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To put it bluntly: if you’re known, it’s easier to promote and sell your work. It’s a fact that JK Rowling sells more books than Tess Gerritsen, even though in my humble opinion JKR has nothing on Tess. But Ms Rowling gets a lot more publicity and that helps her secure that “Richest Writer in the Universe” spot. Any wanna-be writer who takes their writing seriously should make sure they get as much publicity and interact with as many people as possible. All of them could be potential readers of your books.

The question is how to achieve as much visibility as possible, while still maintaining your regular job, proper contact with your family and still writing your novels. Well I would say good time management skills, ability to prioritize and coffee, but I don’t want to sound like one of those people always giving lectures on business management.

Instead I want to give you ideas of where to start and how in small steps get people to like you and care about your work.

Web site

I feel like stating the obvious. Every writer who is serious about their work should have their own web site.

It’s a place where people can learn some basic information about you (often listed in “About” or “Bio” page) like when did you start writing, why do you like it so much and so on. It helps you establish that, in fact and contrary to a popular belief, you are a human being with a passion.

And when you finally publish your work, your web site is where your readers can easily find all your works no matter how many different publishers you have. I know writers who publish their books with four different publishers and if reader were to follow them to a publisher, they would miss out on all the books published with someone else.

Blog

Nothing helps you to connect like a blog. Regular posts about your life, funny anecdotes, complaints about the recent problems you have with your characters… Blogging can be about everything. Not only you keep writing (and that as we know helps to keep the writer’s block away) but blogging is also a great way of meeting new people and finding friends.

It’s good to blog for the sole purpose of blogging, though. Because if you blog with a secret agenda of selling your books, or ideas or anything, it will soon because an exhausting errand or worse, your readers will realize that your passion is somewhat fake.

Remember it’s okay to create a post “OMG! I got published LOOK!” and put up a link in the sidebar. However mentioning at the end of every post “see this book I wrote buy and review PLZ!” is simply annoying. Not to mention bordering on Spam. That won’t help you start friendly relationships with people who later on could support you and help you solve your plot problems.

Forums

Personally, I find forums overwhelming and slightly chaotic. But that’s because I prefer cozy, little groups of people who know each other well. But I’m a minimalist and prefer to have few small circles of friends than one huge group of people. However even with my personal preferences, I can’t deny, that forums are simply irreplaceable when it comes to establishing visibility for a writer. I experienced the magic when before NaNoWriMo 2007 I posted on their forums a link to my Random Prompt Generator.

If you like the format forums offer before posting, you should pay extra attention to both your profile and your signature. You should use both with caution. Don’t overdo it; there is such thing as “too much”. You’d be surprised how far you’ll get by simply placing a link to your website/blog/newest book. If people like what you write in your posts to the forums, they will follow the link and you don’t need a huge banner there.

Network sites

You know, MySpace, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Digg. Places where you can friend people, exchange comments and basically have fun. Though I wouldn’t recommend signing up with all of them. That would make you lose your mind. But one or two (preferably ones you are already using) will help to get your name out there.

Remember

Don’t overwhelm yourself. You want to get some exposure online to promote your future work. It can’t take over your life, nor should it take you away from your writing. Self-promotion is something you can do at any given time. So you should make sure you have your priorities straight. Your writing comes first.

Stumble It!

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Every writer needs to be able to edit his or her own work. Without self-editing you’d never create a story that would catch readers’ attention.

And to be honest, self-editing is not all that difficult. Here’s some advice on how to make it work.

Realize that what you wrote is NOT the final version.

Very little writers can write a novel in one go. I could even go as far as saying that no good story gets published without any corrections.

What you have before you is merely a first draft. One of many. And there’s still a lot of work to be done before the story is readable.

How and what to do to edit your story well?

First of all, take a deep breath.

Yes, you just finished a novel. It’s the most precious thing in the world. And even a slight thought that the novel is not perfect causes you pain.

Go slowly and don’t read it for some time

When it comes to editing, your best friend is time.
You need to take it easy. Allow your brain some rest.
After a day or two (preferably three or four), you will be less likely to miss the mistakes that are for sure there.

It’s better to take a break after every stage of editing. That will assure that you’ll have a fresh mind. And that’s what really matters when you’re correcting your own mistakes.

Fix big things first

I do realize that often you are advised to start with small things and work your way up to the major problems.

But look at it this way. You have this huge amount of words, maybe even hundreds of pages.
You fight your way through grammar and typos only to discover that some parts need total re-writing, whole paragraphs need to be added and that one of the chapters doesn’t even need to be there.

