You don’t have to be the best – and that’s okay

I wrote this out of a struggle I had, and still have. Just because I’m writing an article doesn’t mean I have it figured out. I still have to remind myself of the things I know in my head time and time again…

See, I want everything I create to be perfect; I always have. I love reading well-written books. I sometimes ‘hate’ them at the same time, because I wonder how I can ever write as well and make as big an impact with my own writing. It’s not pride issue of wanting to be better than others. Rather, it’s the desire to create stories and characters and themes that touch lives and to do it in the best way possible. If someone has done it better than me, then that means I can get better. And if I can get better, that means I wasn’t good enough.

Right?

But eventually, I realized I didn’t have to be the best.

And that it was fine.

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Guest Post: Making the Most of Your Secondary Characters

So a few weeks ago, I guest posted on the blog of a friend and Kingdom Pen writing team member, Brandon Miller, about Three Questions for Developing Characters. You can go check it out and stick around on his site because he has some pretty cool information there. But, for today, he’s popped in over here to give us some cool thoughts about secondary characters.

So, without more introduction, may I present Brandon Miller and secondary characters!

 

Secondary characters have a bundle of responsibilities for being just secondary.

Maybe they should start a support group.

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Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Fear Clichés

“That just… sounds cliché.”

Four words every writer cringes at. We have so many ideas. We try so hard. And then someone comes along and tells us it is cliché. Commonplace. And we wonder how on earth we’re going to fix our story when everything seems to have been done already.

If you read a lot or watch any number of movies, you’ll recognize a number of clichés on sight. The dashing prince rescues the helpless princess. The mentor dies and his student goes on to save the world. The villain dresses in a long black cape and carries a pet snake on a staff.

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Is Clean Christian Writing a Good Thing?

Lying, murder, torture, assassinations, lust — as Christians called to be a light in the world, should we touch on these darker aspects of life in our writing or should our books be clean and full of light? Should a character swear? Is it wrong to have a character be immoral? What about the sympathetic thieves or the hardened interrogators? As Christians, we want to write inspiring stories. But is an inspiring story the same thing as a squeaky clean story, and what does ‘clean Christian writing’ even mean?

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Day 3: Writing Tools

3-2-1 WRITE! party

Well, I’ve talked about it enough you might guess what my number one resource for writers is, but I’ve no problem with saying it again.

Kingdom Pen!

Kingdom Pen is a website, but it is so much more than a website too. For starters, don’t let the ages of the writers posting there fool you. There is so much great information posted every week, along with poems and the occasional short story.

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Day 2: Writing Advice

3-2-1 WRITE! party

Two pieces of advice… *grins* What to choose?

My first bit of advice sounds a bit cliché, but it is true nonetheless. This is persevere. Writing isn’t always easy. It is rewarding, in the end, but there are times you hate your work. Times you wonder why you ever started; why you even thought this idea was ever good. Don’t give up. Keep moving. Upward, outward. Keep working, keep pressing forward.

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Indy e-Con: The Value of Beta Readers

This article is part of a really cool Indy e-Confrence going on right now, based from Kendra E. Ardnek’s blog. You can click the picture below to check it out. 🙂

The Value of Beta Readers

There is no one secret to producing a good book. Hard work, patience, more hard work, dogged determination, and did I mention hard work? Yet it is so worth it. And, the more I write, the more I value one particular asset every writer should have.

Beta readers!

Beta readers are wonderful. Sometimes they are friends. Sometimes they are other writers. Sometimes they are people you’ve never met before but who have signed up to help you. Whatever the case, they provide an excellent new look at your own work, commenting on points you’ve missed because of your closeness to your story. If there are problems you are trying to ignore, they will be quick to point those out too. Grammar, plot, characters, awkward wording… everyone is different, and each beta reader tends to focus on different aspects of your story and will find different things. Together, they help smooth and polish your story to a great degree.

I first started writing, I didn’t even know of the term ‘beta reader’. I had help, but to me, they were friends who were helping with my story as I helped with theirs. Together we improved each other’s work. While I still beta read for friends, and they for me, I now reach out to other readers and get as much aid and new eyes on my story as I can. Without beta readers to provide feedback, I would be lost.

A writer can find beta readers in a number of ways.

The first place to look is among friends. You may have some friends (or fans) who enjoy your work and who are willing to correct your book for the mere chance of reading it. There are other friends who may be writers, and you can arrange a swap of manuscripts, each correcting the other’s work. And you can simply ask. If you are in a writing group, tell people what you are looking for and have them contact you if they are interested in helping. Create a form people can fill out (Google Forms is great for this) and post it on your blog and Facebook with a blurb about your book. You might be surprised at the number of people who want to read your novel.

