Romance Author Tracey Lyons Hosts “Sprinting: It’s Not Just For Runners!” Workshop!

We at The Sprint Shack, obviously, love all things word sprinting. So when we see an avid word sprinter doing what they can to get the word out to other writers and broaden the community, we get pretty excited—especially when that sprinter is kind enough to mention us as a resource!

Yesterday, romance author Tracey Lyons attended the Romance Writers of America’s New England Chapter “Let Your Imagination Take Flight” conference, where she hosted a workshop on word sprinting entitled “Sprinting: It’s Not Just For Runners!” Tracey reached out to us ahead of time to ask if she could mention The Sprint Shack, which we were of course thrilled by and supportive of.

Tracey discovered word sprinting after signing with a new agent and experiencing anxiety over a tough deadline. “I needed to get her the completed manuscript of a proposal I’d pitched to her. After days of chasing my tail around, a friend saw my angst-filled post on Facebook and suggested I try the sprinting method—and the rest, as they say, is history! I ended up completing that novel in a record six weeks!”

In the workshop, Tracey outlined the pros and cons of sprinting, offered tips on how to get the most out of a word sprint session (whether you’re sprinting alone or with a group), and made suggestions for turning off your “pesky inner critic” and giving yourself permission to write freely. She also provided author testimonials and a handout including websites and twitter handles to help get participants started in the sprinting community (that’s where we came in!). She ended the session with a word sprint and a follow-up discussion of the process and the attendees’ experiences.

“My hope is that the writers who attend these types of workshops will use the sprinting method of writing as another tool to help them achieve success,” Tracey said prior to the workshop. “Even if you’re only doing a few fifteen minute sessions a day, the word count adds up, giving you the confidence to keep moving forward.”

We hope everyone who attended the workshop had a great time and took something away from it. If you were there and found us through Tracey’s workshop, feel free to contribute to the conversation by letting us know your experience in the comments below!


An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author, Tracey’s books Tracey Lyons-1345-LR-Colorhave been translated into several languages. She has appeared on the award winning Cox Cable Television show, Page One and at the famous Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC. She holds membership in Romance Writers of America and Novelists Inc.

Tracey writes historical and contemporary romances. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website at www.traceylyons.com and follow her on twitter at @traceyjlyons.

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Faye Kirwin

A while back, coWhy Do I Write? Faye Kirwin reveals the reasons she puts pen to paper every single day. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com-founder Faye Kirwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? The previous answers came from Taylor Eaton and Cristina R. Guarino. Now Faye is chiming in.


Why do I write?

It’s a simple question—but do you ever spare the answer much more thought than a simple ‘because I like it’? Your reasons for writing are very powerful motivators. Get to the heart of why you write and it can push you forward on the days you feel you can’t write a single word.

So, why do I write?

To Escape Reality

Because we all know reality can be a rather dull or troubling place. Just as we read to escape our lives and live someone else’s, I write for the same reason. There’s one thing writing allows me to do that reading doesn’t, however: control the lives of the characters. When control is missing from my life, I can gain a sense of it through writing. (Plus, it’s fun to put my characters through the wringer. Yeah, I’m mean like that.)

To Help Me Understand

What better way to see someone else’s side of the story than to write from their perspective? If someone’s actions have upset me, I can incorporate an element of it into a story (translation: beware people who know me—you may end up in my next novel). It helps me to think through the motivations and reasons behind their actions and tease out my own feelings on the matter. Having my characters go on to resolve the situation can also give me an idea as to how to do the same thing in real life. (Though not always. Sadly, I don’t have magical candle powers or spirit-powered automata in real life.)

To Express Who I Am

I’m free to write about what interests me, the things that really mean something to me and issues that I care deeply about. Most of what I write will never be seen by anyone else as well, which means I can freely express my thoughts and feelings on a matter and get them off my chest. It’s amazing how much clarity writing about a situation can bring.

To Craft Unique Characters

What makes people tick has always fascinated me, which makes character creation one of my absolute favourite parts of writing. As readers of my blog, Writerology, will know, I’m all about applying the knowledge gleaned from my Psychology degree to storytelling. My mission is to make my characters as life-like, interesting and in-depth as possible and I love doing that.

