Friday, May 29, 2009

What's Your Writing Strength?

Do you know what your writing strengths are? Have you had feedback from other writers? Do they consistently praise one aspect of your writing? Or if they concentrate on the areas that need to be fixed, are there areas they usually don't comment on? No news can be good news.

Trust Strength Focus
Photo by dideo

I've had the pleasure, and honor, to read several of my friends' writing. Pat writes the most amazing descriptions. She chooses every word with care. Jennifer writes unexpected twists--I never see them coming! Jan writes everything so well, I beg her to write a novel. Jan? Are you reading this? Write a novel.

I'm good at dialogue. I'm not so great at creative action tags. (My first drafts have lots of smiling, shrugging, and clenching of fists.) I'm good at characterization. I used to reek at conflict, but I've made massive improvement in that area. My first chapters used to be my worst chapters. They still aren't my best, but again, I'm improving. Logic and plot? There might be a few holes now and there, but nothing my critique gurus won't point out. Fixable.

What area of writing do you excel at? What area does NOT come naturally? What have you done to improve it?

Guess what? Next week is June! Summer!

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blog Awards!

Blog awards? For little ol' me? Why, thank you!

Danyelle over at Myth-Takes AND Sherrinda over at A Writer Wannabe awarded the One Lovely Blog award to me. Thank you so very much!


Confession:


I've been the missing link with every chain letter ever sent. The reason you never received ten sets of dishcloths? Me. The reason you never got the ten greeting cards, ten dollars, ten buttons, ten addresses to send ceramic cats to? Me again.

And the lil' green patches on FB? They die under my care. I'm horrifyingly bad at this stuff people!!

I know you're supposed to send the blog award to ten deserving bloggers. You're ALL deserving bloggers! I read all of your posts as often as possible. I just love you guys.

Since I'm feeling guilty over all the stickers, packets of gum, and good-luck charms I never sent, I'm going to overcome my fear of sending ten people something. That's right. I'm going to pass the One Lovely Blog award on.

I'm awarding the One Lovely Blog award to the following ten bloggers (my apologies if you've already received one this week. In that case, accept a second from me because you deserve it!).
And to all of you who I follow who I didn't include--you deserve one too!

1. On the Path. Jody's generosity, intelligence, and warmth shine through her blog. If it weren't for Jody, I never would have found you all!

2. All in a Day's Thought. Wendy makes me laugh, smile, and tear up on occasion.

3. A Christian Romance Writer's Journey. Eileen conveys her Christian spirit through her inspiring posts.

4. Terri Tiffany Inspirational Writer. Terri keeps it real, but also keeps it inspiring.

5. The Jaime Reports. Jaime's fun, funny, and full of energy.

6. Cindy Wilson. I love reading about Cindy's eclectic writing journey!

7. Grosvenor Square. Melissa's fantastic attitude is always a joy to read.

8. The Innocent Flower. Lady Glamis posts great advice and gorgeous pictures.

9. Cassandra Brown Writes. Cassandra's fresh blog is always packed with cool info.

10. Me, My Muse, and I. Jennifer's quirky take on life is a breath of fresh air.

And Bonus!

11. Brain Throw Up. Katie makes me see the Bible in a different light. Plus she's super funny!

Okay, I can think of ten other blogs equally deserving!
Hope you all have a wonderful day!





Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Much Do You LOVE Your Writing?

I'd been away from my latest and greatest first draft for a few days. I know better, really, I do. When I spend more than three or four days away from a first draft, I convince myself it's the worst thing ever written. And then I stare at the laptop, force my finger to press the on button, and try to ignore the panic rushing through me as I wait for the file to load.

The first thing I do is re-read the previous day's work to make sure I'm writing a natural continuity. Imagine my delight when I begin reading, expecting to want to claw my eyes out, and instead get sucked into the drama!

The claw by Jim
Photo by frli

Those of you who read my meltdown of doubts will know I'm a terrific exaggerator. So it will come as no surprise I'm equally grandiose on a good day in first-draft-land. I never feel this way when revising, probably because the book spins around my head so much I can't tell if it's good, bad, or "eh." So, I only ride the escalator of I-love-this-book when I'm writing the first draft. Let's take a peek.

