12 Hard Truths for New Writers

We all have our own idea of what a writer’s life is like. Whether it’s teapots and typewriters or coffee shops and laptops, rich and glamorous or starving artist, there are these images we have built up in our mind.

Regardless of what your preconceived notion of a writer’s life may be, there are a few universal truths.

So, if you want the wool pulled off your eyes, if you want to know the reality (rather than the expectation), here are a few hard truths that are better swallowed sooner rather than later.

Writing the book is often the easy part.
When you’re writing, you don’t have to worry about getting it perfect, and that alleviates some of the pressure that comes with later stages. (Yep, there are a lot of later stages.)

Writing isn’t always easy, though.
It isn’t all rainbows and magical typing sprees where your fingers magically compose thousands and thousands of words in a single session. It takes work, time, and dedication to go the distance.

No one is going to write your book for you.
At least, not unless you pay them. Ghost writers exist, but they do charge for their time and creative abilities. (As they should.)

Editing can be absolutely brutal.
You may end up scrapping scenes, chapters, or even entire characters. Getting feedback can be rather painful. But it’s necessary.

Editing can be immensely rewarding.
Figuring out the exact detail that fixes a plot hole can be a major high. Getting feedback can be unbelievably encouraging.

Traditional vs. indie is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.
Every author has different abilities and goals. As such, every author needs to consider their own strengths and weaknesses honestly when choosing their publishing route.
Just remember, you should never pay a publisher hundreds or thousands of dollars to publish your book. That’s a vanity press, and it’s a legal scam profiting off of authors who don’t know better. I made that mistake six and a half years ago. You don’t want to do it.

There are tons of resources to help you choose the right path for you.
From AuthorTube to the writing community on Instagram to writing groups on Facebook, there are millions of writers out there debating the same thing or actively pursuing one or the other.
Ask around. Most authors are more than willing to share what they know on the subject. Just keep in mind that your skill set is likely different from theirs. You should consider their experience in light of your skills and goals.

There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work.
Every person out there is different. Writing is in fact an artform, and thus, it’s subjective. The odds of everyone absolutely loving your book are… well… low. Really low. That doesn’t mean your book is bad or that you shouldn’t write it because…

There will always be someone who loves your work.
Since writing is such a subjective thing, there is an audience for every book. You just have to find it.

Marketing can be an absolute beast.
Between figuring out the best social media platform for you and your book and putting together compelling ads that convince people that they want to give you money and take a risk on your book by investing hours of their life into something they may or may not like, marketing is a beast that can be hard to tame.

There are a lot of classes tailored specifically for helping writers learn how to market their books.
Skillshare, Inkers Con, and a million writing coaches are out there waiting to show you the ropes. Just be sure to shop around to see what classes work for you and your budget.

There is no feeling quite like holding your book in your hands.
Holding a world that you’ve created, flipping through page after page that you’ve filled with characters and places that didn’t exist before is an absolute dream. It’s exhilarating.
And it makes all the difficult parts of being a writer 100% worth it.

So keep going.

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

Subscribe to stay up to date on all my writing projects. Check out my published books. Or if you’d rather support me directly, you can buy me a coffee.

Crying while writing: Is it a good sign?

Many writers wonder if they’re silly for crying over their own book. After all, we’re the ones writing it. We should be hardened against the tragedies we throw at our characters.

Right?

Eh… not quite.

You see, as writers, we have to get to know our characters. We spend months or years in their heads, going on adventures with them. We learn about them and in a way, befriend them.

So, when they suffer… we suffer.

Not to mention the potentially cathartic nature of writing.

I don’t know about you, but often times, if I’m struggling with a specific emotion or event in my life, there’s a chance that at least one of my characters is going to face something similar. It won’t be exact, of course. It’ll be fictionalized and adjusted to fit their life.

But it’s there.

And getting it onto the page helps me work through it myself.

So, when they cry about something similar to what I’m going through, sympathy kicks in, and I’m pretty likely to cry.

It helps to get things out and see them through someone else’s perspective. It lends the situation a halfway objective nature.

And of course, there’s this…

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”- Robert Frost

If a scene you write hurts you, if you knew it was coming or if it snuck up on you, then it’s a pretty good indicator that the emotion is there. And if the emotion is there, then there’s a much better chance that your reader will feel it.

