Author Takeover Events

On Facebook, a lot of authors host Book Launch Parties to celebrate the release of their new books. These launch parties can be an all-day event of the author talking about their book, answering questions, and giving tons of tips, or it can be just whatever the author wants. What happens most of the time is that the author will invite other authors to come and take an hour of the event to promote their own work. This is called an Author Takeover Event, and the event can be anywhere from one to three days long.

Author Takeover Events are helpful because every author involved already has their own platform and loyal fans who jump at the opportunity to see one of their favorite authors participating in such an event. Also the fans may be curious as to meet new undiscovered authors in the same genre. So this works in favor for everyone.

So what do you, as an author, do in such an event? You usually have one hour to talk about yourself/your book. Sometimes two hours, but usually it’s just one. That may seem like a LONG time, but really it’s not. Let me break it down for you.

  • An hour is 60 minutes.
  • 12 x 5 = 60, so you can post every five minutes which results in a total of twelve posts. Five minutes feels like a long time, but it’s just enough for people to Like/Comment on the posts without being TOO long a wait. I will break that down.
  • So you have ten posts. You want the following:
    • Intro as you an author (who you are as a human being, something for the audience to relate to you)
    • Intro to your book(s) (what your book is about)
    • Post 1
    • Post 2
    • Post 3
    • Post 4
    • Post 5
    • Post 6
    • Post 7
    • Post 8
    • Post 9
    • Conclusion (usually includes links to your books/blog/website/social media and thanking the MAIN host for inviting you to participate)

As you noticed Posts 1-9 have no description. These are the posts you need to get creative about. So really, instead of TWELVE posts that you need to worry about making up, you need to just worry about NINE. The two intros and the conclusion tend stay pretty consistent although you can change them up however often you want. Just depends on how often you participate in these events. However, it’s the seven posts in the middle that you need to focus on.

So, what are some things you can post for those seven posts? Whatever you want. I have seen the following:

  • Paragraphs describing different characters from the stories (I recommend one character per post)
  • Sneak peeks/snippets of the story
  • Questions directed to the audience (“What’s your favorite childhood book?” etc)
  • Sharing blog posts
  • Games & quizzes
  • Pictures (of characters or locations or of the author or author’s pets, etc)
  • Facebook Live video
  • Giveaways
  • AND SO MUCH MORE

There really isn’t limit to what you can do. Be creative, professional, organized, and engaged with the audience, and you can do whatever you want. It’s an opportunity for you to talk about YOUR BOOK for one hour!! That doesn’t happen a lot, so seize the opportunity.

Now though, when you participate in an Author Takeover Event, things can get crazy pretty fast, so you may want to be organized beforehand before diving into it. You see, what happens is that you make a post and publish it, and you plan to wait a few minutes before publishing another post. However, after you post something new, someone may comment on your previous post. You turn your attention to it to reply, and someone else comments too. Next thing you know, you only posted one thing and fifteen minutes have passed, and people are wondering if you’re going to post anything else.

In order to stay on top of your posting and replying to any comments, I recommend you have all your posts written ahead of time, so all you have to do is copy/paste. Now, I use Scrivener, so I organize everything in one file. It looks like this:

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-2-57-01-pm

As you can see, each document is labeled according to a specific time. This is because for that specific Author Takeover Event, my slot is from 4-5PM CST. Instead of me trying to mentally multiple by 5 during the event, I just titled each post with the time I want to publish them. This is one less thing I have to worry about later.

Here’s another organizational trick I do to keep up with my posts and everyone’s comments. As soon as I publish a new post, I go to the time stamp right beneath my name on the Facebook post, and I right-click then ’Open In New Tab’. This opens that specific post in a new tab. When I post another one, I do the same thing, opening a separate tab for it as well, and I keep doing it. This way, when I get a notification of comment, I can check the notifications to determine which post it is, and then go to the tab that contains that post rather than scrolling up and down trying to find the right post.

I have one main tab open, which is where I publish each new post. I don’t change anything with this tab. As soon as I publish a post, I open a new tab with that post then ignore that tab. I then go to my notes, copy the next post, and go to the main tab, paste the post there, and have it all primed and ready to go when it’s time to post. Once I’ve done that, I can skip around the different tabs I have opened and converse with everyone without missing a beat.

Hopefully that makes sense! Sometimes it’s hard to describe these things!

Now remember, all of these are merely recommendations. Everyone does everything differently. There is no right or wrong way to do it. If you’ve never done an Author Takeover Event, this is simply a guideline you may follow. Adapt and adjust it according to your own preferences. Pay attention to any rules the MAIN host of the event may have. Be professional but also approachable. And most of all have fun!

I hope you the best!

Minor Characters

Recently, in the circles that I’m in, more and more people are asking what to do about minor characters. They want to flush them out, give them their own backstory, their own story, understand their background, and everything that makes them tick, but should they do that? How much attention should we give our minor characters? To address this, let’s look at real life.

There are people you encounter every day that you know nothing about. You go to the gas station, fuel up, go inside to get a snack, and the only words exchanged between you and the cashier are:

“Hello, how are you today?”

“I’m great, thanks.”

“Your total will be $5.98.” A pause as the cashier accepts the cash from you, and then she smiles at you and hands you your purchased item. “Thank you, and have a great day.”

“Thanks. You too.” And you leave.

Now, you know nothing about that girl. You don’t know how old she is, if she’s in high school or college, if she’s married or single or has any kids. You don’t know what her talents are, her skills are, or her dreams. You know absolutely nothing, but you’re okay with that. Why? Because you have someplace to be, and getting stuck in a conversation may distract you from what you have to do.