Character names have been changed to protect nothing.

In my head on a superwoman day:

This line rocks! It's hilarious--Betsy cracks me up! I'd never say that, but she just did. And John? Oooo--he does NOT like it at all! Whoo-ee! Tough turkeys, buddy.

A little further into the book...

Doggone you Betsy. Sniff, sniff. Why did you tell him that? Don't you know he never intended to hurt you? Can't you see past your own insecurity? Where's a Kleenex? I need a Kleenex! Betsy!!!

Still further in...

Just go up and kiss her John. Grab her and kiss her. She's only yelling at you because she's scared. Man up! Don't you dare walk away. Don't you dare!!

Back to reality.

I'd be lying if I said I write only for myself. I don't. I write according to a set of guidelines for the publisher I'm targeting. But I always write from the heart. My books fit the guidelines and it's no chore to conform. I love--dare I say it--adore my books!

Are they technically perfect? Far from it! Are they Pulitzer contenders? No way! Do I have miles to go before I can say the writing is top-notch? You betcha!

And you know what? I still love them.

What about you? Do you love your books? Does your writing suck you in? What do you love about your writing? Don't be shy! I'd love to hear from you.

And...

Write Already! It's Wednesday!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day in any part of Michigan usually brings rain, cold temperatures, and a general state of misery. There have been a few bright exceptions, but it's best not to plan an outdoor picnic unless you provide a large tent for everyone to huddle under. Who can complain about a three-day weekend, though? Not me! Rain? Temperatures in the fifties? Doesn't matter--it's Memorial Weekend! (Let's hope this year is one of the exceptions!)

Child Saluting American Flag
Photo by respres

In celebration of the holiday, and the unofficial start of summer, I'd like to say a warm thank you to all of the people who gave their life serving in the United States military. Thank you to their significant others who supported them and kept their home life together.

Especially, a big thank you to my departed Grandpa who served in World War II. And, I know we're celebrating departed veterans, but I'm going to send out a huge thank you and a hug to my dad who is (thankfully!) still with us. Thanks for serving your country to make it safe for me and our family! I love you!

And while I'm at it, I'm going to thank all of the people currently serving our country. Thank you for your dedication.

Okay... It's brownie time! And cheeseburger time! And don't forget the potato chips...

Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's Your Favorite Aspect of Writing?

I've had such a fun time with this week's posts, but as I was writing them, I wondered about other writer's perceptions of the non-published phase. What keeps you glued to the seat, writing?

hallelujah
Photo by dtchristner

What's your favorite aspect of writing right now?

I have two favorites.

1. I love the actual writing. I delight in my characters, laugh out loud at my mistakes, and get a kick out of the situations I come up with. It's fun! Sure, I re-read my work and make gagging expressions at it sometimes. I've been known to write snarky comments in the margins, such as "You used that word 18 times, hello-o??" or "Boy, she's uptight!" about my heroine. I'm well aware of the flaws in my writing and actively work to overcome them, but overall, I live to write. To me it's like soaring in the air, sans airplane, parachute, or parasail but without that sick-to-my-stomach lurch.

Airborne Muse
Photo by jurvetson

2. I enjoy meeting other writers. They get me in a way that non-writers do not. What an incredible gift! I can cackle over my heroine's horrific first date without getting a someone-is-a-little-psycho look. And writers are generous. They'll give you tips, hold your hand when you have a set-back, congratulate you when you taste success. They understand when you look at a kit to make stepping stones and say "Gee, someone could make her own headstone with one of these." They might even offer suggestions on how to do it.

So...pony up! I want to know YOUR favorite aspect of writing!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Do You Want to Remember This Time?

On Monday, we looked ahead five years and imagined what life would be like. Today, we're going to do the opposite.

Fast forward five years and think back on your life as it is right now. How do you remember it?