And don’t we want our readers to feel the things happening in our books? To relate and emote?

So don’t feel silly if you cry while you’re writing.

It may actually mean you’re doing a better job than you think.

And even if it doesn’t mean that, you’re certainly not alone. I cry while writing, all the time.

So keep going. Rip your heart out and put it on the page.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Subscribe for sneak peeks, behind the scenes looks, and exclusive content. Read books that just might tear your heart to shreds.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part Three, Design Basics

Now that you have some basic knowledge of typography and some resources to pick and choose images from, lets talk about the art itself.

There are a lot of things that come into play when creating art, and the rules and practices change depending on the medium and the style you’re working within. There’s a reason it takes many people years of study to become proficient in any artform.

Today, we’re going to cover a few basics. But first, the most important thing to remember is that your cover needs to do a couple very specific things. It needs to get (good) attention, it needs to convey something about your book, and it needs to fit the genre of your book.

So, with those things in mind, here are some things to remember while selecting artwork:

Composition

A good composition will have a defined focal point. You don’t want your cover to have so much going on that it loses all focus. Then, you run the risk of confusing readers or just flat out scaring them away.

You can use leading lines to direct the viewer’s eyes to certain areas of the cover. These can be a sword or a sweep of hair or a lifted arm. You can use these leading lines to show the viewer around the cover or direct them to the focal point.

Odd numbers of items/people and ‘S’ curves are very appealing in compositions.

Color scheme

Do you need a color scheme? Yes.

Your cover should be cohesive. If you have clashing colors and no discernible reason for those colors to be there, you’ll only scare readers away.

Pick a few colors that work together and stick with them.

Eye-catching

The entire point of a cover is to draw readers in. Thus, it needs to catch their eye.

You don’t need a massive landscape shrunk to fit on the cover. You don’t have to have explosions and boobs.

You need something that is aesthetically pleasing, something that stands out.

Genre appropriate

And yet, your cover needs to fit in.

Every genre has trends. Sometimes it’s okay to break from trends, but they do happen for a reason. They show what readers expect from that genre and helps a reader easily identify what kind of book they’re looking at.

Study other books in your genre to get ideas of the current trends.

Relevancy

Your cover should tell potential readers something about your book specifically so they have an idea of what they’re getting into.

If you have a dragon on your cover, they know to expect a dragon in the story. If you have a sword and some magical effects, they know to expect a sword and sorcery type book.

If your cover has a bloody knife on the beach, they know to expect a summer murder story.

Make sure your story gives a hint at what they’ll find within the pages. Just don’t beat yourself up trying to get the whole story onto the cover. Again, you don’t want the cover to become overwhelming or confusing.

Lighting

If you’re combining different images, you need to make sure the lighting is the same in each one. The images will have their own light sources within them, coming from their own directions.

You need to flip the various elements to align these light sources, otherwise you might end up with a character whose boobs are lit from one direction, the highlights on their wings are on the wrong side, and their shadow goes a completely different direction.

And that just doesn’t look right.

You may even have to adjust the lighting and shadows manually in photo editing software.

Aspect Ratio

Don’t squish an image to fit it onto your cover. It will be obvious. And it will look terrible.

Borders

Please, don’t.

The picture already has a natural border. It’s called the edge of the cover.

Use all the space you have available on that cover. It’s your first attempt to draw a reader in. It’s a major marketing tool.

Why waste it with a border?

Of course, as with any artform, rules and advice are more like guidelines. Professionals can break any rule if they have sufficient reason and do it in a way that comes across as very intentional. It just takes a lot of skill and work to get it to work.

So, one of the most important things to do when designing a cover is to get feedback. From authors. From readers. From artists. Seek feedback, and listen. Make changes as necessary.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here to stay up to date on all my books and get sneak peeks at my own covers and character art. Come back next week for more writing related tips and tricks.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part Two, Resources

For those of you tuning in for the first time, I want to reiterate. A┬áprofessional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

I also want to start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

Last week, we discussed typography, an incredibly important, often underestimated part of the cover, so don’t forget to check that out next. This week, we’re talking about that beauty that goes behind the words.

The artwork.

You need good artwork. High resolution images, no watermarks. (Please pay for the art if it isn’t free. Don’t steal it or crop the watermark out.)

