• Who We Are

  • Schedule

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

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • 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.

InstaFreebie and Bitly

There are so many incredibly useful resources out there for authors, just waiting to be explored. Just this week, I finally took the plunge and checked out InstaFreebie and Bitly. I’ll share general information about these great sites below, as well as, my experience using them.

InstaFreebie

This is a website that is mainly used by authors who want a simple and safe way to give away free copies of their books. A few fellow writers recommended it when I asked about giving away copies in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only sent this link to a couple of reviewers, but this is what I noticed right away:

  • It is extremely user-friendly. It takes just a few steps in order to get a book giveaway up and running.
  • You have to have an ePub file, while I’ve never used before. I was able to get a free trial of a program (ePub Converter) in order to convert a word document into an ePub file.
  • When I opened the book on their site, the formatting was off. I resubmitted it with my CreateSpace formatting (which is my stripped down copy of my work), and it still had a space between each paragraph. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I’ll play with it some more.
  • The other thing that I couldn’t seem to figure out was how to view a copy of my book without actually going in and requesting a copy through the giveaway. I’m sure there is a way, but I may need to explore the site more.

Bitly

This is a website that takes links and shortens them, but it is so much more than that. This site also tracks how many times someone clicks on your shortened link, so you can monitor how useful your different advertisements are and how many people you’ve reached with them.

For example, here are two links that go to the exact same page:

The second link is the one that took me less than a minute to shorten using Bitly. Having a shorter link is nice, but what’s even nicer is that after I run this blog, I can go to Bitly and see how many people clicked on it.

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The Mysteries of an Author’s Brain

Neat Glass

My writing ideas come from a variety of different places. A lot of the times, I’ll have dreams that are so real and unique that I immediately run over and write them down, so I don’t forget. Later on, I usually find my dreams don’t logically make a lot of sense, but I start to mull over some of the more interesting parts, and usually before the day is done, I’ve got a great story idea.

Another way I come up with my ideas is that I’ll think of a really challenging situation or a really unusual character. Then, while I’m going about my day, I’ll slowly build on that single idea until I’ve got the plot for an entire book.

I often read about author’s running out of ideas. I’m not worried about running out of ideas, so much as, I’m worried that I’ll never find the time to take the best ones and create something really spectacular with them.

Struggling for ideas? Here are some suggestions:

  • Find a picture online and try to write something about it
  • “People watch” when you’re out and about. See if you can create a story behind a person.
  • Look for an unusual object and tell the story of where it came from and how it ended up there.
  • Listen to a song and see what it inspires you to write
  • Think of a really neat setting and build a story around it

How do you come up with ideas?

The Sea Goddess is Available on Amazon!

I’m so excited to announce my first short story “The Sea Goddess” is available on Amazon today! It has been such an amazing struggle to get to this point, and I am so thankful for all the support I’ve received from friends and family. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them. And, of course, that includes my 7 Evil Dwarves. There’s never been a better group of writers to work with!

If you’re interested in checking out “The Sea Goddess,” here is the cover, the blurb, and a link to Amazon:

The Sea Goddess

The Goddess of the Sea no longer cares just for sacrifices; she’ll punish all those tainted by blood on The Feast of Darkness.

On this cursed night each year, The Goddess’s powerful magic lingers in the air. The moon and seas turn red, stirring violence in all those creatures dark of soul. Lady Dessi Quinn has vowed not to leave the castle on such a dangerous night. Instead, she longs to explore the strange connection between Lord Smit Croswell and herself, even as she tries to deny it.

But as the night progresses, events outside of her control force her to make an impossible choice. A choice that will throw her into danger and change the course of her life forever.

If she can survive it.

Note: “The Goddess of the Sea” takes place in the world of Tarak, but readers can either enjoy this short story before or after “To Kill a Wizard.”

And if you’d like to, I’d appreciate anyone interested in leaving a review!