Its Future is in our Hands - Live Earth
Photo by aussiegall

If you recall, I mentioned my five year from now must-have list. My books will be published on a regular basis. I'll write full time during the day and spend evenings and weekends with my family, and I will be optimistic. When I look back, I'll remember this time in my life as...hmm...

Well, I could go one of two ways. Let's look at my thought process in two scenarios.
#1

The pre-publishing phase was a nightmare--an absolute nightmare! I remember feeling frazzled 90% of every waking hour. The days passed in a blur of writing, submitting, doubting, blogging, critiquing, revising, revising, and more revising. I would never want to go through that again! If I had a penny for every time I doubted my ability, I'd be the richest girl on the planet. In fact, I wonder now how I ever stuck with it? How did I keep sitting at my laptop day after day? I poured my heart into every book and received rejection after rejection. It's amazing I didn't need therapy after all that...

#2

The pre-publishing phase was an exciting time--I felt so alive! I remember feeling hopeful 90% of every waking hour. The days passed in a medley of improving my craft. Sure, I had my doubts, but I knew if I just studied, wrote, and worked hard, I'd eventually sell books. God pushed me through the hardest times. He always sent a breath of hope when I had a set-back. And the friends I made! I'm the richest girl on the planet! I'd better talk to the new writer in
our group; she could use some encouragement...

Don't worry. Don't fret. Don't be anxious. This time will pass. How do you want to remember it?

Join me on Friday. I'm taking a poll! Woo-hoo!

And...

Write Already! It's Wednesday!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In Five Years...

Do you ever wonder what your life will look like in five years? Do you ever think about how you want it to look in five years?

Calendar
Photo by 28481088@N00

I did this exercise about ten years ago and I can still vividly see the images that came to mind. There were three things that were on my must-have list.

1. I'd be writing full time.
2. My family would come home to a tidy house and I'd devote evenings and weekends to spend with them.
3. I'd be in a state of serenity.

Fast forward. I'm blessed with 20-30 hours of writing time a week during the school year. My family comes home to a somewhat tidy house (guess I'll have to work on that!) and I keep evenings and weekends free for them. But serenity? Yeah, right!

So here is my new-and-improved must-have list for the next five years.

1. My books will be published on a regular basis.
2. I'll write full time during the day and spend evenings and weekends with my family.
3. I'll be optimistic.
(Did you catch the tidy house thing disappeared? Okay, I'll try to clean more often...)

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your life in five years:

-Are you writing full time? Part time? On the weekends?

-What does your day look like? Are you home alone, writing? Do you meet friends or run errands in the morning then write all afternoon? Are you working from your home? Or do you rent an office?

-What do you do with your free time?

-Are you successful? What does the word "successful" mean to you? Does it mean you're writing every day? Or does it mean you're published? Does it mean you're under contract? Does it mean you're making X amount of dollars?

-What will you have room for in your life in five years that you don't have room for today? Travel? Pets? Kids? Hobbies? Friends?

-What makes your life in five years different from your life today?

Waiting to write...in color
Photo by smoorenburg

These questions can be fun and they can be scary. It's not always easy to dwell on what we want in life, but it's worth thinking about even if only for a few minutes. You might be surprised at how vividly the results of this exercise stay with you when you think back five years from now.

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look back on this time.

And...

Get Motivated! It's Monday!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Neurotic? Oh yeah!

On Wednesday I told you about my first experience with a manuscript being rejected. So I thought I'd share with you the downward spiral of my thinking last summer. No, I didn't have these thoughts often, but when they occurred I wanted them to go away. Pronto.

Here's the setting: summer, home, not working on a new book (mistake #1), studying books on craft in a vain attempt to learn something, trolling through writer's sites on the Internet, and trying to avoid the following thought process.

Human brain - please add comment and fav this if you blog with it.
Photo by gaetanlee

In Jill's head:


A form rejection! Form rejection. That's bad. That means my writing is so bad, they can't even sign their name. If they sign their name, it means they see something in my writing, but they didn't. Why couldn't I have gotten a signed rejection? There's hope with that. But not with a form. No hope...