So having characters you know nothing about is fine in a story. Now, another instance of minor characters would be those people you run into on occasion. You’ve seen them enough times you might know their names and greet them. For instance, my mother and I used to go to the park and walk every morning, and at the same time there was this older couple also walking the trail. Their names were Vic and Sid. We knew nothing more of each other except for our names, and we’d greet each other warmly each time we saw one another:

“Hey! How are you? Been a while since we’ve seen you.”

“Yeah, been busy—family stuff, but it’s nice to be back.”

“It’s great to see you again.”

“You too.” And we’d just keep walking, minding our own business.

Another way we may encounter minor characters in real life may be those people we see on a regular basis and may or may not recall the person’s name, but we have a fair idea of what their personality is like and maybe even their dreams. However, they like to talk with you at the most inopportune times, and you never really want to get too drawn into a conversation. An example of this is a cashier at Wal-Mart who has checked out your items on a regular basis. You can’t recall her name, so you have to keep looking at her tag, which reads ‘Jenny’. She remembers you though even if she doesn’t recall your name. You’re the person who’s published a book. In her eyes, you’re famous, and she likes talking with you in a loud voice. She tries to be nonchalant about your accomplishments, and every time she sees you, she tells you about her plans of making a movie. You encourage her, but really, standing in line at the cashier in Wal-Mart is not the best place for this conversation since there are other people in line waiting for their items to be checked through. However, you never see her outside of Wal-Mart, and every time you talk with her, she keeps saying the same thing, and it’s like she never takes any steps toward fulfilling her dreams. You don’t really have time to invest in this person, but you try to be nice.

Now all these are minor characters you may meet in real life. In stories, your characters will encounter similar characters, and you don’t have to flush them out thoroughly. Giving them a personality is always good, and sometimes minor characters will surprise you by actually contributing majorly to the story in ways you never expected, and that’s all right.

The main thing to keep in mind is, “Is this minor character important to the story? Does this character contribute to the story? Do they contribute in a small way or in a big way?” If it’s a small way, you don’t have to develop them too much. Yes, you as the author might know their entire life story and all their hopes and dreams, but that might not be important to the story you’re writing. It’d be very confusing if you have a story about someone who’s on the run from the law, and he checks into this motel where there’s this guy behind the counter who’s dream is to become a cowboy, and suddenly the story shifts to trying to let him accomplish his dream. Sure, there are ways of making the work, but what about the guy who’s on the run?

You’re not obligated it give every character major screen time. In someone else’s life, you are a minor character, someone who they merely passed by on the sidewalk. Yes, you have a lot of depth, huge dreams, and your own bag of troubles, but to that individual whose life you don’t impact, you’re just another face, and that’s okay.

So, when you’re writing a story, if you don’t know how much you should develop a minor character, look at the story, ask how important the character is to the story and how much they contribute to it. Go ahead and give them some personality or quirk to make them memorable to the reader, but then move on. You could have a memorable minor character, and this could be someone that you decide to come back to later and write his own story, but for the time being, don’t overwhelm your book with too many characters.

Dealing with Procrastination

“How do you deal with procrastination?” I’ve been asked, and I ask them, “Well, what’s your reason for procrastinating?”  Usually I don’t get much of a response except for an indecisive, uncertain answer such as a shrug of the shoulder and, “I don’t know.” In order to tackle procrastination, you must first determine why you do it. It is a means to pass time, but pass time from what? For us writers, usually we’re procrastinating from working on our stories in one way or another. What are some ways and reasons we procrastinate? Here’s a list:

  • Distracted
  • Bored
  • Really just don’t want to do what you have to do
  • Not even sure what you’re supposed to do
  • Don’t know how to do what you’re supposed to do
  • Tired or beyond exhausted
  • Not feeling well
  • Can’t get your thoughts organized
  • Totally unmotivated to do anything
  • Lacking direction
  • Keep getting interrupted
  • Stressed out
  • Health issues
  • Reluctant to write
  • Lacking confidence in your abilities
  • Lack of time
  • Family/friend drama
  • Life issues
  • Have other things you’d rather do

And the list can go on. Now, there is no magic formula how to not procrastinate. Everyone is different, and there is different ways to combat this. Some people are more self-motivated while other people really struggle to get much done. You need to determine what kind of person you are and what your unique struggles are. If you realize you lack self-motivation but really want to change that, you need to start setting realistic goals for yourself. Let’s say you struggle with writing anything in your story, but you want to get better at that. Start by telling yourself to write at least 250-500 words a day. You have no excuses. You can do it. You simply need to make the time to do that. You can ask a friend to hold you accountable, but you don’t want to rely on that individual. You must become independent and self-driven.

As you do this, you will find that this new drive doesn’t only affect how you write, but it also touches upon the rest of your life and how you conduct yourself. You see, it takes time to get something time. If you can measure how much time each project takes, you can manage it accordingly. People have lost the sense of being accountable for how they spend their time. If you’re trying to become more self-motivated, start observing how you spend your time. One way to do this is to take a calendar at the end of the day and write the major things you accomplished during that day or what major things happened to you during that day. Having a blank day makes you feel like you totally wasted all that time, which cannot be redeemed.

Always try to have a short To-Do list every day of things that are within your ability to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be a long list but rather realistic. For instance, today I only have a few things on my list to do. It looks like this:

  1. Write new blog posts
  2. Proof/edit 15 chapters
  3. Post author interview
  4. Go to gym and swim

Of course that’s not including the everyday chores I have to do. These are things totally within the realm of possibility. Yes, the proofing and editing of fifteen chapters can be daunting, and I’m really not looking forward to that, but I did the math. If I do 15 chapters a day, I will have completed the book by Saturday. Once it’s completed, I can send it on to my proofreader and to my editor, and they can begin the process of proofing and editing it themselves. The sooner they get it, the sooner they’ll get it back to me, and the sooner I can publish it. That is the only thing pushing me. I’ve already completed #3 on that list, and I’m currently working on #1. Around 3PM today, I’ll be able to hit the gym. And that is how I’m able to accomplish things on my To-Do list. I don’t list every little thing I need to do (like cooking dinner or cleaning out the cat litter box or feeding the dog), but I list the things that I’d like to accomplish during the day.

