Blog Vacay!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

Well, folks, summer is just about over. Vacations are wrapping up, kids are either back in school or getting ready to go back, parents are rejoicing…

This summer has been nuts for Angela and me, as you may know if you’ve heard us twitching and whimpering on Facebook. It’s a good nuts, since good things are happening, but…nuts, all the same. We’re working hard on our One Stop For Writers product, getting it nice and pretty and ready to launch in just over 5 weeks. But now we’re needing to take a leetle break. Angela is now an INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER, since she’s presenting at the RWA National Conference in Australia, and I’m in the process of moving my family from Florida to New York. Neither of us are going to be reliably online for the next week, so we’ve decided to declare a blog vacay. We’re going to take a week off to focus on what needs doing, and we’ll be back on September 5th with a new Emotional Wounds Thesaurus entry. 

In the meantime, whatever’s going on for you all, make the most of it. Enjoy the weather. Step away from the desk and get some fresh air. Spend time with the fam. And we’ll see you next week.

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The Importance of Psychological Development in Character Growth

I learn so much from every thesaurus that we write. If there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from our Negative and Positive Trait Thesaurus books, along with our current Emotional Wounds Thesaurus, is that, like real people, each character is different. Some may be similar, but every one is uniquely individual. Many factors affect who a character is, but one we’ve never really explored is psychological development.

Now, I’m no psychologist. But Maria Grace is. And that’s why I’m super excited that she’s offered to shed some light on this subject, which I believe is going to be hugely important in helping us write our characters realistically and consistently…

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Photo Credit: Mátyás Varga @ Creative Commons

As writers, we struggle to get our characters right. We examine personality types and create dossiers trying to figure out what makes them tick, but there’s another factor we need to consider: the impact of psychological development.

Why Worry About Development?

Development explains how people who are similar can respond very differently to the same experience. Writers Helping Writers features a phenomenal Character Wound Thesaurus exploring various painful experiences that might affect a character. Developmental differences can help explain how two characters who experience the same wound might have totally different responses.

Let’s imagine three co-workers in a bar after a rough day at work. They’re the same gender and are close in age, education, personal history, and personality type.

“What a jerk!” Alpha slumped against the bar. “I’m there for eight freaking hours, and all the boss does is complain! Nothing I do is good enough for him!”

Bravo leaned forward. “He’s under pressure to meet his own goals. He does a better job than you give him credit for.”

“That’s easy for you to say. He likes you. That’s why he gives you comp time when you need it and blows me off when I ask for the same thing.”

“Maybe that’s because I meet all my quotas.” Bravo glanced at Charlie.

“You’d think he’d be willing to cut the little guy a break once in a while.” Alpha shoved an empty glass aside. “Must be nice to sit back and let us do all the work while he rakes in the money.”

“Help me out here, Charlie,” said Bravo. “Maybe you can explain it better than I can.”

“My opinion will probably just complicate things,” Charlie said. “But since you asked…I think boss-man is fair about the whole time off thing. He tries pretty hard to work with everyone; I’ve noticed that at his mentoring sessions. If you want to get to know him better, attending one of those sessions might help. And sure, he can get pretty touchy at times, but he’s going through a lot with his kid. Everybody needs to be ‘cut a little break once in awhile’—even the boss.”

Alpha shook her head. “You always have an excuse for him. Why don’t you take my side for once?”

“And this is why I keep my opinions to myself,” Charlie said with a shrug. “On that note, I’m calling it a night.”

Once the door closed behind Charlie, Alpha reached for a second beer. “I just don’t get Charlie. It doesn’t seem like we’re even looking at the same situation, ya know?”

Even though these characters are the same age, it’s pretty easy to picture Alpha as the youngest in the group and Charlie as the oldest. Why? Because developmentally, Alpha is at the earliest stage in the group and Charlie is at the most advanced.

So Which One is My Character?

