Archive | November 2011

Interaction On Your Blog

I’ve been wondering something about my fellow bloggers, particularly regular visitors. I consider it an achievement to have comments on all my recent posts (which is happening more often these days as my writing transitions from self-indulgent ramble to actually useful for other writers). Is this the case for you guys? Do you get a lot of blog comments or very few, and what is your definition of these numbers? How about “likes” for you other WordPress people? And how often do people share your posts on other social networks? Feel free to answer in the comments.

I tend to get at least one comment on a new post within a day or two of posting, but this is quite a recent occurrence, and consider anything more than three comments from other users to be a lot. I get a fair few WordPress “likes”, maybe between one and three every few days, but not a lot of shares if my own aren’t included. I’d like to know how other bloggers’ experiences differ from my own.

My NaNoWriMo is Over

As of about quarter past one this morning, Australian Daylight Saving Time, I completed my novel of 90,635 words. This is the fastest draft I have ever written, which isn’t saying much since my first took me two years exactly, and also the shortest. In my case, that’s a good thing because I tend to write too much. NaNoWriMo has been perfect for me, pushing me to write as much as I can. While I did tire myself out mid-month, I was able to find my second wind and… well, you can see the result.

God, I’m so happy with myself right now. I’m so happy with this book. I’m so happy I have more time to set it aside and let myself gain some objectivity before I plunge into edits and I’m happy I have plenty to work on in the meantime. Whatever happens now, the pressure is off. I have now completed two first drafts in my whole life. That’s progress for a small fry like me. I have a third in the works and ideas brewing in my head for a sequel to my NaNovel. In short, there are a lot of crazy thoughts racing in my head like those dodgem cars I suck at driving.

In celebration, I’m going to post three excerpts from the novel. I’m not going to stick to limits on where these sections come from, because I don’t really have the patience for that after typing and typing and typing for many collective hours. However, you might notice I’ve stuck to a particular theme with the characters involved here. So let’s go :D

Excerpt One:

“Shut. Up.” I so wanted to punch him right then. “I feel like my goddamn heart’s been ripped out of my chest. Do you know how much I’d love to know if my best friend in the whole world was alive, even if she, for some reason, sided with Dragan? Aren’t you relieved Sara’s alive, at least?”

“I am. But she was—”

“Your friend. I know.” Oh, God, my throat was doing that funny tight thing it did when I was about to cry. I could not do that in front of Caleb again. Once was bad enough. “I don’t even know where my friend is. I gave myself up to Dragan so this would stop. And it hasn’t.”

“I know, Gwen.” Caleb grabbed my wrists like he had at Tibia’s. “I know. I’m not like you. I don’t do stuff like give myself up to killers to save the people I love, because I’m just not brave enough. Is that what you want from me? To admit you’re braver than I am? Done.”

“That’s not what I… I don’t even know what I want.” I pulled my hands away. “I just lost it, okay? I’m sorry. I keep doing it. I even did it to Alistair yesterday.”

Caleb stood up, right in my personal space. I didn’t step away; he was not going to win the space invasion game here. He combed his fingers through my hair. I knew what he was doing; the bastard was trying to calm me down, make me all reasonable again.

“Gwen,” he whispered, turning my name into something intimate. Even in private, I felt embarrassed hearing it like that. His face came closer. I felt myself be drawn closer, as if we were opposite magnets. Our faces were an inch apart, when I backed away.

“Not now,” I said.

“Why not?” Caleb tried to step closer, but I put my hands on his chest. I tried not to think about the muscle I could feel under his shirt.

“Because you’re upset about Sara and I’m a raging howler monkey. Not. Now.”

“Does that mean you’ll say yes another time?” he asked, smirking.

“Maybe. Now get out of my room before people think we’re having sex in here.”

Excerpt Two:

Both of Caleb’s arms were around me now. He was murmuring things in my ear that I couldn’t quite understand. It sort of sounded like a song. Soft. Comforting. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the language. It didn’t matter I didn’t even know what language it was, or how Caleb knew it. All that mattered was the knots I’d tied inside myself were slowly unraveling.

Caleb’s fingers brushed against my cheekbone. I wasn’t angry or scared anymore. It was like magic. Of course it was. Music and magic were intertwined in this place. It was so easy to get lost in it. And this time, I wanted it.

I snuggled into Caleb’s chest, feeling the gentle vibrations as he kept singing that murmur song. For the first time since waking on that cold stone table, I felt warm again. Free.

Caleb’s skin smelled like these sandalwood. I liked it. I also liked his hand in my hair.

I pulled away slightly so I could look at him, at the tiny upward curve of his lips as his magic took hold of me. He didn’t need to sing anymore—I was calm—but he continued anyway. Well, I didn’t want to make any extra work for him…

I pounced, crushing my lips to his. His hands flew around my waist immediately. I had to get closer to him, even as I reveled, eyes closed, in the softness of his lips. I was in his lap. We pressed our bodies together as tight as we could. We weren’t human anymore; there was no need to breathe. The musical magic continued even after I had silenced him, tying us together, body, soul, mind, heart.

