Big Ferris wheel lit up at night with text: Cheap, Free, and Fun Resources

In the writing and self-publishing world, writers encounter a lot of services that cost money. Some of them are solid resources that are worth it if they work for our processes (such as One Stop for Writers with the Emotion Thesaurus and other thesauruses, story mapping tool, random generators, etc.). Others…? Not so much.

We could easily spend much of our publishing income on services. We could even end up in the hole, without profit to speak of. That’s why it’s always nice to discover free resources or discounted services.

While I’m brain-dead from not enough sleep (again), I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve found recently. *smile*

Cheap Resource: Purchase Pre-Made Book Covers

I’m often asked for advice on how to save money on book covers. In those types of discussions, many suggest the option of pre-made covers to reduce the cost.

Custom covers generally start over $100 and go up to $1000 or more. Pre-made covers often range from $30-$100, saving authors money.

However, as I well know, sometimes our story doesn’t fit the most common cover tropes, so we’re unlikely to find one that would work from among a dozen or so pre-made covers made by any particular cover artist. One solution to that problem might be to check the pre-made cover collection sites.

These are websites that do nothing but post pre-made covers from dozens—or hundreds!—of designers. We might not be able to find the right cover when facing only a few options, but if we have thousands to select from (especially as many pre-made cover artists will allow tweaks of font or colors), our chances improve. *smile*

Here are some of the pre-made cover collection sites I know of:

I’m sure there are other sites as well, but just those sites gives us access to tens of thousands of pre-made covers.

In addition, pre-made cover collection sites provide a way to find a cover artist we might like for other work. Many of the artists on these sites offer to create custom covers similar to the ones they list for comparable prices. Or maybe we can use those sites to get ideas for what we like or don’t like in a cover.

Free Resource: Make Our Own Book Covers

Obviously, a way to save even more money is to make our own covers. Maybe we even enjoy the creativity of creating our own covers. Or perhaps we just want a temporary cover to use on WattPad, NaNoWriMo, or other site where we’re talking about our book.

The problem is that most of us don’t have access to PhotoShop. Don’t worry, we’re not out of luck. *smile*

There are free resources to help us create our own cover:

  • Canva offers a free online book cover maker with templates to get us started.
  • PosterMyWall shares several templates similar to the pre-made covers and gives us the ability to customize our cover.
  • DIY Book Covers includes free templates and instructions for creating our cover in MS Word, which we’re likely to have as well.
  • Even if we don’t have MS Word, that same site also offers an online cover design tool with an image manipulation program.

Here’s the introduction to that online program to see if it might work for you:

Introduction to DIY Covers’ free online book cover design tool

Free Resource: Do Our Own Book Formatting

I’ve mentioned before how we can purchase book interior formatting templates from Book Design Templates (I’ve heavily modified one of these templates for my print books), but free is even better. *smile*

Options that I’ve heard of for print formatting include:

For a free ebook formatting resource, I know several authors who submit an MS Word document to a site like Draft2Digital, check the resulting ebook file, and make adjustments in the Word document until the .epub and .mobi files are clean. Then those downloaded ebook files can be used anywhere. (D2D doesn’t discourage authors from using their site for this file translation either.)

Fun Resource: Create Our Own 3D Promo Images

Now, let’s get into some fun bonus stuff… *grin*

Have you ever seen those promotion graphics advertising a book in different ebook or print formats? Usually, those graphics require a program like Photoshop due to the overlapping images.

However, another DIY site offers Google Slide templates with all the hard work of creating overlapping images done for us. Here’s the video about how to use these slides:

How to promote your book with 3D graphics – great for Facebook and Twitter

Here’s an example of what I was able to create in about 5 minutes with one of these slide templates from Derek (who I swear must never sleep! *grin*):

Stone-Cold Heart - now available in Print!

Fun Resource: Create Animated Book Covers

Here’s another fun thing we can do…

Animated book covers can be cheesy and obnoxious, but they can also be attention-getting. Either way, creating them can be easy and fun.

While they won’t work on book retail sites, these animated gifs can work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Glitterboo is a free site for turning our book covers into animated gifs, and DIY created another video with instructions.

