Everyone Judges a Book by Its Cover!

Writers go on about the first page or chapter of a book being a deal-breaker, and it is as far as the words go, but sometimes, the cover is what catches a reader’s attention before they even check the blurb or read a sample. 

A dull or low-grade cover will put me right off. I can’t help what I feel over an image just as I can’t help what I feel over the first page. The higher the quality and more creative, the better. Of course, I’m mostly referring to fantasy, but the quality applies to any novel in my opinion. 

I don’t mean for big fancy graphics to blind me. Simple can still be eye-catching and creative. I’m talking about smooth images, top quality graphics, and something that relates to the title, which should also relate to the book. The reader should be able to judge the book by its cover and be right.

Below are some top-notch covers on my bookshelf/kindle.

The above covers vary in complexity of imagery, but they express the general ideas in relation to the story based on the blurb and what I read in the book. Also, each one looks professional and well thought-out. 

Simple can be the best if your cover looks graphically pleasing.

When I need a break from actual writing, I like to find inspirational images and music, so I have a collection of character images and cover wishlists. I can’t use them for the book because of copyright on Deviantart, where I find most of my inspirational images. But I would beg them to sell me the images as my book covers. 

Below are some of my wishlist covers. 

Find this image here.
This would be amazing on the cover of Wings of Fire and Fury, book 1 of my pentalogy… when I get around to the next revision. 
Burning
Out of Ashes – This image is perfect in tone and content for my debut novel.
Queen-of-Ice
Blades of Ice and Darkness – This image ticks so many boxes for book 2 of my Starlighters pentalogy. 

With the right graphic designer, I know we would come up with amazing images to each of my novels. Until then, I’ll settle for these inspiring images as my wish covers.


Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

Work/Life/Writing Balance!

It’s ironic that my last post was about how writing is the same as running a small business, and then I go and do almost nothing writing related this month. Normally, I’d feel bad about that, and the lack of creative outlet would drag my mood down. But it’s done nothing of the sort. I’ve been immersed in my job and loving it.

When your day job gets busy, it’s important to make it a priority. Your writing won’t pay the bills unless you’re an international bestseller with merch and sponsors and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to keep a regular job and find a better balance. 

Here are some things I try to do to make my life easier so I might find more time and energy to get some writing or writing related things done.

  • Don’t eat food that takes long to prepare. That doesn’t mean eat sandwiches or anything from a packet. Check out my Hungry Writer page for quick prep and healthy recipes that can see you through several meals. 
  • Get as many chores done as possible the moment you get a burst of energy. It’s great to keep a list of things to do each day, but if you get ahead of yourself, you could use the time the next day to write.
  • Pick out your clothes the night before or for the whole week on Sunday night. Sounds a over-excessive, but it takes maybe ten minutes to pull out a few outfits and spares you the hassle in the mornings. I usually pick a bag, and everything matches or compliments that colour. 
  • Try going straight to your computer after you’ve eaten. It’s always good to sit and let a meal go down, so use that time to pull up your document and get to writing, even if it’s only half an hour.
  • Limit your procrastination or… and we all know it’s a thing… check your phone apps when you’re doing a number 2. Yup, I said it. 
  • If you have a long drive to work, try audiobooks. I know they can be expensive, but Audiblle has a subscription with one book included every month for around the price of a physical book (country depending). 
  • Even if you’re tired and desperate to get home, try going via the supermarket on your way home if it’s close by. It’ll save you going out again later. 
  • Speaking of shopping, make a strict shopping list in order of the supermarket layout, or in departments if you shop at various supermarkets. It’ll make it easier to see what you need and grab it as you go round.

I do most of this whether work is busy or not, and I find myself more relaxed and with a little more free time here and there. This month, I’ve focussed more on my job as an English language teacher for children both at work and at home. The academy I work for runs a summer camp in July in the mornings. We sing and dance in English, learn a little vocabulary based on the daily topic and make something fun and crafty. It’s a lot of planning in June and switching from evenings to mornings, but with 1 week left, it’s been amazingly fun.

But, this meant that I was super tired and couldn’t manage long at my computer. Even now, I’ve spent all day cleaning because I lacked the energy all week, and I just want to flop on the sofa and watch a film. I’m thinking the Troll Hunters movie for funsies. I’m five years old inside, so I love stuff like that. Or the new Masters of the Universe. I’ll think about it while I make my usual Saturday night pizza.

Anyhoo, back to my point. 

Balancing work and life and writing is hard, and even if you have the time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the energy or brain power.

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

Shadows

I once walked in the dark, a shadow of the woman I used to be.

More shadows followed me, fears and unfulfilled desires.