Understanding where your characters are developmentally is the beginning to writing them consistently and creating realistic arcs for their growth and development. Consider these questions about your character:

  • Which motto is your character most likely to endorse?
    1. Don’t get caught.
    2. All for one and one for all!
    3. Everything is complicated.
  • How is your character mostly likely to respond to the statement that his/her gender is superior?
    1. I’m not supposed to agree, but we all know it’s true.
    2. The genders are absolutely equal.
    3. On the whole, men tend to be better at some things, and women are better than others. But individuals are all so different…
  • Which statement is most likely to appear on your character’s Facebook wall?
    1. I don’t care who I offend—I’m going to tell it like it is.
    2. We may all look a little different, but all true members of our group will agree that…
    3. These issues are so complicated; no side has a monopoly on the truth.
  • What kind of friend would your character most likely enjoy spending time with?
    1. Someone more interested in having fun than worrying about the consequences.
    2. Someone who would fit in with his/her current group of friends.
    3. Someone who challenges him/her to see a different point of view.

If the answers for your character would mostly be As, he/she is in the early developmental stage, like Alpha. Mostly B answers would indicate a middle-stage character like Beta. Cs would pair your character with Charlie, at the most advanced stage of development. Answers split between A and B or B and C suggest a character that is in transition between stages. Answers split between A and C or all three possibilities suggest an inconsistent character who might not come across as very realistic to readers.

Writing Convincing Characters

Determining our characters’ developmental level is a good first step toward writing them realistically. Next, we need to know what each of these levels looks like, so we’ll know how our characters will respond and the best way to help them grow.

Early-Stage Characters Like Alpha

  • sound a great deal like perpetual teenagers.
  • understand rules but live primarily by their main mantra: Don’t Get Caught
  • have shallow relationships.
  • don’t engage in self-criticism or self-reflection.
  • may perceive hardships and wounds as unfair personal attacks.

Notes about Alpha Characters:

  • A character can stay at this level of development their entire lives. Prime examples of this are Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker.
  • Rejecting a group or being rejected by one may impede their growth.
  • Avoid having a more mature character lecture them, since they need to come to their own ‘ah-ha’ moment.
  • To help them grow, 
    • allow them to get caught breaking the rules and feel the consequences, or let them observe others getting caught acting selfishly and feeling the results.
    • allow them to observe others getting what they want by following the “rules” and caring for other people.
    • have them join a group, perhaps unwillingly, and learn the value of belonging.
    • give them friends who seek to include them and exert positive “peer group pressure”.

Middle-stage characters like Bravo

  • seem rather normal, because this is the level of development for most adults.
  • know that
    • stereotypes don’t paint a complete picture.
    • rules aren’t everything.
    • rights and fairness are important.
  • understand individual differences.
  • value fulfilling their responsibilities to others.
  • emerge from a wounding experience
    • understanding others better.
    • seeing how they might have also been at fault.

Notes about Bravo Characters:

  • Remember that only a few characters will grow completely beyond this level. To do this, Bravo characters
    • will benefit from opportunities to embrace ideas and people who are very different from themselves.
    • need deep, long term relationships.
    • need to take on responsibility for others, such as parenting a child or caring for a dependent elder.

Advanced-Stage Characters like Charlie

  • are relatively uncommon.
  • understand the complexities of people, situations, and relationships.
  • are very tolerant of differences.
  • recognize and meet their own needs without apology or anger.
  • value relationships while retaining a sense of identity within and apart from their relationships with others.
  • respond to wounds philosophically, seeing them as a chance to grow.

Unique Challenges For Characters Like Charlie:

  • Others don’t usually “get” them.
  • While they’re often recognized as wise and well balanced, they can be socially isolated.
  • They may
    • experience depression due to being misunderstood.
    • get frustrated and feel powerless in the face of petty squabbles and conflicts.

Characters, regardless of their personality types, will behave consistently within their developmental levels. To grow and change, a character has to experience something important; ideally that’s what our plots are about. Applying these developmental perspectives to our characters can help us better predict how they will react to the obstacles we throw at them, as well as allowing us to plan realistically for their growth and development.

author 7_2014Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16 year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development ,and counseling—none of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences.

She blogs at Random Bits of Fascinationmainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, Wholly Unconnected to Me, was released in May of 2015. Science fiction and fantasy projects are also currently in the works. Her fiction and nonfiction books are available at all major online booksellers.

You can follow Maria Grace on Twitter  and like or friend her on Facebook.

