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Posted in All Articles, Dealing with haters

Blunt truth: readers don’t respect authors anymore. We authors need to get our power back: here’s how to do it.

Today, I have for you another article about the rocky relationship between the author and their readers.

I got the idea after one of my Twitter friends unpublished her book so as to protect it from an avalanche of negative reviews written by a “professional” ARC service.

If reviewers discourage your from writing, and you dread checking your books on Amazon and Goodreads for fear of cruel reviews, please know that you are not alone.

Now, let’s just stop being afraid and say the blunt truth aloud:

  • Readers don’t respect authors anymore.
  • Readers believe they have total superiority over an author’s destiny.
  • Readers feel unpunished.

How do I know that these things are true? Well, let’s take a look at the following situations that every indie author out there is facing:

  • Readers want to read books for free, or 0.99$ – which is an absurd price, if we take into consideration the fact how much money, time and effort it takes to write and publish a book.
  • Readers expect authors to provide free book copies AND PAY FOR THEIR REVIEW. Of course, the positive outcome of this transaction is not guaranteed.
  • Readers have no boundaries whatsoever when it comes to giving negative feedback – their reviews are heavily subjective, dependent on the mood, and often cruel.
  • Readers do not seek to point out the good in what they are reading – on the contrary, it’s like they are scanning the books they receive for what’s wrong in them.
  • Readers consider themselves “ultimate critics” and decide what authors should and shouldn’t write (or publish). They go even as far to point out the “things to correct” in their reviews and wait for the author to apply their advice.

Because of these (and other) things, many authors feel furious, vengeful, depressed and hopeless.

They are tired of working for ungrateful people who can only shit on everyone else’s work.

They are tired of being trash-talked, disrespected, invalidated.

They are tired of hearing that their skills are not good enough, just as tired they are of always selling short the fruits of their hard work.

I have a few theories why readers don’t respect authors anymore:

  • Young teens in junior high schools are encouraged to criticise famous authors such as William Shakespeare during classes. If they aren’t taught to respect the authors of the classics, they definitely won’t respect modern authors (especially indies).
  • Readers know that nowadays everyone can be published and feel excused to criticize all books they didn’t like. 
  • The internet is changing, but it had allowed anonimity for way too long, which had given trolls, haters a feeling of impunity.
  • Instead of advertising their books as luxury goods, authors constantly lower their prices, offer free reads, and beg everyone to take a look at their work.
  • Very often, readers who blog are more popular than authors who have just published. Since lots of authors want a shortcut to fame, they beg bloggers to let them show up on their stage. Bloggers learn that they have power, and they start overusing it.
  • Amazon, Goodreads and other websites do not allow for removal of demeaning reviews posted under published books. This means that these reviews will slowly become chained to the title, and a further description of what the title is about. This is giving the reader the feeling that they can deter the author’s future readers, and it gives them a sense of power.

Now, let’s drop this subject to talk for a moment about teachers’ strike in Poland. It started a few days ago and hasn’t been solved yet. On the first or second day, I don’t remember anymore, only 4 schools in the whole country remained open. The teachers demanded better wages and more respect. They refused to organize final exams, and now everyone who had disrespected them – the students, the parents, the politicians – are in big trouble.

What this is teaching me, my dear authors, is that we should do the exact same thing. Go on strike to regain our power. Here are 10 ways, how we, authors, can do it:

  1. Stop giving out free copies. My arch enemy has told me once, people don’t respect things that they get for free, so, I don’t give anything out for free. I was surprised by that attitude, but now I think that she was right.
  2. Stop pricing your books below 2.99$. 2.99$ is not the end of the world, and the people who want to buy your book will buy it nevertheless. Don’t be a theater that lets just everyone in. Make the tickets expensive, so only the most faithful type of audience can watch the performance.
  3. Stop treating reviews as a must-have marketing equipment for your book. Instead, write a very long description for the page on which it is sold. All readers check the description first. If it’s well written, it will charm your reader and they will make a decision to buy your book. When the reader is decided, the negative reviews aren’t going to deter them.
  4. Stop giving book bloggers so much importance. Celebrities don’t bribe fans to ask their autographs publicly, and they don’t beg journalists to write articles about them. Be like a celebrity. Don’t beg, bribe or pay people to write about your work. If your work is a high quality product, well positioned online and advertised in the right ways, it will get the target audience’s interest – even if there are no reviews under it at all (or if the reviews are negative).
  5. Temporarily unpublish your books if they are under severe attacks. When the page with your book is gone, haters won’t be able to leave any more reviews. This will show them their place: without your book, their mean comments are completely meaningless and wouldn’t even exist. After some time passes and things calm down, republish the book. If the damage is significant, consider deleting and republishing your book under a different title. Problem solved.
  6. Block people from writing comments on your website / blog and YouTube channel and delete the contact form from your website. Don’t let just anyone contact you this easily. Start creating barriers between you and your audience. If they want to get to know you, they will have to buy your books. Be mysterious and available only for the chosen ones. The publisher dying to offer you a 1 billion dollar contract happens as often as Halley’s Comet, and if he wants to find you, he will, even without all doors and windows of your palace wide open. Don’t let the flies to come in.
  7. Build a significant social media presence. If a book blogger can do it, you can do it as well. I’ll tell you more: go to book bloggers’ Twitter accounts and start adding their followers.You will be surprised how many follow back because they are genuinely interested in your stuff.
  8. Show everyone how powerful you actually are. Appearing as powerful, when you are broke and broken, is a book-size topic – and I am an expert on it (haha). To make a long story short: post about your successes and about how much you are enjoying yourself. One of my favorite Law Of Attraction coaches, Melody Fletcher, had once recorded a video where she told anyone interested how she has it all. That feeling in your chest a moment ago – was it a pang of jealousy? Do it to those that don’t respect you. Got a bad review? Post a stock photo of a bright swimming pool with the appropriate caption. Voila! The blogger who had written a bad review is probably rotting in front of their computer, but you are (at least mentally) in Copacabana, enjoying your vegan smoothie.
  9. Defiantly keep doing your thing in spite of what everyone else says. Our parents, teachers and bosses disciplined us to do the things that they wanted us to do. We were conditioned for years to listen to what others say and respond to it in a positive way. While we should be considerate of other people’s needs and wants so we can have a peaceful existence in the society, we aren’t required to follow advice coming from people who don’t have our best interests at heart. Defiantly keep doing your thing.
  10. Don’t forget your other blessings. Yes, it is upsetting to see someone trash your work and the surname with which you are signing it. However, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy a person. Think about all the people that you have helped. About all these people who have told you an honest and heartfelt thank you. Maybe you donate to charity, maybe you helped your suicidal friend get through another night, maybe you gave your last money to someone who needed it. I don’t know. All I know is, writing a bad book is not a crime, and being trash-talked by mean readers speaks volumes about who they are, not about who you are.

We authors need to get rid of the need to please and impress every single reader. This is a task that we can’t fulfill, no matter how hard we try. There are some writers who claim that maybe the negative reviews are right and we need to polish our books. I will never put my signature under that. We authors publish our books only when we are 100% ready that everything about them is right. And most of the time, we get bad reviews because the book wasn’t written according to someone’s private expectations – which is definitely not fair. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to rewrite my books over and over again so as to please every hater out there.

We must learn to love ourselves and our craft, and stay faithful to it. To create something is a miracle. So let’s keep creating – and leave them all behind.

I hope this article has helped you feel a bit better. Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Managing Characters

How to instantly create original characters – even if you are an author veteran who ran out of all their ideas

Hi everyone! Today, I will teach you how to instantly create original characters – even if you are an author veteran. I have started writing very early, as an 11 year old, and creating reincarnating characters have been plaguing me quite a lot throughout the years – and I know I’m not the only one. Whether I read classics or play indie visual novels, it’s always one story with the same cast – let’s call it the standard cast.

I will start publishing my work on the English market soon, and you will have the chance to see that in my standard cast are usually:

  • “The handsome and mysterious guy who pretends not to be interested.”
  • “The unconditionally loving best friend who is always listening to the protagonist.”
  • “The fair weather friend who seems flawless but eventually turns her back on the protagonist, usually because of jealousy or envy.”
  • “The evil twin sister.”
  • “The perpetually absent parents.”
  • “The future boyfriend disguisted as the protagonist’s best friend.”
  • “The crazy teacher and their unconventional methods of teaching.”
  • “The outed LGBTQIA+ character who is the coolest, the most stylish and the most understanding person in the group.”

Etc.

This cast has its strengths when you are writing about them for the first time in your life. But not when you keep writing about them over and over again. At one point, you get so bored of them, and yet, you somehow struggle to invent new ones. Even if you watch movies or read books for inspiration, you are probably unconsciously omitting characters that aren’t similar to the ones appearing in your standard cast – you know, the way everyone focuses on Leonardo Di Caprio in his movies and barely remembers anyone who was there except from him (sorry, Leonardo).

To change this pattern, we need to understand why we are so obsessed about our standard cast:

  1. Our standard cast consists probably of the first characters we had paid attention to when reading other people’s books. We thought that they were fun, so we created similar characters in our stories, and then perpetuated them over and over.
  2. Since we’ve known our standard cast for so long, we know them in and out; hence, it’s very easy to construct them and then to write about their behavior. We know we just won’t get them wrong.
  3. They are helping us convey some truths about us. We express our ideas, values and beliefs via these characters.
  4. We just love them.

In order to create characters that are different from our standard cast, we need to get out of our comfort zone. It can be done easily – simply by flipping what I had told you above. So:

  1. Let’s focus on characters that almost never get our attention.
  2. Let’s allow ourselves to know nothing about these new characters and meet them in the story.
  3. Let’s make them convey the opposite of what we think.
  4. Let’s write them regardless of whether we like them or not.

#1 – Let’s focus on characters that almost never get our attention.

When I watch movies or read books, I never pay attention to children or animals. Yet, there are plenty of stories where the main characters are the boy and his dog, or the girl and her horse. This type of plot is almost nonexistent in my work, meaning – writing about it will probably be fun.