I became the shadows, chasing what I thought I wanted.

Time taught me to let go and stop chasing.

But now you’re my shadow, watching when I no longer want you.

You pushed me over the edge and watched me fall.

But I didn’t hit the ground. 

I flew despite everything.

So you have no right to watch me soar.

This is my flight, not yours.

And my shadows are far below me as the glorious sun warms my wings.

So to you, my darkest shadow, you no longer darken my flight.

For more pieces like this, check out my Embracing Darkness collection.

Having an Online Presence Isn’t so Scary!

Treat for my writing buddy T-Rex who is always supporting me in my writing, so here’s some hopefully helpful thoughts on getting online.

Blogging and staying active on social media to promote your brand is time-consuming and overwhelming when you have a million and one other things to do, but if you want to make it in this world, you have to market yourself. I’m going to breakdown some tips for organising and connecting your apps to make things that bit easier. 

Let’s start with a blog and website. 

I strongly recommend a full-package hosting platform for your website. They make design and management so much more easy. Platforms like WordPress are designed for blogs as well as full websites, but there are others out there. 

I can’t rave enough about WordPress, so here are some of the many things I love about WordPress.

  • Easy and versatile editing for your posts and pages. You can choose preset layouts or add your own widgets like an image gallery, quotes, files… the list goes on. 
  • You can use your own images (copyright depending) or use the built-in Pexels.com search with automatic attribution. It’s important to attribute artists especially when they’re offering great images for free.
  • Connectivity to various apps. If you’re reading this post in its full form as opposed to WordPress Reader, you’ll see my Instagram and Goodreads to the right or below. Plus, you can automatically publish new posts to Twitter and Facebook (if you create a page). There’s also Mailchimp connection. You can even link to your Google photos for easy image upload. 
  • See your stats and traffic and where they’re coming from to help with marketing.
  • Lots of themes to choose from on the free version, and even more on the paid versions.
  • You can personalise your site address even with the free version if you don’t mind the wordpress.com at the end. Or you can upgrade and have your own domain. Plans start at around $50 per year, but I recommend Premium around $100 per year. 
  • Add hashtags and categories to help people find your latest posts and pages on WordPress and Facebook.
  • Built-in scheduling to time your posts just right for your readers.
  • Readers and bloggers can use the WordPress app for easy viewing and quick posting or editing on the go. 

Social Media

Whether you like social media or not, it’s essential to get your name out there in this busy modern age. I’m still very much growing a following, but the moment I became active on social media, my blog traffic tripled. Here are my favourite aspects of the platforms I use.

Intsagram

You can’t share links on Instagram, but you can use something like linktree which I’ll talk about in a moment.

  • The filters make basic quality photos from your mobile look more professional and creative. 
  • It’s quick and easy to scroll through and all about the images. Long text is generally not used, and if it is, it’s very hidden behind a “see more” option.
  • Most people I follow publish daily, but not more than two or three posts like many on Twitter.
  • I can follow people and hashtags and find new writers or bookworms to follow for a great community.
  • There’s also a group chat option. 
  • You can go live and get great conversations going.

Facebook

  • Unlike Instagram, you can post links (like from your blog) with an automatic snippet from the page.
  • Groups are more versatile than Instagram and work a bit like a private page for people to post to and respond to similar to a forum. 
  • It feels like it has more information, which I don’t always have the brain capacity for, but when I do, I find it entertaining to keep up with my favourite writers and musicians. 

Twitter

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter. I tried but didn’t get on with it. But it’s good for quick posts and limited word count. Plus, you can share links on there.

Staying Organised

  • I recommend keeping multiple blog posts in the same document/s based on time spans or themes. I keep my writing ranting posts separate from my reading ranting posts. Each one has two months’ of posts.
  • Using Google Docs or OneNotes is great because you can work on your computer or your phone. Then you can copy into your desired app when it’s ready.
  • Scheduling posts is another great way to keep your social media more organised and balance your life and social media. Set aside time each week to write and prepare your posts, then sit back and watch the magical world of digital media do its thing. As I mentioned, WordPress has this option for blog posts. Facebook has a business management app for free with scheduling. Or, you can use Planoly to publish on Instagram. There’s a setting on Instagram to automatically post to Facebook so you don’t have to post twice.
  • Keep lists of hashtags in a handy document such as your blog document or a OneNotes page for quick copying to whatever your posting. 
  • Keep all your links in one place. I use Link Tree for a one-stop-shop for social media and any new links I want to share, which I can use on Instagram since they don’t allow links in the posts. Just add the link in your link tree and tell readers to go to your bio link. 