And I had too much fun creating some for my books:

Stone-Cold Heart animated gif

Yep, too much fun…

Ironclad Devotion animated gif

Way too much fun…

Pure Sacrifice animated gif

Way, way too much fun…

Treasured Claim animated gif

Way, way, way too much fun…

Unintended Guardian animated gif

Each of those took me only about two minutes, so I let myself have my fun. And now I’ve shared that fun with you. *grin*

Had you heard of any of these resources before? Did I find some new ones for you to play with? Which ones might you use? Do you know of any other resources for these various categories? Do you know of any other fun resources?

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Person passionately expressing themselves with text: Finding the Truth in Every Voice

There’s much I could say about the importance of diverse stories and characters in fiction. However, while depictions of all types of characters are valuable for expanding choices for readers, the stories that should be most encouraged are those from authors who can provide an authentic perspective.

That means it’s especially important to raise up the voices of those with first-hand experience, known as “own voices.” The point of “own voices” is to listen to those who know.

Although I write diverse characters because that’s how they come to me, as a non-own-voices author, I don’t appeal to diversity shout-outs with my marketing. After all, I’m not writing these characters to be trendy, so I don’t want to take a slot on a “diversity list” of books from an author with a more authentic perspective.

In fact, I’d rather those lists be populated by those with own-voices stories. Along those same lines, rather than rambling about a topic I believe is important, I’ll leave the very capable Wendy Sparrow to share her own-voices insights into the subject. *smile*

I first met Wendy on Twitter about 6 or 7 years ago, and she’s one of my favorite people—and one of my favorite authors. (Seriously, she’s one of the few authors on my auto-buy list, especially as her latest is a gargoyle story like mine. *grin*) She’s preparing for a release under her pen name Wendy Laine that’s very close to her heart—and her experience.

Today she’s here to to talk about what own voices means and how we all can write the best diverse-but-not-own-voices stories possible. As she points out, when it comes to writing about mental illness (or other traits leading to marginalization), it’s possible to do real harm if we get it wrong, so we should all work together to get things right.

Please welcome Wendy Sparrow! *smile*

*****

Mental Illness and “Own Voices”

by Wendy Sparrow (writing as Wendy Laine)

My upcoming YA debut was written in 2010. I’d written many manuscripts before, and I’ve got quite a lot written after that, but Secrets of Skin and Stone needed seven years and the right scenario to be published. Sometimes authors will find themselves thinking, “I’m so glad this didn’t get published when I first queried it,” and this was definitely one of those times.

Writing a novel about a character with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who also practices cutting, was something I approached with a determination that I might call zealous. I needed the book that Teen Me needed, and since it hadn’t been written, I got started.

It’s Hard to Get Diversity Right—Even with Own Voices

Mental illness is a difficult portrayal to get right, and that is coming from someone who has had OCD her whole life. At the time I wrote this novel, I was still keeping quiet about both my OCD and my past as a cutter. I knew others like me, but not a lot.

In the intervening years, I’ve become an expert in what it’s like to be me. In June of 2013, I decided to come out on my blog about the dark thoughts associated with OCD.

Doing this forced me to examine myself, to do research, and opened the door for contact with others struggling with OCD. My hands shook for days after I posted that first time, though—and I had a resurgence in all things associated with my OCD.

Since then, I’ve added to the posts on my blog about OCD, PTSD, depression, and self-harm. You’d think it’d get easier to post, but I still scrutinize each post at least a dozen times before taking a deep breath and hitting publish.

Even Own-Voices Authors Need Feedback

In Secrets of Skin and Stone, Piper has the same type of OCD that I do, Pure-O, and, like I am, she’s a cutter. No one understands how triggering self-harm can be like someone who once cut, in my opinion, so the cutting scenes in the book were difficult to write. I wanted them accurate, but not gratuitous.

I ran them by many, many beta “sensitivity” readers. In fact, I ran those scenes by so many people that I can’t remember them all.

You can’t even imagine how many times I’ve read this novel—I’m the epitome of OCD stereotypes when it comes to editing. A conservative estimate of two dozen times reading this, and I still feel uncomfortable reading the cutting scenes.

I mentioned I was glad that it’d taken this long to get it published. There is no way I could have done this story right even two years ago.

I hadn’t examined my condition to the degree I have now. I’ve written nearly three dozen posts on the topic of mental illness, the majority about OCD. I’ve spoken with, mentored, and befriended many people through my blog posts. I know what it means to be me now.