There isn’t a set number of beta readers one ought to have: anywhere from five to twenty, as a general range. If you can’t interest anyone, there are writers who hire themselves out as beta readers, as well as professional beta readers you can hire on places like Fiverr. But generally, it’s not hard to find a handful of readers among your circle of friends and acquaintances.

Once you get your beta readers, you must loosen your grip about your manuscript and let people actually read it. Depending on the length, you may send the whole story at once, or in pieces. I prefer sending a novel in parts both because I can correct it easier in smaller chunks, and because it forces the reader to correct a section before finding out what happens next in the story.

At this point, I’ll create an Excel sheet, or a chart of some kind, with the names of all the beta readers, their emails, when I sent them a particular part, when I got it back, and when I corrected that part myself. It helps keep everything in one place, especially when you have a large number of beta readers.

Now remember, unless you are hiring these beta readers, they have a life of their own. I have had numbers of stories beta read and there are two main things I account for when beta readers sign up to help me.

Firstly, I consider how long it would take to beta read a story, then add a few weeks. Then I expect some beta readers to be late. Because life happens. Some readers might whip through your story and have it back in a week. Others might take two or three months. If you do need your novel back in a particular timeframe, encourage everyone to send what they’ve corrected to you by that date, even if they aren’t finished.

Secondly, there will normally be a small percentage of beta readers who end up not getting back to you. This is nothing against beta readers because I understand that things get busy. Just expect it. If everyone sends you your manuscript by the deadline you set, that is great. If not, it’s nothing to worry about. It happens.

Eventually, you start receiving feedback. I like to correct my novel as I get comments back. The cool thing about beta reading is that everyone picks out different things. Five beta readers can go over the same page and pick out different spelling, grammar, or plot mistakes. Together, they are a powerful force.

And there is something you might start to notice. Beta readers can disagree among themselves (unintentionally, of course, since they don’t know what the others have said). Some love a particular part. Others think it could be changed. Some love a theme. Others don’t quite get it.

It is important to approach beta reader feedback correctly. Remember, one book isn’t for everyone. There will always be some people who don’t quite care for a style or idea. There is nothing wrong with this. Take each beta reader’s comment into careful consideration, but they are not Gospel truth. You can keep the thoughts, or decide they aren’t right for the book, or pick and choose what you like. Now, if everyone is agreeing that something is a problem, then it likely needs some help, but otherwise use what comments you can and don’t feel bad if you don’t agree with all of them.

Finally, and this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, treat your beta readers with respect. They deserve it. They have gone over your story, helping you improve it, just for the sake of reading it themselves. Make sure to thank them and maybe even mention them in your acknowledgements.

If you haven’t had beta readers before, don’t hesitate to find some. Once your novel is finished, but before you plunge into detailed polishing, send your book to beta readers for feedback. You won’t regret it.

Self-publishing: Five Time-Saving Tools

A writer’s life is filled with so much more than the mere creating of stories. There is editing and proofreading. Marketing and newsletters. Blogging and graphics. We can take any help offered, and here are five free tools which have helped me save time and work the best I can.

Grammarly

When you create an account in Grammarly, you can type directly into a document on the site, or you can paste into a document. Grammarly also offers some cool apps which will check your grammar and spelling as you type up emails or on social media sites.

Grammarly is split between a free version and a premium version. The free version catches critical mistakes, while you have to pay to see advanced mistakes. But it is still handy to find obvious grammar or spelling mistakes, even if it occasionally marks something as wrong that you decide to leave unchanged for various reasons.

MailChimp

Building an email list is essential for any author. MailChimp offers a free mail service for up to 2000 email addresses. You’re able to create signup forms, popup boxes, welcome emails, and various other cool stuff. You can create and save templates and track opens and clicks through Mailchimp analytics.

Hootsuite

If you are on social media at all, this is a great time saver. You’re allowed to add up to three different social media sites in the free version. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts, either for each site individually, or for several sites at once.

Plus, Hootsuite has a cool dashboard where you can look all the information on a particular site, with columns for your posts, your feed, your messages, your scheduled posts, etc.

Canva

At some point, you’re probably going to make some graphics for a book launch, a sale, or your blog. Canva is a great free tool for this. With numbers of free templates (as well as others you can pay for) you get a head start on creating classing Pinterest photos or sleek Instagram posts. One of the best parts is that these templates are created for the optimal size of a post for that particular social media site, increasing the effectiveness of the graphic.

Pixabay

You’re going to need photos for the graphic you create, and Pixabay offers a great collection of royalty free photos. Though downloadable for free, there is the option to donate a few dollars if you wish to, but it’s not required. They have a wide variety of photos, especially when it comes to nature pictures.

These are the five tools or sites I use the most as I write and market. What about you? Do you have any favorite tools?

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