It all sounds like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually much easier than you think. With blog posts sending to Facebook, and Planoly sending to both Instagram and Facebook, you really only need to focus on these for scheduled posting. 

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s the gist of it all.

Image by Paul Stachowiak from Pixabay 

Harsh Critiques!

I’ve had mixed experiences with giving and receiving critiques. I try to be honest and encouraging and have many great writing buddies do the same for me. But one thing that bothers me is when people I don’t know critique my work with zero encouragement or when others talk about wanting “harsh” crits or “tear my chapter apart”.

Firstly, let’s look at the word “harsh”.

Cambridge Dictionary says… unpleasant, unkind, cruel, or more severe than is necessary:

Merriam Webster defines it as… unpleasant and difficult to accept or experience

Then there’s “tear it apart” or “rip it to shreds”. I mean, who asks for something like that? 

What these people should be saying is “Be honest. Feel free to nit pick. Point out any and every issue you find that leaves my manuscript lacking.” This is what a “real” critique is all about.

Critters can’t control if a writer is going to be sensitive to negative comments or not, but you don’t have to sugarcoat it either to be constructive. You don’t have to lie or give false praise in order to be encouraging. Honesty and a little tact on any issues go an incredibly long way. There’s also a sever lack of encouragement for new writers. We’re all learning and growing and want to be part of a community that inspires us to be better rather than discouraging us. There should be balance in a good critique.

Critiques should be helpful, productive and exciting to see the potential in your work even if you have a long way to go. For me, that’s part of the fun, taking a draft and polishing it into something I can be proud of and grateful for my writing buddies for getting me there.

However, I get to the point with my writing buddies where we can be blunt without offending one another. I’ve had a couple who apologise for bluntness if they picked on something a lot in a particular chapter, and I was fine with it. That’s a little different because I know them and trust that they’re not saying it to be harsh. They’re saying it because they’re familiar enough with my work to know what I’m capable of.

So stop asking for harsh critiques and start asking for honest ones.

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay 

Read Terrible Books!

Yes, I recommend reading terrible books. Why, you ask? Because it helps you learn what not to do as a writer. And that’s even better than learning what to do. It’s highly subjective what to do a how to write. I doubt any two writers will agree on everything even if they agree in general. 

But there are many no-nos that just about every writer would agree with. If not, then I worry for them. And I worry for the author of the series that prompted this post. I don’t even want to say who it is because the writing and story are that bad. I’m not the only one, and some of the Goodreads reviews made my point. I’m currently on book 3, but I have it as an audiobook in my car so I don’t waste my precious reading time. Thank you, audiobooks.

And onto the no-nos based on this particular series. They shouldn’t be a surprise, but they’re a strong reminder how you can ruin an entire series.

  • Don’t bore your readers with backstory or history lessons, especially long conversations that don’t lead anywhere or just keep going round in circles. If the character is learning new things, that’s okay, but bear in mind that your readers might not want to know every single detail that goes beyond answering the essential questions in that moment. 
  • Don’t overdo descriptions to the point they become info-dumps rather than visual exposition unless it’s particularly important to the character on an emotional level. Find a nice balance between descriptions for your readers and the reactions of your characters.
  • Make sure your book stays relatively consistent when it comes to age category. Things like love scenes and swearing, for example, need to be toned down for YA but freer for adult. That’s not to say you should throw sex scenes in every other chapter (unless it’s a romance or erotica, which is a whole different tone) or have overly foul-mouthed characters all the time. And please have character be realistic when it comes to sex. It’s one thing to get a little embarrassed when over-sharing or if another character spills intimate secrets, but getting overly squirmy and making a big deal of someone’s limited experience is more YA than adult. Adults can be immature at times, but keep their immaturity realistic and limited.
  • Don’t overdo character traits to the point they’re in every scene or made a big deal of every time. Traits are important, and it’s okay to have another character point them out occasionally… within reason.
  • Don’t be vague on things that your characters (especially POV characters) should know inside and out unless it’s really not necessary in that scene.
  • On the other hand, don’t save things or hints of things until the final chapter or later book in a series that your characters should know. It’s okay to drop a brief mention of things that don’t mean much at the start, but you need something to set the foundation for when you do need them so it doesn’t feel like cheating or a deus ex machina.
  • Don’t avoid the learning curves. I mostly mean this in relation to magical abilities, but it applies to general skills too. Your characters need to learn to use said skills and even struggle at first, maybe even have a fail or two to make it more effective when their skills finally click. That clicking moment is a big deal for your characters.
  • Don’t forget the plot. I’m a huge fan of character-driven story, but the book needs some semblance of a plot that coincides with the character’s goals. Establish their personal journey from the start, and the main plot should slot in.