Additionally, there’s a very delicate balance between accuracy and sensationalizing when portraying mental illness in fiction. I didn’t have the skill to navigate that in 2010. Finally, I needed the editor I worked with on this novel, someone familiar with diverse reads and how to handle the depictions of them. I’m almost ashamed of how clumsy I was in dealing with some aspects of the condition I have even in what I’d considered final drafts.

Diverse Stories Are Needed from Everyone

It might seem like I’m suggesting no one should handle characters with mental illness unless they have the condition themselves. I’ll admit that it probably makes it more accurate. Not to mention that if you do come under fire for your portrayal, you have the ability to make your case for how it was depicted. On the other hand, I would have been very, very grateful as a teen for books with characters with accurate, non-stereotypical OCD.

We do need more diverse reads and not just angsty, poignant books, but also novels normalizing diversity like mental illness and disability. Our world is made up of flawed individuals—no one is perfect or a rubber-stamped copy of any aspect of humanity. It’s time that fiction represented more.

Mentally ill people go on adventures. People with disabilities live large and vividly. We are more than the checkboxes on government documents.

How Can Non-Own-Voices Authors “Get It Right”?

  • Rely on Research—not Stereotypes

If you choose to write a character with a diverse experience, research the heck out of it—which includes seeking as many first person accounts as you can. Don’t rely on stereotypes.

I went undiagnosed until well into my twenties because my OCD looks nothing like how it’s portrayed by Hollywood. If your OCD character doesn’t have any dark thoughts but likes to clean a lot—you’re doing it wrong. It’s a shallow depiction that is an insult to those you’re trying to represent.

  • Find Sensitivity Readers to Double-Check

Whenever possible, find sensitivity readers and editors to double-check you. I’ve done sensitivity reads on autism, Asperger’s, and OCD…and every last one of them was inaccurate in some way and many were offensive.

Don’t throw out the excuse of “well, it might look like this with someone somewhere.” Chances are that ultra specific outlier will not be reading your book, and the fires you’ll roast in on social media will leave scars. Get it right.

  • Question Your Intentions

Check yourself on whether you’re doing this for the right reason. Diversity is not a fad or the “in thing.” There’s a vast spectrum of humanity so side characters should represent that, but being a token “mentally ill” person is not cool.

  • Too Much Work? Don’t Write the Story

Also, if you’re not up for the research and emotional investment of getting it right…stay out of our sandbox. Think of the medical motto of “first, do no harm.” Inaccurate depictions or sensationalizing mental illness can harm readers.

  • Don’t Erase the Diverse Traits to Force a Happy Ending

Finally, if you have a character with a disability or mental illness, do not magically cure them or suggest that a cure is the only way for them to be happy. If I was cured of my OCD tomorrow, I wouldn’t be me. It’s in there deep. And I have found ways to be deliriously happy, even with my OCD at its worst.

Magical cures suggest that we need to be fixed in order to be happy, deserve love, or be equal to others. Honor the struggles and achievements of those dealing with mental illness and disability by making sure your voice is true.

Writing a book that is preceded by a trigger warning is not for everyone, and I don’t know that I feel equal to the task even now. I tried. And I think Teen Me would be grateful for the attempt.

*****

Wendy Laine is the penname of author Wendy Sparrow. Writing is in Wendy’s blood as are equal parts of Mountain Dew and chocolate. Wendy has been telling tales since she was a child with varying amounts of success. Her parents clearly anticipated her forays into the paranormal because she heard “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” over and over.

She lives in Washington State with a wonderful husband and two quirky kids and is active in autism and OCD support networks. She can usually be found on Twitter where she’ll talk to anyone who talks to her and occasionally just to herself.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Newsletter

*****

About Secrets of Skin and Stone:

Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Entangled

*****

Bonus Giveaway from Wendy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*****

Thank you, Wendy! I’m so glad we all get to learn from your insights. I agree completely with all of your tips here—so much so, that I can’t think of anything else I’d add. *grin*

Have you heard of the “own voices” concept before? Do you agree that it’s important to encourage and raise up the voices of those with an authentic perspective? Do you think non-own-voices authors should be willing to put in the work to prevent harm? Do you have any other suggestions based on your experience? Do you have any questions for Wendy?