To Have Fun

Like, so much fun. The thrill of writing an action-packed scene, the buzz that comes from a ground-breaking plot realisation, the satisfaction that follows a really productive writing session—all of it works together with the previous points to make writing something that makes my heart do a little dance. Honestly, keeping my Write Chain writing streak going is no problem, because I look forward to writing every night. I love the words.

~

So that’s why I write, but what about you? Why do you write?

Guest Post: Grace Black – Poetry & Three Line Thursday Writing Competition

Grace Black talks about poetry and Three Line Thursday | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comWith April being National Poetry Month, I’ve decided this would be a good time to spread the word about poetry and its relevance in our everyday lives. Each of us, all walks of life, everywhere.

While writing, in general, is obviously vital in communicating with our everyday world, poetry is a different beast altogether. Poetry is a unique literary vehicle that has been around as long as we have been communicating with one another. Poetry allows the writer a freedom, that isn’t necessarily available in other writing arenas, to express emotion with a myriad of tools at their disposal. Poetry is a visceral experience. Sure fiction and even some non-fiction accounts of life can achieve a similar reaction in the reader, but poetry is a tool that many overlook or dismiss altogether.

Most can recall a childhood experience with poetry in some form. Probably the heavily schemed rhyming sort to begin, and possibly some other encounters along their educational paths with haiku, sonnets, or the iambic pentameter Shakespeare was quite fond of, but that’s not all there is to poetry. Not even close. Poetry is everywhere. In everything. Small and large, living and dying, the expression, the vision, the creation, the process is the art itself.

Carl Sandburg wrote, “The fog comes/on little cat feet.” With only seven words, Sandburg achieves description that is concise and breathes life. He captures a moment many have witnessed in everyday life and gives movement to it on paper. There is an entire scene unfolding as your mind processes his carefully chosen words, plain words, in fact. “Little cat feet,” and our minds automatically think of the creatures and how agile and intentional they can be when on the prowl. This is how the fog comes, an intentional, methodical movement until the seen is unseen. And then it simply moves on again.

Fog

BY CARL SANDBURG
The fog comes

on little cat feet.
It sits looking

over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Poetry has many benefits. It helps teach reading, writing, and language in a different way. Short poems are more easily digestible and dissectible to help aid in the education of grammar usage and literary devices that all good writers employ. It makes textual analysis more manageable. And, after all, don’t all writers want just one thing? To share a story?

As a writer myself, I’m always trying to better my craft and convey a story in such a way to emote a lasting feeling in my readers. I want to write something that reaches into my reader’s soul and stirs things up a bit, so that when they walk away from what I’ve shared they think: “Yeah, that!”

I am quite passionate about poetry and I’m still learning. I learn new things every day. Almost six months ago, I had an idea to create an online challenge combining a few of my favorite things. I started Three Line Thursday to bring artists and writers together in an online venue to encourage and promote creativity and inspiration. I work with many talented artists and photographers of varying levels and encourage writers, poets, and dabblers of ink of all levels to participate each week.

The idea behind TLT is brevity. Say more with less. I give you 3 lines with a max word count of 10 words per line. This is a tool that can help writers of any level hone their craft. Or lovers of poetry to have a place to dabble. Learn to use language in a different way. Play with words until they feel good. Make it weighty without the excess. Use strong verbs and descriptive nouns. Convey something that lingers and stays with people. Reach into your soul and share your emotive verse.

I would like to stress that while TLT was born from my love of poetry, it isn’t strictly a “poetry” challenge. I have many different types of writers that enter the challenge weekly. Many flash-fiction writers dabble at TLT each week as well and have won the weekly challenge. Think of it as a 30-word short story. After all, that is what poetry is—a story.

I welcome you all to pop by Three Line Thursday and check it out and follow us on Twitter too. TLT prompts go live every Wednesday at midnight (EDT) and closes Thursday at Midnight (EDT) you have 24 hours to share your 3 lines in the comment section for the particular prompt week. Results post on Saturdays.

