NaNoWriMo 2019: Tips and Preparation

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Hello, my readers, welcome to another exciting blog post! Today’s topic is—you guessed it—NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event celebrated by writers the world over since 1999.

What is NaNoWriMo?

From November 1st to the end of the month, each writer must produce a 50,000-word novella—first draft version of course. Nobody expects a masterpiece as this is more of a rush-rush creative exercise.

What writers decide to do with the novella after NaNoWriMo is up to them. I’ve heard of some amazing stories emerging from the ritual. I might attempt it myself this year, if time and energy allow. The seasons is a busy interval for most people, and scheduling your NaNoWriMo time is crucial.

—NaNoWriMo Preparation—

If you’re brave enough to undertake this challenge, then there’s some important steps you should take days before November arrives.

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1. Determine Your Writing Medium

Do you plan to write on a desktop computer? What about a laptop? Maybe pencil, pen, or even a typewriter? Figure out your medium for creative writing beforehand so you can set up your workplace appropriately.

Stock up on fresh pencils, printing paper, coffee, or whatever you might need.

2. Plan and Outline Your Story

Days before, begin thinking about what you want to write. Will it be a romance novella or maybe fantasy-adventure? Consider the protagonist and antagonist—the actors that drive the story forward. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect for NaNoWriMo. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be good as a first draft, but it should be coherent and have potential.

3. Have a Plan

Create a diary or calendar, something that can set milestones, deadlines, and objectives. Remember, you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s around 1,700 words a day. Scheduling your progress will improve your organization and help you stay on track.

4. Write, Don’t Edit

For those seeking 1,500+ words a day, you won’t have time to edit or revise. Focus on the writing process only and don’t backtrack, otherwise you may ruin your momentum.

5. Get Excited and Motivated

Nothing kills a project faster than boredom. Be thrilled about your project, just like a sky diver about to plunge from a plane. Remind yourself the reason you’re writing. Is it to improve your writing ability? Maybe you’re finally blocking out time to write that belated story. Use that focus to propel your efforts and stay on top of your game.

6. NaNoWriMo Is What You Make of It

Ultimately, this event is determined by your goals and objectives. Some participates use it as a means to get motivated and don’t care about reaching 50,000 words. Others see it as a challenge that must be completed, up until the final letter.

Set goals within your means and remember to enjoy the process. If it becomes too hectic or stressful, that will hinder the creative process. Turn it down a notch.

—Final Remarks—

NaNoWriMo is a time to get motivated and to explore one’s creative potential, in whatever way chosen. Some writers use it as an excuse to work on belated manuscripts, others on poetry. Then there are those who take the hardcore challenge of developing a whole novella in a month.

Think about what you, as a writer, want out of NaNoWriMo. That goal will be what shapes your experience and what you get out of it. Below are some additional resources for those interested. Thanks for reading and good luck. 🙂

https://www.eadeverell.com/nanowrimo/

https://nybookeditors.com/2017/10/nanowrimo-prep/

https://aspiring.org/2019/10/20/nanowrimo-prep-2019-im-not-racist-but/

 

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The Blank Page and Writers’ Block

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Hello, my readers. Are you enjoying the pleasant Fall weather? The colorful leaves? The garden clean up? It’s been rather brisk out here, and I have some new ideas for writing that I wanted to share.

Today, I’ll discuss the dreaded Blank Page that haunts every writer at one point in his or her career. I’ll also mention the tricks and tips I’ve used in overcoming writer’s block.

—The Blank Page—

A new story always begins with a blank page or screen. This is the beginning of the writing process and it can seem daunting to any writer. What do we do? What do we write? Failure to move forward is often called the Writers’ Block.

Writers’ Block: The Daunting Prospect of Beginning

“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” —Picasso

Just like with a blank canvas, a white page can be overwhelming. It’s a door into infinity, where God gives us the keys and allows us to create our own universe. Yet we hesitate out of doubt and uncertainty. Why is this?

The Social Facet of Writing

To quote another writer:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” —Jennifer Egan

As humans, we are social creatures. Any creative works we share with our family and peers. We hope for the approval and validation of what we are, our talents, and our direction in life. Rejection is like a knife to the gut and we become a failure—or so our ego wants us to believe.