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Monopoly money with text: When Readers Don't Believe in Our Story...

There are many reasons we need beta readers, critique partners, or other sources of feedback. One of the biggest reasons is to help us fill in the blanks for things we can’t see.

For example, we often fail to get everything from our head onto the page. Or even if we think we’ve captured all the aspects of our story, subjectivity means every reader will interpret those aspects differently. A character’s gesture intended as sweet could be seen as controlling, etc.

Feedback is essential for understanding how others might interpret our words. Especially if we get similar feedback from multiple readers, that’s probably a good sign we’re not getting across the message we want.

However, there’s another side to reader interpretation that we might run into occasionally as well. In this case, we’ve included the story elements we wanted on the page, and readers aren’t misinterpreting our writing per se.

Rather, the problem is that readers see our words and understand our intentions, but they don’t believe what we’re telling them. Let’s take a closer look at this problem…

The Many Faces of Disbelief

Readers’ disbelief can take many forms. A few examples I’ve seen include:

  • Readers don’t believe two characters would fall for each other in a romance. The characters seem like they end up together just because they’re in the same book, not because they’re “perfect” for each other.
  • Readers question the historical accuracy of a story element (whether a major element or a minor aside, such as if a certain word was in use during the time period).
  • Readers find a story element unrealistic, whether that refers to a character’s actions, a plot twist, or the specifics of a character’s situation (“A hospital would never allow XYZ to happen to a patient.”).

Research Isn’t Always Enough

In some of those cases, we might be in the right as authors. Maybe we did our research and know that, yes, turn-style doorknobs were in use by the time of the story. Or maybe the idea for our story element even came from a news article about a hospital doing the very thing a reader doesn’t believe.

Facts aren’t always protection against disbelief. Sometimes real-life is stranger than fiction—too strange to believe.

Case Study, Part 1:
Stone-Cold Heart & the CST Program

Early in my brainstorming, I knew the heroine for my story Stone-Cold Heart had a military background, so I started researching stories of female soldiers for inspiration. One story I came across was that of Rachel Washburn, a former NFL cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles who left to serve as a member of the U.S. Army Cultural Support Team program.

Cultural Support Team—that’s a vague name by design. It was purposely chosen to hide the capabilities of the members and allow the women soldiers be seen as less intimidating by Afghanistan and Iraqi citizens (all the better to gather intel).

In truth, these women went through a grueling selection process, testing physical, mental, and psychological fitness, just to be considered. Those who made the cut then endured a several month training regime to make them fit to embed and serve alongside U.S. Army special operation forces (Rangers and Green Berets—and the U.S. Navy had a similar program for SEAL teams).

No aspect of my story garnered more disbelief from early readers than my heroine’s background as a CST member. Many questioned how she could have been in combat. How she could have been on her own with a special ops team (while CST members usually worked in pairs, there were exceptions). How she could have had a female interpreter. How she could have moved around without a special ops escort. Etc., etc.

It didn’t matter that her experience was based on facts. Those facts contradict many common assumptions (especially given that her military experiences take place before recent U.S. policy changes), so they were easy to disbelieve.

The Problem of Disbelief

We’ve all heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in relation to movies and books to explain how we accept the impossible. Every genre has different “But that’s impossible!” hurdles to overcome with readers.

Science fiction authors have to make the technology sound believable. Legal thrillers have to play out according to set laws. Paranormal authors have to decide if modified DNA, magic, or other things determine the rules of the world.

Whatever our genre, however, we want to keep readers in the story. We recently discussed here the importance of story immersion. A reader knocked out of our fictional world with thoughts of disbelief is more likely to close the book—and keep it closed. Not good.

A few years ago, I wrote about the types of issues we tend to encounter with unbelievable plots, characters, and worldbuilding:

  • Plot: coincidences, too convoluted, too easy, etc.
  • Characters: lack of motivation, too perfect, too stupid to live, etc.
  • Worldbuilding: inconsistent, too vague, etc.

But as I mentioned above, sometimes readers choose to disbelieve our story, even when our story doesn’t suffer from the typical issues. Is there anything we can do to win those readers back?