Exactly.

So start by fixing your plot holes. Then ensure everything makes sense. That there is a clear chain of cause and effect.

Unless your story is shorter, you’re probably a bit tired by now. So just go for a walk. Take a breather. Because you’re not done yet.

Now turn to your characters. Do they sound differently? Do they have enough of quirks, mannerisms and such to make them look three-dimensional? Are they involved in too much exposition (never a good thing. Ask Dumbledore)? Do they know more than they should?

Also, I noticed that in some of the stories I edit, make sure to check characterization. Especially in longer stories. Authors tend to forget themselves and they pay less and less attention to how they write their characters. And characters are what in fact readers come back for. They want to see what happened next to the characters. So you really want to make sure that you’re consistent, when writing characters.

Concentrate on small things

After you’re done with the big stuff, I strongly suggest you once again leave the story for a few days (I know, I know I am repeating myself. But I can never stress it enough. Taking a break between editing stages is crucial). Fixing plot holes and characterization in an exhausting task, but one that has to be done. Before you start the next stage, make sure you have a clear head.

Now it’s time to take care of the technicalities. Typos, grammar and other small irritating things.

When it comes to that, you can use one of the tools some word editors offer (like Microsoft Word). But don’t trust software completely. Yes, let it run. It will help you catch the majority of mistakes. Simply don’t take its suggestions for granted. It’s a machine, and they aren’t perfect.

Even if you run an automated grammar and spell check, you should then read through the whole story and make sure everything sounds right.

To be honest, that’s the last step. You just edited your story. Read it. I bet it’s a lot better than your first draft. Good job :).

Stumble It!

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spring has sprung by awfulsara

1. Stumble Upon. You just click a button and you’re taken to another website. The best thing is that you actually can limit Stumbling to topics you’re interested in. Great for research but it’s a terribly addictive tool. Use only when you have a lot of time.

2. Random Generator. Anything that has ‘random’ in the name, threatens to be addictive. And if you’re just one click away from any number of possible scenarios for your work… It’s an even bigger threat. For more sophisticated time-wasters there are also Seventh Sanctum Generators. Use with causion.

3. Bejeweled 2. Don’t question the power of this wonder. It’s the most addictive, mindless game there is (unless you’re one of those Zuma freaks) and nothing wates time like their ‘endless’ option. But it’s refreshing and allows your brain to relax. So it helps in the end. When you force yourself to hit ‘exit’.

4. Fanfics. Think John Sheppard and Rodney McKay from the sci-fi show “Stargate: Atlantis”. Now think the movie “The Lakehouse”. Apparently there is a fic. A remake of “Lakehouse” with Sheppard and McKay as Keanu and Sandra. It’s an absolute waste of time, those fics. They might cause a head trauma (a permanent one even) and they are generally unhealthy.
But they definitely teach you how to look at things from a whole new perspective.

5. Watch grass grow. Or do something equally unproductive. When you don’t do anything, your mind takes a break. It goes places you’d be surprised to visit when functioning normally. Personally, I managed to create two separate universes just by staring into the distance.

6. Donate rice to charity. Oh yeah. You can also expand your vocabulary, but really, who would care about that. You donate to charity! Now!

7. Archives. Of blogs you read frequently. Go back to their beginning. Watch how they evolve. See the improvement. And well… Enjoy them. Especially if they are popular blogs, the beginnings can be especially amusing.

8. Comment. To people’s posts. Master the idea of saying a lot of things in just a few words. Or if you think people are idiots, comment to this post. I, unlike people, have cookies.

Stumble It!

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I discovered Writing.com right before the NaNoWriMo started. And let me tell you. It was a huge mistake. Because right now I’m spending every moment I have going through stuff posted there. I read new material and review each and every posted item.

While I have to admit that the site is a bit confusing at first, but after reading few helpful articles provided by the staff, I managed to get comfy there.

I have to tell you upfront. The site is a bit addictive, but great when it comes to getting feedback. The authors will be thrilled by the ammount of constructive criticism they can get there.

Here is my portfolio, if anyone’s interested. I have to admit that during the November insanity there is no way I will be posting any of my writing there. BUT! Afterwards? I will definitely consider it. So should you if you have anything in your drawer you’d like to share or improve. Because that’s the beauty of Writing.com. You can update any posted item.

I’m giving Writing.com 5/5 points. Any writer or hardcore reader should at least check out the site.

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Look at the title. Who would say it this way? Given that I actually created the sentence correctly, the answer that pops to your mind should me “Yoda! Yoda! Green dwarf full of sex, Yoda!” Okay, I pushed it too far.