I challenge each of you during the month of April to read a poem you haven’t ever read, write a poem if you’ve never tried your hand at one, or write one in a style you’ve never tried. Poetry is good for the soul. Happy writing!

Love and Ink,

Grace Black

~

gblack

Grace Black is just another writer wearing down lead and running out of ink, one line at a time. Coffee refuels her when sleep has not been kind. You can find more of her words and the chaos she pens on her website. She can also be found on Twitter.

Blast Off! Why You Need A Launch Date

BLAST OFF!Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

So you’ve got an idea for a book. Maybe you’ve started writing it already. Maybe you’ve already polished the final draft! But what do you do after the writing is done? What do you need to plan for before you’ve even finished your manuscript?

The answer: your book launch.

Indie authors are not JUST authors. We’re also marketers. As a self-published author, you’re responsible for the success of your book. And the first step to success is setting a launch date.

So let’s delve into the basics and discuss why you need a launch date.

 

Launch Date Basics

What is a launch date?

A launch date is the date that your book is first available for purchase. It’s the publication/release date. It’s the start of your book’s life!

When should I set my launch date?

I like to select a launch date as soon as I’ve started writing the first few chapters/pieces in a book. I suggest you figure out when you PLAN on having your book done, then set your launch date about a month AFTER that date. This extra month allows you time to play around with formatting and marketing – just to make sure everything is perfect. Plus, it gives you a couple weeks leeway in case of any hiccups while the book is being written (maybe you get some serious writers block for a week, or maybe your beta readers take FOREVER to get your manuscript, or maybe you find a plot hole and need to spend an extra two weeks rewriting half the book).

When should I announce my launch date?

This is tricky, and there are a lot of factors to consider, but it basically boils down to how long you’ve been writing.

If you’ve been writing and self-publishing for a while, you know how long something is going to take you to complete. If this is the case – announce your book and the launch date as soon as you start writing the thing! If you’re especially good at marketing and have your method in place, find ways to get pre-orders for your book before it launches!

If you’re relatively new to self-publishing, announce your book a couple months before the launch date – at least after your editors/beta-readers have had a go at the manuscript and you’ve made a round or two of revisions. Writing a book is hard work, filled with a lot of unforeseen pit falls. So make sure you don’t back yourself into a corner by setting a date without knowing that you’ll be able to have the book ready by then.

Where should I announce my book/launch date?

Everywhere!

Really, tell everyone about it. Tell your mailing list and social media followers. Post it on your blog/website. Arrange to have it put up on other people’s blogs or sites. Tell your family and friends and sort-of friends. Tell everyone!

 

Why You Need a Launch Date

Launch dates create buzz

Just like I mentioned in the basics section, building up to your release with announcements about your upcoming launch gets people wanting to buy the book NOW. Having a launch date gives your fans (and potentially new readers) a concrete date to get excited about and tell others about.

You can start lining up marketing/advertising for your book ahead of time

If you have a launch date, you can schedule posts and ads to go out on other sites on your launch date. It’s much better to have a fellow blogger say that your book will be out on “February 2nd” than “some time in February”. Plus, some sites that run ads require you to submit the date that you want the ad to run – and what better day than your launch date?

You’re accountable

When you announce to the world that you’re going to write a book and that it’s going to come out on a certain day, you’re much more likely to actually have the book ready to go on that date than if you hadn’t announced anything at all. It’s much easier to let yourself down than to let other people down. Having an official launch date keeps you on track.

It keeps you motivated

This is similar to the last point, but having a date that you book NEEDS to be finished by is incredibly helpful. It keeps you writing when you don’t want to. And it forces you to push through any writer’s block in order to get things done on time.

~

So what are you waiting for? Go set a launch date for your next project. Then get to work!

Pinterest for Writers in 6 Simple Steps

Are you missing out on a source of traffic that could bring a flood of new readers to your writing? Learn how to use Pinterest in 6 simple steps. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comDid you know that having no images on your blog posts could be costing you a flood of traffic and new readers?

If your answer is a guilty head shake (or an even more guilty nod), then it’s time to  take advantage of the veritable gold mine that images can be. And how can these images bring in a surge in traffic and readers? Pinterest, my friend. Pinterest.