Do they keep the worst manuscripts ever submitted just to take out and laugh at every now and then? I wonder if they post a really bad first page on their bulletin board and throw darts at it? Surely they don't have time for that...do they? What if they do?! My book is on an editor's bulletin board and someone has drawn a bulls-eye around it and they are all taking turns throwing darts at it. And they're laughing--ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...

What if they put a long note in their computer next to my name that says something like, Don't ever read anything by this author again. Or, Writing so bad, I threw up. Or This one will give you the hives. Or even, If I ever read anything this terrible again, I'll quit the industry...

What am I going to do now? I don't want to give up on my dream, but what if my dream is unattainable? What if I'll never be good enough? Wait a minute...

I don't ever want anyone looking at my work again. It's childish. It's poorly written. It's lame. I'll never improve. Do you have to be born with talent? Am I deluding myself?

Oh no! I'm one of those American Idol contestants who thinks he's the best singer ever and doesn't even comprehend how bad he really is! I might as well burn every piece I've ever written and tear my robe and put on sackcloth and shave my head and...

How embarrassing! I told all of my family and friends that I'm writing and they know I submitted a manuscript. I have to tell them this crummy news. Will they pity me? Will they shake their heads and wonder how to break it to me that I should quit? Do I have to tell them I completely stink?

Stink... Do I smell too? I'd better check the armpits. I can't tell. Maybe my deodorant is working properly. At least something is working properly and I know it isn't my word selections. If only they had deodorant for bad writing, you know, to cover up the stench of no talent.

I could make a fortune if I came up with that deodorant...

Back to reality.

Okay, so you can see the downward neurotic spiral. The worst part was the more I tried to avoid the thoughts, the more they kept pounding in my head. I finally embraced them. I realized I needed to deal with the pain and doubts swimming in that crazy brain of mine.

Crazy Stairs
Photo by outcast104

I surrendered. When I listened to my heart, when I dropped to my knees and prayed, I knew I'd be okay.

A form rejection--any rejection--is just part of the process. It's not the final grade on your writing. It's just a stepping stone. It can paralyze you. It can motivate you. It can do both. But it can't kill your dream--only you can do that.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Story of My First Rejection

It's that time of year again. The time that I anxiously await contest results. The time I know I should be hearing from an editor about a partial I submitted earlier in the year. Yes, the mailbox beckons and repels simultaneously.

Last year, I was new to the game. I'd entered my first contest and submitted a partial manuscript the winter before. And I pulsated with excitement--not sure what to expect--but hoping against hope that all the news would be good.

I had yet to feel the sting of rejection. The contest? A way to get my work out there. None of it bothered me because I still lived in the elusive world where anything could happen.

Guess what? I received my first rejection on my wedding anniversary! And it wasn't a "good" rejection. It was a form rejection. A week later the contest results arrived and my chapter was deemed okay by two judges and a solid yuck by the third. Ouch.

Suddenly, my world felt askew. I no longer felt excited and upbeat. I doubted my ability. I doubted my self-worth as a writer. Fear paralyzed me.

Frozen Ice Cubes IMG_1021

Photo by stevendepolo

I'm happy to say, I recovered. It took me an entire summer of delving into writing craft books, reading every online tip available, and having a massive neurotic conversation with myself on a daily basis, but I emerged stronger than ever.

And I discovered something deep down inside of me that I didn't know for sure until I had experienced failure. Writing is vital to me. Whether it takes me two more months or two more decades, I will continue to write books and submit them on a regular basis.

Why put myself through it? How can I not? It's what I love. It's my lifelong dream. I know I can learn to be a good writer, just like I learned to be a good cook when I could barely cook an egg years ago.


Join me on Friday for a look into the neurotic mind of Jill Kemerer on a doubting day.



And...

Write Already! It's Wednesday!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Fantasy Life as a Published Author

Sometimes I get so caught up in my day-to-day responsibilities that I forget to stop and remember what I'm working for. Discouragement lurks behind me, waiting for me to have a weak moment. A few days ago, I had a particularly hectic morning. I finally poured myself a cup of hot tea, sat on my favorite chair, and smoothed a cozy throw over my lap.