Questions and Self-reflection

Because of these social mechanisms that wire the brain, we may hesitate in front of a blank page. Emotions of confusion, wonderment, procrastination, or anxiety also arise.

  • What will I write? I can’t think of anything.
  • Will the final product be good enough?
  • Am I wasting my time doing this?
  • How do I start this blasted process?

These are some questions we, as writers, may ask.  Five minutes pass, and then an hour. The page is still blank and the creative process is stuck at a deadlock.

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—Freeing the Creative Mind—

I aim to show you how to break that traffic jam in your creative process. Anyone can do it. When a writer enters this realm, the clouds clear and the creative subconscious regenerates.

Here are some techniques I use when dealing with writers’ block.

1. Time and Space

Establishing a quiet area where I won’t be disturbed for writing is crucial. I make sure it’s comfortable and quiet/I ask my living mates not to enter for a designated interval. This is my time to center—and I consider it a part of the writing routine.

2. Relax

Before I tackle a blank page, I learn to relax and let go. I fight against the urge to think about anything, even my story. It can be difficult sometimes, but regulating my breathing using a technique called pranayama certainly helps.

Dedicate a part of your day to meditate, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Some people meditate better at night, other people in the morning. Meditating before you begin writing may be ideal. Find an ideal time that works for you.

3. Creative Tools

I’ve used things like music, essential oil fragrance, and colors to enhance my creative focus. Some authors produce amazing work listening to music—others with no sound at all. Everyone is different; experiment, and find what works for you. It certainly took me a while to develop my creative toolkit. Don’t rush it—remember to relax.

4. Have Fun—Stay Positive

Any sense of competition or raging ambition within my mind usually creates anxiety. There is an urge in my ego to write perfectly and I compare myself to professionals constantly. Believe me, it can get discouraging.

When I look at writing from a positive perspective, things get easier. I now write because it’s fun and I want to share my stories, no matter how good or bad they are. In my opinion, nothing beats the creative process of worldbuilding.

5. Creative Exercises

Sometimes I try a short exercise to get my creative juices flowing. A small poem or haiku, as I mentioned in my previous article, has worked wonders for me. Here are some additional ideas from Vicky Fraser.

6. Simplify

A messy workplace or disorganized writing portfolio is the worst. I keep all my writing projects organized in a portfolio for routine review. This shows me how far I’ve come and encourages me to keep writing.

Having an organized portfolio also gives ideas from previous projects to use in newer ones. Simon Lund mentions some similar methods Hemingway used for his writing projects.

7. Acceptance

Improvement comes naturally with time and I accept that I will never be the best or the worst. When I surrender to this idea, my creative juices run wild, and I can produce paragraphs of content from that blank page.

Acceptance and surrender don’t mean that you make yourself a doormat for life, nor should you lack healthy ambition. You should accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to create the things you can, and develop the wisdom to distinguish the two.

—On a Final Note—

The solutions for writers’ block and the Blank Page are numerous, and I encourage you to seek out your own methods. I hope this article has given you some good ideas to start with. Thank you very much for reading and I’ll leave you with this quote:

“He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
To visit him to-morrow or next day:
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to
meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be moved
To draw him from his holy exercise.”

William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

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I’m not dead!

 

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Hey there, my loyal readers. No, I haven’t been hit by a bus or anything. I’ve been quite busy with work and other things at home. I also took some time to rest and heal myself—something I’ve neglected for far too long. When things settle down, I plan to get back to my blogging routine.


If you missed it, I did some poetry from my WIP, Dragonsblade. It’s called The Ballad of Atläs. The poetry details some of the events within the world of Atlas, namely with the protagonist.


Are you interested in alternative health and conspiracy theory? If so, I did a fantastic review of Edgar Cayce’s work. The book was a blast to read through with all the outlandish ideas it presented. I also did a review of the Law of One series.


How does a writer make his or her work more concise? In an article by a fellow blogger, I shared some of the most devilish words you should avoid. I followed guides like this and I shrunk my WIP from 140,000 words to 130,000 words if you would believe!


A while ago, I did a tutorial on basic map making for fantasy scenarios. The process requires only freeware digital art programs (and a little elbow grease).

For those who don’t want to mess with digital art programs, you can use an online website like Inkarnate. This website allows you to design fantasy maps free; for premium, you have access to additional features.