He was a part of me, and I a part of him. In that moment, nothing else mattered but me and him, mouth to mouth, chest to chest. We could have continued all night.

Eventually, Caleb loosened his hold on me and I pulled back. He had the biggest, goofiest grin I had even seen on a boy. I curled up in his arms and he started stroking my hair again, singing a new song. A lullaby.

I was asleep in moments.

Excerpt Three:

I silenced him with a kiss. He tasted salty, like tears. He never tasted quite the same. Caleb’s arms were around me while I held on tight to his head so he wouldn’t pull away from me and finish his sentence. I was on my toes, although I didn’t really need to be. He wasn’t that much taller than I was.

Time stopped. Everything stopped. It was just me and him, locked together in an eternal moment. Maybe I loved him. I’d never felt like this before, and the absence of normal human reactions made it hard for me to gauge my own feelings. All I knew what that I didn’t want him to ever let go, that I wanted to be even closer, even though we were already crushed together like two berries squashed between someone’s hands.

Caleb repeated my name in my mouth, more sensation than sound between our tongues. He pulled his head back despite my gripping hands. His eyes were like a driftwood fire. He slowly tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.

“I will not lose you,” he murmured, all husky from both emotion and the kiss.

“You might not have to,” I replied, my voice just as weak. “You stay alive, I stay alive. Deal?”

Caleb didn’t smile. “Deal,” he said, leaning in to kiss me again. One of his hands found the hem of my shirt and darted beneath it. I was crushed against the wall again, feet slightly off the ground, supported by Caleb’s body. This felt different, somehow. His mouth was hot on mine, hungry, wanting. I was suddenly all the more aware of every place our bodies were connected. We were charged, electric, hot, and more human than ever.

Caleb nipped at my neck, shooting more electricity through me. I was so alive. My clothes felt cumbersome and too hot. Caleb nipped my bottom lip. I was losing my grip on everything. Everything but him.

“I think,” he whispered, “we should go somewhere more private.” There was no hesitation, none of his earlier embarrassment. He was as resolved as I was.

If you got to this point, obviously I haven’t scared you off with my first drafts and I applaud you for your strength. Hopefully I’ll get my brain together soon and write some blog posts that are actually useful to people.

Support Four Debut Authors and Snag $125!

(A number of bloggers, including me, have been asked by a few new authors to help them promote their books and this contest. The following content was provided by these authors.)

Four books

Two Days

Great Prizes

With this contest, there is something for everyone and it’s SO simple to be in on the winning!

On November 28 and/or 29, purchase 1 or all 4 of the debut author’s books listed here. Then forward proof of purchase (the receipt Amazon sends you will do just fine) to : motionsrider@yahoo.ca and get up to 4 entries into a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card!

It’s that easy, no reviews, no hoops to jump through. Just a great .99 book or two. Or three or four. AND, if the person who wins the $100 Amazon Gift Card has purchased all 4 books, an additional $25 Amazon Gift Card will be awarded to the winner!

On top of that, 2 random commenters picked from 2 of our participating blogs will receive $5 gift Amazon gift cards . So, be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think of the promo, the books, or the authors.

Winners will be chosen randomly, one entry per person, per book.

All winners will be announced on December 7th on Wringing Out Words (http://shannonmayer.blogspot.com)

“Between” by Cyndi Tefft

It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water’s life isn’t alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile, and Scottish accent.

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates.

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven’s siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Between-ebook/dp/B004XZUMBA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190792&sr=1-1

“Until Dawn: Last Light” by Jennifer Simas

When darkness falls, whose side will you be on?

For the past six years, Zoë has been anything but “normal.” Struggling to accept her immortality and thrown into a war that’s been waging in the shadows for over a thousand years, Zoë must now become who she was meant to be, joining the other Chosen to save what’s left of humanity. When the endless night falls over the Earth, will she be able to save the one man who reminds her of what it is to be human, or will it be too late?

Until Dawn: Last Light is a story of death and despair, love and longing, hope and hopelessness, and the ability to survive and keep going even when it seems impossible – when you want nothing more than to give up.

Link- http://www.amazon.com/Until-Dawn-Last-Light-ebook/dp/B005QUIXJY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190717&sr=1-1

“The Kayson Cycle” by Jonathan D. Allen

A stranger enters a dying town and makes a desperate plea…

The Kayson Cycle introduces the Kayson Brothers, a pair of faith healers who once wowed crowds in a traveling show but went their separate ways after a night in which a healing took a dark turn. Jeffrey Kayson disappeared into the wilderness and William Kayson, wracked by guilt, moved to the failing mining town of Calico Hills to build a nice, quiet life – one that has lasted for over ten years.