And I started fantasizing about what life would be like...

I'm sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe in Paris. It's spring, of course, and the journal in front of me lies open with beautiful handwriting scrawled across the top half of the page. I sip coffee as I watch the happy couples walk by. The fresh tree blossoms float around me to the ground; I release a sigh of deep contentment. A sense of delightful anticipation shimmers. I plan my afternoon of window shopping, aimless wandering, and purchasing chocolates before meeting up with my darling husband for a spectacular meal.

de Retour
Photo by malias

My latest book will have just hit bookshelves to glowing reviews. Magazines clamor for interviews. I'm asked to be a keynote speaker at a conference. Life is good.

And the writing? Oh, the writing. Well, naturally, I never doubt my work. The books flow out of me like a waterfall in the rainforest, tumbling with ease and speed. Deadlines? What deadlines? Promotion? Piece of cake.

I scribble a note to self in the journal...

Nice fantasy, huh?

Fontaine au Port Royal à Paris
Photo by kimdokhac

Okay, okay. So what will my future as a published author really look like?

Well, for one thing, my handwriting isn't going to magically become legible, so out that goes. And Paris may be in my future, but I'm restless and I don't know that I'd sit at a cafe for more than forty-five minutes. But a girl's got to have a dream, so dinner in Paris with the love of my life will be a part of my future. (And the chocolates stay, too!)

I'd still love the glowing reviews and to see my latest book on bookshelves, but not every book will get an A+. As long as I've written it to the best of my ability, I'll have to be content with whatever review I get. What about the magazine interviews? Hmm... The local paper might be interested; you never know! And I could be asked to be the keynote speaker at a small conference.

The writing? I don't think it will ever come without deep contemplation and planning, and I wouldn't want it to. I enjoy tripping over plot points, wrapping my brain around conflicts, realizing halfway through a manuscript that the emotion is flat. I don't really enjoy easy; it's the challenge that keeps me glued to the seat.

Oh, and I'm prepared for the cutting reviews by readers on Amazon. I realize an editor won't always approve or purchase the books I write. Deadlines will loom; life will interrupt, and promotion will be an ongoing--and time-consuming--process.

You know what? Reality looks even better than the fantasy! I wouldn't be happy with the fantasy because it doesn't suit me. I know who I am and I don't want to be anyone else.

What about you? What do you fantasize about in regards to becoming published? Are your dreams realistic? Who cares! That's why they're called fantasies!

Join me on Wednesday when I'll share the story of my first rejection.

And...

Get Motivated! It's Monday!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Website Week: Visuals and Professionalism

Earlier this week, I posted the first two sections of my article titled "5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Website." Today, we'll look at the final installment, including items 4 and 5: Visuals and Professionalism.

4. VISUALS

What colors are you drawn to? What colors represent your writing? When you look at other author’s sites, do the colors please you? Try to come up with a palette of several complementary colors, or, if you prefer to stay with one or two, find several shades and depths. Look at home magazines for ideas. They often give suggestions of what colors go well together.

Color Your life
Photo by uaeincredible

What theme represents you as a writer? Do you have a brand? Do you know what genre of books you write? Spend time analyzing what elements are always present in your books (even if you write more than one genre) and play with these to come up with a brand. If coming up with a brand is beyond you at this point, simply describe the books you write. “Sally Susy writes contemporary women’s fiction.”

What about visuals? Do you want a picture or your head shot in your header? Do you like sites that have buttons for links or just words for links? Do you like the navigation bars at the top, bottom, or one of the sides? Look at other websites to narrow down the layouts you like. Model your site after the one you like best. I’m not saying to copy it; analyze what you like about the site and incorporate those features into yours.

5. PROFESSIONALISM

A website is a key promotional tool for you as an author whether you’re published or not. When you have a website as a pre-published author, you can include your domain name in your contact information when you’re querying agents and editors. They may look at your site; they may not; either way they know you have a website.

