Writing Prompts for July 2015

A Cool and Foggy June 21st
A Cool and Foggy June 21st

The summer solstice passed through here with cool winds and clouds and the furnace on. Hope your longest day offered more hints of summer than mine. And now that 2015 is half over, it’s a good time for me (and you) to stake stock of what’s been done and what is next on the writing agenda.

I’ve had a very good first half of the year, and currently have four draft books to edit and another book draft that is almost complete. I also published three other books two weeks ago. I’ve continued to learn about the self-publishing business, though I am currently resigned to the fact that I am a complete marketing failure. I live in hope that I will be able to change that when I am at the end of my current non-fiction, book-writing marathon and take the time (finally) to concentrate on book sales rather than book writing.

I want to tackle NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and write fiction for a while, too. I’m hosting a series of NaNo workshops for local teen writers and am planning to join the fun and write along with them. Have you or your students attempted NaNoWriMo? Adult participants write 50,000 words in 30 days; younger writers can choose their own word count. The young writers’ program has amazing resources for writers of all ages.

One of the keys to success is to have a story thought out before going into the month of intense writing, though, I’m sure, lots of people just dive in. If you’re looking for a story idea to get you planning for NaNo, maybe one of July’s writing prompts will help. Have fun!

1. Here are some opening sentences for you to try:

  • Bill looked up at the flag to check the wind.
  • Helena reined her horse back to a walk. She needed time to think.
  • “When was the last time you saw him?”
  • He reached for the knife.
  • If school sucked, then Mr. Wentwhistle’s English class was the largest Dyson in the building.
  • I always liked the number 24.
  • The old man leaned forward over the table.

2. Use one, some, or all of these words to spark a story or poem.

  • Wheel, border, dark, wire, box, narrow
  • Cover, arm, strand, leaf, tall, blue

3. See if you can come up with a story for one of these titles: Lone Pine, Rooftop Romance, Thieves Game, A Quiet Place, The Dragon’s Tower, The Stars Await, Big City Blahs, Red Sky at Night.

4. Here are some dialogue excerpts. Can you imagine the scenes that each is part of?

  • I wish you didn’t have to leave.
  • I must obey the master.
  • Who are you waiting for?
  • Who says I’m waiting …. Okay, I’m waiting.
  • Did you see that car?
  • The grey one?
  • Yes. Did you see who was driving?
  • No, it was going too fast.
  • I’m not surprised. It just tried to run me down.
  • Pass me that will you?
  • What are you doing?
  • I’ll let you know when I’m done.

5. How does your character react to frustration? (I’m writing this during my second consecutive hour of online assistance in an effort to get Photoshop to download and work on my computer. I admire the perseverance of the client services person, but I sooooo have other things I’d rather be doing right now! I finally got out my NEO and finished writing this blog post.) What does your character do when he or she has to wait for much longer than he or she thinks is appropriate, or when something small becomes a road block to a larger project that your character considers urgent? (p.s. I can now use Photoshop–Yay!)

6. What do sunsets make your character think about?

7. What makes your character laugh out loud?

Self-Publishing Tips, Resources, and Looking Back.

My Books--Only one is not self-published
My Books–Only one is not self-published

I wrote the post below in January 2014, but lately I have seen increased interest in the subject  from writers I’m meeting online. Many are new to the process, so that’s the reason for the reprint. The blog offers some resources and cautions that newcomers need to know about.

Looking back, I can see that I’m even more committed to the model than I was a year ago. Last summer I took an online course with Kristen Eckstein, a 30-day boot camp for creating a non-fiction series–the results of which I hope to see published by June. It was an inspiring experience, and provided further reasons for me to stick with the self-publishing model. And, in all honesty, I must admit that I’m having fun with it.

Marketing is the biggest challenge, but I’ve drawn up a plan that I hope will help me connect more effectively with my audience, and that, you’ll be glad to hear, doesn’t involve hourly, computer-generated, buy-my-book updates on Twitter. I’m a patient person and willing to let the process take the time it needs to show results. Wish me luck!

Here’s the repost of the 2014 blog. I hope some of the information in it is useful as you negotiate this exciting and challenging publishing option.

*************

I have fumbled my way through self-publishing over the past few years. Trying things, making mistakes, seeing how things turn out. Thought I’d share a bit of that experience.

I’ve used a couple of publishers since I started self-publishing. Right now I’m using CreateSpace  https://www.createspace.com/ and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) https://kdp.amazon.com/kdp/self-publishing/signin?language=en_US  After I finish setting up my book in CreateSpace, I can choose for it to be sent to Amazon KDP (they are the same company.) CreateSpace will also send it to other epub distributors, too. Both services are free, though CreateSpace offers services like custom cover designs, copyediting, and marketing for a fee, if you want to take advantage of them.