His quiet, predictable life crumbles when a mysterious stranger walks into his tavern bearing a proposal to find his long-lost brother and do the one thing that William has sworn to never do again – have his brother heal a woman. William soon learns that he can’t escape his family – or his destiny.

Includes an exclusive sample chapter of The Corridors of the Dead. Please note that this is a Kindle Single, and around 6,000 words in length.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Kayson-Cycle-ebook/dp/B0061FDUA0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190892&sr=1-1

“Sundered” by Shannon Mayer

A miracle drug, Nevermore, spreads like wildfire throughout the world allowing people to eat what they want, and still lose weight. It is everything the human population has ever dreamed of and Mara is no different. Only a simple twist of fate stops her from taking Nevermore.

As the weeks roll by, it becomes apparent that Nevermore is not the miracle it claimed. A true to life nightmare, the drug steals the very essence that makes up humanity and unleashes a new and deadly species on the world that is bent on filling its belly. Locked down within their small farm home, Mara and her husband Sebastian struggle against increasingly bad odds, fighting off marauders and monsters alike.

But Sebastian carries a dark secret, one that more than threatens to tear them apart, it threatens to destroy them both and the love they have for each other.

Now Mara must make the ultimate choice. Will she live for love, or will she live to survive?

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sundered-Nevermore-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B005KOIVH0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1315021535&sr=8-3

If you’re interested, here are the other participating bloggers

The Immortal words of Doctor Fab

The Beauty Brat

A Novel’s Journey

Haley Whitehall

Call Sign: Wrecking Crew on the Run

Romance by Catherine

Believe

Carmen Desousa

AE Marling

RS Guthrie

Ev Bishop

Labotomy of a Writer

Must Inks

The Romanceaholic

Care Caffrey

Chicklets Lit

Nathan Everett

Rants of a Wolf

Letters inside Out

Can’t Put it Down book Reviews

Unabridged Bookshelf

Indiscriminate Writes

Illusions

Angie West

Micheal Young: The Canticle

Brianna Soloski

Wendy Carmell

Heather McCorkle

Sheri Larsen

Vanessa Barger Writes

J Keller Ford: Dreamweaver’s Cottage

Doc Dave’s Voice

Kim Cormack

Twin Dragon’s Knowledge

What’s Beyond Forks?

Scott Bury: Jambalian

Raven Corinn Carluk

Madeline Rex

What the Cat Read

Chazz Writes

Venture Galleries

Far Manor

Blame it on the Full Moon

Kelly Hitchcock

My Imaginary Beings

Louise Wise

My Eclectic Bookshelf

Benjamin Jones Writes

Alchemy of Scrawl

Reena Jacobs

Sleepless in Samoa

Bluebells Trilogy

Nyx Book Reviews

Wicked Readings by Tawania

Live to Read

Cici’s Theories

Hannah Downing

My Inner Muse

Book Flame

Dreaming Dreams no Mortal ever Dared

Passing the Open Windows

Books 4 Juliet

Ren’s Blogging About

Tibby Armstrong

A Diary of a Book Addict

Andrew Carlson

SS Book Fanatics

Lady Techies Book Musings

Jillian Brookes-Ward

Horror. Punk. Buddhism.

Writers Alley

Lost in Believing

Melissa Bunnell

Palm Coast Twilight Book Club Reviews

Between the Pages Reviews

Word Spelunking

The Violet Hour

New England Muse

Live by the Pen, Die by the Pen

Glowy Mushrooms

Fictional Distraction Book Reviews

Breila McValan

Lakisha Spletzer

Thank you for your patience. We’ll be back to the usual programming shortly :)

Writing and Negativity Don’t Mix

It’s easy to look at another writer’s success and resent them for it. This happens a lot when it comes to writing superstars such as J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King. There is often a culture of anti-fans who can be as insufferable as the worst fan of the book. I don’t understand why it has become cool to dis an author’s hard work. Even if you don’t like the book, it must have some  merit because other people do.

Active anti-fans drag themselves to movie versions of the books they already hate and spend hours of time online establishing just how terrible they think the book is. Sometimes they end up devoting more time to hating the book than fans do to loving it, sometimes without bothering to read the book they’ve decided they hate in the first place. It is a perplexing phenomenon. While it’s okay to have an unfavourable opinion of a book, why do people think it’s okay to openly lambaste the book over and over again, rehashing the same points that have already been made a hundred times before?

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the Twilight saga. The fans of the series have become fair game for ridicule and the books themselves possibly have a larger base of anti-fans than real fans. There are the typically moronic “Edward is gay” arguments that are a dime a dozen, and open misinterpretations of the book, such as it supposedly glorifying sex when the only sex even hinted at is between a married couple in the last book of the entire series. I’ll admit I’m a fan of the books and find it insulting when my reading tastes are questioned.