#2 – Let’s allow ourselves to know nothing about these new characters and meet them in the story.

We writers like to have all the answers. Only in this way elements constructing our story can play together in harmony. We always talk about how we need to have the complete plan before starting, yet having the complete plan takes excitement out of the story. Predictability isn’t boring only in relationships. We need to let our characters have some secrets and surprise us with them. Those secrets don’t need to affect the plot in a significant way, but they may help stir some drama when things get boring.

#3 – Let’s make them convey the opposite of what we think.

This one is my favorite and it’s the most powerful tip that I can give you today, so please, pay attention. We tend to automatically create characters that speak up for what we believe in. But what if we had done the opposite, what if we made them speak for things that we absolutely don’t believe in? It can enrich our story in surprising ways.

For example, I am somebody for whom love is more important than money. If I love someone, I love them regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Now, let’s flip this statement and create a character for whom money plays a huge role in starting a relationship. What do they have to say? What is their version of the story?

Another example: if you are a Christian, write the story from the perspective of an atheist. If you are an atheist, write the story from the perspective of a Christian.

In short, just try to get out of your shoes. Yes, writers should write about what they know, but if you keep doing that over and over again, you will run out of steam. This is why you need to regularly get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, writing will stop being a challenge. And when something is not a challenge, it quickly becomes boring.

I’m not going to tell you to follow the rule to write only once about something, as different stories can take place in the same settings, and same characters can play out different scenarios. But if you just feel that this is becoming too boring for you to write, then try to change.

4 – Let’s write them regardless of whether we like them or not.

I think that we tend to avoid creating brand new characters, especially ones that differ from our old ones, cause we are scared we won’t like them. This is understandable and I won’t lie to you that the feeling of dislike towards such characters will go away once you spend more time with them. If you read “Mermaid Princess Amelia & The Lost Symphony,” you will meet Jet Mir, a mysterious merman who is the captain of a submarine and the exiled prince of the Lakkadive Sea. He is rather selfish, but can also act really charming. Most readers find him intriguing and even hot. I don’t share this opinion, he isn’t “my type of guy” – but, I’m glad he is in that story. He’s creating confusion and drama and that’s pushing the novel forwards.

I think that rather than worrying whether we will like a character or not, we should ask ourselves something else: if writing about this character will be fun. And if yes, why? What are we looking forwards to writing the most when we pick this or that character as our main one?

And last, but not least:

Know your limits. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about some types of characters, or you’ve tried but they really trigger you, just give them up and either rewrite their scenes or throw them away alltogether. Don’t force yourself to write about things that don’t feel right to you. Yes, experimenting and getting out of your comfort zone is important, but it’s making you feel bad, then it’s just not worth it.

That’s it for today – but before I go, I have to inform you that unfortunately, due to the enormous amounts of work I had as an indie publisher in the last couple of months, I haven’t prepared any new membership area articles. So, I can’t launch the standard membership yet. For those of you who are looking forwards to reading the members only articles, the BETA membership will still be available.

As for the free articles, you’ve probably noticed I’m posting much less advice than I did before. I still have lots of ideas and techniques I want to share with you,  it’s likely they won’t show up as often as they did before, but I have no other choice – right now, I’m doing alone the job that should be done by at least six different people, and I’m really overwhelmed. I had to change the priorities so as to be able to publish my novel by the end of this year and complete all other projects that I have in time. So, I will be taking a break and writing in here only from time to time.

Thank you for your understanding!

In the meantime, if you enjoy reading articles on Always Inspired Writing, please like its fanpage on Facebook! In this way, you’ll never miss the newest updates or posts!

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

6 more causes for writer’s block and what you can do to help yourself

(I love this picture. I don’t know who is the author but they are a genius.)

One of the first posts that I’ve written on Always Inspired Writing was 10 root causes for writer’s block and lessons you must learn. Today, I’m back with 6 more causes – and steps that you can take to help yourself. If you haven’t read the first article yet, please do it now – it might be that the cause for your writer’s block was already described in the first article.

  1. You feel discouraged after receiving several negative reviews
  2. You are giving the editor too much power over your writing
  3. You’ve learned to rely too much on your ghost writer
  4. Your marketing attempts keep failing and you keep losing money, time, patience and inspiration.
  5. You are tired of writing about the same things over and over again.
  6. Your vocabulary isn’t inspiring you, yet you don’t have time to read novels and fish for new words

Now, let’s get into these causes in detail.

CAUSE #1 – You feel discouraged after receiving several negative reviews

It sucks, doesn’t it? You’ve been toiling over that one novel for months, maybe even years, and an ungrateful reader comes and writes a one star review, which affects your sales, your opinion and your self-esteem. One bad review can make one feel moderately annoyed, but what if you get one negative review after another, even though your book is really perfect? You start looking at your target audience and wondering, what do these people actually want?

You feel unappreciated and don’t want to write. And that, my friend, is super normal. If you had a friend who was an actor, and they got booed each time they got on stage, and one day just called you and said they wanted to throw the towel, would you consider it strange? Probably not.