3 Steps to Overcome Reader Disbelief

  1. Use feedback to identify where readers disbelieve.
    We can watch out for feedback that points out (or hints at) where readers aren’t buying our story.
  2. Try to identify why they disbelieve.
    Did we not give enough details or create enough emphasis to “sell” the idea behind a story element? Is the premise itself hard to believe?
  3. Make changes to address their disbelief (as appropriate).
    We can’t fill in every hole for every reader, but if we hear the same message from multiple sources of feedback, we likely want to make some changes.

To a large extent, those steps are common sense. However, at step #2, I mentioned two very different issues behind the problem of disbelief.

Sometimes the problem is one that we can address in our writing, doing a better job of “selling” the reader on the fiction we’re offering. But sometimes the problem goes deeper.

When readers don’t buy the premise, we have to do more than fill in the blanks. We have to overcome their preconceived ideas about the story element itself, and that’s not always something we can do with just our normal story writing.

Fixing a “Selling” Problem vs. a Premise Problem

For example, if readers don’t buy why a couple would get together in a romance, the cure depends on the source of the problem:

  • If it’s a problem of selling, we can figure out what makes a couple perfect for each other and weave those character traits and aspects throughout the story. Then, we could have the characters specifically touch on those compatibility elements to sell the idea even more. Motivations often should be brought out of the subtext at least once in the story.
  • If it’s a problem of premise, that means readers actively don’t think they can be sold—and that’s a much harder problem to overcome. We might even wonder if we want to win back those readers.

The premise issue gets especially sticky for some authors when writing marginalized characters. They’ve heard from readers—or in some cases, even agents and editors—who don’t believe the character’s situation because of their personal beliefs about what a black, gay, autistic, etc. experience would be like.

The dismay a marginalized author might feel when their voice—their experience—is disbelieved is hard to imagine. In cases like that, an author might question whether it’s worth it to fight against reader-disbelief. But of course, if they don’t, a reader’s preconceived ideas will never be challenged for the next story either.

Case Study, Part 2:
Stone-Cold Heart & the CST Program

In the case of my story, I didn’t have an “own voices” experience to fall back on, but I had dozens upon dozens of research sources backing up my premise that, yes, women did serve alongside the U.S. Army special operation forces as I’d described.

How could I make that premise plausible to readers though? Especially while still trying to avoid info dumps or being too “on the nose”?

In the end, I decided to “hang a lantern/lampshade” on the premise—acknowledging its unbelievability but asking readers to accept it—in several different ways.

In the story:

  • My heroine shares the U.S. Army’s reasoning for establishing the CST program with the hero (it was the only way for U.S. forces to interact with fifty percent of the residents, learning what they knew and keeping civilians away from the fighting). That way, readers could see the logic behind the premise.
  • She also describes the selection and training process, giving readers a sense that CST members were qualified for such a job and adding more logic to overcome preconceived ideas.
  • She then complains how her PTSD was ignored upon her return, as most in the military didn’t know of her program’s existence, so they didn’t believe she could have experienced the trauma she claimed. This point gives voice to the common preconceived ideas and then dismisses them as false—a standard persuasive essay technique. *smile*

As I mentioned above, we can’t always address every preconceived idea within our story, so I also included some information outside the story:

  • I included an Author’s Note at the back, acknowledging how her experiences might be hard to believe and then sharing the facts.
  • I also mention the upcoming Author’s Note at the bottom of my Dedication page before the story, giving readers a heads-up that there’s more to the CST program than they might assume.
  • In the Author’s Note, I invite readers to visit my Stone-Cold Heart webpage, where I’ve shared several links and videos of research sources, essentially telling readers that they don’t have to take my word for it. *grin*

Are some readers going to skip over the Author’s Note and still choose to disbelieve those details? Probably.

But those who don’t want to have their ideas challenged aren’t likely to be a good match for our story anyway. My point with all of those attempts above was to reach those who didn’t know (a common situation for my story’s element) but were willing to learn.

Perhaps that’s the silver lining of this problem of disbelief. If we can help enlighten our readers while they enjoy our story, they might find it more meaningful and support our work even stronger than before. *smile*

Have you read stories where you didn’t believe in some elements? Was it a selling problem or a premise problem? Have you run into this issue in your writing? How did you address the situation? Do you have other thoughts about how we can help readers believe?

