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My Life Today & Tomorrow

We all reach that point in life where new chapters begin, old doors are closed, and a fresh start is essential. Today, that chapter commences, and I will be translating that area of my life onto this blog. Therefore, I am announcing that my blog will soon be divided into subsections and other topics of interest, with the majority focus still on writing, but expanding to entrepreneurship. Don’t worry, it shan’t become confusing, I promise.

Throughout the upcoming days, weeks, months, etc, I will be posting my adventures with renewed vigor, and hopefully I can offer advice and insight into the multiple occupations I am currently invested. I hope you will join me, and share my stories with others, so that together we can create one big (insert cliche comment here) community. Stay tuned, and thanks for being a dedicated follower!

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Best Websites for Writer Feedback

The other day I wrote a rather controversial piece about Authonomy (www.authonomy.com), and received mixed responses, with most of the discussion taking place on the Authonomy forum after a member shared the blog. In my post, I encouraged people to avoid Authonomy. Today I will share my favorite alternatives to Authonomy.

1.) YouWriteOn (www.youwriteon.com – This website is formatted similar to Authonomy in regards to the rating scale, but the interface is rather difficult to get used to. Nonetheless, it’s much more secure and reliable for feedback and advice. The premise is simple; you upload your novel and then the website assigns it to another member to read and review. You then review another member chosen at random. After 8 reviews, your story enters the website’s story chart, and the top ten highest rated writers each month receive a review from Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, etc.

The beauty of YouWriteOn is that the number of writers on the site is significantly smaller than Authonomy, meaning your chances for reaching the story chart are much greater. There’s also the ability to have your book self-published for a very small fee, though I do not recommend self-publishing for various reasons(see previous blog posts). From what I’ve experienced as a short-term member of YouWriteOn, the reviews are top notch, and you really get a feel for how readers will view your book in the future. It’s easy to create an account and begin right away. You don’t have to spam people for reviews, nor do you have to spend hours trying to get people to back your book.

2.) Blogging – I recommend this because it is so easy. You simply upload portions of your story, submit the post to various forums, etc, and people will respond. You can update the blog with your progress on the book, and eventually you will create a following which you can use to promote your novel once it’s published. My favorite blogging website is WordPress, but Blogspot offers a great alternative, depending on your personal preference.

3.) Scribd (www.scribd.com) – This is fairly new, but it’s a great way to share your story with friends on Facebook. You can upload it and have your Facebook friends provide feedback, etc. It’s the easiest way to get reviews of all the tools I’ve listed.

4.) Writing.com (www.writing.com) – An older website, but still a fun way to upload documents and have people provide advice. It’s one of the largest writing communities on the internet, and has a good track record of success.

I still cannot in good faith recommend Authonomy, but it’s a free website, so if you’d like to try your luck, then by all means create an account. I believe that YouWriteOn offers a much better system of receiving feedback than any other similar site on the internet, and for beginning writers, it is an invaluable tool. Share other favorites in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Writing Seminars and Why I Hate Them

We have all been invited to attend a writing seminar in some form or another. The glitzy brochure in the mailbox offers “secret” advice from Author experts, or “exclusive” consultation with an “award-winning author”, etc. Meanwhile, a quick Google search will reveal that these so-called experts have barely sold 1,000 copies of their self-help book, with no real experience to offer the attendees of their overly expensive conference in a cheap hotel.

So why do people shell out hundreds of dollars for this obvious con? Simply because they aren’t willing to do the hard work themselves. It’s much easier to have an “expert” stand on a stage and give you a step-by-step process to becoming a successful author, even if they’re sharing the most obvious of advice. But because you paid $125 for this ticket, you believe that it is exclusive.

False.

I’m not saying that every single writing seminar is a fraud, but what I am saying is that all the information you need is readily available for FREE. I hate Writing Seminar’s because they are a way for little known author’s to con desperate writers into giving them money in exchange for “wisdom”. I’ve been to several such seminars, and they all repeat the same basic information. But if a $150 seminar is what it takes to get you on your feet, then more power to you. In the meantime, here’s a few articles I’ve found extremely helpful on my journey to the Editor’s desk:

Ten ways to become a Successful Writer:

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/16077/writing/ten_ways_to_become_a_successful_writer.html

Be a Happy and Successful Author:

http://www.squidoo.com/happyandsuccessfulauthor

15 Practical Author Tips:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/a-guide-to-becoming-a-better-writer-15-practical-tips.html

Become an Author: http://www.ehow.com/how_2308324_become-author.html

Finding a Literary Agent: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-find-a-literary-agent/

There are many, many such articles with wonderful tips on becoming a best-selling author, writer, journalist, etc. The point is, avoid writing seminars at all costs. Save your money, put your research skills to work, and educate yourself on the world of literature.