To be honest, I’m starting to think that the negative reviews which plague indie authors are some sort of baptism of fire. Nowadays, everyone who’s 18 years old and has a computer connected to the internet can publish their own story. Readers know about it. They don’t trust the newbie writer, and if they don’t like something in your book, they aren’t going to give it a second thought. “I didn’t like it, you’re a nobody anyways so people can’t tell me I’m wrong about you. One star, ciao.” The reader has no idea that you’ve been working on your craft for 10 or more years and that your hard drive has more than 1GB text files. For them, you are living somewhere in cloud cuckoo land and know nothing about writing.

I’ve noticed that the game changes when you publish more books. Authors who are swimming for a longer time in a sea of books are doing much better. They have more reviews, more fans and are easier to Google.

My advice:

Give yourself time. Let your books stay online, offer free copies to everyone that’s interested, sign up for different review sites, and be patient. While you work on your newest books, the older books will gradually get more and more reviews, also positive ones. Sometimes, it might take years. But late is better than never.

CAUSE #2 – You are giving the editor too much power over your writing

The longer I’m in the writing world, the more I notice something that alarms me: writers, especially the ones who are just starting out, tend to give their editors too much power over their writing. Examples of this behavior include:

  • Allowing the editor to rewrite the majority of your sentences;
  • Allowing the editor to make you rewrite the majority of your sentences;
  • Allowing the editor to choose which scenes will and won’t be deleted;
  • Allowing the editor to restructure your story according to their ideas;
  • Allowing the editor to change the main message of your novel;
  • Allowing the editor to alter your characters’ personalities;

etc. In general, if your writing doesn’t feel yours after it returns from an editor, or you feel like the editor is interfering too much with your text, then you’re probably giving them too much power. Which will make you feel upset with yourself and your writing, and get writer’s block.

My advice:

  1. Take a step back and ask yourself, if you really need developmental editing. If you don’t know how to answer this question, find another editor that you can trust and ask them to take a look at your text. It might turn out that your writing really is ok and all it needs are small grammar changes or interpunction corrections. Once you know what you need, reconsider working with your first editor.
  2. If you choose to quit, ask  yourself what impact they had on your writing and whether you still want to write according to all their rules. Keep in mind that those rules are probably the things that is causing writer’s block – and letting yourself become free of them might help you out of it.
  3. If you choose to keep working with your editor, set clear boundaries on what they can, and can’t do with your text – and when you’re writing, try to forget about what they will say, instead, focus on what you have to say.

CAUSE #3 – You’ve learned to rely too much on your ghost writer

I personally think that all authors should have a trusted ghost writer, just like they have a trusted editor. Sometimes, you just run out of steam, and the novel has to be finished, or there are marketing materials you need to prepare, yet don’t have time for that. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a ghost writer’s help – the problem starts, when you become ready to pay any sum of money to get the text written, because you just can’t write anything yourself. Such acute writer’s block is often a mix of several causes, and relying on the ghost writer is only amplifying the feeling that you can’t write.

My Advice:

I’ve heard that baby elephants tied to tree trunks become so used to being weaker than the tree, that even when they become adult elephants, they still don’t try to get free. Subconsciousness is stronger than consciousness and if you’ve been repeating to yourself I can’t, I can’t, I can’t for weeks, or maybe even months, you know where you are. The truth isn’t, you can’t. The truth is, you think you can’t. And what if you think you can? Talking yourself into being able to do something when the thought I can’t is so strong that it seems to be the ultimate truth, is not easy. I know. But there are ways to change that, and the best one is writing affirmations. Affirmations work wonders. It’s not about attracting things through the Law Of Attraction, it’s about reprogramming your subconsciousness so that it works in favor of you.

Here are three affirmations for you to start:

  • I can easily write down everything that’s in my head.
  • I love every single sentence I write.
  • I enjoy sitting down and writing my novels.

CAUSE #4 – Your marketing attempts keep failing and you keep losing money, time, patience and inspiration.

When you’ve been putting your time, effort and money into growing your author brand for years (it usually takes years before reaching this type of burnout), and the results aren’t satisfactory, you start asking yourself, what’s the point?

My Advice:

You know now, that writing isn’t the fastest way of gaining popularity or learning tons of money. Which is the reason why so many authors decide to leave writing as their side hobby. You can either do that, or embark on learning new marketing strategies that will give you better results. Hopefully, when you rest – or see better results – it will motivate you to push further.

CAUSE #5 – You are tired of writing about the same things over and over again.

If someone asks me to describe a Sunday afternoon with two best friends at the ice cream parlor, I’ll scream. I’ve written it so many times already, and yet, I find myself needing this type scene over and over again in all my stories. So, I force myself to write it, then I get writer’s block, because it’s boring, and then I get angry and frustrated because it’s such a simple task, yet I can’t complete it.