Apparently, as a fan, I think I’m Bella, am utterly obsessed with either Jacob or Edward and am incapable of eloquently defending my tastes. Oh, and I am also an inadvertent misogynist, which doesn’t make sense as a consider myself a feminist and openly protest sexism in the media. Liking a particular book doesn’t necessarily say anything about a someone’s personality. I like the books because I like the story. That doesn’t mean I believe sex is only good if I’m bruised afterwards or that I should give up my autonomy to my boyfriend. And, for the record, neither does the Twilight saga’s protagonist, Bella.

Anti-fans are incapable of accepting that sometimes a story is just that: a story. I have a feeling there is a measure of bitterness behind the hate, of people questioning why this particular author is famous when clearly the hater can write better. Maybe that’s the case, maybe not. The fact of the matter is you should not concern yourself with other writers’ successes, only your own. Did a book you utterly despise make it onto the New York Times bestseller list? Channel that energy into making your own book better. Simple.

Don’t waste time complaining about things such as this that are completely out of your control. Use the time and energy you save to do something productive, rather than sitting online and, excuse my language, bitching about the success of a book you hate. In a nutshell, get off the internet and get the hell over it. Work on improving the things that are under your control instead.

I was going to say I’m sorry for offending anyone but, really, I’m not sorry at all. I’m sick of seeing this idiocy every day.

How to Write Beginnings

The first few pages can make or break a book. They can mean the choice between a publishing contract or receiving a form rejection in the mail. After publication, they need to hook readers in just as they need to hook literary agents and editors beforehand. While there are many ways to successfully begin a book, they generally have a few things in common. Take note I’m writing this from a YA standpoint.

Introduce the main character

The main character is the person the reader is supposed to root for throughout the story. He needs to be put in a situation that gives the reader a glimpse into who he is and hopefully what he cares about. Sometimes, such as in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone, the main character is not introduced immediately, but someone important to the story is. Harry appears as a baby later in the chapter. However, we do learn that Harry has somehow survived an attack that will define who he is and how people see him for the rest of his life.

Despite this slight deviation, the main character is still introduced early in the story. We need to know who the main character is before the end of the first chapter, and if his introduction is delayed beyond the first few pages there must be a legitimate reason for it, not simply to be different or to attempt to create an air of mystery. Delaying the introduction of the main character simply because you want to make him mysterious will simply bore the reader.

Raise questions

The first scene needs to make the reader question what is happening and what is going to happen. While you don’t want to confuse the reader, some questions raised in the beginning of the novel should remain unresolved until the end. The attack on Harry Potter’s family in the first book raises the question of “Why did Voldemort kill the Potters?” and “Why couldn’t he kill Harry?” The first question isn’t resolved until the end of book five and the second is revealed in bits and pieces.

Stir conflict relevant to the story

Conflict drives all scenes, and your first scene is no exception. There must be some kind of conflict here, be it an actual argument or something more subtle such as a decision that must be made. Mundane events will not do here. The main character needs to be thrown a little off-balance so we can see how they react to the situation.

What will not do for conflict? Main characters getting up in the morning and going about their daily routine is an example of something that will bore the reader. However, something completely random cooked up for no purpose other than to make trouble is also a bad idea. The conflict should have something to do with the main plot.

In the first draft of Coldfire, I had the main character get into a fight right from the beginning. There was no grounding, no explanation of who was who and the fight was resolved in that one scene. This is an example of a poor beginning. In my most recent draft, the main character still gets into a fight in the first scene, but it doesn’t happen immediately and the attackers have something to do with the main character’s checkered past. While they don’t crop up again, they serve to demonstrate the main character’s motivation for leaving the city, which sparks the beginning of the whole plot. It still might not be an amazing beginning, but it is a serviceable one.

Avoid clichés

As writers we have centuries of writing to look back on. One disadvantage of having such a legacy to live up to is we sometimes borrow overdone techniques from other writers, such as having a narrator describe herself in a mirror. You’re better off coming up with something fresh than relying purely on what has already been done. Come up with new metaphors or similes if you wish to use them, think of a new way to distribute your characters’ physical attributes throughout the scene. While it’s impossible to entirely avoid other people’s influence on your writing, coming up with new techniques will ensure your work is not tired or lacking in originality.

Make it count

You only have one chance to get your beginning right in the eyes of the reader. Revise as much as you need to make your beginning sing. No two writers will write a beginning exactly the same. Also note it’s possible to create a gripping beginning while ignoring some of the suggestions above. If you can, do it. There are no writing police. Write the best book you can and don’t be afraid to break the rules you’ve heard if breaking them improves your story.

What do you think makes or breaks a story’s beginning?

What’s Acceptable in YA?

I keep coming across this question lately, particularly on the NaNoWriMo forums. I’ve covered this topic with regard to sex and violence already, but the topic bears repeating. Besides, those two posts are more like rants than guides. God, my writing was terrible when I wrote them last year. Anyway, moving on to the actual post.