For those who haven’t come across Pinterest before, it’s a social bookmarking site, where users can ‘pin’ images attached to web pages and posts to their collections (called boards), saving them for future reference.

Whether you’re writing blog articles (like me on my own site, Writerology), posting stories on your site (like Taylor Eaton’s Little Write Lies), or advertising your own published novel, Pinterest can open a whole new channel of traffic for you. I can testify to that. In March 2015, Pinterest was my main source of traffic, introducing twice as many readers to Writerology than any other social media platform. In other words, if you haven’t already optimised your site for Pinterest, it’s a very good idea to do so.

Step 1. Create Good Quality Content

This one goes without saying. Whether you’re writing a blog post, a free story for your site, a collection of poetry, or a teaser for your book, make sure the content the pinnable image links to is top quality.

Step 2. Create an Eye-Catching Graphic

Next up, you need to create the image that’s going to capture a reader’s attention. If they’re scrolling through Pinterest, it needs to catch their eye, and if they’re on your post, it needs to make them want to pin it themselves. Photos alone aren’t enough. Add text, like the post title and maybe a catchy line or two, to the image to maximise its appeal.

But, Faye, I hear you cry, I’ve just spent a gazillion hours writing up a blog post and getting it ready to publish. Do I have to spend hours making a beautiful image to go with it?

No, dear readers, you do not. Do you know how long it took me to create the image for this post? 10 minutes. Isn’t it worth spending an extra 10 minutes each post to create something that can open so many new doors?

So what can you use to create eye-catching graphics for your posts? Picmonkey is a good one. We use it here at the Sprint Shack. Canva is another good option. If you want a programme on your computer, rather than the Internet, I recommend the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), which I use for all my Writerology graphics. Got any recommendations? Leave them in a comment below.

Step 3. Make It Easy to Pin Images on Your Site

People can’t pin your lovely graphics and share your epic articles if you don’t give them the means to. At a bare minimum, make sure your posts have Pinterest included in their social media share icons. You could make it even easier to share your content with a Pin It button that appears when you hover over an image. Pinterest have a variety of Pin It buttons you can set up. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, a good plugin that allows you to design your own Pin It button is jQuery Pin It Button For Images.

The idea here is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to your site to put your content on Pinterest. That way, they’re doing the sharing for you. Great, right?

Step 4. Put a Good Tease in Your Pin Descriptions

Each pin comes with a little box beneath it for a description. Create a good description, which works with the graphic to pique the viewer’s interest, and you’ll have them clicking through to your site in no time.

So how do you create that description? When editing your image, there’s a field called ‘Alt (or Alternative) Text’. Insert pithy description to tease your content here. Keep it short and sweet, no more than 2-3 sentences, and consider using a keyword or two as well, so that people searching for pins on your topic can find you more easily. And voila, you’re done.

Step 5. Create Boards That Interest You and Others

Taking a different tack from Step 3, this tactic involves building a following on Pinterest and having them ‘repin’ your pins. In other words, they see your pins and put them on their own boards, where others can see them and put them on their boards, and so on… Boards are a good way of organising your pins into topics or themes or categories—and it’s these topics that can gain you more followers.

When creating boards, make sure they fulfil a need, yours and others’. What do people (you included) want to know about? Editing advice? Imaginative writing prompts? Gripping stories? Create boards that cover topics of interest in your niche and others will be more likely to follow you than if you just had a solitary board of pins from your own site.

Once you’ve created your boards, give them informative names and pin quality content to them on a regular basis. Just don’t spend too long each day on Pinterest—it can devour your writing time like no one’s business.

Step 6. Follow Other Pinners

Following other pinners has two benefits:

1. They might return the favour and follow your boards

2. Your feed fills up with their pins, giving you more content to pin yourself. (Note: You can follow all of someone’s boards or only the ones that interest you, so that your feed doesn’t become clogged with content you’re not bothered about.)

So, who to follow? People whose pins interest you. People who follow you. People with large followings. Especially that last one. If you follow and repin the content of influential pinners, they may wish to return the favour. Sometimes all it takes is one pin from someone with a large following to give you an explosion of new readers.