Let’s say they do look at your site. You want them to be impressed. If you decide to update regularly, follow through. Also, you might want to put a small line at the bottom of the page that tells when you update the site. Design the site to be easy to navigate. Be honest with yourself and ask for input from friends: does it look as if it were slapped together by a third grader? Edit before you update to insure there are no grammatical errors. Verify every link works (it only takes one wrong character to have a broken link).

Performance anxiety
Photo by dalegillard

A website can impress an editor or agent--or it can underwhelm. A good website doesn't have to be fancy. It does have to be clear, well-done, and professional looking.

In conclusion, a website doesn't have to cost a fortune to do the job right. If you don't want to update it very often, you can put up a basic information page. If you do update it regularly, you'll attract more visitors. The website should clearly state who you are, what you write, and your writing background. The visuals should reflect who you are as a writer. If you write thrillers, an editor will be confused if the website is mint green and pink with flowers spattered everywhere. Above all, strive to make the site as professional as possible. This means no broken links, no confusing content, no grammatical errors.

I hope this helps anyone who dreads the thought of putting together a website. Yes, it’s a lot of work whether you design it yourself or hire it out, but publishers expect authors to have websites as soon as they’re published. Do you really want to deal with the stress of starting a website when you’re knee-deep in contracts, edits, and art department forms? I don’t think so!

The bulk of the work involved with a website takes place in the design stage. Once your site is up and running, it requires much less time and effort. And what an accomplishment to see your own website on the Internet!

What are you waiting for? Start designing your website!

Enjoy your weekend!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Website Week: Updates and Content

On Monday, I posted the first section of my article titled "5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website." Today, we'll look at items 2 and 3: Updates and Content.

2. UPDATES

How often will you update your site? Do you want to create it and leave it as-is? Or do you plan on updating it sporadically as you think of things to add? Would you feel comfortable with updating it on a monthly basis? A weekly basis?

now that's a schedule!
Photo by theogeo

If you plan on creating the site and leaving it alone until some point in the future when you’ll have more to add (such as your first book cover!), concentrate on creating a professional looking Home page. A head shot, brief bio, and a method of contacting you should suffice. Do you blog? Include a link to it. Make your website an informational tool for anyone interested in your work. Don't include anything that will be obsolete in a few months. For example, "The piles of snow in my front yard..." or "My latest book will be finished in July 2007!" make it obvious that you aren't updating regularly.

If you plan on updating it sporadically, please reconsider. A poorly designed, rarely updated site will not impress editors or agents, nor will it attract repeat visitors. Either decide to put up a basic, leave-alone site, or update it on a regular basis. You don’t want your website to hurt your reputation.

If you do plan on updating it on a regular basis, decide how often. What day will you publish your updates? The first of the month? The first day of each week? How far in advance will you have to type in your updates in order to meet this? Give yourself a minimum of 24 hours from when you type in your updates to when you publish them so you will catch any mistakes. Editing is important when updating your website. Post your best work on it.

3. CONTENT

Content? What content? I’m not published yet!

Hold on there. Plenty of pre-published writers have websites. Check them out. Think about what you like about their sites.

Basic elements of an author's website:

The Home page. (If you’re not updating the site regularly, this will be your biography page also. If you are updating regularly, post your updates here.)

Your Home page will feature the header of your site. This should include your name, or pen name, and your brand if you have one. If you don’t have a brand, include the genre of books you write. Don’t make a visitor guess what your site is promoting. Spell it out for them!

The header of my site reads:

Jill Kemerer
sweet, emotional, sparkling romance
Jill Kemerer writes Christian contemporary romance novels.

If someone accidentally found my site, they would not think I'm selling bathrobes nor that I write dark paranormal books.

The Home page is the first page a visitor will see. Don’t expect readers to click through your site to find your updates—keep your fresh material here. Also, don’t make them guess how often you update; post the date front and center. If you update monthly, put the current month and year above your new material. If you’re updating more often, put the actual date above the information.

What will you update about? That’s up to you. You might want to discuss the progress of your latest book. You could write a personal essay, interview an author, or write a book review. The possibilities are endless. You don’t have to promote a published book to have a successful website.