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Release News! How Do You Celebrate?

by Jami Gold on May 11, 2017

in For Readers, News

Wine corks spilling out of wine glass with text: Do You Take Time to Celebrate?

Yesterday marked the release of my fifth book, Stone-Cold Heart. Guess how I celebrated?

Um… I didn’t.

Some might guess that my lack of joy was due to the fact that a book release is old hat to me by now. (It’s not. I still find it cool. *smile*) Or that I’m waiting until the print version is available. (I’m not, but CreateSpace has been difficult in processing the cover art this time around for some reason, so the print version will come in a week or so.)

Instead, my distraction was partly due to how I spent some of Tuesday at my surgeon’s office, where we ran a bunch of tests and x-rays on a patch of unexpected swelling on my gums, trying to determine if the bone-disintegrating infection is back after my most recent surgery. (No verdict yet, but the swelling was better yesterday, so… *fingers crossed*)

Between that unscheduled chaos and the normal busyness of getting ready for a release, I—no joke—did a double take when a pre-ordered copy of my book downloaded to my Kindle late Tuesday night. I seriously wondered why it was there, as though all of my prep work was just for the sake of deadlines and not because of…you know, an actual book. *face palm*

Yesterday wasn’t much better, and being severely sleep deprived didn’t help my discombobulated brain. (Ever wake up an hour early and think you’re running late? That was yesterday. *sigh*)

In other words, yesterday’s release day continued the mess of the past year, but somehow I managed to still get things done. So…yay?

Seriously though, we should take the time to celebrate our victories, no matter what they are or where we find them. There will always be other things on our to-do list or other issues that need our attention. So we should at least savor a chocolate chip or something. *grin*

While I try to come up with some way to belatedly celebrate, let me share the details of my latest release…

Stone-Cold Heart Is Now Available!

Like all the books of my Mythos Legacy series, this is a standalone story, and the whole series can be read in any order. (That said, some worldbuilding connections will have greater meaning if the stories are read in order.)

Stone-Cold Heart features an indestructible shapeshifting gargoyle and the only woman strong enough to stand up to him. Hmm, or maybe that should be worded the other way around…

It’s about a fierce combat veteran heroine and the only guy strong enough to allow her to hope for happiness. Either way, these two are perfect for each other. *grin*

Stone-Cold Heart cover

Abandoned to his fate,
a shapeshifting gargoyle is trapped
until she sets him free…

A gargoyle betrayed by his soldiers…

After centuries of stone-cold death, Garrett discovers his legion has deserted him. Without their help, he’ll succumb to eternal sleep once more unless he can trick the woman who woke him into trusting him with her soul.

A combat veteran scarred inside and out…

Her last night in Afghanistan, Raquel Guerrero’s team fell victim to a suicide bomber, killing everyone but her. Now, despite her determination to never again let anyone close, her sense of duty compels her to help an endangered warrior survive.

Trust isn’t in their vocabularies…

A tentative truce frees them to investigate his regiment’s abandonment—and unleashes passionate temptations. But when the truth is uncovered, Garrett and Raquel’s fragile bond—and the healing power of love—might be the only thing that keeps them alive.

Available at:

Amazon | Apple iBooksBarnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay

(A print version is coming soon, and you can also add it on Goodreads!
Click here for the latest links.)

Stone-Cold Heart is currently priced at $2.99 for another couple of days, and then its price will go up to $3.99, so order your copy today!

Want to grab some fun teaser quote images featuring
Raquel and Garrett who share some great banter. *snicker*
Check out the Stone-Cold Heart page!

Quote from Raquel and Garrett of Stone-Cold Heart: "If your clothes are a part of you, you can't take them off, right?" "Are you asking me to demonstrate?" He didn't hold back his grin.

Looking for More Books?

Check out the May Preorder Super Sale & Giveaway!

39 Romance Authors are sharing May Preorders…

Most of them are on sale for a limited time. It’s just our way of thanking our loyal readers.

Even better, we’ve pooled our funds to offer an awesome giveaway! Enter to win a Kindle just for subscribing to our newsletters or following us on social media.

Click here for the May Preorder Super Sale & Giveaway!