The first mistake people writing or answering these questions often make is the assumption that YA is very clearly split into “upper” and “lower”. While some YA is closer to “adult” than “young”, it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Think about it. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer includes sex, violence, nudity, “risk-taking” behaviour, and a very bloody and difficult birth. Despite the subject matter, young teenage girls read it. I’d rather not have comments ranting about how inappropriate Twilight is for teenage girls, because I’ve heard all the arguments before. The fact of the matter is this book is YA, and the audience tends towards the younger side than older side of teenagers. If this doesn’t demonstrate how hard it is to split YA into further age categories, I have no idea what will.

Another mistake the people asking the question make is they’re thinking too hard about their audience before even writing a first draft. While I know people have different writing techniques, at this stage if you’re too worried about your audience, it’s going to make writing the first draft a chore. Write the story as it needs to be told and think about your audience later.

If you’re honestly unsure of what is appropriate for YA fiction and having people telling you “anything goes” is not enough, go to the library or bookstore and read some YA for yourself. Reading in the category you wish to write in is the best way of learning. Read widely within YA. Read paranormal romance, fantasy, contemporary, “issue” books, steampunk, sci-fi, Christian, anything. This will give you a good feel for where your book sits and how much sex, violence, profanity or other contentious topics you can include.

However, I’m going to share my own views as both a teenage reader and writer of YA. I am your target audience. Maybe slightly older than most, but I’m still a teenager and I still read YA. The secret to writing the right balance of difficult topics boils down to your story. Is it important to the plot or character development that your characters have sex, throw a few punches, swear, do drugs? If yes, write it in. If not, you’re probably better off leaving it out because consciously throwing these kinds of things in just for the hell of it can backfire. I believe I may said this before, and excuse my language, but teenagers have finely-tuned bullshit detectors. We know when we’re being talked down to and we know when a writer is trying too hard to get in our good graces by including “edgy” subject matter.

Another thing to keep in mind is moderation. If you’ve chosen to include the topics you were concerned about, make sure you’re not too heavy-handed. A few well-placed curses can have more impact than one curse word per page for the whole of the story. One emotionally-charged sex scene can mean more than seven of them. As a general rule, the more often something happens in your story, the more readers will become desensitized to it. Including more mature subject matter in your story is a balancing act between too little and too much. The balance will be different for every story. In fact, the “everything in moderation” rule can apply to adult fiction, too.

Ultimately, the answer to “What’s acceptable in YA” boils down to whatever the story calls for. Handle the topic tactfully and you’ll be fine.

How to Get Followers

I originally wrote this as a guide to getting more people to follow/friend/circle you back. While this isn’t completely foolproof, just what I’ve picked up from interacting with others on social networking sites, doing these things will make it less likely you’re going to be dismissed as a spammer or someone who follows (circles/friends/etc.) everyone you see in the hopes of a small percentage following back. This guide can also be handy in obtaining followers in general.

Fill out your biography

Most social networking sites have a place for you to write about yourselves. Please fill this out. Be clear what your interests are, which should dictate who you follow and who is more likely to follow back. Google+ has a little tagline beneath your name you can use to list what you do. For example, my tagline is just “Writer, blogger, student”. That’s it. Yet it describes my interests.

Also, use the biography area allowed to describe yourself further, making your interests clear. Google+ also has a section allowing you to link to other profiles/websites of yours. Use it. Here’s my Google+ profile:

Google+ Profile

I clearly describe my interests in greater detail and give a little information about me. I also have included links to other profiles to help people find me in other places. I have a list of recommended links, but you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. You can add more personal information if you want to, as long as it’s still clear why people should want to interact with you.

Here’s my Twitter profile information, which you have to write in 160 characters or less. Doable? Yes.

Blogger and aspiring writer, loves YA fantasy and paranormal romance, just finished high school. Chocolate addict.

This still covers my main interest, writing, and I also put a link to this website beneath it. The point of the profile is to prove you’re a real person and can offer something of interest to the people looking to follow you.

I don’t have a profile on Facebook open to people I don’t know personally, but you can fill out your “about me” section in a similar manner to Google+ if you want to network using the site.

Use a real photo of you

While people might follow you back if you have your pet as your profile picture, it can be slightly disconcerting. It’s best if you have a close-up so people can see your face well and make sure the image isn’t of poor quality. If you’re looking to network online, you’re better off showing your real face. Some people do make it work with a cartoon image or the like, but I’m definitely more wary of following them.

Also, don’t leave the default image given to you by the website. The Twitter “egg” image is an immediate red flag in particular, as the website is riddled with spammers.

Share publicly and regularly

If you want to network online, people need to be able to see what you’re sharing before they decide you’re worth following back. If your profile and timeline or stream are hidden, your chances of getting people following you back are low, unless you have already met your potential followers. You don’t have to share everything publicly, but you have to give some indication of what you’re all about.