That’s all for now, my lovely readers. I have some amazing ideas to share with you when my writing juices start flowing again—sooner rather than later. Stay awesome. 🙂

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Writing and Networking

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When it comes to writing, there are many skills that a writer needs to learn. Yet, nothing is more important than networking. This vital skill, especially in our interconnected digital age, is critical for a writer’s success.

What is networking? How can a writer apply it correctly? This article will discuss these questions—so if you’re a writer, feel free to examine this article at length.

—Networking as a Writer—

Networking is when you engage with another individual, whether online or in-person, to discuss a topic of interest. The conversation builds reputation and camaraderie between you two. Networking shares information about what you are and your goals.

Why Should a Writer Network?

I cannot understate the importance of networking for writers, particularly freelance authors. Without a proper network, a writer cannot establish a fanbase or rally social support for his or her WIP.

Imagine you’re a merchant trying to garner attention for your wares in a busy street—all by yourself. Your voice will be a lot louder when you have hundreds or thousands of supporters screaming with you.

What Are the Benefits?

When you network, the other person gains a better understanding of who you are or what you represent. This technique can be beneficial for job hunting, selling a brand, or promoting awareness about a book or WIP.

Tips for Networking

Here are some general tips for engaging with others; they can be applied for promoting your brand, be it a novel, poem, or collection of works. I’ve reformatted them to apply for writers below.

  1. Be Brave—Contacting strangers isn’t always easy. Mustering that courage and initiating the conversation is the first step. Remember you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain from their feedback of you’re WIP.
  2. Understand Your Audience—Once you’ve introduced yourself, get to know the other person. Break the ice and establish an air of friendship.
  3. Be Yourself—Don’t be a robot or a greedy opportunist. The more human you appear, the higher the chance the other person will respect and help you.
  4. Stay Positive—No one likes a whiner. All writers are insecure on some level, but, learning to channel that uncertainty into something productive works miracles.
  5. Remain In Touch—Don’t lose that hard-won fan! Get some contact information to follow up with the person later.
  6. Accept What Doesn’t Work—Not every contact will be helpful or worthwhile. Use those contacts to polish your networking ability and take what feedback you find helpful.
  7. Social Media—As a powerful networking tool, social media can do things that in-person networking cannot. Utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, or independent sites like Critique Circle. Comment on another person’s blog, writing, or post. Who knows; you might become buddies.

—Personal Websites for Networking—

A solid list of contacts is handy, but proving your skills to your fanbase through an online medium like a blog is even better. This will encourage your audience objectively and give them ammo to pitch to others who might be interested. Your contacts will be practically growing themselves!

A Personal Website

Your own domain and website are essential for several reasons:

  1. A website, especially one with your own domain, shows your contacts that you are serious about your project.
  2. It provides a convenient portfolio that they can view.
  3. Websites often have social media compatibility, excellent for sharing.
  4. Blogging sites (like this one) allow your audience to give comments and feedback as needed.
  5. It organizes your WIP.

SEO and Domains

SEO is also crucial for a website. Check out my older article for tips on that. Purchase your own domain from sites like WordPress or GoDaddy—a good rate for a basic domain is around $2-3 a month. This’ll make a difference, trust me.

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A Strong Pitch

When networking, your audience will ask what your WIP is about. You should be prepared, answering in a confident and strong voice. This is called a pitch, or a concise synopsis of your WIP.

Many refer to this as the 60-second pitch.

“60-second pitch – sometimes known as the telephone pitch, or the elevator pitch, or the pitch fest pitch. Because it’s a pitch, you have less than two minutes to deliver.”

How Do You Deliver a Good Pitch?

Here’s a breakdown:

  1. First sentence: Give an original and easy to understand summary of the story in a short sentence. Make it interesting while evoking strong emotion. Mention the word count too.
  2. Second and third sentences: Explain what, who, when, and how. This discusses the main characters and the conflict—the goals of the book.
  3. Final sentence: Summarize how the story or journey progresses to the end. Wrap things up smoothly.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to master your pitch is to rehearse it. First, begin by writing your three or four sentences down on paper. Use it as an aid initially in front of friends and family until you’ve memorized your 60-second pitch.

