The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

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Tips For Marketing Your Self-Published Book

Marketing SelfPubed BookNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

When it comes to self-publishing, writing and publishing your book is only half the battle. The other half is an arduous, never-ending process of self-promotion. Many indie authors would prefer to write than to spend time networking and marketing. And many writers don’t even know where to start marketing. But being an indie author means that you are the only person responsible for the success of your book. You choose how it’s marketed and where. And to tell the truth, I’ve often found this to be simultaneously freeing and terrifying. So let’s take some of the mystery out of marketing and start selling your book.

Why Marketing is SO Important
As an indie author (especially while your fan-base is still new), gaining exposure is the hardest thing to do. Making money with your writing is typically not as simple as putting your book up on a website and then watching the dollars roll in. In most cases, people won’t even know your book exists. That’s where marketing comes in. You need to put your book in front of potential readers and grab them with your awesome cover and product description in order for them to buy it, read it, love it, and then tell all their friends about it.

When to Start Marketing Your Book
As soon as possible! You can start marketing before you’re even done writing your book. This way you can create buzz about your book and get readers waiting to buy it. But I’d advise that you only do so once you’ve decided on the final title. Nothing’s more confusing to a reader than ever-changing titles.

And before you start spreading the word, make sure that you know – without a doubt – that you will deliver your book by the date you’ve set. Don’t let your readers down, or they might not come back when you actually do release your book.

When to Stop Marketing Your Book
Never! If your book sales dip one month, who’s to say that they won’t spike the next? Keep making your book known. You never know when you’ll reach a new reader that will become a life-long fan.

Where to Market Your Book
The key is to reach as many potential readers as possible – and it’s even better if you can target people who you think will actually like your book. You’ll want to research where your ideal readers are (what sites are they on?) and cater to them. Here are just a few examples of the most popular methods of self-marketing:

  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.
  • Your blog/website
  • Your mailing list of people who have subscribed to your site
  • Other people’s blogs/sites (by doing a guest post or blog tour)
  • Book advertising sites (this one takes some research, but you can find sites that will advertise your book for you – this usually requires a fee or that your book meets certain criteria)

How Much Will It Cost?
Basically, marketing a book will cost as much as you want it to. Some people swear by advertising on sites like BookBub (which can get pricey), others like to spend a couple bucks on paid Facebook or Twitter ads. And then there are people who like to advertise without spending any money whatsoever (social media, your own site, etc.).

I can’t say that any method is any better than others. But this is how I approach my marketing:

  • I market anywhere that I can for free
  • I make sure any sites that I choose to advertise on are legitimate
  • I’m not afraid to spend money to make money (provided my budget allows for it)

Sticking to the Guidelines
If you’re marketing on any sites that are not your own (this includes social media), make sure you are adhering to the guidelines set forth by that site. Don’t lie about the genre of your book just to get advertising space and don’t spam your audience (see below). This sort of behavior will only alienate potential readers. Be respectful of platforms that are willing to market your book for you – read their guidelines and follow them as though your writing career depends on it.

A Word About Spamming
Please, self-published authors, do not spam your audience or followers with incessant tweets or posts or pop-ups pertaining to your new book. Yes, keep it on their radar, but do not send out 100 messages a day telling the same people the same thing over and over and over. Make sure you are professional and that you’re representing yourself in a way that you’re proud of.

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Any questions or thoughts on marketing your self-published book? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

 

We’ve Got You Covered: A Guide to Book Covers for Indie Authors

coveredNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

So you’ve writing your book (or maybe you’ve already finished writing it). You’ve set a launch date and are working your way through revisions. Now comes the fun part – at least in my opinion – THE COVER!

Why You Should Care About Your Cover

I have news for you: people actually DO judge a book by its cover – especially when deciding whether they want to buy it. As an indie writer, you get to be the one who calls the shots at every step of your book’s development. This includes cover design. And I will warn you: the cover is not something to take lightly. Your cover is the aesthetic realization of your creative labor – you want it to be stunning and accurately reflect the content of your book.