Also, you want to share something on a regular basis so it doesn’t look like you’ve abandoned your account. If you’re busy, even a weekly check-in is better than nothing at all. I’ve been guilty of abandoning my accounts for sometimes months at a time, and it has not done me any favours, I assure you.

Share well

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re not, don’t try to be. Use what you’re good at. Sharing interesting links or observations about something you find interesting will get you followers. I try to link to relevant blog posts every so often and retweet often. I also create my own content, either directly on the website or through this blog.

Be open-minded

It’s okay to be opinionated (I certainly am) but if you slam another person’s beliefs, you are going to lose a lot of potential followers. I touched on this in my previous post in the section about anti-traditional publishing rants. Social networking can be a great place for intelligent debate, as I’ve found on Google+ in particular. Sometimes you might need to tone down your views a little bit so you don’t alienate people you might otherwise get along well with.

For example, while I’m strongly for the continuation of traditional publishing and read primarily traditionally published authors, I’m willing to give self-published authors a chance and follow a lot of them on Google+ and Twitter. They might not share all my beliefs, but they can be a valuable source of information about writing. Most of them are also very friendly, save for the handful of kooks proclaiming the death of traditional publishing. Then again, you get some kooks on the traditionally published side as well.

I’ve also had a few problems with, shall we say, rude people. I tend to rant a lot about the portrayal of Young Adult fiction in the eyes of those who neither write nor read it. Someone tweeted me that YA was just a “marketing excuse” to sell mature themes to “children”. As both a reader of YA and a teenager who just got called a child (for the love of God, do not call teenagers children if you want to get out alive), I found this quite insulting. If you know someone holds a particular view, you’re better off not attempting to make them see “the error of their ways”. While I’m happy to engage in debate with another open-minded individual, I do not take kindly to people slamming my beliefs, and nor does anyone else.

I suppose the message to take away from this section is “play nice with others”.

Interact with other users

Whether it’s through the @ tweeting or through comments on Facebook or Google+, don’t be afraid to jump into conversations you feel you can contribute to. If you uphold the previous point, you may win yourself some new followers or, at least, the respect of those around you. However, you shouldn’t do this just to get followers. It should be something you do willingly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can observe conversations between the people you follow at first until you get the hang of things. I used to be extremely shy on the internet, but not so much anymore. I observed and dipped my toe in before plunging headfirst into conversation. It’s amazing the people you can meet online if you take the time to say hello.

When it comes to social networking, it’s important to be kind, courteous and open-minded but still retain your sense of self. You need to give fellow users a reason to follow back, something unique and interesting. Give them you.

Why I Didn’t Buy Your Book

The prevalence of social networking sites has made it easier than ever for writers to reach readers, regardless of whether they are traditionally published or self-published. However, it’s also extremely easy to go overboard with marketing or to just look like an idiot in front of people from all over the world.

While I’m not a published author, unless you count a couple of tiny anthologies published by a company that has since folded, I am a huge consumer of books. I have over a hundred books on my shelves at home and a never-ceasing “to be read” pile. I know what I like, and what I don’t. A lot of these following problems may only apply to self-published authors or only to those traditionally published, but it’s a good idea to keep all of them in mind. Some of these might not turn everyone off, but I can only speak from personal experience here.

Extreme Anti-Traditional Publishing Views

The majority of the books I read are traditionally published. That is, published by a publishing house. My favourite books are traditionally published and, while I’m not opposed to giving self-publishing books a chance, I will generally give preference to a traditionally published one because it has already gone through a vetting process of sorts.

If you are a self-published author and have an interesting novel concept I might read, the biggest turn-off for me is finding rant after rant against traditional publishing when I visit your blog. Seriously, if you’re trying to convince people who primarily read traditionally published books, rants about traditional publishing essentially insult the readers’ tastes, and, may I add, the decisions made by readers who are thinking of traditionally publishing their own works, like myself.

It’s okay to dislike traditional publishing, but ranting and raving about how they’re not in it for the authors, are liars, money-grubbers, etc. will only make you look like a conspiracy theorist. And very few readers take those kinds of people seriously. I certainly don’t. If the author is incapable of being reasonable and accepting there are both positive and negative sides to all publishing methods, I’m not going to think their work will be very good. While it might not be fair to judge someone’s fiction from their blog, if I see an extremely one-sided view of publishing, often descending into common insults flung at publishers that have ceased to have any real meaning, I’m going to assume your work is just as one-sided and lacking in complexity.

Poorly-formatted or poorly-spelled blog or website

I rant a lot about hating white text on black backgrounds, but that’s not the only thing that can go wrong with a blog or website. I often find potential authors following me on Twitter and the first thing I do while deciding whether or not to follow back is to look at their website. If it is messy, impossible to navigate or glaring spelling errors pop out at me, I am going to be much less inclined to read your book. If your website is this unprofessional, will your book be the same?