Oddly enough, this particular series has a tone of very specific elements that my series has. I was super miffed to read the place names, nicknames, even many character traits and arcs that are identical to mine. I’m not worried though. My story is way better since I don’t do all the stupid things I’ve mentioned above, and there’s an actual plot.

So reading terrible books actually helps you as a writer avoid those major let-downs for readers.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

Therapeutic Writing!

As it’s mental health month, I thought that now is as good a time as any to talk about how writing can be therapeutic. Living with a mental illness sucks, and I get overwhelmed with emotions easily. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel and why, so I get to writing.

I write short pieces as you’ll find in my Embracing Darkness collection and Duet for One based on the darker emotions or completely confusing situations. Then there are my novels, which include moments or reactions from my past that I’ve adapted for my novel. It’s like a creative diary.

One novel in particular started with a dream prompted by some horrible events during an extremely hard time. After realising I had more to write on that, I turned it into a full-length novel. It was very therapeutic for me and helped me deal with a horrific and confusing situation. 

You don’t have to write everything exactly how it happens. That’s the joy of creative writing. Turning it into something abstract or fantastical can be just as helpful if it gets your emotions out. I’m a fantasist, and the only way I know how to deal with my emotions is to make it something fantastical.

My writing helps me put my emotions into something that I can make sense of and process in a creative way. Next time you’re going through a rough time, try writing about it. You never know where it could lead to.

Image by 育银 戚 from Pixabay

Screw Book Purists!

With the release of Shadow and Bone on Netflix, I got to thinking how huffy some readers get when a great book makes it to the screen. Book to TV or film adaptations are getting a bad rep with book purists. Well… great stories should NOT be limited to one medium.

I’m all for books. I love books. On my bookshelf. On my Kindle or Google Books. In audiobooks. I love all book formats. Reading or listening to books forces my imagination. I focus on visual words to lose myself or I listen to someone reading a story like meditation. 

So when a great book pops up in a series or film, I jump at the chance to see what it looks like. 

My mind adjusts and is more open to another version of the book. Because let’s face it, that’s all it is, another version, an adaptation, a director and screenwriter’s interpretation of the story. 

We have to separate the mediums of the written word and the theatrical adaptation. 

To huff and moan about these adaptations is futile because it is not always meant for the same people who read the original book. By adapting a book to another medium, it’s reaching out to new fans, new people to appreciate the greatness of the story.

To huff and moan that anyone had the audacity to turn the book into a visual adaptation is to deny people fantastic books that captured so many readers. Some people don’t have time to read or struggle with reading, or find it hard to turn the descriptions into something visual. 

We all deserve great stories in whatever form of media suits us best.

Let’s talk examples…

A Song of Fire and Ice was adapted to the TV series, Game of Thrones. I started reading the books after I saw the season 1 of the TV adaptation and wasn’t a fan of the books. I just didn’t enjoy the writing style, but I liked the story, so the TV version was more my thing.

I loved Netflix’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments. The TV series, Shadow Hunters, held the same amazing stories and characters with exciting variations for anyone who’d already read the books, which I had—all six if them. The TV series played on the same character challenges and personal issues while spicing things up so existing readers were teased with variations of the existing story. 

I read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone a couple of years ago and quite liked it. Now there’s a Netflix serious of the books. I’m excited for it and have seen the first couple of episodes to find a fun balance of similarities and differences. And Ben Barnes pulls off another great fictional character after his portrayal of Dorian Gray and Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia, more classic stories brought to life. 

And let’s not forget Lord of the RIngs and The Hobbit. These were just as epic on screen as they were on the page. Releasing them as movies renewed many fans’ love for these fantastical and inspiring adventures.

Not everyone has the time or ability to read books. But a 2 hour film, or 40 minute TV show per week reaches an even bigger audience and may encourage people to read the book too, having found a story worth reading. 

TV or film is never a true representation of a good book, so we shouldn’t expect it to, and book purists should shut up and stick to their books only book club or whatever.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Writing Has Ruined My Reading!

Warning: This gets ranty. But since this blog is about ranting…

Also, shout out to my writing buddy T-Rex who prompted this post. How he puts up with my rants, I’ll never know. 

As I mentioned in First Chapters Are the Worst, I’ve found more and more books go against what I’ve learned as a writer. Two of the books mentioned in that post were self-published (the two with the shorter lists) while two were traditionally published. All highly successful.