Ten Tips for Twitter Beginners

Twitter is an amazing social media tool, and used correctly, can promote and advertise yourself to the world. But in order to be effective, you must understand how Twitter works. For one, you must realize that it is not Facebook, Myspace, or Google +. It’s entirely different, and therefore contains entirely different rules and guidelines that you must follow to use it properly. That being said,  I believe everyone should have a Twitter account, and if you do not, then hopefully this article will convince you to come out of the Dark Ages and into the future of communication.

Tip #1: Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet. This is, in effect, a quick way of sharing something of relevance, or irrelevance, with the world.

Tip #2: There are no “friend requests” in Twitter. Twitter uses a very simple system of following someone who’s tweets you’re interested in reading. They will receive notification of your follow, and have the option of following you back. Their tweets will show up in your Twitter feed, and you can also receive tweets on your mobile device by subscribing to users that are important to you(friends, family, co-workers, etc).

Tip #3: Anyone in the world can read your tweets, unless you make them private, and likewise, you can tweet @ anyone with a Twitter account. This is an easy way of connecting with celebrities, business people, friends, musicians, etc. Most celebrities do not have a public Facebook account, simply because there’s a 5,000 friend limit, and there are many fake celebrity accounts. With Twitter, there is a system of verifying that the account does indeed belong to its celebrity user. Also, many celebrities will respond to tweets, because it is so simple.

Tip #4: If you want to gain followers, then follow complete strangers and friends alike. Many people will follow you back, and this practice will get your numbers up. This doesn’t mean you have to follow them forever, but be forewarned that some people, upon discovering that you’ve stopped following them, will do the same for you.

Tip #5: You will not sell your book, products, movie, pictures, etc through Twitter. It is not a sales tool, it is a marketing tool. Twitter is a way of expressing yourself and your work through short tweets. If you want to sell your product, purchase ad space on Facebook, Google Adwords, etc.

Tip #6: Hashtags. These are a critical part of Twitter’s success. Placing a hashtag in front of a word will highlight it in your tweet and make it a trending word(i.e. #amazing, #facebook, #subway), and once your tweet is posted, you can click on the word you’ve hashtagged and see what other users are saying about it.

Tip #7: Connect your Facebook and Twitter account for the most effective means of reaching your audience. This saves time, and is great if you use Twitter on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Even regular, non-internet capable handsets can be used for Twitter. Just go into your Twitter settings > mobile > text messaging, and follow the instructions.

Tip #8: Be active with your account. If you want followers, you have to be somebody worth following. Share a funny quote, tweet something random, reply to followers tweets, and be as interesting as you can.

Tip #9: Don’t be “that guy” who always tweets about their book, or always asks for followers, or tweets every two seconds. People will shun you sooner than you can say “oops”.

Tip #10: Have fun with your account, and realize that it’s just another way of sharing what’s on your mind with the world. Grammar is not necessary, and you will have to commit grammar crimes regardless, since there’s a 140 character limit.

Editing your Book like a Professional

Book editing is not free, unless you do it yourself, or find someone in the higher education field willing to assist. But chances are they will take longer than you would like to complete your manuscript, as they have other duties that take priority over your project. Luckily, there are many tools available to make sure your book receives as much editing as it can before sending it to a publishing company or literary agency. In this post, I’ve highlighted my two favorite editing programs. Having a properly edited book is absolutely key to your success as an author. You might have a great story, but if it looks like a middle school child wrote it, you will be turned down at every stop. Don’t worry, there is hope for even the most grammatically challenged among us.

The first on the list of tools is a Thesaurus. Before I wrote my first book, I don’t know if I’d ever opened a Thesaurus, much less even seen one. The schools I attended growing up never required us to learn how to use one. Even now, I don’t own a Thesaurus, but I use an online program (www.thesaurus.com). It has everything you need to transform your book from a chaotic mess into a literary masterpiece. It’s also attached to (www.dictionary.com), for those moments when you really want to use a big word, but don’t quite know if you’re using it correctly.

The second online program is EditMinion (www.editminion.com). I’ve only used it a few times, but it’s been great as a writing assistant. The website is still in Beta mode, which means it might not catch everything, but if you feel that your book reads more like a scrambled word puzzle than a novel, then this website will work wonders for you.

If these tools aren’t working out for your book, then do a quick Google search, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of alternatives that will suit your needs. Don’t forget to utilize the tools provided by Microsoft Word, or whatever document creating software you use. Technology has made it nearly impossible to not have a cleanly edited manuscript, so be sure that you aren’t missing a valuable asset by trying to rush through your writing.

Finding the Inspiration to Write

Sometimes the hardest part of starting a novel, short story, script, etc, is the very first page. Even the beginning sentence is a challenge for many, as it can be difficult to come up with something that will instantly grab your reader’s attention. So how do you stop the procrastination and channel the creativity? There are several methods that have proven helpful to writers worldwide, myself included.

