As authors, we want our voices to be heard. That’s why we bother with all the work of writing, editing, and publishing in the first place. Whether it be a story we want to share, a message we want to use to inspire, or a topic we want to educate others about, we want people to read what we’ve worked so hard to write. When we’ve finally gotten our work out into the world, we might find ourselves a little disappointed. Perhaps our story is too unique. Perhaps our topic is too obscure. For whatever reason, we may find that there aren’t as many out there interested in what we have to say as we had hoped.
There are always genres or topics that seem to fly off the shelves. While it is good to diversify your writing, it is not a good idea to choose a genre or topic purely because you think it will sell well. We’ve all had instructors at one time or another who were captivating and made their topic intriguing. And we’ve all had instructors that were just plain BORING. Now, some people are just not good at storytelling or lecturing, but there is a common factor among all interesting instructors – they care about what they are teaching. They are personally interested in what they are teaching. That is a key factor in writing a successful book as well. To be interesting, you must first be interested in what you are writing. You may complete a project in a topic or genre that sells particularly well, but still have no success because your quality of writing diminished due to a lack of personal passion.
We are always looking for ways to diversify our writing or increase the popularity of our completed projects. But remember that starting a project with sales or money in mind will not produce your best work, and may end up being a major waste of your valuable time and effort, since your production will be lower quality than if you had spent time on a less popular topic that you are passionate about.
Grammar and I had a love-hate relationship in high school. I wanted to write around and have fun; Grammar wanted me to take things seriously. After college, we parted ways when I got a job that provided me with a professional fixer-upper secretary to pretty up my letters, reports, fines, and legal speak. Now, after many years, I've retired and low and behold Grammar and I are once again in a serious relationship, but it is rocky at times. I want to please Grammar, I really do, but sometimes I also just want to have fun; dangle a participle or split an infinitive. You know what I mean? But since this makes Grammar upset, and I want to keep Grammar happy, I got professional help.
So who helps me in my every day Grammar squabbles? For the little tasks, I rely on Grammarly, a popular proofreading software program to catch spelling and grammar mistakes in my blogs, emails, and social media posts. For the larger projects, I go to a professional who is trained and certified in copy editing.
Here are just a few tips to help with some common grammar questions:
I remember being taught to use two spaces after a period - is this still correct?
Grammar rules can be confusing and sometimes feel like a barrier. But if you familiarize yourself with them, they can actually be a close ally in getting your work published and admired.
It seems as though choosing a title for your piece of writing would be easy, right? Wrong. Choosing a good title can be quit a challenge. But where do you even begin? With so many words out there how do you find the right combination for your specific work? Here are a few steps that can help you figure it out - but remember it is a process, you can't just sit down and choose a perfect title. It takes a lot of time, thought, and even editing to find that title that is just right.
First, identify what kind of feeling or tone you want to convey with the title. Write it down. This is important, as I've seen humorous books with dead-serious titles, contemporary books whose titles say historical romance, novels that sound like self-help books... you get the picture. Be clear on what your title needs to instantly communicate.
Time to start brainstorming. Find twenty books on Amazon that are in the same genre as yours and whose titles you like. Write down their titles. Try to get a feel for what works with your genre. Take note of what you like about the titles, what don't you like. Then put that list away for awhile.
Sit with a pencil and paper. Take some time to free-associate, making lists of words related to your book. Put them in columns: nouns, verbs, adjectives. List words that describe or suggest the setting. Think about each of your major characters and write down words that relate to them. Think about the action in the story and write down verbs that capture it. Think about what you want your reader to feel after reading it. Add any words that describe what your book is about. Nothing is off limits - write down anything you can think of that conveys anything about your book. You should have at least 100 words.
Sort through your list and see if any of the words would work as a single-word title. Then start experimenting with different word combinations. Adjective-noun, verb-noun. Keep a thesaurus handy to look up more related words. Write down as many word combinations as you can. Try not to self-censor at this stage. From these lists, come up with at least 20 possible titles. Then put them away for 24 hours.