So, as you contemplate procrastination, reflect on your life, your motives, and what motivates you. I can’t give you a checklist that will make you more productive. I can’t change who you are—only you can do that, but you can only do that once you realize who you really are, and that takes some self-reflection and being honest with yourself.

The Truth About Self-Publishing

The truth about self-publishing is simple: it’s hard work, and it can cost a lot of money. What’s the advantage? You, the author, maintains absolute control over every element of your story, book, and marketing. If you know what you’re doing, this is a good thing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be overwhelming but not impossible. Let’s break it down.

  1. Write the novel
  2. Revise the book
  3. Self-edit
  4. Beta readers
  5. Revise
  6. Edit/proofread
  7. Format
  8. Bookcover
  9. Publish
  10. Promote

The first two parts you do on your own, and #2 you might do multiple times. Once you’ve done that, then do #3 on your own, and again you might do this multiple times before moving on to #4 where you allow other people to read it and give you feedback. Once you get that feedback, you go back into the story, revise and self-edit accordingly, and then you send it on to an editor who checks for any errors. Once you’ve fixed your manuscript based on what they found, you send it to a proofreader, who looks for anything out of place.

When that is done and you have once more edited your novel, you can begin the formatting process or you can send it to someone to format for you. Around the same time, you’d want to contact your graphic artist to begin a cover for your book.

Once the book is formatted and the cover is completed, you are ready to send it to whichever self-publishing venue you wish. And then the promotional stage really kicks off although even before this, you should have already begun building your fanbase through Author Facebook Page and any other social media means you wish to use. You can find more of that topic in the post discussing ‘The Etiquette to Self-Promotion’.

Now though, let’s discuss costs, breaking it down in the steps above:

  • Write the novel: free
  • Revise the book: free
  • Self-edit: free
  • Beta readers: free
  • Revise: free
  • Edit/proofread: $100-$700, depending on the length of your novel
  • Format: $50-$100 (sometimes more)
  • Bookcover: $80-$400, depending on the artist
  • Publish: free-$$$$, depending on the publisher you use. Kindle Direct is free. Draft2Digital is free, CreateSpace is free although it is about $10 for a proof of your book, which you look over for any errors before publication. WARNING: avoid any publisher that requires you pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for them to publish it. You will not have absolute control over your book. They may offer to help you promote it, but usually it’s not worth it.
  • Promote: free-$$$$, depending on what you use. Word-of-mouth is free. Posting on Facebook and Twitter and on your blog and website is all free. Using Thunderclap and HeadTalker campaigns are free. Paying for ads on Facebook or Twitter costs. Some sites will promote your book (especially if it’s at a discounted price lis $0.99 or free) for anything from $5 to $15 all the way up to $200—depending on which site you use and which package you use. Other sites can cost up to $3,000 or so because they take promotions to a much bigger level. I wouldn’t recommend those unless your budget can handle that expense.
  • Reviewers: free—$$. First, let’s note that you should never pay someone to leave a review. Never buy reviews! Why does it cost at all then? It’s simple really, but let me explain why it could be free first. If friends or family agree to review the book for you, you can send them a free copy of your ebook. This is entirely free but with the understanding that they will leave a review. If you have to send them a copy of your book, there is the cost of shipping to take into consideration, which can be about $3-$20, depending on where you’re sending it. Now, some sites offer review services, and they charge about $15-$40 depending on the package you get. However, with this, you must understand, you are not paying the reviewers for their reviews. You are paying the business, which has bought together and organized all these reviewers and will send your book to them instead of you having to do it all yourself, for the service. There is a difference. Please keep that in mind. You want honest reviews. If you pay for reviews and the person doesn’t even read the book, Amazon can crack down on that, and that will have dire consequences for you.
  • Copies of Your Book: $10-$$$ This depends on how many pages your book is and how many books you purchase in a bulk. You will get an author discount, but then there is shipping as well. All of this are expenses to keep in mind.
  • Author Swag/Merchandise: $5-$$$ Bookmarks, business cards, magnets, keychains, charms, gift cards, pens, notebooks—basically anything you sell or give away in order to draw more interest to your book. The big secret is, as a self-published author, if you want any swag made, you need to put in the time and money to have it made. You can use sites such as Vistaprint for bookmarks, business cards, and a few other stuff, but then you can check out Fiverr or Etsy for unique ideas. All of this is more money out of pocket.

Of course none of this mentions the expense of travel should you decide to do a book tour or attend conventions in order to sell your book. Publishing and selling a book can become quite expensive, but this is why it is important to budget. If you have a good handle on the finances, you will come to see what works for you and what doesn’t, and when it’s time to promote again, you can put into action only what you have determined benefited you.

The Benefits of Writing Fan Fiction

Fan fiction is a controversial topic. Some people say are totally against it while others are absolutely for it. Let’s first identify what fan fiction is.

When someone creates a piece of fiction, if a person takes that work and writes something based off it (keeping the names of characters, locations, and events), this is fan fiction. It could be set in an AU (Alternative Universe, which means the events of the canon story either didn’t take place or had different outcomes), and it could include OC (Original Characters—creations of the fan fiction author). These stories are written in the universe of the original story. If you’re a Star Wars fan, and you wished Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padme got married instead, that would be a fan fiction story in the Star Wars universe. If you wanted to find out what was meant when Black Widow said, “It’s like Budapest all over again,” and Hawkeye responded, “You and I remember Budapest very differently,” you could write an Avenger fan fic based on that to explore it.