If this situation rings a bell, then you are in the right place cause the solution is below:

My Advice:

  1. Identify the reason why you keep writing that scene over and over again. What do you need it for? In my own case, the ice-cream parlor represents a perfect place to let the characters quietly discuss everything that’s bothering them and think about the future. When I focus on this goal, I can suddenly find tons of places that can easily replace the ice-cream parlor. And using those places instead is making everything more interesting, as it gives you room to complete the goal of the scene, yet it also allows you to be creative!
  2. If it’s about a certain character type that that keeps coming back to you, check out this article: The phenomenon of the reincarnating character: when your characters are all the same. If you are decided to get rid of all reincarnating characters, read this: How to remove characters from plot (without killing them)
  3. Write a huge list of things that you’d like to write about, yet you never tried it. Try to make this list have at least 50 or even 100 ideas. Writing about something new will definitely spark up your creativity!

CAUSE #6 – Your vocabulary isn’t inspiring you, yet you don’t have time to read novels and fish for new words.

This can happen especially when you write in another language, and although annoying, it can be fixed rather fast.

My Advice:

  1. Start using a random word generator. This one is my favorite so far. It allows you to discover words you didn’t even know existed. I recommend writing them down for later. When you feel particularly uninspired, just open the list and try to use the new words in your text. It will work wonders!
  2. Switch to reading poetry. Poems are short and you can read tons of them in one sitting – and, most importantly, they are all about beautiful language, unlike prose, which focuses on plot mostly. My favorite place to read poetry for free is PoemHunter.com.

I hope this helps!

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer

How to revamp an old and horrible piece of writing into something useful?

Writers, especially the ones who started their work early (in teenage or childhood years) hoard tons of old text files in their writing folders – files that can neither be published (because of quality), nor discarded (because of sentiment). Today, I will teach you how to recycle an old piece into something you will be proud to show to the world.

Here are a few ideas of what you can do with an old text file after revamping it:

  • Incorporate it into the new novel you are writing (and save time).
  • Combine it with other revamped fragments to construct a new novel (and save effort).
  • Release it as a free stand alone story (and use it to gather new readers).
  • Turn it into a fan fiction of your own novel (and promote it this way).

Your writing folder is an El Dorado of abandoned prompts, fragments and even novels, all of which belong to you and can be used in any way. This sounds very exciting, however, before you jump up into old stuff, please keep in mind that:

  • The style of your older works might be completely different from your current style (in some way, it was another you  who had written them).
  • Your older works might be of such poor quality that you might be able to retrieve only a few scenes, and revamping might take more time than writing things from scratch.
  • You might feel really bored and frustrated during the revamping procress, as you will be dealing with writings that you have already abandoned once (and left abandoned for years).

I’ve always had the good habit of backing up my writing, which leaves me with a legacy of 12 years of my own writing. It keeps me a prisoner to my old style and old ideas, and sometimes I just want to break free. However, it would be a total waste to delete everything without thinking twice. So, I’ve decided to recycle and revamp what I can, and let go of the rest. If you want to read more on how to clean your writing folder, do it here.

And now, I’ll teach you how to revamp an old piece of writing.

STEP #1: Read your text

For the purpose of this blog post, we will work on a short  fragment of a Harry Potter fanfiction that I’ve written in 2007 (I was 13 years old back then). It’s not very good, and not really an indicator of my current style, so please, lower your expectations towards it.

The protagonist of the fanfiction is Mary Potter, the daughter of Harry and Ginny. She doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts for some reason, yet she has to.

The original version of this story was written in Polish. I translated it with Google to save time; I’m not going to fix translation mistakes now, since I will be rewriting this text anyways – so please just ignore them.

Warm days were ending very quickly. The last rays of the sun disappeared behind the horizon of the dark hills. However, the sky that day had a beautiful, specific color. It was like an orange blending with a delicate golden, slowly turning into gray.
“It’s magical…” Mary whispered, resting her elbows on the windowsill. She put her head on her shoulders and stared at the horizon.
Mary Potter was an extremely peculiar girl. She could spend time moving mountains. Today, however, she stopped by the window to admire the clouds.
Suddenly the floor creaked. Mary remained in her position when she felt the touch of one’s hand on her shoulder.
She turned her head slowly. She saw her mother’s smiling face. The red curls gracefully fell on her shoulders. Mary even dreamed of having such a hairstyle. Unfortunately her hair was maroon and always matted.
“Mary, it’s time for dinner,” Ginny said, leaning over her. “Are you studying the sky again?”
“I don’t want to go back to school.” Mary reluctantly removed her hands from the window sill. “I want to be on vacation!”
Ginny sighed. Mary’s reluctance to go to school was terrifying. The girl has always been great and had lots of friends – so what was the problem?
“You have to go back … You can do it … Let’s go downstairs before Harry and Carla eat all the sandwiches!”
Mary smiled. Ginny left, closing the door quietly behind her. Mary looked again for the view outside the window. She saw Elly’s house standing nearby. She saw Godric’s Hollow – a city, in which dusk was slowly falling.

As you can see, this text is not that good. The language is basic and riddled with mistakes, the characters’ reactions are awkward, and reading doesn’t go smoothly. Let’s see what we can do with it to make it better!

STEP #2: Analyze the text OUTSIDE OF ITS CONTEXT

If we separate this text from the context (which is J. K. Rowling’s world), we will be left with a text about a girl who doesn’t want to return to school after summer vacation. Such a fragment is pretty universal, but we can only recycle it once, so we need to make a mindful choice, how to use its potential in the best possible way.