I’m using CreateSpace for my second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and I’m fine with having them distribute it to Amazon and other sellers, such as Kobo. For my sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, I’m going to go with CreateSpace and KDP only. There are some promotion options with KDP that are only available if it is the exclusive distributor for a set period of time. I’d like to try those promotions, so I’m going to give that option a try for my fiction. For 201 Writing Starters, I went to Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/ . They had a very easy-to-use product and also provide a free service. If I do another edition of the book, I will probably go through CreateSpace, though, because it offers free cover design options that I prefer to use rather than coming up with my own.

The first edition of Writing Fiction was published through iUniverse, a vanity press. I wouldn’t choose that route now for a couple of reasons. First, I want to earn more money per sale, and royalties are much better on my own. Second, I am more confident about being able to format a book that would look professional, and third, I know a lot more about the industry. I was lucky in that I took advantage of a sale offer at iUniverse and didn’t spend money on extras, and I can say that I have earned my money back. A few writers I know who took the vanity press route have realized they will never earn their money back.

I got the templates for the interiors of the dragon books and Writing Fiction – Second Edition from Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ at a very reasonable cost. You can see inside the book here to see what one of his formats looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Heather-Elizabeth-Wright/dp/1483954021

If you’re thinking of the self-publishing route, be aware of the new trend among traditional publishers to have their own vanity press. They make it look like you’re working with Simon & Schuster for instance, but you’re really paying to have your book published with a vanity press that is part of a large company with a very poor reputation. Read this blog from Writer Beware®: The Blog to get the details: http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html To make sure that you are working with a reputable company always check Preditors & Editors, an excellent site that has a listing of publishers/agents along with recommendations and cautions.  http://pred-ed.com/

To end on a more positive note, here’s a link to a great blog post from Jane Friedman with a lot of helpful links to help you make some decisions about your publishing future.  http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/28/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/

Good luck!

Three Writerly Blogs for You to Visit

Crocuses --Spring must really be here!
Crocuses –Spring must really be here!

Today I thought I’d pass along three of the writerly resources that I visit often.

One of my favourite blogs is by Kristi Holl, author of Writer’s First Aid, More Writer’s First Aid, and many other books. Aside from blogs on the craft of writing, Kristi shares her extensive reading and insights into the other aspects of the writer’s life that can get in the way of creativity, such as procrastination, writer’s block, dealing with rejection, solitude and toxic friends. You name an issue that writers deal with and she’s covered it. I always find her blogs inspiring. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/

The title of Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing, Reading and Publishing in the Digital Age, says it all. The site is a wonderful resource for writers tackling the challenge of getting published or self-publishing. Jane tackles topics from query letters to author platforms and blogging, from how-to-publish an ebook to marketing, and a lot more.

The last blog on the list today is from Elizabeth Spann Craig, a traditionally- and self-published mystery writer, whose regular posts cover all aspects of the writer’s craft. Every week she creates a list of the writing-related blog posts that she’s found in her research and posted on Twitter. This weekly round-up, called Twitterific, is like having your own personal writer’s magazine delivered to your door every week. There really is something for everyone on the list. http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

Hope you have fun checking out these blogs and that you find something in them that will help you on your writer’s journey. If you have any inspiring or informative blogs that you’d like to share, please add their links in the comments below.

Wishing you a creative week ahead!

Self-Publishing – My Experience & Lessons Learned

A Tagxedo view of my website.
A Tagxedo view of my website.

I have fumbled my way through self-publishing over the past few years. Trying things, making mistakes, seeing how things turn out. Thought I’d share a bit of that experience.

I’ve used a couple of publishers since I started self-publishing. Right now I’m using CreateSpace  https://www.createspace.com/ and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) https://kdp.amazon.com/kdp/self-publishing/signin?language=en_US  After I finish setting up my book in CreateSpace, I can choose for it to be sent to Amazon KDP (they are the same company.) CreateSpace will also send it to other epub distributors, too. Both services are free, though CreateSpace offers services like custom cover designs, copyediting, and marketing for a fee, if you want to take advantage of them.

I’m using CreateSpace for my second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and I’m fine with having them distribute it to Amazon and other sellers, such as Kobo. For my sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, I’m going to go with CreateSpace and KDP only. There are some promotion options with KDP that are only available if it is the exclusive distributor for a set period of time. I’d like to try those promotions, so I’m going to give that option a try for my fiction. For 201 Writing Starters, I went to Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/ . They had a very easy-to-use product and also provide a free service. If I do another edition of the book, I will probably go through CreateSpace, though, because it offers free cover design options that I prefer to use rather than coming up with my own.