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Emotional Wounds: Being Trapped in a Collapsed Building

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

collapseNOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

BEING TRAPPED IN A COLLAPSED BUILDING

Examples:

  • In the aftermath of a tornado
  • When supports shift after an earthquake
  • When living within a building slated for demolition
  • As a condemned building’s floor or ceiling gives way while one is inside
  • Because one is inside during a house fire
  • After an explosion caused by a gas line breach
  • As it was not structurally sound due to age and decay
  • After a terrorist attack
  • Because one’s building was poorly constructed

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • My life could end at any moment, so why waste time doing things I don’t want to do or be responsible?
  • People are reckless and not to be trusted (if a man-caused collapse)
  • I am not safe anywhere
  • I need to eradicate all sin from my life or this will happen again (if prone to extreme religious ideology)
  • People are inherently lazy and irresponsible (if collapse was due to human error)

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, appreciative, cautious, generous, humble, inspirational, kind, nurturing, patient, perceptive, philosophical, proactive, protective, spiritual, unselfish, uninhibited

Negative Traits That May Result: compulsive, cowardly, fanatical, humorless, inhibited, martyr, paranoid, pessimistic, withdrawn, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of enclosed spaces
  • fear of storms or earthquakes (if extreme weather was a factor)
  • fear of being underground
  • fear of not being able to breathe
  • fear of basements, parkades, tunnels and other underground areas
  • fear of elevators
  • fear of the dark

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • Avoiding buildings that remind one of the  event
  • refusing to go down into a basement or below ground apartment
  • keeping tabs on the weather (if weather was a factor)
  • Always carrying a phone that is fully charged
  • Panic attacks when in a MRI machine or other enclosed space
  • Refusing to enter an elevator
  • Suggesting activities with friends that are outdoors or in wide-open spaces
  • Feeling safer outside than inside
  • Carrying an inhaler in case of respiratory distress (panic attacks & anxiety)
  • Learning about building structure so one can identify signs of stress
  • Leaving doors open when in a room
  • Preferring to not close blinds or curtains so one can see outside

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

 

Image: Antranias@pixabay

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5 Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author

We are so excited to have Susan Kaye Quinn here today, and the topic is very appropriate. Why do you ask? Because Susan is a great success as an indie-published author. She was a frontrunner in many ways for young adult authors taking the SP leap, and every step of the way has sought to understand the online landscape so she could share that information with other writers looking to shorten their learning curve when it came to all things indie. Finally with pressure from her many, many fans, she started putting all this practical and time-tested knowledge into a book on self publishing. Now she has two books on the topic, and both are must-haves for anyone choosing this route.  And gosh, I haven’t even gotten started on all her fiction books, but I better stop now before I turn this introduction into a post on how awesome Sue is. Besides, I believe in showing, not telling, and as you read on, you’ll see her amazing-ness in action!

 Can you spot the self-published titles?

Hint: they all are.

(Caveat: A.G. Riddle started out indie but is now published through Amazon’s 47North imprint along with Marko Kloos)

The truth is that self-published titles now regularly top the charts – if not outright dominate them. Successful self-published titles have great covers and lots of fervent fans – often the only way to distinguish them from traditionally published titles is the publisher listing in the description (and the price – indie titles are usually less than $5.99 for single titles).

How do you become one of these successful indie authors? Hard work, luck, and educating yourself about how the indie marketplace works.

Here are FIVE TIPS to get you started. For a full run-down on how to launch your indie author career, see my Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition now available). To take your indie author career to the next level, check out the second book in the series, For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career. The two books are meant to be used in tandem.

TIP #1: Study the Bestsellers – In both craft and business, studying successful people will help you discern the ingredients of success. Always be striving to take your craft up a level – by craft I mean storytelling, not just the way you string words together. Because as much as we like to disparage that poorly written erotica book at the top of the charts, I guarantee that good stories well told actually do sell. (Alternatively, if you want to chase the latest trend, that’s possible now  – there’s no sin in giving readers more of what they want, but it’s nowhere near as easy as you think.) As far as business, look who is selling in your genre and what they did to get there. Don’t follow what people say – look at what they actually do. The actions of successful people often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. (I welcome you to look at my own path to success as well as many other indie authors – often the most successful are not the ones offering advice about it! #yesIseetheirony )

TIP #2: Be a Professional – Don’t dabble. Don’t dip your toe into indie publishing with a short story that’s not going to sell. Go full cannon-ball jump into the pond with professional covers, formatting, editing, the works. Make sure your novel can comfortably sit in the top 100 of your category. This will require up-front investment, but most books can be well-published for under $1000 – and I know of no other legit business you can start for that little money invested. Don’t skimp. (Note: on the other hand, don’t throw money away on a $3000 cover that will be hard to recoup; be sensible.)