Please do not draw something by hand and then scan it into your computer. Your hand drawn art may be beautiful, but it isn’t the best medium for a book cover.

Please don’t jump into Microsoft Paint and just draw random things.

If you don’t have extensive experience with graphic design, your best bet is to find professional artwork. There are plenty of sites with gorgeous artwork available for commercial use for little to no money, and today, I’m going to list a few resources.

Canva
Great for sourcing free and paid images and illustrations.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Pexels
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Pixabay
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Artbreeder
Great for making landscapes, portraits, people, and creatures.
Commercial use allowed because you’re the one “creating” the artwork.
Takes some playing around to learn how to properly use it.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Now, for those with a little more experience, there are renders. You can buy bits and pieces, characters, props, backgrounds, and creatures. They do have to be pieced together in photo editing software to form a full image, so it requires a bit of knowledge with graphic design to get the lighting and layering correct.

Here’s my two favorite render sites:

The Render Shop
Wide variety of renders for every genre with more available almost every day.
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Freebie Friday.
Special things available to members of their Facebook group.
Get started here.

Sleepy Fox Studios
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Get started here.

All of these are great sources for artwork. Some require work to put them together (namely the renders), but all have the potential to help you produce a good cover.

Go forth and explore. Take some time to get ideas and play around. I’ll be back next Monday with a blog about picking appropriate images for your story.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s blog here to learn about the text that goes on the cover.

If you like gritty stories with lots of character development, sign up for my newsletter here to get a free short story and stay up to date on all my books.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part One, Typography

We all know that a professional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

So, I’ll be doing a two part blog series all about book cover design.

First and foremost, we need to talk about typography.

You might be wondering why I’m not starting with the images behind the text, because after all, it’s just text on the cover. The picture is all that really matters, right?

No. The words on the cover, their placement, the font, the size, the color, all of these things are incredibly important.

You cannot just slap some text on your cover and call it done. Bad typography can ruin a cover, even if you have a beautiful piece of art behind it. When you get it right, it can make a world of difference.

Since typography is so often underestimated, that’s where we’re starting. So, let’s dive in.

1. You don’t need a super fancy font.

I know, if you’re just starting out with graphic design, you might think you need all the curlicues and flourishes, or maybe a drippy font to look like blood if you write horror. But you don’t.

You need a legible font.

If people can’t read it, they probably aren’t going to zoom in and stare at it trying to figure out what it says.

Look at big name books. The fonts are simple so people can read them easily. There might be a little thing added here and there, but not many. The super ornate, cheesy fonts don’t get a lot of air time.

It’s hard to go wrong with a good sans or serif font. There are tons of fonts within either of those types. Just search for either “sans” or “serif” in the fonts of whatever program you’re using.

If you’re stumped (because there are a ton of these fonts), do a Google search to see what’s commonly used in your genre.

Some genres use a secondary font to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your fonts to one or two.

2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with black, white, or gray/silver text.

You don’t have to color match your text to your cover. Your main goal is to have that text be as readable as possible while still looking appropriate for the cover. The colors mentioned above are great for that.

And while we’re on this topic, avoid using one color for this and another color for that and a third color for something else and a fourth and a fifth…

Some genres use a bold color (or a cursive font, as mentioned above) to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your font colors to one, maybe two.

3. Center your text.

There are occasions where off-center text can help balance the composition of the art on the cover (a thing that we’ll get into when we talk about artwork), but the vast majority of the time, it should be centered.

4. Don’t be afraid to take up some real estate with your name and title.

Don’t squash all the words down, hiding them in a corner to show nothing but that art. Yes, the art is important, but that’s not what people are going to type into a search bar to find your book.

They’re not going to go tell their book lover friend, “Hey, you should read that book with the dragon on it.” And if they do, their friend is probably never going to be able to find your book.

The title and author name should be easy to read, and since the thumbnail of your book is the thing they’re most likely to see, that means the words need to be big enough to read even if the cover is shown at a small size.

Especially your author name.

If someone searches for your book title, awesome, they find your book. If they search for your name, they find ALL your books.

And for people who have read your work before, seeing your name might be all it takes to get them to buy another book.

But let me put it simply.

How do you expect to take up space in the market if you don’t even take up space on your own cover?

