Christmas Plans

Our plans sometimes do not go according to THE PLAN. We are sick in a hotel room and may not even feel well enough to attend services at a local church. So, I will simply wish you all a Merry Christmas and send a regular post next week.

May your Christmas celebration be filled with the love of family and friends. May Jesus be exalted in your lives and mine.

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The Christmas Gift That Costs Zero Dollars

Want to give your friends a gift they’ll love and costs you absolutely no money?

If you’re an avid reader like me, you likely have read dozens of books this past year. Right?

If you haven’t already given them to a used bookstore, consider starting a new tradition with your reading buddies.

How about agreeing that this year you will select books from those you’ve read for gifting each individual on your list?

If your books are in good condition, who wouldn’t want to receive a book handpicked for your enjoyment from a friend who knows the kind of books you like to read?

With Christmas cards inside and tied with bows or put in glittery bags, they are sure to be a hit without being a drain on your finances.

Make it a Team Effort

When I was first learning about the craft of writing, I spent time reading and going to conferences. But once I actually started writing, I learned that being an author can be a lonely venture. I was in my home office most of the day by myself. 

Not a good thing.

That’s when I learned about Beta Readers and Critique groups. And over the years they have become a critical piece in my writing. I look to them for sharing of  ideas and viewpoints, giving encouragement and support, but also for getting me out of the house and interacting with others.

People are social animals. We grow and feel a part of our environment/community when we collaborate, brainstorm, and interact.

Have you written yourself into a lonely rut?

Take a break. Take a walk. Visit with a friend. Join a writing group. Form a group of Beta Readers. Go shopping. Meet a friend for lunch. Listen to holiday music. 

You’ll be happier and more productive—because writing should be a Team Effort.

Do You Love to Read?

I have written before how my mother loved to read, so it was no wonder that I followed in her footsteps. Later, as an elementary school teacher, I hope I instilled a love for reading in my students. (My favorite part of the day was reading aloud to my students for twenty precious minutes after lunch recess).

In those days, we used a program called the Writing Road to Reading. The basic idea being that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. The phonics-based total language program, is still taught in many classrooms throughout the U.S. today.

Romalda Spalding believed that the immediate incorporation of spelling and handwriting with phonics instruction reinforced all the skills.  Students create and add to notebooks everything they learn.

Children learn to put sounds together, form meaningful words, write meaningful sentences, and develop their creative minds. Through it, children learn to enjoy the great works of children’s literature.

I wasn’t taught to read this way myself (I taught myself to read before I entered first grade). However, when I began to teach both regular and remedial classes using this method, something inside me clicked and “filled in the gaps” in my learning.

I’d always loved reading, but now as a teacher, my passion for reading exploded. I began reading children’s books and worked my way “up.”

I am guessing that readers of this blog are either avid readers, writers, or both. I would love for you to share how your love for reading/writing began. I will reprint your stories in this blog in the near future.

Plot Outline and Synopsis

Writers are said to be either plotters or pantsers. Meaning either that they plan out the chapters in their stories ahead of writing, or they write by the seat of their pants—with little or no advance planning.

If you are a plotter, knowing about using a plot outline is essential. A plot outline is a thorough summary including the basic plot twists in each chapter. It is written before you write your book and is used to guide your writing to completion. It is much longer than your synopsis will be.

Both plotters and pantsers will need to write a synopsis which summarizes without giving away all of the details of the plot. It is written after you finish writing your manuscript. In it, be sure to include what is unique about your story and/or characters. 

Remember, the synopsis will be used to pitch your story to agents and publishers. Use your plot outline to get you to a satisfying end.

Summary vs. Synopsis

The terms summary and synopsis are frequently used interchangeably. But are there differences between the two?

It seems there is a slight difference and which you decide to write will depend upon who you are sending it to and your ultimate reason for writing one.

A synopsis is a short (and concise) description of a book, while a summary is a lengthier condensed version. While the summary focuses on what happened, the main ideas, and facts, the synopsis is more subjective and reveals the underlying themes, meaning, and so on.

The goal of a synopsis is to help the reader or agent to decide if they want to read the full book. And, in the case of an agent, to determine if they want to pursue representation.

There are times when you’ll be asked to write both of these, so it’s a good idea to look at examples and/or find books which delve into the writing of each.

Thank You

I spent some time this week writing Thank You cards for my neighborhood friends. We’d decided to have a Thanksgiving Tea and shower each other with appreciation. So, I put some thought into the exact reasons each friend was a unique blessing in my life.

The Tea was a special time together and the cards can be read again and again throughout the year, having impact over the months ahead. Encouragement for those facing difficulties and appreciation for each one playing an important part of my life.

I want each of you to know, also, that I appreciate the fact that you read my blogs. Sending in comments, or “LIKES” makes me aware of your presence and encourages me throughout my writing journey. 

I’m thankful for each of you!

The Value of Writing for an Anthology

Chicken Soup for the Soul books are just one example of a collection, or anthology. Even authors who have published ‘stand-alone’ books often write for anthologies, too.

Why?

For authors, publishing in an anthology offers a diverse and larger audience than having all their stories in one book. 

And~

An anthology, where several authors write on the same theme, offers readers a variety of perspectives and styles.

For myself, I wrote in two short story collections last year:  Desert Tapestry and Christmas Tapestry. Then just last week, I published in a Novella collection, Journeys of Forgiveness. 

As we are beginning our sales and marketing, I see that splitting the costs four ways, instead of bearing the costs alone, is another great reason to write in collections—at least part of the time.

Pricing Your Book

A novella collection that I co-authored with three other authors is soon to be published. On top of the many decisions we have had to face together, one of the final ones in that of pricing.

So, I thought I’d let you in on what I have found out when doing a little online research.

When pricing books on AMAZON, you need to:

  • Check out prices of books in your genre by successful authors.
  • Stay in the range of $2.99-5.99 for the most sales.
  • Be sure your book is quality—professional in writing, editing, cover design, etc.  (Be objective about this!)
  • Be sure your book brings value to readers—meaning information, entertainment, humor, encouragement, etc.
  • Offer both books and e-books. Readers come in both types, you know.
  • When possible, offer free e-books or countdown deals on both paperbacks and e-books.
  • Adjust your price points occasionally to find that “sweet spot.”
  • Remember: the more copies you sell (no matter what the price) the more awareness you’ll get from readers!

When Being Distracted Is A Good Thing

For years, I’ve been preaching against getting distracted while writing.

However, if you are like me, you can get lost in your story and find yourself sitting in your office chair for hours before you move around. That’s not good for your back, neck, shoulders, weight—even your mind.

I tried setting a timer at intervals, but I just kept resetting it, rationalizing that I was at an important juncture and needed just a few more minutes…

Those minutes turned into hours and I found I was no better off than before!

That ding of the timer needed a call to action. And I found what I needed when I paired it with a purpose.

So now I use doing the laundry to get me out of my seat—hearing that the washer is done and clothes need to be put in the dryer, then the buzz of the dryer to coax me into removing them so another load can go in, and so on.

Of course that only takes care of one day of the week. For my other writing days, I write a list of tasks unrelated to writing next to my computer and set the timer at the desired interval. I find that being able to cross each item off my list with my favorite turquoise marker is all the reinforcement I need.

Some of the “tasks” might be “walk around the block”, “take a bathroom break,” or “call to make an appointment,” and so on. The point is not what one does, but just to get moving.

What do you do to get yourself away from your computer throughout the day???