“Continuing Education”

U-Tube is a great resource for many things. My husband uses it quite often. He’s a do-it-yourselfer who finds help, directions, videos, and multiple viewpoints any time he needs it.

As an author, I find answers—and even inspiration—by regularly listening to podcasts and tutorials.

I know. You want to write, write, write without interruption. So do I.

I’ve found the only way I want to give up time for this endeavor is to simply plan it into my weekly schedule. One afternoon a week, I take off my author hat and put on my student hat.

Nothing in life is learned through osmosis (the unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge) as much as we’d like to think it possible.

Most authors start out writing by going to conferences and reading books on the subject of writing. But writing rules and trends change, so don’t stop learning. 

Carve out some time for continuing education each week to keep yourself “up-to-date” and in “the know.”


Before You Write a Single Word

There is such an appeal for people—especially retired people—to write a book.

You’ve had an idea in your head for years and now you finally have time to put pen to paper.

However, after you publish, your sales aren’t what you’d like—or expect—them to be.

What went wrong?

Dozens of things could have been the reason for poor sales, but usually the reason can be traced back to the beginning.

Before you wrote a single word.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. You have written the story you wanted to write, with little or no regard to your audience.

In other words, you didn’t consider what readers like to read… what is popular in today’s market.

I was guilty of the same thing. That doesn’t mean we cannot write what has been on our heart for decades, but we do have to understand that it may not translate into sales.

We have talked about romance being popular. And there are so many variations of romance:  teens, tweens, cowboy (That’s right. It’s still popular) and so on; and cozy mysteries (which also often include a romantic aspect). These include a lot of inheritance themes. Young ladies inheriting bed and breakfasts, hotels, bakeries, seaside cottages, just to name a few.

So, I guess the bottomline is this. If you want to sell books, write about what people like. If your goal is to fulfill a lifelong dream, then sales take second place.

But whatever it is you write, do it well. Given time, readers may find you and come to appreciate your passion. 

To me, that’s the best of both worlds.

What’s Up with ‘That’?

Just as some realtors are known more for listing and others for their mastery at selling, in writing some authors are known as experts at character development, while others are more proficient at plot.

However, my opinion writers must strive to master characterization and plot. We must also improve in other areas as well. Description, dialog, backstory, and the ever elusive cliff hanger are also important in crafting a well-rounded novel.

And as we grow as writers it is important to stay up on changes within the industry. For example, did you know that within the last year or so the word that, got the ax?

If you want to refer to something specific, you can simply name what you are referring to: “I’d like some more of that” can be changed to, “I’d like some more mashed potatoes.”

Sometimes you can just rewrite the sentence as: I found that the price of a haircut and color in Las Vegas is almost twice what I’d paid in Phoenix, so I may decide to “go gray.” (True, by the way). This can be rewritten as: I may decide not to color my hair anymore because the price in Las Vegas is twice what I paid in Phoenix.

Here’s more information on that usage:  use that for things, but use who/whom when referring to people.“Pass the cookies to everyone who wants one.” Or, “I’d like to test drive that car.”    

Finally, avoid beginning sentences with the word that and avoid phrases such as “the fact that…”

But, if you’re like me and can’t remember all of the rules concerning the word that, simply try to reword your sentences to avoid using it so often that it becomes a glaring repetition. 

So, you caught my misuse above? How about a rewrite:  “…to avoid using it so often it becomes a glaring mistake.”

So You Want to be an Author

I retired from teaching quite a number of years ago, and like so many before me, I longed to write a book.

I told myself it would be easy. After all, I knew grammar, sentence structure, paragraph construction. I was aware of the importance of using adjectives and verbs to make a story exciting.

Without going to school each day to teach, I knew I had the time to write.

I began writing, telling the story that had been in my head for eons. The process was exciting. I was living out my dream. And, I must say, I was pretty proud of myself. 

Until I shared the first chapter with a group of seasoned writers who burst my bubble. I was “telling” the story, but they said I needed to “Show, Not Tell.”

I found that just because I had been a teacher… just because I loved to read… didn’t mean I could naturally write. That began a months-long quest to learn the writing “rules.” Reading books, taking classes, going to conferences.

I joined professional groups. I studied the craft of writing.

Writing is fun, but it is also hard work.

Several years later, with a few books under my writing “belt,” I started the blog that you are now reading. It has been five or six years of sharing what I’ve learned with others once every week.

Each of my blogs is archived on my website under the heading “BLOGS.” I invite you to visit my website and spend some time reading on subjects that interest you as a writer. I am not the end-all of writing information by any means, but there may be usable information there for you.

My website: www.brendapoulosauthor.com  (You’ll want to start your own website at some point, so when you follow the link, look around to see all of the “parts” that need to be included and click on the various links to see how they all work together for the benefit of your readership).

Celebrate My Dad’s Birthday!

When is a series born?

Is it on the outset? When the author writes the first words of BOOK ONE?

Is it near the end of the first book, when the author realizes just one book won’t tell the entire story?

Perhaps it’s when the author is writing the epilogue for book one and gets the urge to continue the story with one of the other characters from the first book?

Or, is it when the author receives great reviews, stating the readers’ desires to read more about a certain character, setting, or event?

Whenever it happens, I say it’s a good thing. If you’ve enjoyed writing book one and you have your audience engaged for one reason or another, then by all means consider writing a series.

That’s how I came to be writing the Simon Says series. (Which turned out to be four books! Simon Says, Truth or Dare, Tug of War, and Cat’s Cradle).

In honor of my father’s birthday on May 5th, you will find the series FREE in e-book format on Amazon for that one day, only.