During this time your subconscious may still be working on thoughts. When you come back to your list, you'll have fresh eyes and hopefully a fresh perspective. Add any new ideas you've had. Then narrow it down to three to five possibilities.
Run this short list by a few people who are familiar with your writing project (this may or may not help, depending on if there's a consensus or the opinions are all over the map). Use this feedback to make adjustments. Put this list away for another day or two.
Remember your list of titles from Amazon? Get it back out. Ask yourself if the options you have would fit the list - without being too similar or generic.
A few more questions to ask as you narrow your list down and (FINALLY) choose your title:
Ultimately, you as the artist have to be happy with the title you choose. These are all just guidelines to help you along in your process. Just be sure to take some time and put serious thought into your title - it's not something to just choose on a whim.
Writing and reading go hand in hand - writers are usually people who love to read, and have stories they want to share too. But did you know that reading more can actually make you a better writer? It can! Here are 5 examples:
1. Expand Vocabulary. It was true in 1st grade, and it is still true now - the more you read, the more words you learn. As an adult, reading a variety of genres or types of print media can expand your vocabulary outside of the style you might typically use in your writing. And variety creates intrigue!
2. Increase Knowledge. Again, it was true in grade school, and it's true today - the more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you have to write about!
3. Distract the Mind. Have you ever spent so much time thinking about what you're writing your brain turns to mush? I sure have. Sometimes it's best to distract your mind, and what better way to do so than reading? Allow your mind to escape into another world so your subconscious can sort your thoughts.
4. Encourage. Writing is hard. It is a long process, and sometimes it seems like you'll never be able to finish a project. Reading completed works can remind you that it IS possible. If you've hit a bump in the road you can't quite get over, reading other people's work can also help you find a way to get over.
5. Relieve Stress. A happy and relaxed writer is a productive writer. And what better way to become happy and relaxed but to escape into the world of reading.
Reading is the key to many types of success, including writing! So don't neglect those books collecting dust on your bookshelf - put them to work, helping you become a better writer!
1. Write the Best Book you Can.
Expect to put in some sweat and tears and if you're writing a mystery maybe some figurative blood. You'll need something unique, with compelling characters, a strong author voice and an intriguing plot. You might get away with a weakness in one of these areas, but strength in each is preferred.
2. Book Covers Count.
Book covers should convey the mood of your book and spark interest in the reader. A judgement is made on your book before the cover is even opened, so make it work for you. Think also about where your cover will be viewed, not just on a hard-copy of the book in someone’s hands, it may also be posted on a website, so check out what it looks like as a thumbnail image as well as on a full-sized book.
3. Spread the Word.
Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. There is no better way to convince someone to try something as if someone they know and trust recommends it. Reach out to fellow authors and ask them to read and review your book, or allow you to post about your book on their blog or website. Of course, remember to also give a shout out to their books on your own website or social media accounts in return. The writing world is a community, give as much as you request. Getting reviews on Amazon or other book sellers can go far as well. But only if the reviews are genuine.
4. Do a Giveaway.
Giveaways are a good way to generate genuine reviews - being given a free novel often motivates readers to give it a try, especially if they were on the fence about trying it out in the first place. You can also give a small gift away with a free book, or when someone purchases a book. Everyone loves a free gift! This works especially well when the small gift goes along with the theme of your book.
5. Promote, promote, promote.
Now, this is not an invitation to shove your book down the throat of everyone you meet, but you should use connections you have made to promote your book - and yourself! Use your social media accounts and blog or website to engage with your current and potential readers as well as fellow authors. An occasional link to your book is fine, but you should also share interesting things about you and your life, things you’ve discovered in your research for books, anecdotes that you find humorous or inspirational, and tips or writing ideas. If people grow to love you and your perspective, they will be even more interested in your books. Plus, building relationships with other authors can be very beneficial for you and for them. Above all, just be yourself!