STEP #3: Try to put this text into A NEW, CHOSEN CONTEXT

I’ve always wanted to write a low effort teenage novella with lots of drama that takes place in a vampire academy. Let’s recycle this text into the first chapter of it. In order to put it into the teenage novella’s context, I’ll need to change some names, some facts and some words. I used the red marker so you can see changes right away:

Warm days were ending very quickly. The last rays of the sun disappeared behind the horizon of the dark hills. However, the sky that day had a beautiful, specific color. It was like an orange blending with a delicate golden, slowly turning into gray.
“It’s mesmerizing…” Natalie whispered, resting her elbows on the windowsill. She put her head on her shoulders and stared at the horizon.
Natalie Silber was an extremely peculiar girl. She could spend time moving mountains. Today, however, she stopped by the window to admire the clouds.
Suddenly the floor creaked. Natalie remained in her position when she felt the touch of one’s hand on her shoulder.
She turned her head slowly. She saw her mother’s smiling face. The maroon curls gracefully fell on her shoulders. Natalie even dreamed of having such a hairstyle. Unfortunately her hair was straight, thin and copper colored.

Natalie, it’s time for family reunion,” her mom said, leaning over her. “Are you studying the sky again?”
“I don’t want to go back to school.” Natalie reluctantly removed her hands from the window sill. “I want to be on vacation!”
Her mom sighed. Natalie reluctance to go to school was terrifying. The girl has always been great and had lots of friends – so what was the problem?
“You have to go back … You can do it … Let’s go downstairs before your dad and Stefanie drink all blood without us!

Natalie smiled. Mrs. Silber left, closing the door quietly behind her. Natalie looked again for the view outside the window. She saw Quinn’s house standing nearby. She saw dusk slowly falling on the valley.

This was quick and easy… it’s the next step which will require the most work:

STEP #4: Start developmental editing and don’t stop until the text looks like you’ve finished writing it minutes ago.

The reason why you need to do developmental editing, and not just express editing, is as follows:

You don’t want the reader to figure out that chapters 1, 3, 8 and 13 of your novel were written by your 13 year old self, the chapters 2, 4, 10 and 12 were written by your 15 year old self, and chapters 5, 6, 7 and 11 were written by your present self.

You must mask the fact that you’ve been stealing like crazy from your younger self’s writing treasury. Here’s how I’ve done it (follow the blue marker):

Warm days filled with sunlight were ending quicker now, indicating the inevitable beginning of October. Natalie Silber was sitting at the windowsill, with her elbows rested on its cool marble surface. She rested her chin on the palms of her hands and stared at the horizon.

It’s mesmerizing She thought, watching the last rays of the sun disappearing behind the hills. Even though it was gone, the sky kept its unusual color scheme. It was orange blending delicately into gold, which was slowly turning into glitter gray.

Natalie Silber was indeed a peculiar girl. A year ago at this time, she had enough energy to move mountains. Now, she could barely look at the landscape in front of her eyes. She found her gaze wandering pointlessly from cloud to cloud.

Suddenly, she heard the familiar creak of the old floorShe didn’t bother to move and remained in her position even when she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder. She turned her head slowly and saw her mother’s smiling face. She hasn’t changed at all ever since Natalie was born. She was a perpetually young and beautiful vampire, with perfect skin and maroon curls gracefully falling on her shoulders. Natalie had always felt jealous of them. Her hair was straight, thin and copper colored.

Natalie, it’s time for family reunion,” her mom said. “I’d like you spend more time with us, especially that within weeks you have to back to the academy.” 

I don’t want to go there,” Natalie reluctantly turned away from the windowsill to look her mother in the eyes. “I want to quit. Why can’t you just let me?

She had been begging her parents to transfer her to another academy, but they kept refusing. She knew that if she had told them the real reason, they’d understand. But, she had to keep it secret.

“Natalie, I don’t understand it,” her mom sighed. “It’s such a prestigious academy. Your grades are perfect and you have so many friends in there… Trust me, everything is going to be fine!”

“If you say so,” Natalie sent her a sad smile. She knew that this was a fight she wasn’t going to win, so she didn’t even want to continue this conversation.

Her mom sent her an encouraging smile.

“Let’s go downstairs before your dad and Stefanie drink all blood without us!

“I’ll be there in a moment, ok? I want to stay a few more minutes alone,” asked Natalie.

Mrs. Silber nodded and quietly closed the door behind her. Natalie turned her face to the window. She could see Quinn’s house standing nearby. Quinn was the only person who knew what had happened in the academy, and on whom Natalie could   count.

She sighed to herself, sad she couldn’t discuss it with her sister. She and Stefanie were of the same age, but they have grown apart after everything that had happened. One summer spent together wasn’t going to fix it.

Dusk was slowly falling on the valley. Natalie got up and went downstairs.

This text is much better and we could actually stop here, but let’s make it shine even more, so that it amazes us, and makes us believe that it was totally worth it to spend our time on it:

STEP #5: Replace simple words and phrases with more sophisticated ones.