5. Big text means partially covering your artwork, and that’s okay.

People will still see that beautiful piece of art. The text isn’t likely to be big block letters that cover everything. And if it is, you can always play with transparencies to show the image through the text.

Just don’t do that with a really spindly font.

Now, with these tips in mind, review whatever cover you’ve created for your book. As with every art form, these are, of course, guidelines more so than rules. Every one of these things has its exception.

But they’re good guides to follow.

If you’re ever in doubt, get feedback from other authors, artists, and book lovers. And please, go into the feedback process expecting negative and positive feedback, ready to learn and improve and grow.

Come back next week for some tips about the artwork behind the typography.

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on all my books, releases, and giveaways. I send my newsletter out every Monday with exclusive content and sneak peeks, and there’s a free short story ready for download on sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Plantsers, Pros and Cons: A Guide for New Writers

It’s time for the final installment of this little guide to writing methods, and today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of being a plantser.

Now, pantser and plotter get bandied about rather freely. But plantsers don’t get quite as much discussion, despite being the group that includes most writers.

So, in case you don’t know, a plantser is someone who falls somewhere on the spectrum between plotters and pantsers.

They do some planning, but go off the rails halfway through. Or maybe they do no planning to start, jumping in to get a feel for the world, and then they step back and iron out some details for the end of the story to make sure everything gets tidied up.

They might do detailed character bibles and maps, but leave the story arcs to develop as they go.

The point is, to some degree, they plan, and to some degree, they figure it out as they go.

There are a lot of things that can go right with this method and a lot of things that can go wrong.

So let’s go over a couple.

We’ll start with the benefits.

1. Freedom to adjust as necessary.

A major part of this writing style is centered around the belief that not everything is going to be planned out perfectly ahead of time. Things may need to change later on, and that’s okay.

This method allows the freedom to step away from the outline as needed.

2. Enough structure to cut back on writer’s block.

Of course, the dreaded block is still possible in any writing method, but having a plan of some sort, even if it’s just five bullet points and a page of backstory for your main character(s), can help alleviate the dread of staring at a blank page.

3. Those blessed A-Ha moments.

With this writing method, those wonderful little epiphanies can happen during the plotting stage AND during the writing stage, spurring you on in either part of the journey.

And now, some of the cons.

1. Meandering plot lines.

All that freedom means that sometimes the plot can wander a bit too far. There’s always the chance that you could get caught up in a tangent, falling down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the main storyline, but it catches your fancy and you go chasing after it.

(Sound familiar? That’s because this is a potential pitfall of pantsing, covered in part one of this series.)

2. Writer’s block.

All that freedom could lead to uncertainty. Details, or even major events, that haven’t been ironed out ahead of time could trip you up later on, causing delays.

3. Rigidity.

You could end up sticking too close to the outline, even when the characters have grown into something different than you originally planned. This could lead to stunted characters. It could also lead to pacing issues if the story or characters develop at a different rate than you originally anticipated. (This might sound familiar, as it’s a potential pitfall of plotting that we discussed in part two of this series.)

Basically, all the potential pros of pantsing and plotting apply, as well as all the cons. Really, it comes down to how you mix and match the two writing methods. The biggest strength of this method is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose exactly which part of the other two to keep and which to discard.

And really, finding what works for you is the most important thing. Every writer is different. We all have different backgrounds and personalities.

There is no one right way to write a book.

That’s important to remember. There are many people who swear by plotting things out, and many who swear by writing by the seat of your pants.

I fall into the latter category, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve written 20 books, if a piece of writing advice doesn’t work for you, throw it out. What’s important is that you finish your book.

The rules about how to write a book are more like guidelines and should be treated as such.

Play around with different writing methods until you find what works the best for you and keeps you writing all the way to the end of the book.

Come back next week for part one of my next blog series, Graphic Design Tips for Authors. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on all my book releases and giveaways, get exclusive content and sneak peeks, and even receive a free short story at sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why you should write EXACTLY what you want

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re tackling something that seems to be a rather large issue when it comes to writer morale.

Namely…”Should we bother?”

I guess, basically, that is morale.

It’s all over writing groups. People describe the general premise of their book, then ask other writers if it sounds like it would be worth the effort of writing it.

They site flooded markets and the use of the same tropes in a million other books. They claim that certain genres or markets are dead.

Some ask if people even bother reading nowadays, with all the instant gratification and high speed stimulation available in movies and tv shows and various things online.