What’s the catch? You cannot sell this work or attempt to profit off of it. Since you do not own the rights of the original story, you can’t do that. However, you can post it on sites like www.fanfiction.net or so forth. When you do this, fans of the original story will see it, read it, and likely comment. This feedback is useful for your journey into becoming a writer and helps you hone your skills.

One of the issues about writing your own original story as the first full-length novel you ever write is you may not know how to develop characters well, you might not have a full handle on description or scene setting or dialogue, and on top of that you have to create an entire world. If you’ve never done that before, it can be daunting. This makes writing your own novel all the more difficult.

If you write fan fiction first, you don’t have to worry about creating whole new worlds or characters. It’s like a pre-set story for you to just fill in the blank and twist however you want. You already know the characters because of the story/book/film/show, and you can readily imagine them in your mind. You already have an understanding of their world, so it’s easy to grasp. You won’t have to worry about all those fundamentals of a story while you’re trying to learn your own writing style. The foundation is already there. All you need to worry about is perfecting the specific elements (character development, dialogue, description, plot structure, etc).

The more you write, the more you’ll start flexing your writing muscles. It’ll likely start with you taking the characters to unfamiliar places, and this gives you the chance to create an original setting in a safe environment. As this becomes easy, you begin introducing more major original characters into the cast. Eventually those original characters completely replace the fan fiction characters, and as you add more twists and turns and get further and further from the original source of the story, you’ll realize you have something that’s totally different from the original story. This is where you can begin writing your own original story.

When this happens, you won’t be so stressed out about all the different elements of writing because you already have a good handle on them. Instead, you can press on and write your own original piece of fiction, and you have a good chance of publishing it.

Consider fan fiction the playground or training arena for writing. You can’t sell the work, so you don’t have to worry about promoting it. Instead, you are writing it for you (and maybe a few fans you pick up along the way). You are growing as a writer, and you learn so many lessons in a safe environment. Once you start breaking the mold and flexing your writing muscles as creating your own worlds, the world becomes a scary place, but you’re ready for it.

This is why I recommend writing fan fiction if you’re a beginning writer. Of course, some people may view it a waste of time, and I understand that. However, if you’re struggling with writing, writing fan fiction is an option you have and should consider.

The Essentials of a Chapter

A lot of writers ask, “Should I keep this chapter or not?” and “How long should chapters be?” However, before I address those questions, let’s identify what exactly chapters are, and this will help us answer those questions.

Before we get started, you should know the difference between a ‘scene’ and a ‘chapter’:

Scene: is contained within a chapter. You cannot have multiple chapters in a single scene.

Chapter: may contain one or more scenes

Scene: separated by white spaces or paragraph breaks

Chapter: separated by titles such as ‘Chapter 1’, ‘Chapter One’, etc.

These differences may not seem like much, but I don’t want you to be confused by the terminology. Scenes aren’t usually an issue, but they are part of a chapter, so I mentioned them. Our primary focus is on chapters, so let’s discuss some questions that accompany that.

How long should a chapter be? This is a common question, but, as it always is with writing, there is no written rule for the length of chapters. It is recommended for chapters to be more than a few paragraphs long—at the very least a page long or 1,000 words long. As for now long it should be, chapters can sometimes go up to 6,000-8,000 words long. However, the longer you make the chapter, the more you run the risk of losing your readers.

How do you know when you should end the chapter? This is when knowing the point of the chapter is important. Each chapter moves the story along. If you could remove the chapter (or even the scene) from the story, and this does not affect the story at all, that chapter is unnecessary. If the chapter has already accomplished its purpose yet you keep writing more and more and more, you may want to consider looking for a natural breaking point in order to end the chapter and begin a new one. Otherwise it can be longwinded and a huge distraction from the rest of the story. So, as you’re writing a chapter and if you see it’s becoming lengthy, ask yourself what is the purpose of the chapter, and have you already accomplished it? If the chapter hasn’t done what you intended for it to do, step back and determine what’s getting in the way (it could be that the story wants to go a direction different than you planned). If you find a lot of meaningless though fun conversation between characters, consider cutting back on that and getting to the point. Or it could simply be that’s how the chapter is supposed to play out.

One last thing I will say on the topic of chapters is this: if the main purpose of the chapter is character development, this is a weak purpose. I once attended a workshop taught by a screenwriting agent, and he said if a scene in a script was only about character development, they would cut that scene altogether. This applies to stories as well. Characters are developed through conflict and whatever it is they encounter. Merely introducing two characters and having them sit down and chat for the sake of backstory isn’t the reason for a chapter. Yes, that backstory may be important, but you can hold off on revealing vital information until it is absolutely necessary.

One way to do this is to get your characters into a situation where they naturally ask the questions the readers are asking. For instance, let’s say you have a character, Eleanor, who’s adopted, and she suspects it’s her adopted brother who’s behind the recent attacks in town although she has no way to prove this yet, and she knows she can’t say anything because people in the town are very loyal to him. If she’s right, and if he gets winds of it, she might be his next target. So you, as the writer, knows this, but the readers don’t know this yet, and neither do the other characters. But you introduce a new character, Hector, a detective who’s investigating the attacks. Eleanor has been tagging along with his investigations, claiming to be a reporter (maybe she actually is), and she ends up being helpful, so Hector ignores her but lets her in on the case. Then one evening, they’re sitting at a bar, sharing drinks. Not much is happening, so they’re just talking. Someone who wants mere character development as the plot for the chapter might have Hector ask Eleanor about her background and her family, and Eleanor would just spill all the info. However, Hector doesn’t know that he should be curious about her family. He doesn’t know that’s where he should dig. He’d likely just ask what her job is, might ask about her family, but Eleanor would likely skirt the issue. This makes things intriguing. If the readers know about Eleanor’s suspicion of her adoptive brother, they would be yelling at Hector to ask about her brother, and they’d get frustrated when he moves on with the conversation to another topic, but you have to understand, he doesn’t know. You have to keep the conversation natural for him. If the readers don’t know about her suspicions, they’d likely suspect something as well but wouldn’t know where to dig either, so they’d go along with it.

