my book was the entire cover, including the back, so I had to reload my image with just the front of the cover.
  • After that, I had to determine the cost for my book, the channels I wanted it distributed on, and whether to join KDP Select. I think these options are personal choices, so I won’t go into that.
  • One thing I will say, however, is that because I was setting things up for pre-releasing my book at the end of June, it seemed I had a lot of options. Most everything appeared like it could be adjusted up until right before the date the novel would be available. So, I selected July 4th as my release date, thinking I could change it later. Turns out that’s a big no, no. I contacted Amazon who explained I could move it up once, without penalty, but not back. Next time, I’ll make sure I am 100% sure about my date before I choose it.

So overall, Kindle Direct was really easy to use, but it did require some internet research, random texts to my good friends Amber Kallyn and Aeon Igni, and picking the brains of several other writer friends. I’m sure many people have done this completely on their own, but there is nothing better than an assortment of awesome people to help make the process easier.

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Reading as a Writer

Blue Colors

When I first started writing, I never thought it’d impact the way I read to quite the extent that it has. But it did. Now, I find there are books I absolutely cannot stand, simply because of the way they’re written… novels that, as just a reader, might not seem that bad.

For example, I recently started reading a new romance series. I was really enjoying the creativity of the world and the depth of the characters, until I realized the plot seemed non-existent. The more I paid attention to the plot, the more I was aware that there was no plot. Nothing drove these characters or challenged these characters, beyond the complications that just sprung up from chapter to chapter.

I still enjoy the series, but I find myself constantly thinking, my writing group would never let me get away with that.

But now, let’s talk about books I love even MORE as an author. Of course, my mind immediately snaps to Harry Potter, but I’d rather discuss a less well-known novel. Namely, Dragon’s Winter by Elizabeth A. Lynn. It is an absolutely amazing book! I think it’s the first novel I read where I realized it was possible to love and empathize with a character who may do some things that, by all logic, are unforgivable.

She spins the story of man who is unable to transform into a dragon, because his younger brother has stolen his amulet. He seems to have a great reluctance to confront or harm his brother, because he feels guilty for something that isn’t his fault… that he has inherited the ability to transform, while his brother did not. I empathized with both characters until his younger brother crosses a line, bringing cruelty on a level that is unforgivable on every level.

This book captured me, not just because of the unique world, but because of its main character, a complicated man who is riddled with flaws. I think it takes an incredibly skilled writer to create a character who crosses so many lines, but who the reader can’t stop rooting for.

What are some books you absolutely love?

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