A clean format with easy to find links on the sidebar and across the top of the page beneath the heading are your best bet. Anything important should be listed there. I recently went on to an author’s website because the title of their book interested me, only to have a hell of a time finding a page about their books. I eventually found a picture of one of the books halfway down the page in the sidebar. It’s fine to do that, but maybe a little messy, as long as you also have an easy to find page where you have information about all your books. Readers don’t want to embark on a treasure hunt to find your books.

Also, proofread your damn blog posts and website content. If you aren’t a very good speller, get someone else to help you. PLEASE. And, while you’re at it, you better have found someone to proofread your book.

A Terrible Book Cover

Traditionally published authors often have no control over their covers, but self-published authors do. If you want your book to be bought, you had better shell out for a decent designer if you are not one yourself. The cover is your book’s clothing, if you will, and while some people wouldn’t be opposed to a cover equated to someone dressed in dirty rags, I assure you many people will. The old “never judge a book by its cover” adage may work with people, but the literal sense of book covers is incorrect. If your cover is absolutely hideous or boring, people will be turned off.

A Terrible Blurb

Oh, these exist. Sometimes it’s possible to get past clichéd descriptions of a plot if the plot itself actually sounds okay, but it’s not going to do you any favours. If you write something like Jane Doe was an ordinary girl living an ordinary life before the sexy John Smith arrived at her school, I will probably run away. The number of hackneyed plot elements described in that sentence has reached toxic levels. Yes, the plot elements can work in a novel if reworked well enough, but the “ordinary girl” cliché in particular is so overdone you will lose potential readers if you don’t put an interesting spin on it in your blurb. Some traditionally published authors, again, don’t have control over this, but some do and so do all self-published authors.

Sales Spam

The number of people on Twitter who do this is astounding. Let’s just say you follow someone because their blog looks interesting or they have a handful of interesting tweets. However, once you follow them you receive a direct message reading something along the lines of: “Hello, thanks for following. Here’s a link to my book.” Ugh. Maybe some people buy, but plenty don’t.

Repetitious tweets about your book are also a turn-off. It’s okay to link to, say, a review of your book every so often and make it clear in your profile description you do have a book out, but it’s not okay to beat your readers over the head with sales pitches. This sort of marketing is so intrusive and transparent that you will lose Twitter followers and possible sales.

You’re better off providing interesting tweets about things that may relate to your book. For example, if your book involves faeries, you might link to articles or other people’s books about faeries that you like. Most people on Twitter also share minor details about their lives on occasion and create content that will interest their followers. This is a much better alternative to over-marketing, and will make readers feel like they know you. If they like what they see, they might purchase your book.

More Information

Blog posts like this come around every so often, although generally from more experienced members of the writing community than me.

Rachelle Gardner recently posted What NOT to Blog About, which has a slightly broader focus than just turning off potential buyers.

A Writer On Writing posted last year Social networking (or what NOT to say to an editor), which is focused on networking in person and contains a real-world example of rude behaviour, which she experienced.

Nathan Bransford’s Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer is less about finding readers and more about not going insane from the publishing process, but some of the commandments are relevant to what’s been discussed in this post.

I hope I left you with something to think about. I also hope I haven’t offended anyone. I do try to temper my opinions on the internet so I don’t look like a raving lunatic. Here’s a smiley face to make things better :)

Female Characters, Mary Sues and Sexism

Let me make something clear from the outset: I am very sensitive to sexism. Possibly too sensitive. I am often told to “lighten up” when I get offended by those asinine sexist jokes some people just love to tell.

**Warning: there be Divergent spoilers ahead**

It seems to have become common practice for readers to refer to female characters they dislike as Mary Sues. The Mary Sue was originally referred to as an idealised insert of the author, found especially in fanfiction, where the original character was usually young, highly skilled for her age, gender, class or race, possessing an unusual eye or hair colour and loved by all but the most evil of other characters. These days Mary Sue is used to describe a number of characters from author inserts to overly perfect characters to characters a reader just doesn’t like. While there is a male variant, Gary Stu of Marty Stu, the phenomenon of Mary Sue is primarily a problem with female characters.

While some characters can be legitimately called Mary Sues – such as characters possessing only physical flaws which are not in fact character flaws (such as paraplegia or blindness) to generally evoke sympathy in the reader, or characters possessing 21st-century attitudes in a time when such attitudes were unacceptable – often readers will slap this label on female characters they just don’t like. I’ve seen this myself.

In a Goodreads discussion about whether or not people liked the novel Divergent, one person said they didn’t like it because Tris, the main character, was a Mary Sue. She is not. Tris, while brave and often selfless also has a bad temper and is too small to fight effectively in the competition she must enter for the chance to join the Dauntless faction. Yes, she has an unusual quality most of the other characters do not possess, but she is not the only character with this quality and she is not universally liked or universally hated. I also highly doubt she is an author self-insert. Therefore, by all possible definitions, she is not a Mary Sue.