Non-Writing Responsibilities of an Indie Author

tree-and-storm-2

The next couple of months are going to be a little crazy for me. The plan is to release two of my short stories, in the world of Tarak, before releasing the first novel in the series To Kill a Wizard. So far, I’m running a bit behind in my “schedule,” because all of the non-writing stuff that goes into self-publishing is getting in the way.

These are some of the things that have been driving me crazy, that I had no idea would take up so much of my time:

  • Creating a marketing “plan”
  • Converting all my books to the proper format for each retailer. (Right now, I’m working on Smashwords.)
  • Making sure I have the right cover for each work, and that they are formatted correctly.
  • AND making sure all the information I provide actually shows up accurately at each place.

I will say, after the past couple of months working with all these programs, I can see why established writers pay someone to do a lot of these things. It kills me to spend so much time on all of this stuff when I could be writing. Even though I enjoy the control publishing as an indie author gives me, I can see why one of the reasons people go traditional is to avoid having to spend their time on all this non-writing stuff.

A fellow author of mine pays someone about thirty dollars to put their book in each format for them. At first, I thought this was crazy. Now, I plan to keep a special account of anything I make off my first works, so I can hopefully pay someone to do the formatting next time.

What do all of you think? Does the formatting get easier? Or is it smarter just to pay someone?

The Ups and Downs of Book Covers

The first major frustration I ran into in the past couple of months was cover art problems. I found an amazing cover artist for the first book in my series, but he has a day job, so he couldn’t drop everything and create the covers for my short stories. So… I had to venture out and try someone new.

I hired a cover artist for my short stories who immediately lacked good communication skills. For a good week, I held my breath, hoping she’d still deliver an excellent product, because she came highly recommended. The deadline for my cover came and went, and still I hoped she was just creating something really beautiful.

In the end, the cover came late and was everything I didn’t want. In fact, it was so far from what I wanted, I wondered if she’d done more than skim our email exchanges. It was that moment when I wondered if I’d have to create my own covers. I used to be good with Photoshop, but those skills seem to have faded, and all my attempts at covers ended up cringe-worthy.

After that, I very hesitantly went with another cover artist, but my stomach was in knots for days. Immediately she had amazing communication skills, and I had a much better feeling. The deadline for the project came… and so did my covers. And I LOVED them. Here is the first cover and blurb:

The Sea Goddess

“Lady Dessi Quinn feels a connection to Lord Smit Croswell that’s hard to ignore. Something unseen and powerful draws them together, even though she longs to deny it. But on The Feast of Darkness, Dessi has more important things to worry about than the strangely compelling Smit, at least with her grandmother’s prophesy hanging over her head:

The Goddess of the Sea no longer cares just for sacrifices; she’ll punish all those tainted by blood this night. Should any Quinn draw blood, they will be punished by the goddess herself.

As the night progresses, events outside of her control force her to make an impossible choice. A choice that will throw her into danger on the one night each year where The Goddess of the Sea’s powerful magic lingers in the air, stirring violence in all those creatures dark of soul.

Will she survive against mounting impossible odds – or will the Goddess of the Sea crush her? And will destiny bring Dessi and Smit together, or tear them apart?”

Everyone says a cover is one of the most important things to selling your book. All I can say is: make sure it’s something you’re proud of. I can’t stop staring at my new covers, and I hope everyone feels the same way about their books.

(“The Sea Goddess” will be available on June 16th, but is currently available to pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords.)

Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

My Muse has Vanished

I always have an idea of something I want to write about. When I’m doing dishes, or out driving in the car, I’m usually lost in my thoughts, plotting out some new story. But lately, my thoughts have been completely muddled. At first I thought it was the holidays, sinking their teeth in me and keeping things too crazy busy to even think. Yet, the holidays have come and gone, and I’m still stuck.