But my point is, just by the speech pattern, you were able to recognize the character. And ideally, readers should be able to recognize at least your key players. I’m not saying that you should have a character defy the grammar and be labeled as a freak (let’s face it, not many people can pull the same stunt as Yoda and survive). But there are so many ways to express yourself and the characters you’re writing. An English gentleman will speak differently than a teenage girl from Queens. What scares me the most about some writers is that they don’t seem to realize the difference.

Make sure your characters don’t sound like you.

As Jeff from “Keep Me In Suspense” puts it:

To me, that’s either laziness or ignorance coming out. Either the author doesn’t realize that his or her characters all sound that way [i.e. like the author] – and that that’s a bad thing – or he or she doesn’t want to do the hard work of making the characters realistic and differentiated.

As a writer, you already have a certain speech pattern burnt into your brain. It’s because of your upbringing, people you socialize with and so on. However, you need to remember, that there’s very little chance that the vampire you write about will be around people with the same speech pattern as you. So you need to keep that in mind at all times.

Another thing is your favorite phrases and words you use very often. I’m sure you have some. I know I do. Like ‘Nonetheless’, ‘Oi!’, ‘Just sayin’, ‘I was just being polite.’ I have a certain type of intonation (often described by others as ‘sarcasm’). It’s important you realized your own little sayings. Because when you know them, you can control them and make sure they don’t sneak up on your characters.

A character using a bit sophisticated word like ‘nonetheless’, Britishism like ‘oi!’ and the pattern I picked up from American movies is possible (hello, me) but unlikely to be one of your characters. See, unless you actually have time to explain the character’s roots the speech pattern like that would only cause confusion. And it’s better to have your characters sound ‘strong’.

Let the character’s personality and background influence the way they speak.

That’s pretty well self-explanatory, right? But let’s go with some examples.

Gregory the English Gentleman. If he’s the essence of everything we know about English gentlemen, he will be always polite, with a little stick up his ass. He will form proper sentences, maybe even won’t use any abbreviations. If caught swearing, there’s no chance he’ll utter ‘fuck’. Most probable are British swear words like ‘bugger’, ‘bollocks’ or maybe ‘go shag yourself, Smithers’.

Keesha the Teenager from Queens. She would either use some sort of slang or she’ll pretend to be one of the cool kids by mixing the slang with normal English to appear cool. She will most likely cut ‘g’ from the ‘-ing’ form, use ‘ain’t’ and say ‘wanna’ and ‘gonna’ instead of ‘want to’ and ‘going to.’ She would also make a lot of references to movies, tvshows and such.

Stephen the PI (you might remember him from Fleshing out Characters). We established that he’s a very private person. So he will most likely use short sentences. Go right to the point. He’s a PI and he was a cop. So his vocabulary will be full of codes the police uses to identify the crimes and slang specific to law enforcement officers.

Three different characters. Three different ways of writing their dialogue and inner thoughts. Yes it might be adding to your work. But it’ll pay off. Because if in some weird cracked up universe, those three characters meet and start chatting? I won’t have to keep adding ‘said Stephen’, ‘yelled Keesha’, ‘muttered Gregory’ after each sentence and dialogue line. My readers will have a certain idea about who’s who in this game.

Use punctuation marks to indicate the speaking pattern.

I always considered that an obvious rule. But I was surprised to see writers unintentionally mislead the readers by using the wrong punctuation mark at the end of their dialogue lines. There are three punctuation marks misused the most.

Full stop / period ( . )
The most common. Used with statements and any kind of sentences that aren’t strongly emotional. You can’t finish a sentence with a full stop and then add that the character yelled. Because either your editor will call you names or your readers will call you on it.

Ellipsis ( …)
Let’s make things clear. Like with semicolons ( ; ), there’s a certain rule about ellipsis. You don’t use it, unless you have to. Ellipsis implies that the sentence isn’t finished. It leaves the readers hanging. So unless your character is wondering about something, doesn’t finish a sentence to make a ‘meaningful pause’ or is too afraid to finish the sentence… Use a period. (See what I just did? Also a good example of when you can use ellipsis)

Exclamation mark ( ! )
Your character is yelling or having an emotional reaction to something? Alright. You can use the exclamation mark. And don’t you dare using it in any other situation. Also. More than two exclamation marks in one dialogue line? That’s a first hint you need to change something. You see, exclamation mark is like CAPS in netspeak. Not very realistic, implies that the character yells all the time, and to be honest, is a bit annoying.