It is the attitude that belies such statements that irks me, however. Why is a competent female character automatically called a Mary Sue? Why is this the standard insult for a female character one does not like? It is perfectly appropriate for male characters to be skilled, to swoop in and save the day, and they are rarely accused of Sue-ish behaviour. I see the accusations of Sue-ish behaviour from both male and female readers, but how did this become the norm in the first place?

I write strong male and female characters, yet it’s only the female characters I am worried about being accused of Sue-ish behaviour. In my NaNo novel my main character is not universally liked or hated, becomes disillusioned with her appearance but does display unusual magical and physical fighting ability. However, she also gets to butt kicked by other characters and has a hell of a temper. By all definitions, she is not a Sue, despite her unusual abilities. Chances are, however, that if the book were to be published, the first insult towards my character would be an accusation of her being a Mary Sue.

We as both writers and readers need to stop this ridiculous pattern. Rather than falling back on an old and overused insult, how about we give legitimate reasons why we don’t like a book or character? Accusing a character of Sue-ish behaviour is about as intelligent and thought out as calling an entire novel “stupid” or “boring”. Give reasons for your opinions, people! Either that, or get out of my internet :)

Days 6 & 7 – 46 & 50k

I figured I may as well post these two updates together, rather than waiting for the day to be over to announce I’ve reached 50k when I reached it pretty early on today. It took me a week to hit it. I had two days where I wrote over 10,000 words and one or two 9k days. I had one day where I was a little slack and only wrote about 2k, which had actually been my original target before I realized I could write more.

My secret to hitting 50k in a week boils down to not having to work or go to school, preparing a detailed outline well in advance and getting my butt in the chair to write in the first place. I did get fatigued at about the 25k mark and had to struggle for a bit, but I pushed through, knowing the block had nothing to do with what was happening in the story at the time and everything to do with my own stamina. I pulled out an 11k day yesterday despite my fatigue. NaNoWriMo has been an experiment in how much stamina and drive I really have. I have more than I thought I did.

So anyway, I’ll post a celebratory excerpt from each day.

Day 6:

We filed out of the gates and down the pebbled path. Caleb had his arm out behind me as if ready to catch me if I slipped. I didn’t need it. I’d been a pro at walking in heels across any surface when I was a human. With my magically enhanced body, I was even better now.

The sky above us was turning purple. I had to remind myself to watch where I was going, rather than just stare at it.

“Twilight is really cool here,” said Elizabeth. “Just you wait until the pink and orange comes out.” And as she spoke, tendrils of pink and orange slowly bled into the clouds.

“Wicked,” I whispered.

“One night there was this bloody red streak,” said Caleb. “It collided with a green one and all hell broke those. There was this silent explosion in the sky and fragments of every color you could imagine rolled through the clouds.”

“It was amazing,” Elizabeth added. It sounded amazing.

Throughout our walk, I kept glancing up at the sky, hoping for a collision. Nothing as spectacular as what Caleb described happened, but the orange and pink and purple braided themselves together across the sky, like Rapunzel if she suddenly decided to rebel against the family who had put her in that tower.

By the time we reached Alis, the braid had begun to unravel.

Day 7:

We kept going the next day through pasture after pasture until we reached a gigantic grey stone bridge, big enough for at leave five of our carriages to travel side by side. I could hear water crashing beneath.

“We’ve reached what we call, jokingly, the River Styx,” Alistair said. “Nobody who has gone down there has ever come back. Our two continents are held in some kind of abyss, as explorers discovered when they reached the edges of the land. Our land is most definitely flat, unlike the human world. The river simply drops off at the edges. We believe the water flows in a waterfall into the abyss for eternity, but we don’t know that for certain. Nor do we know where the river water comes from.”

“Can we see it?” I asked.

“Not today. We have no spare time.”

So we just crossed the bridge through the centre. I could feel the rumble of the river in every bone in my body. It must have been immense. Elizabeth was reading, clearly unimpressed for she’d taken this trip many times before. Caleb and I were in awe, releasing the occasional nervous laugh. It felt like the bridge could collapse at any moment and send us plummeting into the unknown. Logically, we both knew the stone bridge was pretty damn tough, but that didn’t stop us from entertaining the thought.

We crossed the bridge safely. As the carriage pulled away from the river, the tremors lessened until they were gone entirely. Caleb and I looked at each other and laughed again.

I am nowhere near finishing this novel, so I’ve upped my November goal to 75k, which will allow me to work at a saner pace and take into account the exams I have coming up in a few days. Going into NaNo, I wasn’t sure if I’d struggle to hit 50k or not, since I can write a lot when I’m focused but tend to write infrequently at best. This has taken away so many excuses I have not to write and has made the entire task of writing a novel much less daunting. I highly recommend NaNoWriMo to writers wanting to improve their speed, but if you edit as you go you might be better off aiming for a lower count, because getting the words down will take much longer for you.

I’m going to close this post, which is now over 800 words long, and get to studying for my exams. Maybe I’ll sneak in a little writing during my breaks.