Eventually, it should become second-nature. Keep refining it, using your voice to highlight important emotions or details. This will catch peoples’ eye.

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Business Cards

Having a business card isn’t a bad idea. Include your contact information on it, notably your website or blog. Design a nifty, unique logo that represents your brand or WIP.

You can produce business cards in bulk for relatively cheap at a store like Staples. A buddy of mine said he made 500 cards for around $20. There are also countless other business card designer websites you can use.

And here’s a tutorial on design in Illustrator for your own business card.  Here’s one for GIMP, a free digital art program.

—In Conclusion—

Some writers might be introverts who prefer the seclusion of their craft. However, to gain a sizable audience, one must first interact with potential readers and sell a book, pushing through all the fears and doubts. Having a strong pitch is an asset and will garner the attention of agents and publishers.

I hope this article has provided a solid introduction to networking for writers. For more information, visit the links below. Thanks for reading!


Additional Sources

http://graemeshimmin.com/creating-an-irresistible-elevator-pitch/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201403/networking-101-how-social-network-effectively

https://www.tomiadeyemi.com/blog/how-to-pitch-a-literary-agent-in-5-easy-steps

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/elevator-speech-examples-and-writing-tips-2061976

https://www.vistaprint.com/business-cards/standard

https://www.tckpublishing.com/creative-business-card-ideas-for-writers/


A reminder: My Published Poetry!!!

My published poetry is now available! You can view and order the collected works here. Look for New York’s Best Emerging Poets 2019: An Anthology. My pen name is Ed White. The book is a collection of poems from like-minded authors, compiled into a beautiful collection. Many of the poems are quite impressive.

You can view and buy other books from ZPublishing too. Any purchases made through the above link benefit this blog. Thanks a lot. 🙂

 

SEO Articles, Poetry, Book Reviews, and Other Goodies

gold pen on journal book

Hello, everyone. It’s been a busy summer for me; between working on the family garden, editing my manuscript, reading,  family business, and working with beta readers—I’ve been swamped with work. I also have a prospective job at a local store starting soon—they support local writers and it could be a major stepping stone for me.

SEO Articles

And how has your summer been, my lovely readers? Long, lazy days or full schedules? If you get the time, check out my recent post on writing SEO articles. It’s a fantastic read if you’re a blogger yourself or write articles for a living. Who knows, you might pick up a tip or two that you didn’t know. 🙂

Blogging Tips

Speaking of blogging here’s a post from a fellow blogger—what to blog about for unpublished authors. It’s a nifty post and definitely worthwhile to check out.

Artwork on Patreon

I’ve been working on artwork for my book cover and original characters. My new Patreon page is in the works and will feature some cool content related to my upcoming book: Dragonsblade. Subscribe if you’d like to support me. Thanks.

Book Review: Dream Waters

I did a book review of Dream Waters, a paranormal romance novel with fantasy elements, set in the present day. The author is a local writer where I live—she writes good work, so please check out her novel. Thanks.

Poetry Publication!

Lastly, my poem was selected out of a pool of candidates for publication by ZPublishing again! I’ll have a link to the product page when it becomes available. Exciting times! 😀


That’s all for now. Stay cool in this hot weather, my readers. Cheers.

 

Tips for Writing SEO Articles

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Articles are attractive specimens for the presentation of information. In our age of information, the internet is rife with these nifty critters. Surprisingly, few fully understand it, but I will address that here.

Writing SEO Articles

While the method of writing SEO articles is solely up to the author, there are some guidelines to understand. These pointers should improve searchability and make the lives of both reader and writer convenient.

SEO Articles—What Are They?

The Definition of SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a convenient and lucrative way for a brand to advertise itself. Usually, through search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Duckduckgo, an article with good SEO will appear higher on the listings.

This feature encourages viewers to visit the article’s page. As a result, the page gets higher views and ratings. With increased scores, search engines rank the page higher, leading to more visits.