Aaand…I promise that’s the end of the promo-focus posts for a long time. Thank you for sharing my journey with me and letting me stop and enjoy this release for a few minutes. I hope you remember to take the time to enjoy your accomplishments and victories as well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to treat myself to some chocolate. *grin*

P.S. If you’ve read any of my books, have you left a review? *smile*

What accomplishments do you celebrate? How do you celebrate? (Yes, I’m looking to poach ideas.) Or do you struggle to take the time to celebrate? If so, what keeps you from recognizing your victories? What would make it easier?

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What Advice Do You Ignore?

by Jami Gold on May 9, 2017

in Writing Stuff

Ear plugs with text: What Advice Do You Ignore?

There’s no shortage of writing advice out there for us to learn. We can find tips about drafting, editing, publishing, querying, branding, etc.—anything we can think of.

Some of that advice is questionable, a few tidbits are outright harmful, but most of it is decent-to-good. Yet even if advice is good, we still might want to ignore it. No joke. *smile*

Even the best advice won’t always apply to us or help us become better writers or published authors. Let’s talk about the different kinds of advice out there and why we might sometimes want to ignore even the good stuff…

Why Might We Want to Ignore Good Advice?

  • There’s No “One Right Way”:

As I’ve written about before, there’s no “one right way” to do many things in writing. Therefore, just because a mentor thinks an approach is the “best” way, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to succeed.

For example, many writing instructors feel that writing by the seat of our pants can’t possibly result in a coherent story. My writing—and that of many other pantsers—proves that assumption wrong. *grin*

  • Our Tendencies Don’t Match Up with the “Usual”:

Each of us is unique, with different strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, so advice that applies to a common weakness or bad writing habit doesn’t necessarily apply to us. A good kernel exists inside even the worst advice, which is why it continues to be shared, but the nuanced context—context that could help us understand whether the advice applies to us or not—has often been lost over the years.

For example, the tip to “write tight” and avoid too many modifiers like adverbs is good advice for many writers. However, some writers default to a stripped-down, bare writing style and need to be encouraged to flesh ideas out more.

  • We Have Different Goals:

My whole series about Indie Publishing Paths at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University has been about how we have to find the right strategies for our goals. An author with a long-term vision needs different advice than an author looking to score some quick cash.

The same could be said about some of the writing craft advice out there. Some authors want to ensure their story is easy to read, while others want to make their readers think a bit. Neither of those goals are wrong, just different.

  • Our Genre or Readership Has Different Expectations:

Advice about point-of-view, emotional depth, plot obstacles, etc. can all be genre- or readership-dependent. Do readers expect a guns-blazing plot and don’t care about what characters are feeling? Do they want lush descriptions? Do they expect a mind-bending twist?

Some advice won’t apply to certain genres and readerships. I tend to talk a lot here about character arcs, but some genres frequently feature “flat arc” characters. Same with advice about using deep point-of-view or how strong or devious our antagonist should be. Our genre can make a big difference in whether advice applies to us.

  • The Usual Advice Doesn’t Work for Our Processes:

Often, it might be best for us to ignore advice simply because it doesn’t work for our processes or mindset. Opposite styles of advice can both be valid, but maybe only one will help us—which should be the whole point.

For example, when it comes to encouragement, some of us need “pushy” advice and some need “sympathetic” advice (and our needs might change from hour to hour!). Both kinds of advice are valid, and neither are wrong. But if our current mindset requires sympathetic advice, whip-cracking edicts won’t help us—and might even hurt us.

All Advice Has Context—Find the Nuance

Another great example of how we shouldn’t just blindly follow advice cropped up on the kboards forum a few months ago. The original poster expressed surprise at advice she’d read from Dean Wesley Smith about not rewriting.

Wait… Isn’t writing mostly about getting it right in revisions? Her head spinning, she wondered if it’s true that rewriting actually makes our stories worse.

However, as mentioned above, we should keep the context in mind when evaluating how or why advice might or might not apply to us. Or when considering if the advice wasn’t intended quite as we’ve interpreted it.

In this case, reading through the rest of the kboards conversation illuminates several aspects of context that add nuance to Dean’s “avoid rewriting” attitude.