As you can see, this conversation cannot be the main point of the chapter. Yes, it’s good information, but it can be very shallow. There needs to be something that happens that pushes the story forward. It could be that in that moment Eleanor’s adoptive brother, Ryan, walks into the bar, and the entire atmosphere changes. He could approach them, tease her like brothers do, but then he could say something that’s a veiled threat. Eleanor would get the message immediately, but Hector wouldn’t completely understand though he’s wary of something. As soon as Ryan leaves, Eleanor could make an excuse saying she forgot she had to be somewhere, and before Hector can stop her, she’s out the door. A moment later Hector just can’t shake a bad feeling, so he follows after her, and who knows what happens after that?

You see how that one moment pushed the story forward because without Ryan stepping in and prompting that response from her, the story wouldn’t have moved forward. This is what I mean when I say that you need to make sure each of your chapters have a purpose to them.

What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is a promotional opportunity not limited to writers but can be for events, artists of all kinds, and anything really where you need to get word out. There are different packages offered, but the basic one is free, so it is no cost for you or anyone who supports you, but what exactly is Thunderclap?

Before I explain what Thunderclap is, let me illustrate what social media is. The internet is full of noise of people posting about every detail of their lives and every thought they have. It’s a loud and noisy place. It’s really hard to get word out. I often compare it to being in a crowd and saying something. You can yell all you want, but if you’re the only one saying whatever it is you’re saying, no one is going to hear you. Sure, some might notice your attempt and look at you strangely, but they’re not quite sure what it is you said because of all the noise of the crowd. However, if a bunch of people start saying the same thing, people take notice. This is where Thunderclap comes in.

The important factor with Thunderclap is the social reach of everyone who supports a campaign. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, everyone has a different group of followers/friends. When someone supports a Thunderclap campaign, they’re allowing Thunderclap to post on their social media platforms (you can choose which platform you want used) a one-time post written by the creator of the campaign. This is posted only once, and that is on a specific day and time set by the creator of the campaign. In other words, if you sign up with Thunderclap to support someone’s campaign, Thunderclap will not continue to post random things on your platforms. It will only post whatever you support. Let me break it down:

James’s social reach is 489 people.

Kasey’s social reach is 952 people.

Nathan’s social reach is 1,204 people

And Sandra’s social reach is 1,321 people

Now, Hannah is the creator of the campaign, and her social reach is 692. She is friends with James, Kasey, Nathan, and Sandra, and when Hannah begins a Thunderclap campaign, all four of those support her campaign. This gives her a social reach of 4,658—a number she wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for everyone’s support.

When you create a Thunderclap campaign, you have to choose the number of supporters required in order for the campaign to be launched. You also set the date by which you must have that number (or not) for it to be launched. The least amount of time recommended is two weeks. If you fail to get the number of supporters you chose within the timeframe that you chose, the campaign will not be launched at all. The least amount of supporters you can choose is 100. The next amount is 250. And it goes up from there.

Now, how do you make a Thunderclap campaign successful so that you reach the number of supporters you need in order for the campaign to be launched? First off, share it with your family and friends and ask them if they’d support it. Don’t expect too many of them to do it because they’re unfamiliar with Thunderclap and may have some reservations, so you will need to look elsewhere. There are Thunderclap groups on Facebook that you can join and post your campaign there, but it’s a ‘clap for a clap’, meaning they’ll support yours if you support theirs.

However, the most successful way I’ve found is to have a good support group around you prior to any promotions. For instance, I have a Facebook group of almost 500 people (at this time). They’re fans of mine, and they’re big supporters for what I do. When I discovered Thunderclap and created my own campaign, I shared it in that group, and I tagged a bunch of people I knew would back my campaign. Within 6 hours, I had reached my goal of 100 supporters for my campaign although I had a month before my campaign went life. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can overshoot it and continue getting more and more supporters. The main trick is informing people what Thunderclap actually is and asking for volunteers that you could tag when you want your campaign to be supported. Once you get a list of people, create your campaign then share it, tagging all those people who volunteered, and encourage them to share as well.

You have to push this. You can’t just sit by and hope that someone notices. Social media is far too fluid, and posts sink into oblivion all the time. If you want it to work, you need to work it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. When I’m pushing a Thunderclap campaign, I make it like a game or a sport. I aim for 10 supporters at a time, and each time we get more supporters, I announce it in the thread, “We’re at 45 now! We need 5 more to 50! We can do it!!” This gets people excited, and they want to be a part of the movement which makes it succeed.

And that is what Thunderclap is, and it can be found here: www.thunderclap.it.

Inspiration, Motivation, and Determination

The funny thing is as I write this I personally lack the inspiration and motivation to do write this post, but I am absolutely determined to get it written, and therefore words are being written. In other words, no one is immune from what I’m about to say in this post.

It is commonly said you must be inspired to write, but then that is debunked by the claim that you don’t need inspiration as long as you have the motivation to write.

Want to know the truth?

Some days you just lack both inspiration and motivation to write anything, and the only thing that will make you write is your pure determination to write. Some people have the determination to write every day. Others have already resolved to complete this chapter or that scene this day, and some people are just plain stubborn and absolutely set on writing something during the day.