In other words, the SEO is like the pitch given to the search engine. Better pitches get better hits. Here is an idea:

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Types of SEO Pages

There are many types of web pages you can produce while writing SEO articles. Here are some to consider:

  • Product review pages: designed for the retail of goods and services
  • Blog posts (like this one): a flexible—and popular—way to engage an audience
  • News articles: essentially a digital newspaper or magazine
  • Guides and pointers: instructions on ‘how to’ something
  • Vlogs: pages that—unlike blogs—focus more on video and visual presentation; text transcripts work in this scenario
  • Glossaries: lists or dictionaries that viewers can reference

How to Write SEO Articles

Preparation for SEO Writing

Before writing SEO articles, you must plan out what you intend to publish to the world. Ask yourself the following:

  • What idea is worth pitching?
  • What is the objective of this article? What are the keywords?
  • How does one present said idea efficiently?
  • What type of audience should the article target?
  • How long should the article be?

Define Your Goals

Keep it simple, but detailed enough that it satisfies what readers need. For example, on a product review page, the prose should be alluring and informative. Use supplementary blogs and pages to add to your testimony.

Google, in particular, ranks articles higher if other blogs and pages link to it. This suggests trust. If you link to one person’s blog, they—or someone else—may return the favor. Forming a web of digital blogging networks is an excellent start.

Keywords and Key Phrases

Identify what your article is about with a few core words. Let this be the crux of writing the SEO article—what drives it. Include it in the title, intro paragraph, and ending paragraph. Distribute the keywords throughout the section in an informative way.

Do not go overboard. This may seem sloppy and unappealing (the keywords should be around .5% to 1.5% of the words, for most articles). This will boost the quality of your SEO and attract more readers.

Develop a spreadsheet first, detailing the data about keywords and potential competition. A simple Excel or Google spreadsheet works well enough. You can also use AdWord to help with the analytics of it all.

Remember, research, double check, and research again. The level of research you pour into an article will illustrate itself through length, clarity, uniqueness, and readability. Perfection is an impossibility, of course, but it is a solid ambition.

Audience

It is essential to know your viewer base before article construction. Different age and ethnic groups react differently to content. Research can help you identify the right audience group.

Depending on your reader base, the prose and complexity of the article should scale appropriately. For example, younger viewers prefer faster, more visual content. Older readers may prefer a more traditional or slower presentation.

If you’re writing for a very generalized audience and are unsure, use the average reading level for the country (around 8th grade). Here is an excellent program you can ‘copypasta’ your work into for analysis. It is also suitable for word counting and frequency— a fantastic SEO writing tool.

Headers

On that note of selecting an audience, there are ways to improve readability. For starters, master the usage of headers. Headers come with tags H1 through H6. H1 is the largest and most important. Use the header tags as you would a filing cabinet.

Here is an example:

H1 Header {the title}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

Notice how the headers nest within each other in an organized manner. The H1 header contains the H2 and H3 sections—the H2 only the H3. An organized routine like this can greatly improve readability in an article.

Headers are also an opportunity to insert keywords into your article, for the sake of SEO. Search engines rank keywords in headers higher than in paragraphs. Headers summarize and offer hints to what a paragraph contains.

The words in a header for writing SEO articles should be unique and tailored towards the article’s objectives (which you hopefully outlined enough, before writing). If not, do not worry, it will come with practice and dedication.

Scale, Intro, and Outro Paragraphs

Most articles drift between 500 and 3000 words. Items longer than this some people won’t have the time to read. Instead, they will examine the first and last few paragraphs to get a general synopsis of the article.

Search engines tend to favor SEO articles around the 1500 to 2000 word count. This implies abundance and value. Determine what word density is best for your blogging or company needs. Some writers do better on less.

Limit your paragraphs to three lines or less, if possible. The average attention span is low for readers in our busy modern society. Most readers prefer to get to the juicy tidbits of the article, rather than slog through paragraphs.

Highlight Important Points

It helps to highlight vital pieces in an article. Highlighting with headers, italics, or bold can help skimmers detect the juicy information in your article. Keywords also help, as some readers may use a find tool to locate a specific vocabulary.

This practice provides the reader with more flexibility, as those who are pressed for time can extract crucial parts readily, while others can choose to read the whole document at their leisure.

Catchy title

This should be a no-brainer for most writers. The title should be unique, snagging the reader’s interest, while not long enough to sound daunting. The title should match the information you present, giving the reader a snapshot of what to expect.

Make it a point to remember this point, as people absorb scientific articles differently than subjective ones. A simple blog update versus a lengthy report is like comparing apples and oranges. They will each attract their own unique viewer base.