I told you that you can base your character’s speaking pattern on his or hers background. To see if you actually know how to do that you can try it backwards.

Write a dialogue between two different characters (it would work best with characters you’ve never written before or know very little about). And when you’re done, try to tell them apart. Try to say something about their past, their experiences, childhood, social circles and age.

Stumble It!

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Yes. I’m really offering to edit any story anyone sends me. The only condition is that the story must be under 10,000 words. If it’s bigger than that, send it to me one chapter/part at the time

Also, don’t expect me to fix every grammar mistake and every typo. My brain is genetically unable to find those. I have an English Teacher edit my stories for that. Yes. Now we know what you can do with a BA in English.

BUT

What I can do is to make sure your character doesn’t take off the same shirt twice in the same scene. That the characterisation is consistent. That your plot doesn’t have any holes. And that your story becomes pretty and shiny.

I also provide some advice on how to make your writing better and what you should concentrate on.

Make no mistakes. There will be constructive criticism.

But if you’re ready for that email me your work:

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With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I’m assuming all you crazy writers are prepared and ready for the insanity. Achieving 50,000 words in 30 days is not the easiest thing to do. And one need to accept that at some point you’ll get a visit from your enemy.

No, I don’t mean Mary Sue. Characterisation isn’t exactly high on the priority list when one goes for quantity. I’m talking about Writer’s Block.
So I prepared 13 easy ways of fighting the Block. You might find it useful even after the NaNo ends with fireworks.

Let’s start the countdown then.

1. Come up with ‘working titles’ of stories you haven’t written. It can be chapter names or one-line summaries. It doesn’t matter if they are catchy, or even good. It’s about random ideas. “Mary, Lamb and the Magic DVD”, “Stars and Mortals”, “Kissed by a Zombie”.

2. Set a schedule and stick to it. If your brain starts to assosiate a certain day/hour with writing it’ll get easier and easier to actually write something. It’s a proven technique.

3. Turn off the criticism. Don’t judge the quality of your work, don’t stop to fix the typos. There’s a proper stage for that and it’s called ‘editing’. During the writing process, simply write down everything. You’ll be tweaking it all later.

4. Try writing excercises. Answer other people’s challenges. Give writing prompts a chance (see our Prompt Generator). Enter a group writing project. The Internet is full of possibilities, challanges and ideas. Use them.

5. Set reasonable deadlines and keep them. It’s not about always writing a novel in a month. Tell yourself “finish this scene in a week”, “5000 words in two weeks”. And reward yourself. A cookie, a movie or something pleasant. If we can train dogs with reward/punishment system, we can do the same to our muse.

6. Talk to someone. Bounce and voice your ideas. A fresh set of eyes might help to move things forward. Don’t have a friend? Talk to the staffed bunny. Simply voicing what’s in your mind puts things in perspective.

7. Stop writing. Yeah, you’ve read that right. Can’t write despite all effords? Then stop. Shut down your computer. Go out. Take a walk. Plan a holiday. Do a chore. Watch a movie. Maybe your brain is just overheated, tired and needs to recharge the batteries.

8. Work on more than one story at the time and switch between your projects. This will assure that you don’t get bored with one thing and your brain gets to focus on different things. It’s like an excercise.

9. Write whatever you’re thinking. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. It can be random words smashed together on a piece of paper. As long as the words appear, they don’t need to make sense. Your brain simply needs to register the ‘writing’ act.

10. Describe something that happened to you. This was you don’t feel pressured to ‘create’ anything. You don’t have a plot you need to keep the track of. You’re just describing something you witnessed. You’re not interested in before or after or any kind of character development. Just an event or an object or your shoe 🙂

11. Go back to your older stories. With the time that passed, you had an opportunity to learn new things. You’re a better writer now than you were back then. So read your old work and think how you can improve it. Even if it’s just fixing the typos. Maybe you’ll get an idea of doing something differently or writing something new based on the same idea.

12. Go read a book or something. I’m serious. And I don’t mean ‘go read and take notes’. Read and enjoy. A simple act of reading allows you not only to relax. It allows you to learn new vocabulary, new phrases, new styles and new ways of telling a story.

13. Write something easy. You have a problem with starting your story? Then write something from the middle. Want to get your characters in bed together and can’t? Write their morning after. Skip the difficult part that causes you so many problems and write something easy, with no impact on your precious plot.

And when it all fails, lean back in your chair, close your eyes and try to think of what made you start writing in the first place?
No. Don’t say it to me. Write it down. 🙂

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