When you write, you might not like what you’ve written. You might write something else and also not like that, and then you write something else again, and still not like what you’ve written, and you feel like giving up, but don’t. By simply writing, you’ve accomplished a lot more than those who simply don’t write at all. Yes, sometimes you have to write a whole bunch of what you may think is junk, but here could a gem in the midst of all that which you can only uncover if you write everything else. That gem is then used for inspiration and gives you the motivation to write more, and next thing you know, you are thrilled about what you are writing.

Of course it’s not that simple. There are a whole bunch of factors in life that like to complicate everything, so lets break things down and discuss inspiration, motivation, and determination individually.

Now we’ve already discussed determination a bit, but let me say it simply: determination is your will to write regardless of how you’re feeling and what you encounter during the day. It may be 11:45PM and you still haven’t written, and determination is writing something before 12AM just so in your own mind you can tell yourself you’ve achieved a goal you set yourself, and you can be proud of that.

Motivation is closely linked to determination. This is because your determination is your motive to write. When you are resolved to do something, you set goals, you make a plan, and you can see the end in sight. All you have to do is do the hard work to reach it, and that is where motivation comes in. Determination is the light at the end of the tunnel. Motivation is the train on the tracks heading for that light.

It is so much easier to have motivation when it’s linked with determination as well. Imagine not having a goal in sight, and the only thing you have in your mind is, “Well, I’m a writer, so I know I should write, but…” And you can fill in the blank.

Now sometimes, you have to write even when you’re not motivated to write. This simply means you really don’t feel like writing, and you can think of so many other ways to spend your time, but no, that’s when determination will strap you to the chair and refuse to release you until you’ve done what you set out to do. It’s not easy to sit down and begin typing when you lack motivation, but as you write, you may find that motivation just comes—or maybe it won’t, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction in knowing you’ve written something.

Now let’s discuss inspiration. Inspiration is like the Holy Grail for writers. It often comes when it’s not summoned or expected, yet it demands you drop everything you’re doing (regardless of the time or place) to write. When inspiration hits you, it’s like being struck by literary lightning where you must jolt down everything lest you forget it. However, just as lightning is largely unpredictable and cannot be harvested, so you cannot rest all your dreams of becoming a writer on inspiration. When inspiration comes, USE IT, but don’t depend on it. Like determination, inspiration can produce motivation, but unlike determination, inspiration is undependable. It’s like that friend who never announces when he’s going to stop by for a visit and just shows up at your front door one day, but you don’t mind because this friend is awesome! However, just as abruptly and without forewarning, he has to leave, and nothing you say can or will make him stay, but you’re not worried. You know he’ll be back—eventually. In the meanwhile, you’re stuck with your roommate Determination, and that’s okay. At least he’s dependable.

In other words, while inspiration can motivate you to write, you cannot count on inspiration and depend on it to motivate you because you have no idea when it will strike. You can’t conjure inspiration because then it wouldn’t be inspiration, and you can’t trick yourself into believing that it is. However, you can rely on determination to motivate you to write since that is totally depended on you and whether you will to write.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo—I cannot believe I hadn’t written a post about this yet! Allow me to remedy that immediately. First we’ll discuss what NaNoWriMo is, what sort of things you can write, and what it means to ‘win’, but then I’ll mention some tricks of the trade.

NaNoWriMo stands for the (inter)National Novel Writing Month, which is a free challenge that takes place every November. There are two branches of this—the official NaNoWriMo site and the Young Writers Program. The official site challenges all writers to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but in the Young Writers Program writers are able to set their own reasonable goals for the month. Many schools have adopted the Young Writers Program into their system to encourage young writers to write since the challenge takes place during the school year, and the site offers many tools for educators. The official site is much more independent and had forums where individuals can interact and regions so people in the same area can get together and write.

The official site: www.nanowrimo.org

Young Writers Program: www.ywp.nanowrimo.org

Now though, with that introduction out of the way, what are you allowed to write? What can you count for the 50,000 words? It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, script, blog posts—whatever you want it to be (although if it is poetry or a script, you’ll have to write a lot to reach the 50K word count goal), but it has to be written starting November 1st. You can’t just use some old writing you’ve done before just to reach the word count goal. Technically that’s cheating, and yes, even if you did that, no one would ever know—except you, and it’s totally up to you.

How does one win the challenge of NaNoWriMo? What chance do you have to win since there are over several hundred thousand writers participating? Well, good news is everyone has the chance to win because you’re not competing against everyone else. You’re competing against yourself. If you reach your word count goal within the 30 days, you’re gifted with a WINNER’S certificate, which you can print out and brag about your achievement. You’re also given discount codes for numerous writing tools (Scrivener, Aeon Timeline, Createspace, to name a few), but mainly you earn bragging rights and the accomplished feelings that you can write that many words within that timeframe.

Usually on November 25th, validation opens on the site. If you’ve written your 50K words, you copy/paste everything into the validation box, allow the computer to calculate the words just to verify the word count, and if it concludes you indeed have 50K words (or more), it will send you on to the Winner’s page. No one will read what you wrote. No one will see it. No one can steal it. Note: sometimes the program you use to write in may have a different word count than the validation of NaNoWriMo. It’s always a good thing to write a thousand or two thousand words over just to be safe.

Now though, with all the official stuff out of the way, just how do you tackle NaNo? Some people plot their stories ahead of time very carefully. Other people completely wing it. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only the way that works—and that way is different for everyone. However, it is a good idea to know what story you’re going to write before November comes.

There are 30 days in November, and the calculations have been done that to reach 50K in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words a day. Personally, I like round numbers better, so I aim for 2,000 words a day. Depending on my speed of writing that day, I may split the 2,000 words into two sections: one thousand at one time and then another thousand another time, or—if I’m having a slower day or just a busy day with real life—I will split the 2,000 words into four parts: 500 words for each section.