Lists and bullet points

Readers love organized records, and bullet points should improve SEO.  Lists are easier to comprehend and take less time to digest. Make sure your listings are informative and straightforward. Your readers will appreciate it.

When you construct a list, capitalize only the first letter in a list item. Forgo periods at the end of the sentence, unless the listing is lengthy. Keep it short and sweet. If you find another method that works better, great, keep at it.

Coffee

Last, but not least, be sure to have that cup of coffee ready. I’m joking, of course (well maybe), but you should make whichever adjustments you feel necessary for a working environment.

Some people function better in an organized office, for example. Others find that classical music helps focus—whatever gets you going.

Conclusion

SEO articles are a curious breed of digital beasts. While difficult to understand at first, they can significantly improve the hits an article receives—this is no guarantee, of course. Persistence is important.

Becoming adept at SEO content takes time. Be patient with yourself. Take breaks from writing if you need to (I’ve done all-nighters before so I can relate). SEO articles are still a relatively new phenomenon in our digital age.

Regardless, learning the basics of SEO is essential to any digital writer. I hope this humble blog post has shown the significance of SEO—how to get started. For more information, visit the hyperlinks below.

And don’t forget the coffee. You’ll need it. 😉

Thank you for reading and good luck.


Love and gratitude to my viewers—click that follow button if you want updates. Thanks. 🙂

Additional SEO Writing Sources

SEO Copywriting and Search Engine Optimization

SEO for Dummies

SEO Beginner’s Guide

Secrets to Professional SEO Writing

Additional SEO Software Tools:

BuzzSumo—quick searches on a keyword for relevant social media threads

Moz—another keyword research tool

SEMrush—keyword rankings; fast and easy to use

WordCounter—keyword density, word counting, and more

Grammarly—grammar, readability, and overall sentence structure

 

Developing Conflict and Resolution in your stories

Developing conflict is essential to a good story. Often this takes place between protagonist and antagonist. Remember to keep your readers at the edge of their seats, and they’ll keep flipping pages. Here’s an article from a fellow blogger that explains what I mean. Cheers.

Lorraine Ambers

Characters are the heart of a story, the plot is its skeleton, but the blood running through its veins is conflict. Without it, your characters have nothing to fight for, no arc will develop, and your plot will wither and die. In this post, we’ll explore the internal and external conflict to resolution elements that could be evoked to create a truly dynamic novel .

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The protagonists traits need to be carefully selected for each story. Their backstory will colour their personality, and mould their goals. It’s important to understand where their character journey starts, so that you can plan for their reactions by understand their limiting beliefs. You should know what they want, and what needs are hidden beneath.  

Within the protagonist is the delicate balance of their life’s story, and before the plots even started, there might be an internal conflict brewing beneath the surface…

View original post 389 more words

Book Length, Word Count, and Readability in Writing

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The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. It may not appear to be at first, but there is a formula followed by countless writers and publishers. Depending on the target audience, genre, readability, and book type, the word count in a book can vary substantially.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets. If you’re a writer with questions about how long your writing should be, this article is for you.

—Book Length Guidelines—

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book length. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. For example, YA (young adult) will—usually—be less than the book-length for a more mature audience.

Age group word count examples:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3k
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800
  • Play: 1k to 32k
  • Middle Grade: 25k to 40k
  • Young Adult: 50k to 80k

Genre

Book genres, of course, play an essential role in the word count of a novel.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world from the ground up. This takes time to describe all the new rules and phenomena associated with such a fictional universe.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries prefer a lower word count—of course, there are always exceptions.

Genre group examples:

  • Romance & Erotica: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 140,000

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief, but powerful tales. A novella—for those who don’t know—is a compact novel, longer than flash fiction and short stories, with a fleshed out story and characters; ideal for a quick read.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 300 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 30,000
  • Novellas: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Novels: 50,000 to 100,000

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—The Endgame—

You can have your long epic fantasy and do well with it. However, for new writers, it is best to start small and work your way up. A book-length that is simple and sweet reads best.

Legacies

Once authors have a handful of books under their belt—and a fanbase—they can gamble a little more. Agents and publishers can reference this track record, and this increases the chance the book gets published regardless of word count or even prose finesse. If you have enough avid fans who will buy the book, publishers will overlook certain shortcomings, since they know the books will rake in profits regardless.