With the help of my CPs, I’ve honed my skills, taken the time to become what I thought was a good writer so that I could find an agent who’ll give me the best chance at becoming an author. I could self-publish, and I will if I get rejected by all the agents I’ve queried (It’s ben almost 5 weeks). But I want a good agent who can get me a great publisher, who knows the market, and can sell my book better than I could on my own. 

In theory, with the right marketing, anyone can sell a book. I follow a few successful self-published authors. And if you have just enough good elements to catch those hungry readers, then your success will only grow. As I said in my post on first chapters, success isn’t just down to us as writers. It’s down to agents, editors, publishers, and readers.

Many of the CPs I interact with warn against too much world-building, uninteresting protagonists, and character overload. But I’ve read so many bestselling books that go against this advice along with more specific prose issues. I skimmed some of my favourites from recent years and was surprised at the “writing donts” in them that I didn’t notice before. I was pretty shocked to see so many 5-star ratings and praising reviews compared to the low percentage of those who I agreed with in my new mindset. 

 One in particular was riddled with issues. The world-building was overdone by far, like multiple paragraphs of “what the fuck is this?.” As for the romance… It barely registered when it actually mattered. I mean, the protag slips into bed (sleeping only) with her “off-limits” bow,, who’s she’s kissed like twice. Like, lady, this guy risked a ton for you, is totally into you, and you deny both your feelings. Again, what the fuck?

I don’t mind when couples dance around one another for a reasonable length of time before things get physical. Or when things genuinely keep getting in their way. But when couples share feelings, have opportunities to be together, even if just for a fleeting moment, and don’t properly act in it until like book 4, that’s when I get annoyed. 

As for world-building… 🤬 It bugs me when my CPs tell me certain things are vague from what I’ve shown, because I REALLY like to show what I can and save the “telling” for emergencies. So I drop a short and sweet two or three-line explanation (selective telling) to clarify, and the next CPs deem it an info dump. THREE LINES??? And this is another confusing issue since my recent reading involves so many heavy info dumps from bestsellers. What is a girl to do?

New thought. I need to find a better balance for my work based on the books in my genre, especially those whose readers are my potential readers. Knowing the market is half the battle, and I realise I got my market a little off. That’s not to say I’m going to rewrite all my books to emulate these authors. I like my voice and how I can vary it for my different writing projects. That’s another thing that leaves me bored with authors is when all their narration sounds the same, even in different series.

Adapting is not the same as sacrificing. We all adapt as we learn and grow, or we get stuck in our ways, leading us nowhere. I choose to adapt.

Image by InstagramFOTOGRAFIN from Pixabay 

Unravelling Writing Advice – When to Hire and Editor!

Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.

I’ve never hired an editor, and there’s a reason for that. Let me explain…

When it comes to hiring editors, I’ve discovered there are three types of writer.

  1. The writer who gets an editor before they’ve finished their WIP or pays an editor even though they plan to traditionally publish their work.
  2. The writer who thinks critique partners and beta readers substitute a professional editor.
  3. The writer who does all they can through CPs and beta readers before hiring an editor or waits for an agent/publishing house to arrange that for them.

Let’s look at number one. Hiring an editor too soon is a waste of money, if you ask me. Sure, you might get frustrated with feedback from fellow writers and want a professional opinion on your WIP. But I’d do as much as you can with your CPs and beta readers before shelling precious money. 

If your heart is still set on getting professional input, a developmental editor would be your best bet. They’re there to help with plot holes, character arcs, common prose fails, and other big picture issues. Think about what this would do short term and long term. Do you think one editor can do a better job than multiple CPs on your WIP? I’m not saying don’t hire one if you’re struggling. I’m saying consider carefully if it’s worth the cost. Multiple CPs can pick out a lot of big-picture issues between them, and it’s free. 

On the other hand, I would never suggest anyone skip a professional editor in favour of using CPs as editors. Not all writers have great editing skills and vice versa. Editor is its own profession for a reason. Whether you self-publish or go via an agent or publisher, you should always have at least a copy editor go through your work for spelling and grammar mistakes before you finalise your printable book.

In my opinion, the best time to hire an editor is when you’ve done all you can based on your skills and feedback. Either hire an editor yourself if you self-publish or let your agent/publisher handle this for you. Ideally, editing is the absolute last stage as far as writing your manuscript before it gets made into a pretty little book or ebook. 

The reason why I haven’t hired an editor is because I had great CPs and beta readers to develop my story. I also hope to traditionally publish my book, so I’m not going to pay for something when a possible agent will organise it and foot the bill for me. If I get rejected, then I’ll pay an editor to do a final polish of my MS before it’s publishable.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, so don’t spend it until you actually need that professional editing service. But you WILL need it to give your book a more professional look.

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay