Today’s Writing Tip


There are various pros, cons, and opinions with regard to how many characters to include in your story. I’m not going to go into that argument here, especially since I’m probably unqualified to do so in a fair and unbiased manner. By stories tend to be highly populated, though they will all serve a purpose somewhere along the plot line.

This tip is about how to manage a huge cast of characters, assuming they’re justified being there in the first place. Major characters who appear regularly throughout the story are well-established enough that reminding your reader who they are will be annoying. However, they may need a reminder about the minor ones from time to time so they can keep them straight. Placing them in a scene that fits their role sometimes will suffice. Otherwise a word of two about who they are (such as “police captain, doctor, or grocery clerk so-and-so, blah blah blah”) is helpful.

Having a dramatis personae is also highly recommended, though they are more difficult to refer back to in an ebook..

Today’s Writing Tip


This tip is an offshoot of yesterday’s, which related to maintaining a strong sense of space and time. Flashbacks are often important to your story. They provide background, either to events or  the character’s experience base as it relates to the plot. Entering and exiting a flashback properly is important, again so you don’t lose your reader.

Thus, if you end a chapter or section with a flashback, be sure to take the reader back to the present so they’re not lost when the story returns to its normal time frame. This can be done at the flashback’s conclusion or at the beginning of the next section, whichever works better. It goes without saying you should do this clearly if it’s mid-section or mid-chapter as well.

Today’s Writing Tip


This is another tip that makes sure you keep your reader engaged and thus avoid any confusion that throws them out of the story. When you start a new chapter or section, if a significant amount of time has passed, be sure to tell the reader so s/he doesn’t think something was missed or lost.

A sense of time and place is important to a story. It’s one of the things that grounds your reader. If this is unclear and they feel lost, you may lose them entirely. If they have to go back and reread something, or conversely, keep reading while scratching their head until it’s more clear, you have failed in your execution.  Frustration or not feeling comfortably entrenched in a story does not contribute to a positive reading experience.

As an author, such things may be perfectly clear to you, but make sure your transitions are such you don’t leave your reader behind, eating your dust.

Today’s Writing Tip

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As you’ve probably noticed if you’re a regular reader of these short blogs, poor formatting is one of my pet peeves. This is one I consider a fairly minor faux pas, but shows a bit of savvy when employed. You may have never noticed; I didn’t until I had to format my first book. Like most formatting conventions, it’s noted in reliable sources, but can be easily overlooked or missed.

In traditional fiction publishing, the first paragraph in a chapter or section is not indented, but flush with the margin. What’s the point? There are two main ones. First, it helps set the stage, even subconsciously, that what follows is not a direct continuation of the previous scene, but something new. Second, if only spaces are used to show section breaks, this may be the only clue that a new section has begun. This is particularly true for ebooks, where extra spaces are often lost.

This is not a “big deal” as some formatting issues goes. However, it is one more way to show consideration to your reader by including subtle clues to what’s going on with your story.

Today’s Writing Tip


Be familiar with the archetypal “Hero’s Journey”. It resonates with humanity and has been a literary vehicle for millennia. I have to admit that what follows is not my original material, it is something I had on file with no attribution. If I knew who the originator was I would gladly give credit, but I’m afraid I don’t know. However, since the information is so valuable, I’m passing it along. If anyone knows where it came from, feel free to enlighten us all in the comments.

The Hero’s Journey describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

Its stages are:

  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
  4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
  5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
  7. APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
  8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
  9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
  10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
  11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
  12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Remember your main character needs to have a fatal flaw. This is what allows your reader to relate to them. It’s also what makes them seem real. Flaws don’t make a person weak, only human.

Often when we think of flaws, we think of some disposition to do evil or propensity to fall prey to some horrible temptation. While this can definitely work, it’s not always necessary. A fatal flaw’s primary function is to stand between your character and what he wants.

Any number of character traits can fill the bill. It could be something as simple as being too honest, outspoken, having too much pride, lack of confidence, too impulsive, hot temper, doesn’t know when to quit, guilt over past mistakes, too idealistic, stubborn, easily distracted, too emotional, perfectionist, indecisive, spiteful, knows everything, control freak, unrealistic, etc.

If you don’t know, you need to figure it out. What do they have to overcome to grow as a person so they can get what they want?

Today’s Writing Tip


Other than a chosen few authors, the people making the most money are those that provide promotion services and author classes. I would bet dollars to donuts that most authors put out more money than they take in, no matter how diligently they work at their craft. Some of these are well-worth it, others, not so much.

Thus, it’s essential to choose them wisely to make sure you get your money’s worth. Here are a few ways to help you decide.

  1. Does the service have a favorable reputation,  i.e. good reviews or recommendation from a fellow author?
  2. How many books will you have to sell as a result to cover the service’s cost?
  3. If it’s a class, would it be less expensive to hire someone to do that for you versus learning to do it yourself? (One way to counter this expense is to perform that service yourself once you’ve mastered it, such as making promotional videos.)
  4. If it’s a skill, could you teach yourself via online blogs or other information available for free?
  5. Is the service or class relevant to your particular genre? Will it help you reach your target audience?

Those selling these services tend to be masters of promotion themselves. They will make you believe that writing a best seller is within reach if you take their class or employ their services. Hope springs eternal, but don’t be a fool.

Today’s Writing Tip

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No matter how you feel about it, social media presence is important for readers and fans to connect. This is one thing that has made being an independent author possible beside ebooks and print on demand publishers. Having a lot of followers helps find your audience, though quality is important. Whatever you do, don’t waste your money buying followers. First of all, in most cases the people aren’t real and second of all, even if they are real, there’s a good chance they are not your audience.

One way to connect with those who will like your work is to post engaging content to draw them in. Selling yourself as an interesting person is another way to draw them in. Some authors seem to think that if they send out a daily email or dozens of daily tweets promoting their books that they’ll eventually connect. This could not be farther from the truth. Spamming doesn’t work any better for authors than anyone else out there.

Personal connections are best. The very best by far is face to face, such as at book signings or local clubs where you volunteer to speak. These are not always possible, however, if you live in a remote area or are too much of an introvert to get out there and promote yourself.

That would be me….


Today’s Writing Tip

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To build on yesterday’s post about author networking, another thing author support groups can provide includes a variety of benefits. Many offer classes, some free or at a reduced rate; tweet groups; review opportunities; online writing conferences; blog tours; interviews; and vetted author service providers.

There are two specific groups with whom I’ve had good experiences. There are many more, but these have been helpful for me. These are ASMSG (Author Social Media Support Group) and RRBC (Rave Reviews Book Club). Through my membership in both I have learned a lot and met some awesome authors who have also become great friends. If you’d like more information, leave a comment and I’ll provide contact information.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Yesterday I mentioned networking and how important it is. There are numerous author groups which have a variety of excellent benefits. These are where you can find authors with whom you can do a beta swap or provide editorial reviews.

Just about every community will have a writers group. Sometimes these work and sometimes they don’t. It often depends on how serious you are about your writing. If you’re brand new and at this point it’s mostly a hobby, this is a good place to start. However, if you’re really serious about becoming a professional, you may eventually outgrow a local group unless there are others there who are publishing and actively pursuing a writing career.

One place you can start if a local group doesn’t fill the bill is a platform such as LinkedIn. They have several groups for writers and that is where I got my first connections. I’m still in contact with some of the authors I initially met in that forum.