For many years folks played board games at night with their kids. This of course was before the widespread use of video game consoles and even TV. Imagine spending hours sitting around looking at a game board trying to figure out the next move to make. Sound boring? Or are you playing board games now?
As writers, don’t we sit at our desks trying to figure out our characters’ next moves? Bet that doesn’t sound boring, if you are a writer. Have you ever thought of using a board game in a novel? How about using a board game as a way to escape from prison?
Too fanciful you say? Well hold on a minute. The British secret service MI9 came up with a way for captured British airman to escape POW camps. They sent them the board game Monopoly. MI9 conspired with the British manufacture of the game to produce “special edition” Monopoly sets with a red dot on the Free Parking space. While that looked like a printing error the dot meant possible freedom. The Monopoly escape kits had compasses and files disguised as playing pieces. French, German, and Italian bank notes were hidden in among the Monopoly money. Maps, printed on silk, were concealed within the board itself. British historians believe the Monopoly games could have helped thousands of captured soldiers escape from their prison camps.
Though silk maps from that era exist in libraries, homes and museums around the world, none of the original rigged Monopoly sets still remain. You see the airmen were instructed to destroy the special game sets so they would not be discovered.
C.D. Hersh have published a number of excellent books. Check out their Amazon Author Page to see what books we have to offer.
Do you plan to have a game board in one of your books or have you already used the idea? Let us know.
Spying is a catchy way of saying “do your research and stay tuned in.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s a mandatory part of being successful. It’s also a great way to build connections. There’s an old saying that to be successful you have to stop obsessing about the competition. I agree with that to a certain degree, but to be unaware of what other authors in your genre are doing is never a smart idea.
Regardless of what you write you need to be dialed into the competitive landscape. Knowing what others in your target market are doing, writing about, and promoting can be key to your success as well. Not that I would ever encourage copying, but being in tune with your genre and market can be a fantastic idea generator, not to mention it gives you the ability to stay ahead of certain trends that haven’t even surfaced at the consumer level yet.
First rule of spying: study your target market, the books as well as other authors in the industry. It helps you to also differentiate yourself from them in products, services, and pricing. Again, you don’t want to copy, you just want to be aware. Another lesser known reason for doing this is that if you’re struggling with your social media (like me)—both from the aspect of what platform to be on to what to say to drive more engagement—keeping these authors on your radar will greatly increase your marketing ideas. Living in a vacuum never made anyone successful.
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you want to know who else is writing on your topic or in your genre. Google search is a great place to start. The results will not just turn up names and book titles but also show you the best ways to interact with your reader.
Google is packed with names of authors who write about your topic or genre. As you begin to compile your list, I want you to do one thing: ignore big brands because it’s likely that they can do anything they want and still be successful. If you’re a middle grade writer, names like Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull come to mind. These authors are big, powerful brands. You want the smaller names—the people you may not immediately recognize. Why? Because they have to try harder. If tomorrow Riordan or Mull decided to put out a book on poetry, while their fans might be surprised, they would likely still buy it. But if a lesser-known author did that they’d look like they have writer-ADD. Not good.
So start putting your list together, as you do sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Twitter and any other social media site they use. That’s what I do. Aside from the obvious reasons why you want to do this, I’m a big fan of supporting other authors in my market. Share their Facebook updates, retweet their great Twitter posts, and like their Instagram images.
One of the hidden gems of this research is it will also show you what social media sites to be on. If you’ve been struggling to figure out where your market resides, this strategy should really clear that up for you. Why? Because if you’re plucking names off of the first page of Google you know one thing: whatever they are doing to show up in search, they’re doing it right. Google has made so many changes to their search algorithms that you simply can’t “trick” the system anymore to get onto page one. Look at their updates. What are they sharing and why? How often do they blog? Are they on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Is there much going on for them on Pinterest or Instagram? Really spend some time with this. Not only will it help you tune into your market but it will cut your learning curve by half, if not more.
Successful authors leave clues. Are you following their bread crumbs?
Here’s a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.
The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…
City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.
Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.
Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.
Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.
Have you heard the story about the goldfish? She was swimming in her bowl and passed the front entrance of the castle that decorated the small aquarium.
“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed. Then she went around the bowl again and spied the fortress once more.
“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed.
She went around again, and not remembering what’d she just seen she exclaimed once more, “Oh, I have a new castle!”
And again, “Oh, I have a new castle!”
And again, and again.
The moral of this story, beside the fact that goldfish have memories that only last for three seconds, is that you, the author, may forget you’ve written a particular piece, or pieces, of information in your story and repeat yourself. While you might not remember dispensing the information, you can bet, that like those of us who are laughing at this funny story, your reader will remember those words, phrases, and information that you’ve inadvertently added more than once.
Don’t get bent out of shape if you discover this in your work. It’s a natural result of writing a book over a long period of time. Most authors only write a few thousand words in any given day, and unless you’re writing a short story, blog post, or essay, it will probably take weeks, or months, before you’ve finished your project. With all the stuff that happens in between your times at the computer, it’s only normal you’d forget something you’ve already written, especially if you get in the zone and your muse or characters take over.
SO WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO?
Here are a few tips to help you catch those repetitions.
FOR REPETITIVE WORDS AND PHRASES: • If you know you’re fond of certain words or phrases, and you use them a lot, make a list and do a search for them at the end of each day’s writing. A quick way to search is by using the find function of Microsoft Word. Type in the word, ask the computer to highlight all forms, and see how often you’ve fallen victim to repetition.
• Eliminate repetitive words and phrases as you go. By doing this you will make the chore less bothersome at the end of the book. A daily reminder of your trouble words will also help prime yourself to catch them as you work.
• Reread the previous day’s work (or even a couple of days work if you’ve been away for a long time) when you sit down to write. By keeping what you’ve written fresh in your mind, you will be less likely to repeat yourself.
FOR REPETITIVE INFORMATION: • Keep a list of the important points/information you want to be sure to include in your story. When you’ve made that point, notate it, indicating where in the book you placed the information.
• Double check how many times your characters repeat a story or information. If the event or information they are revealing to another character has already been shown to the reader, if may not be necessary to repeat the whole story again. The author of Downton Abbey was a master at this technique. When something was being related to other characters that had happened in an earlier episode, he often had a one sentence referral to the incident. Enough to trigger the viewer’s memory, but not enough to bore one to death. For the written word, a simple She told him what happened at the skating rink and the character’s reaction to the story may be enough to get the point across without rehashing the information a second or third time.
• Consider becoming a plotter. When you draft your book’s scenes in outline form, chapter synopsis, or whatever works best for you (and follow them), the tendency to repeat oneself is reduced. Yes, you may still have to double check that you’ve eliminated those pesky repetitions, but you will find they are fewer and, hopefully, farther in between.
What tips do you have for eliminating repetition in your work?
Here’s a brief intro to my inspirational romantic suspense. I hope yo enjoy it.
Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicably attracted to him, he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them by making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.
Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion, and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.
Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.
Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.
This book is required reading if you’re trying to build a newsletter.
Newsletter Ninja was recommended to me by Amy Tasukada, maven of Japanese-Influenced Gay Fiction. Amy knows her stuff, and she’s so nice you’d never guess how much she enjoys thinking of gritty gangster plots for her Yakuza Path series. *Shrugs.* That’s writers for you. Click on this link to see an example of what Amy learned and uses to grow her newsletter.
What makes Newsletter Ninja valuable is how entertaining it is, while being packed full of actionable information. Since I started following Labreque’s advice, I have gained more readers and sold more books. That’s what it’s all about.
I’ve been blogging, publishing, and had a newsletter for years, and it is this book and Amy Tasukada’s presentation that are why I’m seeing growth. No matter what stage you are in, this book will help you get to the next one.
I took 17 pages of notes when I read the book. I’ve reread those notes before sending out a newsletter because the passion Labreque describes comes through in her writing. She’s a heck of a writer.
Check out her Newsletter Ninja website for a taste and to see what she’s got going on there.