When you’re considering NaNo, and if you have a busy life and lots of commitments, it’s a good idea to know how many words you can type in 15 minutes. This will give you a general idea how long it’d take you to reach your word count that day. For instance, it takes me 15 minutes to write 500 words, so that means it will take me an hour to write 2,000 words, so technically I only need an hour a day in order to complete NaNo. Figure out your pace ahead of time and stick to it as best you can.

NaNo Tip: You can play tricks on your own mind when you’re doing NaNo. Say your goal is to write 2,000 words a day, but the first day you write 2,500 words. Technically, this means you’re 500 words ahead. The following day though you could get away with only writing 1,500 words which brings you total word count to 4,000. That’s a good even number, right? But then in the evening before you go to bed, you hammer out a few hundred words just to get ahead and bring your word count to 4,500. It looks and feels as though you are ahead, but in reality you only wrote 2,000 words that day. You have that little cushion in case a day just totally gets out of control leaving you with little time to write other than the 1,500 you wrote earlier. Just a little trick that might help!

If you need help, there are forums here: http://nanowrimo.org/forums And you can find just about everything there.

If you want to connect with fellow NaNo writers and do Write-In, you can find regions here: http://nanowrimo.org/regions

However, if your region isn’t very active (or even if it is active), and you really want more immediate interaction as well as *word sprint/word wars, you may join the Facebook group of NaNoWriMo Participants here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NaNoWriMoparticipants/ It is an impressive group of over 21K people, and it is very active, resourceful, and encouraging though it has its moments of insanity. This group is active all year round.

If you’re interested in a more quiet but still active and inspirational group, you’re welcome to join my own Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuthorKellyBlanchard/ It is there where I post a lot of pictures that may inspire scenes in your story or even your characters and much more and try to encourage writers.

All in all, NaNoWriMo started as a small writing challenge, but now it is an international writing community, and many NaNo books have been published. You may find an incomplete list of those published works here: http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos.

Word of warning though, just because you complete NaNoWriMo, that doesn’t mean your book is ready for publication. It might not even be finished. This is where the community of NaNoWriMo off-site is useful because it’s around all-year and is a tremendous support and resource and can help you every step of the way.

On a random note, it is possible to reach 50K words in a week. It’s even possible to reach 50K in three days, and yes, as impossible as it may sound, it is possible to reach 50K words in one day. I’ve seen it done though I would not recommend it.

And that is NaNoWriMo. It is a free competition though it’s encouraged that people donate to support it because it is free, and it’s an awesome community. If you’ve always wanted to write but just never took the time, this might be exactly what you need to get you started. For those who always write and love writing, this is the one time when writing isn’t such an isolated task although throughout the year there are two challenges known as *Camp NaNo, but that has its own unique traits. NaNoWriMo is a fun and creative event. Every writer should participate in it at least once just for the experience.

Note:

*Word sprint/word war: These are challenges writers present one another. A select time is set (usually 15 minutes), and you have to write as many words as possible in that pocket of time. You’re racing against time, against each other, and against yourself to see who can write the most words written. It’s just a game we writers play with each other to motivate one another to write. This is extremely useful when you’re begin in your word count and want to get caught up.

*Camp NaNo: Usually takes place during the months of April and July (although the months have changed in the past, so checking the site during spring/summer is a good idea: http://campnanowrimo.org/ ) Unlike the official contest, with Camp NaNo, you may set your own goal with word count. Also, you are given the chance to be in a virtual camp with fellow writers where you’re given a chatroom where you can chat, brainstorm, and keep track of each other’s progress.

Co-Writing

Co-writing—there are numerous of ways to co-write a story. Some people co-write by swapping chapters while others take turns of one person writing one page and the other person writes the next page, or maybe both writers have a their own main characters and write from their POV’s. I cannot list all the different ways you can co-write because I simply don’t know all of them. However, in this post, I’m going to focus on the co-writing style I have found works best for me and is extremely easy for anyone to do, and this style is Roleplaying Co-Writing.

With Roleplaying Co-Writing, each author gets a set of characters—usually one main character for each writer, and then choose the supporting characters. While it is possible to share a character, it’s simply easier and less stressful if one writer to have possession of the character rather than being concerned with the other writer writing the character wrong.

Once the characters have been spread out evenly between the two writers, you then put the characters in a scenario, and each writer writes the dialogue and action of their own character. This is where the fun begins. Although you know what must happen in the scene, you don’t know how it happens, but you let the characters be themselves while you slowly steer them in the direction of the purpose of the scene. What exactly is exchanged and occurs in these scenes are completely unpredictable, and sometimes it can change the entire course of the story, but that is where the fun lies. Here’s an example I co-wrote with Nan Sampson Bach. She wrote Juan’s character while I wrote Julianne. The bold are hers. The italics are mine (Note: this is the actual raw version of this scene prior to smoothing out the two styles of writing with any editing):

<~>~<~>~<~>

When he stood, he leaned heavily on her, but Julianne didn’t mind. She just looked up at him concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Estoy bien. Sólo necesito un poco de agua.” He shook his head, tried again. Was he slurring his words or was the spinning room now affecting his ears? “I meant to say, I am fine. I just need a little water, that is all.” He tried to push away from her but stumbled and went down on his knees. “Maldición!” God help him, it had never been this bad before. He needed his Gate. He needed to tap into the energy there. He sensed Julianne next to him, trying to help him up and his face burned with shame. He pushed at her feebly, but he had no strength left. “Leave me, Dona. Por favor. You do not need to see this.”

But Julianne insisted. “What is wrong? What do you need? Tell me!” Her heart raced with sudden fear because she sensed this wasn’t simply exhaustion.