What a Great Book Cover Can Do For You

An exceptional cover works to do multiple things for you. It attracts new readers, boosts sales, and breaks the indie stereotype of unprofessionalism. Ultimately, a good cover means your book can (visually) compete with the thousands of other books out there. If other self-published authors and traditional publishing houses are using breathtaking covers, you better be too.

Why You Should Probably Hire A Designer

I don’t care how much you like the cover you created yourself. Or how talented of a photographer you are. Unless you have a lot of experience in graphic design, I would strongly recommend you hire a designer to do your book cover. Don’t jeopardize your success with a sub-par cover.

Components of a Great Cover

Your book cover should be many things. But, in particular, it should be:

  • Eye-catching. This will help you stand out from the crowd and attract new readers.
  • Professional. As mentioned above, you need to have a professional cover. Make sure you’re presenting your work and yourself as professionally as possible.
  • Accurate. There should be no typos in your book title. And further more, it should accurately reflect the content of your book. Look at other books in your genre. If you’re writing a romance, make sure the cover LOOKS and FEELS like a romance cover. The same goes for if you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, etc. You want your reader to know what kind of book they’re getting into just by looking at the cover (this way you head off bad reviews from people who were expecting a fantasy epic but instead got historical fiction).
  • Formatted Correctly. Make sure that the digital file of your cover meets the correct requirements/specifications for each platform you upload it to. The same goes for submitting your cover for Print On Demand services.

Where to Find Designers

So where do you go to find a great cover design? I have a few recommendations (based on personal experience and word-of-mouth suggestions):

  • Fiverr. I personally get most of my designs from Fiverr. There are tons of highly rated and talented artists there that will make you a custom cover starting from $5. The rates vary, depending on the kind of cover you want, but it is usually one of the most affordable options.
  • 99 Designs. I hear a lot of indie authors using this site where graphic designers compete to design this cover, meaning you end up with a good amount of options to pick from. This is a more pricey option. They have various packages that give you more services, but your looking at spending a few hundred dollars here.
  • Freelancing Sites. You can often find freelance graphic designers on sites like Elance, oDesk, etc. I only warn that you do not pay upfront – make sure to receive your cover (or at least a sample of it) first before paying. You want to make sure you like your cover and that it’s good quality. Pricing here varies.
  • Social Media. If you can’t seem to find a great designer, head to Twitter or other social media platforms to start your search. Send out a post saying you’re looking for a designer. Or do some digging around with keyword searches. Who knows what you might find. Again, pricing varies.

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So there you have it. Making sure you have a great cover is one of the most crucial steps in self-publishing. Do you have any tips for covers? Any designers you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

The Ridiculous Writing Cleanse

When was the last time you wrote something absolutely silly? What was the last story or article that you wrote which, from the get-go, you knew was so ridiculous you couldn’t image posting/publishing (let alone finishing) it?

For me, that was yesterday. I wrote a flash fiction piece so unbelievably NOT ME, that I couldn’t believe I was spending time on it. It was so far from my typical flowery-prose-poetry-literary style of writing, that I felt uncomfortable writing it.

But that’s just the point of this post: it’s important to occasionally write something that is foreign to you. Something outside your comfort zone. Something that challenges you. Something silly.

I starting writing silly pieces of fiction and goofy articles a while back – things meant to break writers block and that were for my eyes only. And having seen the positives that come along with letting go and writing something ridiculous, I now make it a point to write something silly at least once a month.

So I challenge you to do a Ridiculous Writing Cleanse. Writing something silly (or something outside your typical genre, style, etc.) is hugely beneficial. Whether you intend to publish or burn your silly writings, there are tons of reasons to do a Ridiculous Writing Cleanse.