There are two ways to do it:

  1. Reread the text, and if you get a better idea of how to express a thought that’s already on the screen, just go for it!
  2. Write down a list of words, idioms, facial expressions, gestures etc. to incorporate into your text, and then do it.

I personally prefer working with a list, especially that English isn’t my native language. I often create lists while reading or researching vocabulary, so I always have lots of new words to use – and I suggest you do the same!

Here’s the list that I’ve prepared for Natalie’s story:

  1. mahogany
  2. persimmon
  3. illusory reality
  4. lower one’s head
  5. take in a sharp breath
  6. reassure
  7. be lost forever
  8. elegant twisted bun (hair)
  9. smooth and sleek (hair)
  10. resplendent
  11. elliptical
  12. lunacy
  13. yet
  14. distinct from
  15. disturbing dream
  16. wooden
  17. pallid
  18. satisfactory

Now, I changed a few things in the text, using the words above and changing what I felt was necessary to improve the final result (pay attention to pink marker):

Warm days filled with sunlight were ending quicker now, indicating the inevitable beginning of October. Natalie Silber was sitting at the windowsill, with her elbows rested on its cool marble surface. She rested her chin on the palms of her hands and stared at the horizon.

The illusory reality of life is mesmerizing She thought, watching the last rays of the sun disappearing behind the hills. Even though it was gone, the sky kept its unusual color scheme. It was orange blending delicately into gold, which was slowly turning into glitter gray.

Natalie Silber was indeed a peculiar girl. A year ago at this time, she had enough energy to move mountains. Now, she could barely look at the landscape in front of her eyes. She felt like her personality was lost forever. She could spend a lot of time, doing nothing, just letting her gaze wander pointlessly from cloud to cloud. 

Suddenly, she heard the familiar creak of the old wooden floorShe didn’t bother to move and remained in her position even when she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder. She turned her head slowly and saw her mother’s smiling face.

She hasn’t changed at all ever since Natalie was born. She was a perpetually young and resplendent vampire, with perfect pallid skin and an elegant twisted bun with two mahogany curls gracefully falling on her cheeks. Natalie had always felt jealous of itHer own hair was so distinct from her mother’s – it was short, smooth and sleek, and persimmon  colored.

Natalie, it’s time for family reunion,” her mom said, adjusting her elliptical glasses. “I’d like you spend more time with us, especially that within weeks you have to back to the academy.” 

I don’t want to go there,” Natalie reluctantly turned away from the windowsill to look her mother in the eyes. “I want to quit. Why can’t you just let me? She lowered her head.

She had been begging her parents to transfer her to another academy, yet they kept refusing. She knew that if she had told them the real reason, they’d understand. But, she had to keep it secret. As if doing so could change it into a disturbing dream which can be forgotten within weeks…

“Natalie, I don’t understand it,” her mom took in a sharp breath“It’s such a prestigious academy, you worked so hard to get there, it’s lunacy to give it up now! Your grades are satisfactory and you have so many friends in there… Trust me, everything is going to be fine!” She reassured her.

“If you say so,” Natalie sent her a sad smile. She knew that this was a fight she wasn’t going to win, so she didn’t even want to continue this conversation.

Her mom sent her another encouraging smile.

“Let’s go downstairs before your dad and Stefanie drink all blood without us!

“I’ll be there in a moment, ok? I want to stay a few more minutes alone,” asked Natalie.

Mrs. Silber nodded and quietly closed the door behind her. Natalie turned her face to the window. She could see Quinn’s house. It was nearby. Quinn was the only person who knew what had happened in the academy, and on whom Natalie could count.

She sighed to herself, sad she couldn’t discuss it with her sister. Stefanie was of the same age, but they have grown apart after everything that had happened. One summer spent together wasn’t going to fix it.

Dusk was slowly falling on the valley. Natalie got up and went downstairs.”

And… We’re done!

It took some time, but I really like the final result. I’m much less tired than I’d be if I had to write this scene from scratch, and to be honest, I’m starting to feel excited about this story!

I hope it inspired you to revamp an old piece of your writing as well.

Feel free to post fragments here in the comments, so I can see your results!

Good luck!

Posted in All Articles, Free online marketing

13 things you must plan ahead before publishing your first book and officially starting your author career

Some time ago I’ve written an article on 10 incredibly harmful pre-publishing myths that most newbie writers still believe. Today, I want to continue helping newbie writers by sharing 13 things that they need to think of before publishing their first book – and officially starting their author careers. This article is written in the form of open ended questions, as its aim is getting you into solving-problems mode.

Ready? Let’s go!

#1 Plan Ahead: Who are you as an author and who are your readers?

Why this matters: Cause who you are as a private person is not the type of information you want to paste anywhere online. Also, an author bio that fits your genre is more likely to get your readers’ attention. Now – who are your readers going to be? Where are you going to find them? How are you going to communicate with them? And convince them to read your book?

#2 Plan Ahead: Are you going to self-publish or publish traditionally? What challenges do these routes bring?