A big first step in the process is to shut out all the distractions. A noise-free, clean environment with all the comforts you need is an absolute must. No one can tune out the sound of children running through the house, or the obnoxious drivel of commercials on the television, or the barking dog next door. Finding a spot in your house, the Library, the park, etc, should be the first step in finding natural inspiration. Once you’re relieved of the stress that comes with unwanted distractions, you can begin writing your novel.

The next thing you’ll want to do is get off Facebook. Don’t even keep a tab open, “just in case” somebody opens a chat with you. They can wait, and I’m sure they’ll understand once you’re an accomplished writer. Turn off the cellphone if that becomes too much of a temptation. You know yourself better than anyone else, therefore you know your weaknesses as well. Whatever you feel might be detrimental to your writing progress should be cancelled out.

Once you’re free of distractions and sitting in an environment you feel comfortable with, the writing can finally begin. Now comes the hard part. You know what you want to write about, but how do you begin your masterpiece? One word: Imagination. Channel your inner child, because no matter how deep, dramatic, serious, etc, your book is, the mind of a child is constantly brimming with creativity. There’s a part inside all of us where that creativity is waiting to be extracted. “How do I find it?”, you might ask. The answer is to have fun with your book. Don’t take anything too seriously, or you’ll end up frustrated and facing dead ends. Let the book flow, and don’t force the words to appear, or they never will.

Enjoy the experience of writing a book, and don’t let it become a chore. If you feel that your book is burning you out, take a few days from writing and just relax. Even if you need a couple of weeks respite from the book, it will be worth it in the end. Be proud of the story you are creating, and let it become something you yearn to write every day. Some authors have even booked a night or two in a hotel, simply so they can finish those last few pages of their novel. That’s a little on the extreme side of finding a peaceful area to write, but if it becomes necessary, then by all means, go for it.

The best inspiration comes from your friends and family. Share your experience with them, and if it’s encouragement you need, they’re the best source for it. Another way to seek motivation is to find things related to your story, and use them as a creativity stimulant. If you’re writing a science-fiction novel, watch a few alien films, read your favorite extraterrestrial books, etc. For a crime-thriller, do some research into the field, consult an expert(i.e. a detective, crime scene investigator, judge, etc), or tune into a police scanner. Whatever it is you’re writing, you’ll want it to be as authentic as possible. People enjoy reading books that they feel could have real life connotations.

All in all, have fun with your story, don’t be afraid to mess up, and take all the time you need. It’s doubtful that somebody else is writing the same book you are, so don’t feel rushed. Even if you have a deadline, pace yourself, and enjoy the process. Being an author does have its stressful moments, but the composing of the story shouldn’t be one. If you follow this advice, then you’ll be well on your way to a good book writing experience.

Sticky Note

Advice for aspiring Authors

This is a blog post I wrote as a guest for a website dedicate to sharing authors experiences as they foray into the literary world.

“As a new author just barely out of my teen years, my experience from beginning to end of writing my first novel has been anything but traditional for many in the literary field. My first book, titled ‘Inceptum’, first began as an assignment in college, but quickly developed into a passion I wasn’t aware I even had. I’ve learned much along the way, the biggest lesson being that one should never self publish, except as a last effort to see your book in print. If you feel your story is worthy of being read by the public, then seek out a literary agent, or a small publishing company to get you on your feet.

There are thousands of agents across the country, and chances are high that at least one or two will show an interest in your book, provided it has been written and edited professionally. One way to see this through for free is to contact a professor at a nearby University, and ask if they’d be willing to review your book for grammatical errors. Many in the education field would be glad to off their services for free, or even for a small fee.

Another mistake first-time authors make is with scheduling their writing sessions. If you feel that you’re an “inspired writer”, that’s great, but you still need to balance time spent in front of the computer, or you will burn out from overexposure. After I completed my book, I was so sick of reading it that I didn’t even touch it for several months. Make time for yourself during periods when you won’t get distracted by anything, and sit down for at least an hour or more to create your story.

If you’re having trouble finding the inspiration to write, consider sitting back and ask yourself why you’re writing this particular book. What about it inspired you in the first place? Is the story going anywhere, or is it dead in the water? Don’t be afraid to delete a chapter here and there if they aren’t contributing to the overall flow of the book. For me, my story was science fiction in nature, so to find inspiration I would watch my favorite science fiction movies. It really helps to experience things related to your story and look to them for assistance.

The best advice I have ever been given, is to write a story that you will want to read over and over again. It shouldn’t matter if you never sell a single copy of your book. If you are happy with the finished product, then any sales are an added bonus.

In conclusion, I plan on writing many more novels in the future, as well as working on a sequel to my first book, ‘Inceptum’. You can pick it up at www.zackwall.com, or download the Kindle version on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter: @authorzack, and check out the official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/inceptumbook”