Feeling more confident about using Pinterest to grow your writer platform? Whether you want to bring more readers to your blog posts, free fiction or published books, Pinterest can be a source of continuous traffic that introduces your site to a whole new audience of readers.

~

What do you love most about Pinterest?

Are you already on Pinterest? Share a link to your profile below! I’m @Writerology.

The 7 Steps of Editing

7 steps of editing (1)Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

As I mentioned in my last post, professionalism in self-publishing is of the utmost importance. No one – especially a reader that has never heard of you – is going to pay to read something that is less than professional in quality. This is a no-brainer when it comes to things such as cover design, formatting, and grammar/spelling (which your proofreader should help you catch!). But what I’m talking about today is something a little more substantial: the quality of your writing.

So why do you need to edit?

Most of us writers have a hard time believing our work is good – or there’s that small percentage of us that think every word we write is perfection. Despite which camp you’re in, I have news for you: your work CAN improve, but only if you edit it.

Very few writers can pen a flawless novel the first time around (and even those manuscripts would see improvement with an edit). All those best-selling authors your adore? They go through a mind-numbing amount of edits and revisions and rewrites on their book – and for a good reason.

In revisiting your work, I promise that you will find stray storylines, extraneous scenes, plot holes, and a fair share of typos. You may even have revelations, realizing that this scene should be moved closer to the beginning of the story…or maybe your main character wouldn’t really be all that irrational in the middle of the book.

You need to edit to ensure that there is consistency, that your manuscript flows well, and that everything comes across as professional as possible.

Your writing is your product. And the better your product, the more your customers will want to buy.

The Seven Steps of Editing

Everyone works in different ways. I prefer to break up the edits into rounds of it so as to lessen the daunting task of reworking an entire manuscript in one go. Below is my personal routine for editing.

  1. Self-Edit/Rewrite/Proofread (Round 1) as soon as 1st draft is done
  2. Take break from manuscript for a couple weeks (work on something else)
  3. Self-Edit (Round 2)
  4. Give Manuscript to Beta-Readers/Editor
  5. Self-Edit (Round 3)
  6. Give Manuscript to Proofreader
  7. Self-Edit (Round 4) – just tiny changes at this point!

Getting the Final Say

During the editing process, keep in mind that you gave your manuscript to your beta-readers/editors for a reason: so that they can look at it with an objective eye and give you honest feedback. Don’t dismiss glaring issues they have with your manuscript. BUT, as an indie author, you get to decide what your final manuscript looks like. If you receive feedback that doesn’t ring true with your manuscript or you feel would compromise the story, you don’t have to act on it. YOU get to decide what the book becomes.

A Word About Over-Editing

Sometimes I repeat certain steps in my 7-step list above. I might have beta readers re-read something after I’ve incorporated some of their initial suggestions. Or, I might do two or three rounds of self-editing between steps 4 and 6. Only you know if your manuscript is ready to publish. But there IS such a thing as over-editing. It’s all too easy to keep stripping away at your story (or adding too much fluff or changing your major plot) until you have a mess that requires even more editing.

~

So there you have it! Go out and edit your manuscripts. It may be an intimidating task, but you’re up to it! You wrote a whole book, after all. Now it’s just time to pretty it up.

How I Rebranded: My Pen Name Story

If you’ve seen me sprinting on the Sprint Shack Twitter account lately, you may have noticed something. My name is different. Skye Fairwin is no more.

Why? Let me start with a confession. Skye is not my real name. It’s a pen name I’ve gone by for the last six years… but not anymore. Last month I made the decision to come out from behind my pen name and start going by my real name online. So allow me to introduce myself again.

I’m Faye Kirwin and it’s lovely to meet you.

Leaving behind my pen name wasn’t an easy choice for me. I swayed back and forth between sticking with my alias and switching to my real name for months, and not just for the reasons you might expect. Here’s my story—the why and the how I changed such a big part of my online presence and how you can do it smoothly and painlessly if you’re considering doing something similar.