It’s weird. I’ve picked up a few pictures to “inspire” me and glanced at a few topics, hoping to write anything at all, but I’m just left sitting in front of the computer. Staring. A week ago I forced myself to keep plotting out a story I’d been playing with a month or so ago. Things started going well. I was proud of myself! And then, I realized I was writing a modified version of the book I’d just finished reading.

Ugh!

So my Muse has left me right when I need her the most. Hopefully she turns up before my computer gets too lonely.

Indie or Not?

The publishing market today is in a constant state of flux. Things are changing fast, and it can be difficult to keep up.

I recently attended a panel discussion, at the Desert Rose Romance Writers’ Conference, on the different options with publishing. There were six different authors and six different opinions. I thought I would share some of the pros and cons each author mentioned to help others, like myself, navigate this intricate world of publishing.

 

Virginia Nelson

She traditionally published in the past, and with three contracts in her hand decided to self publish.

Advantages: She wanted control over her product.

Disadvantages: She had a lot of research to do on self publishing. She had to initially pay out for her covers, editing and formatting, and self promotion was all on her shoulders.

Vijaya Schartz

She has published several books with small press.

Advantages: They will pay for your editors and bookcovers. Bigger royalties than larger publishing firms.

Disadvantes: No promotion or marketing. No advances.

Advice: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Small publishers may close their doors. Do not put all your books with one publisher. (Those with a larger publishing firms agreed with this as well.)

Shelly Coriell

Shelly is an award winning author who published her young adult series with Amulet (a bigger New York publisher). She also has an adult suspense series with a different large publishing company.

Advantages: Book advances. Book tours (for her personally, not everyone). They cover all promotion. Great cover art. Three to five different editors to help perfect manuscript.

Disadvantages: No control of tour schedules. Smaller royalties because of advances. Not as much of control of book.

Advice: She was a big proponent of traditional publishing. But she does have a more personal novel that she plans to self publish so that she can have more control.

Erin Quinn

Traditional publishing for over twenty years with some independent publishing as well.

Advantages: Simon and Schuster is her publisher, and she loves their quality editing. Large publishing houses have great marketing as well.

Advice: She does publish novellas independently to supplement her other income.

Jennifer Ashley

She is a New York Times Best Selling author who has been traditionally published since 2002 and began self publishing as well in 2011. Berkley is her current publisher.

Advantages: One of the biggest advantages she discussed was that large publishing houses are able to make the back end deals no one else can. If you want your books in Costco, Walmart, Target, etc. You have to have a large publishing house to sell your books.

Disadvantages: You don’t have as much control of your book with a larger publishing company.

Advice: “Nothing sells your book like your next book” and “Your newsletter is gold.”

 

One piece of advice that several of them gave, was if you choose to go the indie route make your book the best you can. You may want to submit to agents to get feedback even if publishing yourself. Overall, self promotion and lack of professional editors seemed to be the biggest challenge to self publishing. While, lack of control was the biggest disadvantage to tradition publishing.

I hope this helps some of the newer writers out there, or those thinking of making a switch. We have of variety of publishing methods at the swamp and often discuss upcoming trends and issues. Whatever route you choose, do your research and keep asking questions.

Cover Art

It’s such a surreal thing to be designing the cover art for my upcoming book. But I’ve also realized something that shouldn’t have been surprising; it’s harder than I thought to convey the image in my mind to someone else.

I’ll describe the image down to the smallest detail, feeling confident that I’ll know exactly what the artist will create… only to see their design and feel completely shocked.

My first instinct was I’m a writer. I should be good at getting across the image in my head to someone else. But then I remember that every writer wants their readers to fill in some of the details for themselves, and that no two readers will likely have the same image in their head. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a shock for a cover artist to have a different vision in their head from what I’m describing.

But I will also say, when your cover comes together, and looks awesome, there is no greater feeling in the world. It’s become the background on my computer. I like to look at it and just think about the day I’ll actually be able to hold my book in my hands.

What an exciting time in my writing career!

What is your favorite book cover and why?

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