Here’s an easy way to get all four books. Use this link, http://www.brendapoulosauthor.com which will take you to my website. Scroll down and click the BUY NOW button. It will take you to my Amazon page, where you can scroll once more to the books and “purchase” your free copies.

As always, a reminder that authors do value your comments. So, when you’ve finished reading, please go back to my Amazon page, scroll down, and leave a review.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Do Authors Need A Website?

Part of being an author is developing a relationship with your readership. So, I won’t beat around the bush. You DO need a website.

You’ll want to include pictures of yourself, a biography, book covers and a short synopsis of each. Underneath each one, you’ll want a link to wherever readers can order copies.

You’ll need a little bit of art work for the header of your website, perhaps a logo, a tagline, and a contact page. If you write a blog or have a Facebook page, you’ll want to have links to those, also.

Originally, I put up my own webpage, which I used for several years. I am not the best at technology, so about a year ago when I felt I needed to “step-up” my web presence, I hired a company to accomplish what I could not do on my own.

Website construction is costly. And so is web-hosting. Even the name of your website has a yearly fee. So, just do what you can as you’re able to afford it. Before you know it, you’ll be up and running.

There are many companies that are able to make a website for you that you will be proud of. Later, if you want to add another book, update a photo, or anything of that kind, you can either do it yourself or re-contact them for that service.

I invite you to see what mine looks like, here is the link: www.brendapoulosauthor.com    

So You Want to Write a Romance Novel

Have you thought about writing a Christian Romance Novel? Here are some interesting ways to make the distinction between them and secular romance novels:

  1. Although both genres write about the pursuit of love relationships, Christian Romance does this while conveying lessons about faith, family, and relationships.
  2. Because they include these “lessons” the writers see their audience as being both Christians and non-Christian readers.
  3. Both Christian and secular Romance involves some degrees of sexual tension. However, whereas the non-Christian Romance is more overt, Christian Romance is not explicit.
  4. In Christian Romance, we find conversion experiences referring to emotional, religious, or sexual changes. Christian Romance often involves more inexperienced heroines, whereas secular Romance often features characters with more sexual experience. 

5).   Women are often the primary caregivers to children in Christian Romance.  

6)    Christian Romance stresses more traditional family values and conventional roles where the husband is the primary breadwinner. 

7)    Most often, Christian Romance gives injunctions against sex outside of marriage.

8)    Secular Romance is seen as increasing in sensuality, explicit sex acts, and sexually-laden language. 

9)    Christian readers and authors most usually agree that the purpose of Christian Romance books is to represent a ministry about and to women.

10)  Thus, these books are often read by Christian women to strengthen their faith. Religious beliefs are inherent in the plots.

11)  Many women readers—even if not professing Christianity—prefer good, clean, wholesome language, characters and plots.

That’s Entertainment

Moving and renovating have taken up months of our time, so we decided to take a break and go to the movies.

That’s where we experienced sticker shock. Two senior tickets cost us $22.50.

Then, there was $10 for a tub of popcorn, which my husband and I shared.

Last of all was a soda for each of us. Size small. $6.25 each. 

“No, thank you,” I said to the young man behind the counter when he asked if we wanted Nachos, ice cream, or red vines.

Grand total for two hours of “escape”?     $45.00

I’m telling you this to prove a point. An e-book will cost you anywhere from FREE to $5.99 and you can buy a big bag of popcorn at the supermarket for about five bucks. Soda? $1.00 each.

So from $7.00- $12.00 you can enjoy on average ten hours of reading fun.

I actually enjoy the more active process of reading to the more passive act of movie-going. And, especially with prices being so high nowadays, a movie will have to promise me a lot to get me out of my favorite reading chair and out the door.

The Four D’s

Have you been writing and writing and writing only to end up with a novella rather than a full-length novel?

Have you found yourself stuck in the middle of your book wondering if you should backtrack or forge ahead?

You can call it lengthening, padding, embellishing… whatever you’d like, but here are four suggestions for making your story the most it can be.

The Four D’s:

First of all, start back at the beginning and add description/details to enhance the plot or characters or setting.

Secondly, develop the story. Expand it. Add more scenes. Perhaps add more characters or develop each scene so characters come alive.

Thirdly, add more dialog. Remember, don’t tell the story. Submerge us in it. Let us be part of the story experience.

Finally, dig deep. That’s right. Deepen the story. You may have only scratched the surface. Re-read one of your favorite novels. You may find that the reason you like it so much is because it has real depth.

As our two year old grandson says at the end of a meal, “All Done.”

Getting on the Fast Track

One of my favorite subjects to talk about is critique groups. I think because they are (in my opinion) one of the most helpful things an author can do for himself/herself.

I recently moved and have been on the hunt for a writing group in my new area. I was beginning to think I was going to have to start one myself, but just when I began to plan this new venture, I found out about one practically in my own backyard!

This group operates differently than any I have ever been a part of, so I thought I’d share with you how they are set-up.

In this case, there is a large group of thirty-five authors—yep, that’s right. This large group is divided into five groups of roughly seven members each.

The smaller groups meet EACH WEEK—interesting, huh? That’s where the real work of critiquing/editing is done.

Then, the large group meets THAT SAME WEEK. Each author’s submission (reflecting changes due to the small group’s comments) is shown on a screen and read aloud by the author. The large group gives general comments on each submission.

I’ve attended one large group meeting and really enjoyed hearing from authors writing in a variety of genres.

I’d recommend this process for any writers who feel they can keep up with this fast-paced regimen. Submitting to two groups every week can be daunting, but it sure can put you on the fast-track to publishing!