Here’s an insider tip of my own that helps me think about what to write in each newsletter – what am I talking to my family, friends, students, and colleagues about? How am I talking about it? That’s golden for me. Get conversational with your newsletter subs and let them get to know you, so they will want you to get to know them.
Wow, that decade zoomed by! I honestly don’t know where those ten years went, but what I do know for sure (quoting Oprah) is that a lot has happened to me personally and professionally since 2010. I’ve lost some people (and pets) by death, and by choice (toxic relationships), worked with two publishing companies and one literary agency, had my hopes dashed only to realize that it was for my highest best anyway, and transitioned from living in cottage country to surviving in the suburbs of sultry, southern Ontario. I’ve had a total of five books published (Woohoo), done book readings without breaking out in a sweat or fainting, and though self-doubt creeps in from time to time, I’ve learned what self-love really means in this crazy, on demand world we are presently living in. Rather than go on and on, I thought I’d share my decade experiences by breaking it down for you in three categories:
What have I accomplished in the last 10 years? So much! I started my blogging journey May 4th, 2011 before I even had a publishing deal—which BTW—I received in August of that same year with a new publishing company called Musa Publishing. This is where I earned my author chops, so to speak. What was expected of an author—which was pretty much everything from promoting to marketing to creating a social media presence to writing my next book, and what a publisher did for their authors. I went from zero experience on the internet to feeling quite comfortable navigating through cyber-space. I received a grant to help build a website to house my first book: The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis and the ones that followed, and celebrated the best book launch ever on May 19th, 2012 surrounded by friends and family who knew how hard I’d worked trying to get published for over fifteen years. I wrote the prequel to The Last Timekeepers series, and received another contract with Musa Publishing. Then…everything changed.
We moved from our house on the lake to a house in the suburbs in the summer of 2014. What I couldn’t have foreseen was Musa Publishing would close their doors in February 2015, leaving over 300 authors stranded, without contracts or support. Thankfully, I had attended a book expo in November 2014, and there I met my future publisher, Mirror World Publishing. In the last five years, we’ve worked together to bring two young adult book series out into the world, The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series, and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series. And since then, I haven’t looked back.
Now that the fruits of my labors are realized, I know I need to continue on my path to write, promote, market, engage, and connect with people who are looking to escape into my fictional worlds. So, it is my hope to write books that will entertain, educate, and inspire both young and young-at-heart readers for generations to come.
What are the lessons I learned in those years?Being an author isn’t for the faint of heart. I’m so not kidding. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that no one is going to care more about your book than YOU do. Period. So do the tough stuff. Get your hands dirty. Experiment. Beg for book reviews. Share helpful content. Be kind to others going through the same thing. Always add value. Go the extra mile. Think of all these acts as your karma bank account, and it will compound by leaps and bounds.
Make a business plan. Remember, writing is a business. So treat it this way. I began writing my ‘Master Business and Life Plan’ on March 9, 2011, when I was researching how to start up a blog. This plan has evolved and grown throughout the last nine years, and will continue to do so. I’ll admit, not everything gets crossed off the plan, but it does give me an overview on where to adjust for the future, and where I’d like to be at the end of the year.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. At the beginning of this decade, the thought of standing up in front of an audience to read an excerpt or visit a school to share my writing journey with students made my teeth itch and want to hide among the shadows. But, I authored up. I faced my fears, and pushed myself enough to get over whatever it was that made me feel this way. Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem be damned. I learned to love who I’d become, what I’d accomplished, and where I’m heading these past ten years. And from where I stand, the future looks so bright, I’m gonna need shades!
What do I need to let go of, drop or release that doesn’t serve me? This is a BIG one: Stop comparing myself to other successful authors. By all means, I should learn from them because success leaves clues, but my journey is not the same as their journey or experiences, so there’s really no comparison. I must drop this, put on a pair of blinders, and focus on MY path.
This is a HARD one: Approval from others. Since we were children, all we wanted was attention —first from our parents, then friends, later co-workers and bosses, and loved ones. We’re hard-wired for this. The truth is that the only person whose approval really matters is our own. That’s it. We need to have our own backs. Trust ourselves enough to stand in our truth. This will definitely be a work in progress for me.