MacBook writing
Photo by dahlstroms

If you're setting up your site as a promotional tool for future books, keep the content based on you, your writing, or writing in general. This isn't the place to include a photo album from last Christmas. However, don't be afraid to include a recipe if you're a fabulous cook or a play list of tunes if you adore music. It's okay to let your personality shine through, as long as it doesn't take away from the overall goal of promoting yourself as a writer.

A Biography page should be included (this can be called About Me, or any other name you prefer). It can be short or long, but include your writing history, any organizations you belong to, previous publishing history (if any), and the genres you write. If you haven’t posted a picture of yourself on your home page, post one here, and think twice before putting up the picture of you in your cut-offs last summer.

A Contact link or e-mail address will allow any visitor to contact you.

If you have a Blog, link it to your site and vice-versa.

You can have as many or as few pages as you want. Again, look at other author’s sites for ideas. Jot down any features you like; you can always add more pages later. It’s your website--do what you want! Mine started out with a Home page, a Biography page, a link to my Blog, and a Contact e-mail. A few months later, I decided to add a Links page. This month I added an Articles page and a Proposals page. I've seen other authors include a Fun Stuff page which lists their favorite books, television shows, candy, etc... I've also seen a My Place page with information about where the author lives. I've seen a Meet the Authors page featuring podcasts of interviews the author conducted.

Join me on Friday for the final installment of this article, which covers Visuals and Professionalism.

And...
Write Already! It's Wednesday!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Website Week: Things to Consider Before Starting a Website

This week I'm tackling a topic I've long wanted to cover: websites. I've written a lengthy article titled "5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website" and have broken it down into smaller chunks for this week's posts. Enjoy!

5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website

Does the word “website” terrify you? Does the thought of researching website designers make you cringe? Does the thought of designing your own website seem laughable—impossible even?

You’ve come to the right place. As a pre-published author, I knew a website could help my career, but I wasn’t sure how, considering I didn’t have a book to promote. Plus, every time I thought of websites, nausea would bubble up, and I’d slam the door shut to the anxiety-producing thoughts whirling around in my head.

But it bothered me that I didn’t have a website when so many pre-published authors had terrific ones. I decided it was time to swallow my fears, grab a barf bag, and make some decisions. I knew I wanted my site to work for the long-term. I asked myself what I wanted it to accomplish. The answer? I wanted my site to promote me as a writer and, eventually, promote the books I write.

After following my own advice and studying the five areas below, I decided to design my own website. The process both terrified and excited me. It’s not for everyone, but if you have average computer skills and are willing to update your own site, you should consider it.

If you’re wondering what is involved with starting a website, here are a few things to consider before making any decisions.

1. COST

A website can range anywhere from free (yes, there are ways to get a free website) to several thousand dollars. One free option is to use WordPress (a blog tool) to create your site. A quick search on the Internet will bring up a slew of articles on the subject. One drawback: your url will not include www, thus making it less easy for people to find your site when typing it into a search engine. There may be ways to get around this. Again, an Internet search would provide the answer.

Another no-expense option is to use a free web-hosting service. An Internet search will bring up plenty of companies offering free service. Research them and pay attention to the following. Will your domain name be an extension of the web-hosting company’s? For example:(www.webcompany/yourname.com) Will your site display ads from the web-hosting company? Do the features include e-mail? Are the file-types restricted?

You want to have a professional-looking site, and you want visitors to find you. Both will be difficult if your domain name includes another company in it, and you don't want ads selling diapers on your site for obvious reasons.

Are you writing under a pen name? Register the domain name and design your website to reflect it. Make sure your domain name is structured like this: (http://www.yourname.com/). This isn't the time to register a cute or vague name like (http://www.lovetowrite.com/) or (www.icecreamsurprise.com). After all, how do readers find their favorite authors? By typing the author’s name into a search engine.

***A note on domain names. The most desirable domain name includes www. When you have www in front of your name, search engines will be more likely to find you.

Also, don't waste your time setting up a site that will have to be completely gutted when you're published. Set it up correctly now to save time later.