For this reason, some authors have started small in self-publishing like Michael J. Sullivan before they hit the goldmine.

Quantity Versus Quality

Quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it probably won’t read well to the eye of an agent or a casual reader.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the word/phrase is, the better. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Reading Level

The average reading level for America is around the 8th-grade mark. If the author wants a book to read smoothly among a wider audience, then a book should read close to this level. By using simpler and shorter phrases, the readability of the prose goes up.

Higher reading associates with scholarly articles and doctoral theses; that’s the point of them, to demonstrate a graduate’s intelligence. Informational articles like this one can calibrate higher; their purpose is to inform and advise. Fictional novels, especially YA and children books, are for people to enjoy and immerse themselves in an easy-to-read environment.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion
  • Reader enjoyment

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either as that slogs the pacing and reduces readability.

Chapter Impact

Chapter length can also have an impact on readability and word count. Short chapters organize a book better, improve readability, and leave readers with a sense of satisfaction when they count how many sections of the book they have finished. Shorter chapters also make for good stopping points when a reader needs to put the novel down.

Longer chapters are tedious, but sometimes necessary when a section of a book demands enough information or plot progress to benefit the story and characters. In this case, scene breaks are good for breaking down long chapters.

Reader & Writer Relationship

Half of telling a story comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment.

A book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader. If you can provide that opportunity—for a reader to have fun and explore—they will flip pages nonstop and won’t care about book length.

—Conclusion—

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on his or her goals and ambitions. Identifying core variables like the audience, genre, book type, readability, and the author’s legacy are essential to the process. Authors who have built up an impressive resume of stories can skirt the rules.

A writer must first do the research, just as a builder must first draw out blueprints for a house—and research the terrain. Each brick of a manuscript’s foundation should be carefully placed with meaning. If you do this, your house of stories will last against the elements of agents, publishers, and critics alike.

Here’s a free online program called WordCounter that not only checks the word count in a written document but also checks the reading level, reading or speaking time, and word frequency. Just paste your work into the program, and it will analyze everything for you automatically.

Thank you for reading and good luck in your writing endeavors.


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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction: A Revisit

 

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or screenwriter should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

—What is the Hero Journey?—

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic that centers around the protagonist’s progression through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey, from which the audience witnesses the evolution of the hero.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero, while the second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act; these are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey—and some are necessary to flesh out the story.

—Act I—

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incidence like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

—Act II—

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is truly ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

—Act III—

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest. This brief respite offers another connection between the hero and the audience as both understand the danger and gravity of the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist, risking life and limb to complete the ordeal. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. S/he must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive against the antagonist.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

—Act IV—

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the final Threshold—likened to the supreme ordeal on steroids. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero immensely, evoking his/her greatest fears and requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person–transmuted into the true hero, and no longer the false facade from before. Following the brush of death, the adventurer conquers the final ordeal, or the Dragon at the Final Threshold, seizing the Elixir. Reconciliation with the Father is obtained and the hero is purged, fully equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the ordinary world as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the final ordeal, s/he improves upon the ordinary world and a new era of peace and reflection results. The prize is multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey back to the ordinary world, but things will never be as they were.

—Conclusion—

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

While the hero’s cycle is a general formula for a fictional plot, there is a multitude of additional elements, such as sub-cycles that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing a form of exile to live a new life more suiting to his or her needs.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey repeats in every good fiction; it’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is a blueprint from which anyone, as a soul, can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.

Thank you for reading, and happy Memorial Day! 🙂

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Making Maps for Fantasy Settings: A Tutorial

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Crafting a map for your fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, it dramatically compliments the space where the story takes place. When done correctly, a map benefits to both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

—Some Startup Info—

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP, which is like an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, last I checked.

—Creating a Digital Map—

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this.

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth—go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

That may be a doozy of a step forward, but allow me to explain. I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. One suggestion I have is—if you’re doing this method, select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

In this example, I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever you need to.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also essential.

AtlasMapTutorial7

 

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

—Conclusion—

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just one of them. I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Thanks for reading and click that “follow” button below if you like what you see. Cheers. 😎