The perks of The Ridiculous Writing Cleanse:
– Gets your creativity going
– Allows you to let go of perfection and have fun with your writing
– Busts through writers block
– Clears out the ridiculous ideas you have bouncing around your head and distracting you from your other writing projects
– Challenges you to write something different and makes you a stronger writer
– May even turn into a useable piece of writing

So if you’re in a writing rut or want to give yourself a challenge, give writing something silly a shot! It’s weird and a little counterintuitive (why write something you know you’re likely going to end up throwing away). But it’s fun and it reminds you to shut off your inner-editor and just write. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

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What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever written? Let us know in the comments below!

Guest Post: Script Chix – What’s in a Name?

At Script Chix, we read anywhere from five to 50 screenplays each week. Over the years of reading, we’ve come up with a number of familiar pitfalls we often see writers fall into when drafting scripts.

One of our biggest pet peeves is the issue of character names. Now, that might seem silly to some of you – after all, who cares what a character is named? Believe us when we say, a character by any other name does NOT smell as sweet.

Things to remember:

1) Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. In the world of screenwriting, this is especially important. If you have an entire page of dialogue between Jennifer and Jenny, your reader is going to get confused really fast. And try to steer clear of rhyming, as well – not just alliteration. Both can confuse your readers, and, unless necessary for plot or character reasons, should be avoided.

Remember, someone, somewhere, is tearing her hair out trying to remember whether Jennifer is the hot doctor or the nerdy reporter – or is it Jenny who’s the hot doctor and Jennifer who’s the sleazy businesswoman?

One trick we’ve learned to suggest to writers is to keep the alphabet in mind. Name your lead character something beginning with A, and move on from there consecutively for every additional character (B, C, D, E, and so on). This will ensure there is no confusion between your protagonist and his proctologist.

2) This isn’t a necessity, as sometimes the best characters have the most bland names, but… try to come up with a name that really suits the character. Some writers we know have told us that the character picks their own name, but we tend to find that that’s not always the case.

Think about the tone of your piece; while “Satanico Pandemonium” works well in From Dusk Til Dawn, it might not work as well in The Hours. Maximus Decimus Meridius is great for Gladiator, but wouldn’t really work in Legally Blonde.

Think about time period, genre, and your character’s personality for guidance. That doesn’t mean the name must stand out – Elle Woods isn’t as memorable a name as Alotta Fagina – but it should suit who your character is.

3) Finally, and this should be obvious with any writing: remember to proofread. We can’t count the number of scripts we’ve read where a character’s name was full of typos (because spellcheck didn’t catch it), or where a name changed halfway through. Really doing a thorough proof of character names will help avert this frequent problem.

As for ways to come up with these brilliant, mind-blowing names, we do what lots of writers do: look at baby books, search the internet for inspiration, look through “meaning of flowers” books and dictionaries… and, of course, look to friends of ours to see if anyone we know has just the right name for our favorite character.

To wrap up, here are some of our own favorite character names, which truly seem to fit the people they represent:

Holden Caulfield. Maleficent. Hannibal Lecter. Atticus Finch. Ebenezer Scrooge.

What are your favorites?

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ABOUT SCRIPT CHIXUntitled5

Miranda Sajdak and Sandra Leviton are writer/producers currently living in Los Angeles. They host events for writers in the Los Angeles area, and provide screenplay notes, help with proofreading, and numerous other writer services through their company Script Chix. They have a great appreciation for horror, thriller, complex female characters, and writers with a unique narrative voice. More can be found on their website at http://www.scriptchix.com.

 

Tips and Tricks for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo 2014: Tips and Tricks for NaNo Success!The countdown has begun: less than 20 days to the first Camp NaNoWriMo session of 2014. Whether this is your first NaNo or your seventh, it’s going to be a challenging month. But there are ways to make it easier.

I’ve taken part in three NaNoWriMos and four Camp sessions now, but every time I NaNo, I learn something new. Here’s a collection of some of the tips, tricks and techniques I’ve picked up over the years to make NaNoWriMo more manageable for a frantic writer.