Money, Money, Money
Photo by lilit

A mildly expensive option is to design your own site using a web-hosting service such as Yahoo! GeoCities, GoDaddy, etc… They offer similar plans in terms of expense and features, so it’s really a personal preference on what service to use. Expect to pay between $75/year and $150/year. For this expense, you will get a domain name (http://www.yourname.com/), a WYSIWYG design program, 24 hour customer support, more e-mail addresses and storage than you’ll probably ever need, statistic tools to track your visitors, and a nifty button to submit your site to the top search engines on a daily basis.

I would not recommend trying to design your site using only html code unless you're a master at it. WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get, meaning you just point and click, and these programs take the pain out of design.

A more expensive way to go is to purchase a WYSIWYG design program such as DreamWeaver, design the site yourself, and pay a minimal fee for your domain name. Drawback? These programs aren't cheap. The latest version of DreamWeaver lists for $399. Also, check the requirements needed to publish your site. Will you need to pay for a web-hosting service in addition to the domain name and program?

If you hire someone to design your site, the expense varies. If you know someone, you may be able to get a fabulous deal on a site design. A college student might be interested in setting up your site for very little money. However, if you hire a professional designer, expect to pay anywhere between $500 and several thousand dollars.

There are things to consider if you go this route. Do you want to update your own site or do you want to pay someone to update it for you? Keep in mind--you’ll still have to get the information to them. Will there be additional charges if you decide to add pages later? What will happen if you decide to terminate your service with them? Research several companies to determine what each offers, and ask your friends for recommendations.

Join me on Wednesday, when we'll look at 2. Updates and 3. Content. The final installment of the article will be posted on Friday.

And...

Get Motivated! It's Monday!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Point of View Trick

Wow--it's Friday already! Hope you all have fabulous plans for the weekend!

Today, I'm going to share with you a little point of view trick I keep up my sleeve. If your book is written in first person, this tip won't help! But I'm guessing you don't have any point of view (POV) issues if you're writing in first person.

WRITE
Photo by nirak

If you write in third person, either in one point of view or multiples, consider trying this for at least one scene.

Read the scene in first person.

First person? What are you talking about? It's written in third...duh!

It's easy if you try it. Let's say the scene you're reading is written in a woman's POV. Let's call her Jasmine. Simply pretend you're in her head when you're reading. Mentally replace every "she" and "Jasmine" with "me" or "I."

Why do this? It will point out any areas that you've shifted POV. Let's say the scene contains two characters: Jasmine and her mother. You can't very well be Jasmine and her mother at the same time.

Here's an example.

"You look tired. What on earth are you wearing?" Her mother shook her head and eyed her in disapproval. "When are you going to get your act together?"

Jasmine sighed. Her mother never failed to get on her nerves.

"I like my outfit," Jasmine said, looking down at her frayed jeans and tight tank top.

"Well, I don't!" Her mom spun on her heel and walked to the door. Why did Jasmine insist on looking like a hobo?

The above scene is written in third person from Jasmine's POV. I'll rewrite it below in first person so you can see where the POV shift takes place. Remember, you don't actually have to rewrite the scene in first person; you just have to mentally read the scene in first person.

"You look tired. What on earth are you wearing?" My mother shook her head and eyed me in disapproval. "When are you going to get your act together?"

I sighed. My mother never failed to get on my nerves.
"I like my outfit," I said, looking down at my frayed jeans and tight tank top.
"Well, I don't!" My mom spun on her heel and walked to the door.
Why did I insist on looking like a hobo? (The line in red is a slip in POV. It's actually in her mother's head. This will jump out at you when you replace Jasmine with I.)

confuse
Photo by tallchris

The technique is great for catching less obvious slip-ups too, like telling something the POV character couldn't possibly know.

Try it. You might like it. If not, well, you don't have to do it again!

Do you have little tricks to keep your POV's straight? Or do you write in whatever point of view suits your mood? Some of my favorite authors don't follow the current trend of staying in one point of view per scene, so I certainly don't think it's a cut and dried topic! I prefer to stay in one per scene because I think it adds more depth to the characters. I'd love to hear from you.

Enjoy your weekend!