His vision was graying. “I need the Gate. I need to make a sacrifice to the Gate. For the energy.” He tried to focus on her face, tried to smile. “I have used it too much, spent too much. It is like a drug, Dona Julianne. It takes its toll.” He shook his head. “You should go. Fetch your Mage Prince. He must know what I know of The First. If I am unable to do this thing, then he must.”

Sasha’s words spun round in his head as he collapsed onto the floor. “The more you use it, the more you need it, Juan-Carlos. And the more you need it, the more it sucks the life out of you.” And then the crafty Macedonian laughed.

Julianne realized he needed power. She had forgotten the magic of the Gate had sustained him, and she sat back briefly before thinning her lips and coming to a decision. “You need power. Does it have to be from the Gate?”

She was speaking, but he was having trouble understanding the words. If only she would speak in Spanish. Damn the English – how had they managed to take over the world?

Julianne decided not to wait for an answer. She was the creator of this realm, and in that way, she was the most powerful person present. Taking a deep breath, Julianne turned him over, so he was lying on his back. She hesitated but then bent over and kissed him.

However, it wasn’t a simple kiss. As soon as their lips touched, Julianne reached onto his mind and the close connection they had, and she poured as much power into him as she could. She sensed his strength returning.

After a moment, she finally pulled back and winced, bringing a hand to her head. “Ow—why didn’t anyone ever say those fairytale kisses leave people with headaches?”

It took him a moment to process what had happened. “What… what did you do?” He assessed himself, found his energy had returned, almost at full force. It was not the same sort of juiced up buzz he used to get from a sacrifice to the Gate, but he felt refreshed and the weakness and exhaustion that had plagued him for months was gone.

<~>~<~>~<~>

As you can see, this style is almost as if co-writing paragraph-by-paragraph, but it’s not quite. Sometimes one writer will write multiple paragraphs to show different thoughts and actions of their characters.

What did we use to write back and forth? Some people use Google Docs, but my preferred means are Facebook Messenger or email, and then I copy and paste what we’ve written into a document. It’s simple, consistent, and readily available.

So this is the basic idea of Roleplaying Co-Writing, but there is a lot of work that must be put into it in order for it to work. You can’t just randomly start co-writing with someone and expect a full-fledged story to emerge…okay, so you can actually do that, and a story will begin to form, but there comes a time where you need to pause and communicate with each other where the story should go. Here are a few things you need to know prior to actually co-writing with someone:

  1. Do you two have similar writing styles?
  2. What are the areas where you are weak but they are strong and vica versa? (are they better at writing fight scenes than you? Are you better at describing a medieval setting than them? Etc.)
  3. Are you both confident in your writing abilities and willing to improvise at a moment’s notice? (if one person is unwilling to allow their character to make a mistake or get hurt, it will be difficult to co-write with such a person.)
  4. Can you communicate well with your co-writer?
  5. Can you be completely honest with them? (if the two main characters are supposed to fall in love, but you feel your co-writer’s MMC is too wooden, your FMC won’t fall for him. So either change the story or delve into the wooden character to uncover unspeakable depths. The two co-writers must be completely honest and willing to work with each other, untangle any complications for the success of the story.)
  6. Determine and agree on goals for the story (Are you writing just for fun or to explore a different genre of writing? Are you hoping to publish the story one day?)

Now, before you begin writing, it is highly recommended the two of you outline the story. It could be a rough outline or a very detailed outline—whatever you want, but the point of this is agreeing on the events and direction of the story. If you can’t agree on that, you will spend a lot of time arguing and not writing. One of you may be more prone to outlining, so let that person pull together the actual outline, but brainstorm it together!

Remember, the outline is only a guide. If you follow it perfectly, fantastic, but rarely does writing ever go exactly how we planned, so you need to improvise and work with what is handed to you. ALWAYS COMMUNICATE. If a story is moving off track from the outline, communicate with the co-writer, bring it to their attention, discuss if you should stay on the outline or not, and if you opt not to stay on the outline, explore the possibilities of the future of this new direction. Once you’ve written an outline, this does not mean you’re locked into it. Stories have minds of their own and will unfold exactly how they want to or else they will give you Writer’s Block.

Now, one thing you should know prior to committing to co-writing using this style is that it is very addictive. You can literally write all day—and still get other stuff done although you might get irritated when there’s an interruption in your life that prevents you from reading what your co-writer sent to you. I co-write a lot on my phone. I go about my day, doing my usual work, then play fetch with my dog, wash the dishes, cook a meal or bake cookies, and converse with people, but then my phone chimes with a reply, and I look at the message, type a reply, and send it, and then I resume whatever work I was doing. It is incredibly fun—too much fun sometimes that it can actually become stressful because all you want to do is write! A solution? Set aside a time of day (an hour or two) when your co-writer and you will write. That way writing won’t get in the way of your real life, and your real life won’t get in the way of your writing.

Does this mean you can’t work on the story throughout the day until that set time? No. If there is a scene approaching where the only characters involved are characters you write, that is called a solo scene, and you may write it whenever you want. It’s good to write it ahead of time, so when the story finally gets to that point, your co-writer isn’t waiting around for you to write that scene. Rather, you can just send it to them once you’ve reached that point, and the two of you can progress to the next scene which you must write together.

So, this is merely one way co-writing. It is incredibly fun. To quote Nan Sampson Bach, whom I’ve been co-writing with recently: Co-writing is an absolute blast. You get a terrific feedback loop, that keeps the energy and interest high, and the level of spontaneity makes the writing feel real. It’s highly addictive.” So if you’re interesting in co-writing and just aren’t sure how to approach it, I highly recommend the Roleplaying Co-Writing style. Once you get a hang of it, you’ll have a blast. Hope you the best!