  • A commenter pointed out that Dean was likely referring to a short story rather than a novel, which greatly affects how much editing is necessary. Short stories don’t have as many interconnecting elements, so it’s more likely that revisions could move the story away from our original intentions for it, resulting in a workshopped-to-death piece.
  • We’re often warned against editing as we go, which is helpful advice to those writers who would get stuck on the same chapter, fiddling endlessly, and never making forward progress, but it doesn’t apply to everyone. Dean reads through—and makes changes to—the previous day’s work at the start of each writing session.
  • Our writing processes are all different, which can affect the amount of rewriting we need to do. Some pantsers might end up with more tangents that need to be taken out after the story’s shape is known. Others need to make fixes as they go.
    As the commenter Rosalind says (emphasis mine): “There is no right advice on writing process. There are examples.”

Commenter Chrissy explained more about Dean’s method:

“He calls it cycling—where you go back over your work and add/change things. The key component I believe he makes is state of mind.

If you are making changes while in the creative mind set, that’s NOT rewriting. 

However, if you go back over your work from the critical mindset, then that IS rewriting, and he believes doing so will hurt your writing.”

Confession from Another Non-Rewriter…

Given Dean’s perspective on the definition of rewriting, I guess I don’t rewrite either. Instead, like him, I reread my previous day’s words before I start. (That step helps me remember the voice of my characters, not to mention gives me a chance to fix typos. *smile*)

Also like Dean, I go back and make changes as I discover more about where my story’s going, rather than waiting to make structural changes after I finish. Sometimes these changes will mean reworking a scene, but other times small changes can fix big problems.

In other words, I’ll sometimes go back further than just the previous day’s work if I need to make elements fit together differently, as it’s easier for me to remember what exactly needs to be changed if I do it in the moment. (Scrivener makes it easy to jump around when necessary. *whew*)

However, others might not know where their story is going until it’s finished, so any premature reworking might just lead to never finishing the story, as everything keeps changing with each new story direction. There’s no “one size fits all” for advice.

Follow Advice that Helps Us and Ignore the Rest

We should never rewrite just for the sake of rewriting. If it’s broken, we should fix it or make it better. But otherwise, we shouldn’t feel pressured into doing more edits than necessary just because the typical advice makes us think we should do more revision/rewriting passes. Ugh.

When I wear my developmental-editor hat, I always include disclaimers with my revision suggestions to my clients. Those disclaimers all come down to the idea that they should take the suggestions that work for their story and ignore the rest.

Even the best advice won’t always work for us, especially over time. The writing process that works for us on one story might not work for us next time. Our increasing experience can also change our process or what we need as far as help.

So let’s all consider this permission to ignore whatever advice doesn’t help us or our story. And rather than feeling boxed in by advice that doesn’t apply, we could instead choose to see that irrelevancy as a sign of our progress. Yay, us! *smile*

What writing advice do you ignore? Why do you ignore it? Does it fall under one of those reasons at the top of the post, or do you have other reasons? Have you adapted advice to make it work for your processes or needs? How so? Do you consider your process rewriting or not?

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Self Publishing? Use Your Goals to Develop a Master Plan

May 4, 2017 Writing Stuff
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My series about Indie Publishing Paths at Fiction University has highlighted some of the choices we have to make as self-published authors, and now it’s time to pull all that information together and develop our “master plan.”

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The Silver Lining of Bad Reviews

May 2, 2017 Writing Stuff
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Whether we pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing, rejection is a given for writers. Our choice simply comes down to how we’ll handle it. Will we let rejection hold us back, or can we see it as a sign that we’re doing something right?

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Slow Progress Is Better Than No Progress

April 27, 2017 Over-Achieving Perfectionist
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Due to my health issues over the past 14 months, I’ve missed a lot of self-imposed deadlines, and it’d be easy to get frustrated. But it’s important to remember that slow progress is not a failure. Slow progress is still better than nothing.

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4 Common Copy Editing Issues to Watch For — Guest: Julie Glover

April 25, 2017 Writing Stuff
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I’ve mentioned before that I write very “clean,” which saves me money on editing. If we learn what we tend to get wrong and then watch out for those issues when writing, we can strengthen the skills that can help us write cleaner.

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Re-Envisioning: How to Fix Big Problems with Small Changes

April 20, 2017 Writing Stuff
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When faced with a scene with issues, many writers have the tendency to get rid of the scene and start over, but more often than not, the new scene has issues too. Re-writing won’t fix every problem, so let’s see if we can find a different approach: re-envisioning.

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