First Things First: Why Use a Pen Name?

There are more reasons than I can list. To keep your writing and personal lives separate. To publish in a different genre. To protect your career.

For me, it was privacy. I created my online alias way back when I was 16 years old, just before I started posting my writing on the internet. My poor, fragile writer’s ego feared my friends and family reading my stories and not liking them. A pen name provided protection against that, but it also came with a price: I was hiding such a huge part of my life and myself from the people I cared about. I’d talk about how much I loved reading, but writing? Not a peep. Yet it was how I spent hours and hours of my day. As time went by, it became harder and harder to break the silence and tell people that I was a writer and so I kept hiding it. I fell into a rut.

My first turning point came when I went to university. In one of the first few weeks, as I sat with my new friends in the university bar and chatted about ourselves and our interests, I found myself talking about writing. I’d never spoken aloud about that part of myself before, and here I was, talking about it with people I’d only just met. It was… weird. But in a good way. In a very freeing way. I didn’t have to hide that part of me anymore and it felt like such a relief.

Though I’d now revealed the fact that I wrote, I continued to keep my online writing a secret. Telling people about my writing was one thing; showing it to them was another entirely. It wasn’t until late 2014 that I finally worked up the courage to tell my friends and family that I had a blog and that I wanted to make it into a business. They were supportive and interested, and now that they knew, there wasn’t as much of a reason to keep hiding behind a pen name anymore. Its original purpose—to keep the people I knew in real life from finding me—was no longer an issue. Time to get rid of it, right? Well…

The problem that faced me now lay in the practicalities of transitioning to a different name. Could I transfer all mentions of my name, across my blogs and social media, to my real one without confusing, bewildering or losing my readers and followers? That in itself was a major factor that kept me wavering for months on end. Finally, I realised that I had to make the change—but I didn’t have to make it all at once.

Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Changing Social Media Usernames

Before, my social media usernames had involved my pen name, Skye Fairwin. If I changed that straight to Faye Kirwin, it could confuse the heck out of everyone, and followers who didn’t know about the change would have difficulty finding me. Instead, I decided to change my usernames to my blog name, Writerology, as people already knew me by it and could easily search for it.

Quick tip: If you’re switching to a new name, for whatever reason, consider using your brand name as a username across platforms.

While I was changing the usernames of my social media accounts to Writerology, I made sure my alias, Skye Fairwin, was visible in the name fields to make it clear that it was still me and thereby minimise confusion. For example, on Twitter, my name was Skye Fairwin and my handle was @Writerology; on Pinterest, my name was Skye Fairwin and my username (visible in the URL) was Writerology; and so on.

Quick tip: Make sure followers can easily search for you by making your name and username something that’s already associated with you. Don’t switch to a completely new, unknown name and username, at least immediately.

Step 2: The Reveal

A few weeks after changing my social media usernames to my blog title, I told my pen name story to my blog readers and revealed my real name. At this point, I began hunting down all references to my alias on my blog and changed the name fields of my social media accounts from Skye to Faye. For the next couple of weeks, I posted messages on the accounts recapping the reason for the name change to bring anyone who had missed the original explanation up to speed.

Quick tip: It’s unlikely all your readers and followers will know the story behind your name change. Keep recapping it at different times of day on social media and answer any questions they ask about it for some time after you change names.

Step 3: Keeping Tabs on Your Old Name

Just because you’ve switched to a new name doesn’t mean you can forget about your old one. In all likelihood, people will keep addressing you or mentioning you by the old one for a while after you change. Even now, I search for people tweeting to @SkyeFairwin, sending messages to my Skye Fairwin Google account and referring to me as Skye, so that I don’t miss messages meant for me.

Quick tip: Do regular searches for references to your old name and set up a Google alert to let you know when it’s mentioned online. You can find out how to set up a Google alert here.

It’s hard enough making the decision to change from a pen name to a real one without the fear of losing and confusing readers and followers holding you back too. Once you’re certain that switching to a different name is the best thing for you, follow the steps outlined above and make the experience as simple and painless as possible. Then go out there and rock that new name.

Good luck.

~

Have you ever written under a pen name before?