The first edition of Writing Fiction was published through iUniverse, a vanity press. I wouldn’t choose that route now for a couple of reasons. First, I want to earn more money per sale, and royalties are much better on my own. Second, I am more confident about being able to format a book that would look professional, and third, I know a lot more about the industry. I was lucky in that I took advantage of a sale offer at iUniverse and didn’t spend money on extras, and I can say that I have earned my money back. A few writers I know who took the vanity press route have realized they will never earn their money back.

I got the templates for the interiors of the dragon books and Writing Fiction – Second Edition from Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ at a very reasonable cost. You can see inside the book here to see what one of his formats looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Heather-Elizabeth-Wright/dp/1483954021

If you’re thinking of the self-publishing route, be aware of the new trend among traditional publishers to have their own vanity press. They make it look like you’re working with Simon & Schuster for instance, but you’re really paying to have your book published with a vanity press that is part of a large company with a very poor reputation. Read this blog from Writer Beware®: The Blog to get the details: http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html To make sure that you are working with a reputable company always check Preditors & Editors, an excellent site that has a listing of publishers/agents along with recommendations and cautions.  http://pred-ed.com/

To end on a more positive note, here’s a link to a great blog post from Jane Friedman with a lot of helpful links to help you make some decisions about your publishing future.  http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/28/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/

Good luck!

New Year – New Edition

Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens Second EditionI’ve been in serious editing mode for a while now, and am finally nearing the launch of the second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens. I’ve added a few things, updated a few things, and included 50+ writing prompts.

What I’ve really enjoyed is doing all the work myself, rather than going through a vanity press, which is what I did last time. I’ve learned a lot more about the publishing industry since then, and hope to put some of those lessons to good use with the book’s sales, promotion, and distribution. To begin, this book will be priced lower than the original! I had fun creating the interior look of the book, too, using templates from Joel Friedlander. You can take a peek at what he offers here.

So, now I just have to wait until my review copy arrives, then one last batch of edits (mostly, I hope, for the inevitable typos that I never catch when I’m proofreading on the screen) and out it will go into the world.

The next project is already underway–more editing! I finished writing a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl last year, so I’m now in editing and formatting mode for that one. Oh, and I have a cover story for a local magazine to work on and a series of short stories to edit, too. And, there’s still teaching on the agenda. A busy January 2014 is in progress.

Hope your new year is off to a great start, too!

A Different Direction

In my fantasy life, I write a wonderful book and a traditional publisher can’t wait to take me by the hand through editing and production and present me with the printed copy that I can see on bookshelves everywhere. And of course, this is followed by the sale of movie rights and the author’s tour with TV and radio and … well, you get the idea. In my fantasy life, this all takes place over a matter of months, but that isn’t the reality. Getting a book from manuscript to the book shelf can take 1-2 years. And in my real life, that follows a year or two writing and editing the book to get ready to put in the envelope in the first place.

I’m just not getting any younger. So getting published by a traditional publisher is a goal/dream that I am going to put aside in favour of a different model for now. Yup. Self-publishing.

I self-published my book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and really enjoyed the process and writing my promo blurb and choosing the cover. I enjoyed the writing and editing, and I actually enjoy doing the marketing. Luckily, reviews have been good and from sources I’m proud of such as CM Magazine and Canadian Teacher, and  my favourite one from a teen reviewer in What If? Canada’s Creative Magazine for Teens. The book has opened doors to my doing writing workshops with teens at my local library (so much fun!) and this summer at the Southampton Art School (can’t wait!) Last Saturday, I took my workshop “25 Ways to Get Your Students Writing” to the CITE conference at Ridley College. I couldn’t be happier.

If you look at the first two sentences of the previous paragraph, you’ll see the key reason for my decision: the word “enjoy.”  I earn money by writing magazine articles and short stories, website copy, brochures, and lots of other things.  I also teach part-time at my local college. I want to keep my “other writing” as close to joywriting as possible. I’m heading toward non-fiction and I have ideas bubbling away that I can do the market research about and decide whether or not they are worth the risk. I know qualified editors that can help guide my work until it shines and I am willing to put in the time and energy it takes to market my product. I can research my publishing options, costs and benefits. I, frankly, like the idea of being in control of the process and I enjoy (there’s that word again!) doing all that stuff.

Am I closing the door to other options? No. Am I going to find myself 6 months down the road totally obsessing about a novel I just have to write and want to submit to a publisher? Probably. But for now, this is the path I’m choosing. Just for me–and just because it makes me happy.

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