Why this matters: These two routes are slightly different, which doesn’t mean that any of them is easier than the other one. Keep in mind that in order to succeed you will have to work hard regardless of the route that you have taken. If you are self publishing, how are you going to do this? Where are you going to find the staff you need: cover artist, editor, e-book formatter and printing facility? If you are publishing traditionally, do you know already where to send your manuscript? Do you know the success rate of other writers? Maybe it would be a good idea to get an agent? If you are rejected by everyone, what will you do? Do you have a plan B?

#3 Plan Ahead: How are you going to build your social media following?

Why this matters: If you don’t know about the hundredth monkey effect, read about it now. Your book can’t become popular… without being popular (!). What does it mean? Nobody is going to like your Facebook page or follow your Twitter if you aren’t popular. How are you going to get the first fans on your social media? You realize that the more fans you have, the greater your organic reach – and the greater the chances that your book will sell. Now it’s the time to think about how to build a massive social media following. Not once you publish!

#4 Plan Ahead: What are you going to do to appear in more Google Search results?

Why this matters: Your future readers are going to google you. What they’re going to find is up to you. An author who has more results in Google Search is automatically seen as more popular. On which websites are you going to register so as to appear in Google Search more often?

#5 Plan Ahead: Where are you going to post video, photos, artworks and presentations that will promote you and your book?

Why this matters: posting varied content on social media is important, however, social media isn’t everything. You must be active in as many places as you can so as to increase your organic reach. Lots of authors say to post ads on forums or Facebook groups, however people present there don’t want to be spammed and may react negatively to you being overactive with your marketing. What websites you know which will allow you to share your promotional content without appearing as spammy?

#6 Plan Ahead: Where are you going to post writings that will promote you and your book?

Why this matters: Like I explained above, social media isn’t everything and you don’t want to appear as a spammer. Think well: in which places can you post your writings and actually receive feedback from readers? This is important because people who have once read your works and liked it might become your first fans and choose to purchase your book later.

#7 Plan Ahead: How are you going to build your e-mail list?

Why this matters: I assume that each of us has an e-mail list of around 200 contacts. However, not everyone on this list is a target reader willing to buy and review our book. Most probably won’t (why, I explained here and here). If you are going to make your book popular among strangers, you will need an e-mail list consisting of your target readers. Building it requires not only a strategy, but also a time. Start as soon as you can.

#8 Plan Ahead: How are you going to obtain reviews as an unknown author?

Why this matters: If you are publishing traditionally, your publisher should contact bloggers in your name and organize some reviews. That number isn’t going to be as high as you expect (I got only 3 reviews), so you must think how to get more  reviews. If you are self-publishing, there’s even more pressure on you to resolve this problem. I have already shared in the members advice section that contacting book bloggers doesn’t work, as the response rate is really low. Are you going to buy reviews? If yes, where? If the reviews are negative, what will do you? Think now, so you don’t fall into the crisis later.

#9 Plan Ahead: How are you going to organize a virtual book tour?

Why this matters: Book tours increase the discoverability of your book and raise your Google Search rankings. It is important that you have your own blog where you promote your book, but the more blogs you can appear on with your book, the better.

#10 Plan Ahead: How are you going to promote your book right after its launch?

Why this matters: If you are self publishing, e.g. on Amazon, you will want to know everything about their ads. If you are publishing traditionally, you’ll need to learn about other types of ads (social media or Google). Ads are just one way to promote yourself: you need to prepare materials that attract your readers. What are those materials going to be?

#11 Plan Ahead: Where you are going to find money for investing into your books and author brand? 

Why this matters: self-publishing costs, and traditional publishing doesn’t free your from the need to market your books. Ads cost, promos cost, materials cost. Start saving or get a freelancing job to cover your extra expenses.

#12 Plan Ahead: What will your new book be about and how can you promote it while publishing and marketing your first book?

Why this matters: publishing your first book is a great way to advertise your soon-to-be-published second book. Also, showing the readers that you have two books (preferably in the same genre) might make them consider following you on social media or joining your mailing list so as to be informed about the newest releases.

#13 Plan Ahead: What is your long-term marketing strategy for building a strong online presence for your books and your author brand?

Why this matters: you are not just publishing one book – you are embarking on a new career. If you want your author brand to grow and attract more and more readers, you need to put in time, money and effort. How are you going to build yourself as an author online? Think about it.

I know that planning these things ahead is difficult, but trust me that it’s better you start thinking about it now rather than after you’ve published.

I was 21 years old when I published my first book and I had no idea how to promote myself, how to reach the target readers, how to grow an e-mail list etc. I knew that a 16 year old student from my high school had a popular YouTube channel (around 1000 subscribers), so I asked him for advice on how to build a presence online. He told me that I needed to create my author persona, get more people to like my page, invest in ads.

That was just the beginning. It took me 4 years to figure out my answers to the questions I’ve asked you in this post. I decided to share my secret knowledge with you and I prepared a cheat sheet containing 50 steps to a successful debut. This cheat sheet will be available for premium members here on Always Inspired Writing, however, you can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Sign up here!

Successful Debut 2.jpg

I hope this article was useful to you!

Stay inspired.