This is an HONEST one: Releasing expectations. When I was a girl, I had a plaque hanging on my bedroom wall that said, ‘Blessed are those who do not expect, for they won’t be disappointed.’ Now that’s some sage advice! So, going back in time, as I love to do when writing my books, I realize having expectations gets in the way of what the Universe has planned for me. Adopting the mindset, ‘Everything happens for me, not to me’ has helped tremendously, and I know that by releasing expectations, I make room for more positive energy to come into my life.
As this decade closes out, I encourage you to ask these three questions, and see how far you’ve come. You just might realize that ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’! Please share your findings if you feel obliged. Would love to read your comments. Cheers, and thank you for reading. Happy New Year, and wishing you and your loved ones, health, happiness, wealth, and all the best in the next ten years ahead!
That was amazing! Thank you, Sharon. I always enjoy when you share your wisdom with us.
I like reading advice on writing from other authors. Many times I find really great ideas that help improve my own writing abilities. For example, in On Writing, Stephen King (2001) recommends listening to music to help a writer block out the world and focus on the work at hand. I have multiple dedicated writing playlists for just this purpose. Certain advice, though, does not resonate with me. For example—certain writers suggest modeling villains after people in your own life that you dislike. I would find that difficult advice to implement in my writing.
First—there is the time factor. Writing a novel generally takes time. Even if a writer aims for a thousand words a day of good, solid prose, the writing stretches into months. Imagine this time actively thinking about people you do not like. This would not be an enjoyable activity in my perspective.
As a writer, I want to like my villains. Not everything that they do—many of their activities to me would be morally objectionable. But I need to understand them—to know why they are doing certain activities so that I can put this down on the page. I need to sympathize with their motivations and to realize that, in most instances, the villains do not see themselves as evil. These characters need the same depth as the heroes or, in my opinion, they will never be more than a caricature.
In Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett (1991, p. 185) has the villain of the story, Lilith, makes the following comparison: “She wondered whether there was such a thing as the opposite of a fairy godmother. Most things had their opposite, after all. If so, she wouldn’t be a bad fairy godmother, because that’s just a good fairy godmother seen from a different viewpoint.” Later in the story, readers learn that Lilith firmly believes she is the good fairy godmother and is not the villain. It’s a matter of perspective, and in her viewpoint, those working against her are evil. She’s trying to improve people’s lives, and those working against her are trying to impede progress.
This is not the only type of villain in literature, but it is the type that I tend to find the most interesting. It is why I can sympathize with Khan in Star Trek (both in Into Darkness and in Space Seed) and Loki in The Avengers while at the same time being morally appalled by many of their actions.
There are obvious exceptions to this—Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy does not generate sympathy for many readers, (although Tolkien does give him a fascinating history in The Silmarillion that explains his fall into darkness) but the Nazguls always had a touch of sympathy to their story for me because they were tricked by Sauron into becoming the Ring Wraiths. The detail and care that Tolkien invests into the story keeps these characters from being caricatures.
You’ll face many decisions in your author career, including which name to write under. Four experienced authors have teamed up to share their perspectives and offer you the opportunity to ask questions. We write in various genres, so hopefully you’ll see yours represented.
Read at your own pace. We’ve given you time to
look through without rushing.
Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.
HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter duo who write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit Carpenter Country at hlcarpenter.com.
I was born in Germany, a little more than 60 years ago. My family came to Canada when I was of school age, and I’ve been here ever since. When my kids were little, I wrote 27 children’s books, worked in television and radio, and worked as a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. After my husband of 25 years passed away, I began to write romance novels as a way to keep the love inside of my heart. I now have 11 romance novels for sale in the amazon bookstore, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they have different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and my sister’s scary biography. ‘The Elusive Mr. Velucci’ is nothing short of a very romance love story, where nobody dies, but it will bring a lump to your throat as you continue to wish that Enrico and Sadie find each other again.