TIP 1: Set yourself a daily target that’s more than your minimum.

Take your overall word count target for the month and divide it by 30. That’s the minimum amount you should write each day to stay on track—but what happens if you fall behind, unforeseen circumstances impede your progress, or the dreaded Week 2 Blues bite your word count in the backside?

By aiming for slightly more than your daily minimum, particularly during that first week, when the Camp buzz is electric and the word sprints frantic, you’re buffered against those not-so-great days, when writing a single word is as awful as the sound of a book’s spine breaking.

If you’re aiming for 50k next month, try writing 2000 words a day rather than 1667 during the first week. If your word count target is higher or lower, 10,000 words or 999,999, push yourself to write that little bit more than the bare minimum—even if it’s only 100 words—and you’ll see the benefits later in the month.

TIP 2: Plan your writing time in advance.

NaNoWriMo is challenging enough without multiple other demands on your time as well. Where possible, try to clear out your schedule of non-essential tasks and dedicate that time to writing. When ditching a task isn’t an option, block out writing time around it instead.

Think about when you’re most productive. First thing on a morning? During your lunch break? On a night? Schedule writing time then, plus wherever you can fit it into your day. Once you’ve put aside time for writing, guard it fiercely. I recommend getting yourself a dragon to help with this job.

TIP 3: Take advantage of every opportunity to write.

You can’t plan for every eventuality and sometimes time becomes free that you hadn’t anticipated. Don’t waste it.

Your bus is running late? Whip out your notebook and scribble down some words. You’ve arrived early to your dentist appointment? Don’t sit in the waiting room reading leaflets on how to floss correctly. Your teeth might thank you for this but your word count won’t. Write. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it all adds up.

TIP 4: Carry a notebook with you everywhere.

For those glorious, unexpected moments when inspiration strikes or there’s an opening in your schedule, have a notebook handy. Pocket-sized ones are ideal.

Alternatively, get an app on your phone that allows you to write down those ephemeral ideas before they dissipate. Writer is a good app for this. So is Evernote.

TIP 5: Delete nothing.

Sometimes, when you’re splurging onto a page, it can be tempting to give in to that nagging voice of doubt, whispering all kinds of discouraging nonsense into your ear, and hit the backspace key. Please, resist.

When you’re caught up in the rush of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to lose perspective on what you’ve written. You may think it’s terrible now, but in a few months’ time, you could look at it again and realise it’s nowhere near as bad as you feared. This has happened to me a lot.

Keep whatever you write and decide whether or not to cut it later, when you have a clear head. Until then, if you really don’t want to let those words wallow in your WIP, change the font colour to white so that you can’t see them or cut and paste them into a new document and label it ‘extras.’

Oh, and I suppose deleting nothing helps with your word count too ;)

TIP 6: Word sprint your way to victory.

Pumping out ‘x’ words a day, every day, for 30 days, can be exhausting, especially if the words are coming at a crawl. If you’re getting your daily goal finished within an hour or so though, it suddenly becomes much easier. And what better way to crank out words on the double than word sprinting?

Join us at @TheSprintShack for epic word battles all next month or check out our Upcoming Sprints and Notable Sprinters pages to find out when other word sprints are going down! It’s going to be an explosive month, that’s for sure.

If you want even more NaNoWriMo-related advice and motivation, check out our posts from last November’s NaNo! If the quality vs. quantity debate is on your mind, you want resources on hand should you fall behind on your word count, or you’d like tips to help you keep up your pace while sprinting, then this is the category for you.

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Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo 2014? What word count will you be aiming for?

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And let’s not forget your next Story Shuffle prompt!

Character: a blind pianist
Setting: a café in Florence
Year/era: late 1700s
Item of interest: a mask that steals people’s faces

Ooh, what a story starter! I have a few ideas already. How about you?