They doubt whether the readers (or money) will be there.

First off…money shouldn’t be why you write. The odds of being a full time author are slim. We all know that. We just prefer to internalize our lack of a 6 figure writing income as being our own fault, our own shortcoming, for some masochistic reason or another.

We’re an anxious bunch. It happens.

But whether you think you’ll get rich off your books or not…shouldn’t decide whether you write them.

Writing, given how slim the odds are of being the next J.K. Rowling, is a labor of love.

So why not write what you love?

Pining away after that one idea, that one story that will get you rich…is a good way to never actually write a book. You’ll just sit there, repeatedly dismissing potentially amazing ideas, and never get down to the business of actually writing.

As for tropes that have been done before or flooded markets, obviously people like that kind of story. Plus, no matter how many other authors have written it, they don’t have your voice. Your unique compilation of experiences will shine light on different parts of the trope and cast shadows on other aspects.

And besides, if it’s what you want to write, who the fuck cares how many times it’s been written before?

Write it.

Make it your own and it will be glorious.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, think your target market is dead?

Take it as a challenge.

Take advantage of the lower numbers of books in that genre. Be the one to revive it.

Now, as for the crap about people not reading anymore. People fucking read.

Go to Instagram. Search the tag #bookstagram and look at how many posts turn up. As of right now…39.8 million. Now, search #reading. 25 million posts. #amreading has a couple million.

All of them…are about reading. (And that’s just on Instagram.)

#amwriting has a few million posts.

#writingcommunity has 5.5 million.

I mention writing because do you know what all those authors are also doing? Especially when they’re procrastinating working on their own books?

They’re reading.

Over a million books are published each year.

Now, that might be intimidating because your book is kinda just floating in a sea of words, but it’s also heartening.

Because most authors are also avid readers, consuming books left and right.

Who the fuck can write, knowing how much they and their writer friends love to read, and question whether people read? Do you not talk books with these people all the damn time?

Sure, since there are more people in the world, more people than in previous centuries have decided they don’t like reading. There are so many hobbies that exist now that weren’t even dreamed of a hundred years ago.

I mean, playing a video game on a phone a few centuries ago? Obviously not happening. You’d likely be thrown into what passed as a psychiatric hospital back then, or burned at the stake, for mention of a magical, flat brick that showed moving pictures and let you play a game with someone on the other side of the world.

But a higher population also means that more people are reading. A percentage of a larger number equals a higher number than the same percentage of a lower number.

Which sounds like I’m talking in circles. So, 20% (arbitrary number, pulled out of thin air) doesn’t sound like a lot. After all, 20% of 100 is only 20.

But 20% of a million?

200,000.

20% of a billion?

200,000,000.

You see my point. Now, I don’t know the percentage of adults that read on a regular basis. I couldn’t find current statistics.

But if one in five people reads, if one in twenty people reads regularly…across the entire world…that number is fucking huge.

And there’s bound to be a group within that number that will like your book.

So take heart.

And write whatever you fucking want.

There is someone out there who will want to read it.

Now. On the topic of writing. I’ve made progress on my own WIP. I’m hovering around the 35,000 word mark now, so up roughly 2,500 words from last week. I’ve been spending a lot of time on release prep for World for the Broken, ironing out details and such. It’s remarkable how many of those keep popping up.

It isn’t the amount of progress I’d hoped to be able to report, but I should probably be kinder to myself, given the toll my body has been taking on me.

That double ear infection from a couple weeks ago? Well, none of that stupid fluid in my inner ears actually drained. The infection cleared up, but all that swelling stayed put, holding that fluid in. So my ears have been ringing, I’ve had a nonstop, dull headache for several days (punctuated by sharper, shorter-lived headaches which felt like knife points), and I’ve been dealing with episodes of nausea-inducing vertigo that last anywhere from five minutes to twelve hours.

Of course, there were more doctor visits, and thus medicine. Lots of early mornings, because the rest of the world doesn’t abide by my nocturnal writing schedule. I honestly don’t know how much dramamine I had to take to be able to go to work this week without having a dizzy episode and falling into a machine.

But it’s improving. The dizziness is down to one or two episodes (lasting less than five minutes each) if I go too long without taking dramamine.

So, I’m on the mend.

And pushing forward.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.