TIP #3: Launch With a Series – You don’t have to pre-write an entire trilogy and release the books one month apart… but that’s an option now, with indie publishing. If you can write a novel in six months, you could publish the first book, then write and publish Books 2 and 3 within a year. I’ve seen both models be successful (note: don’t wait more than six months between books). Make the commitment to quickly build a backlist and get books into readers’ hands. Delivering three connected novels to readers within a year is a strong way to launch a career (note: I’m talking novels here, not novellas or short stories or serials – those are fun, but not career-launchers).

TIP #4: Launch in Amazon then Go Wide –  There’s a lot to learn in indie publishing, so staying focused can be key to staying on track – plus launching a new series in the Kindle Unlimited system gives new authors/new series a boost in visibility. Use this to get your footing. Then, when you’ve established your brand as an author, you can expand to the other retailers (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play). You’ll be a veteran at that point and in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of exclusivity vs. reach.

TIP #5: Never Stop Writing – the single most important thing you can do in your career is write the next book. Generating new IP (Intellectual Property) is the one thing only you can do – the rest can be outsourced. It’s tempting to get bogged down in all the latest and greatest changes in the industry, but the biggest lever you can pull to move sales is to launch a new book. Or an entirely new series. You want to study the bestsellers, but always remember: your biggest asset is your uniqueness. Make sure you’re continually feeding your creativity, reaching for that next level with your work, bringing out the fullest expression of your abilities. Spend the bulk of your time doing creative work – reading, writing, watching movies, taking workshops, using craft books to boost your skills, exploring new forms, learning how to write faster… whatever works for you to elevate your craft and increase your enjoyment of writing. This is the creative life you want, yes?

I really should have started with TIP #0: Decide What Mountain You Want To Climb – I have an entire section in my Indie Author Survival Guide about making a Mission Statement so that you know you’re climbing the right hill before you set off in dogged pursuit of the success you think you want.

Knowing what will make you happy, then having a plan to get there? That’s the only key to success you actually need.

p.s. if all of this terrifies you, I understand. Truly. Watch this webinar on facing your fears and don’t let that hold you back.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the Mindajck Saga and the Debt Collector serial (as well as other speculative fiction works) and has been indie publishing since 2011. She’s not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: she’s one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. The Indie Author Survival Guide and For Love or Money are based on her experience in self-publishing fiction. They are guides to help her fellow writer-friends take their own leaps into the wild (and wonderful) world of indie publishing… and not only survive, but thrive.
Facebook | Tumblr | Website | All of Susan’s Fiction

For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career
Grab one of Sue’s fiction books:
Open Minds (Mindjack #1) for FREE
The Legacy Human (Singularity #1) ON SALE for 99cents

Posted in Guest Post, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus Entry: Being Mugged

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

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Photo Credit: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho @ CC

Definition: to attack unexpectedly, often with intent to rob

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I must be weak—an easy target.
  • If I’m vigilant, I can keep this from happening again.
  • I will never feel safe again.
  • No one is trustworthy.
  • I can’t trust the kind of person (gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) who did this to me.
  • The authorities aren’t able to protect anyone.

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, appreciative, cautious, disciplined, observant, private

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, confrontational, cynical, hostile, humorless, inhibited, irrational, martyr, needy, nervous, paranoid, reckless, suspicious, temperamental, uncommunicative, violent, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of the dark
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of becoming a victim again
  • A generalized fear of the kind of place where the mugging happened (alleys, parks, parking lots, etc.)
  • Fear that something similar will befall one’s loved ones

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Not venturing out after dark
  • Never going anywhere alone
  • Avoiding the place where the mugging occurred
  • Frequent panic or anxiety attacks
  • Becoming over-protective with loved ones
  • Working out excessively in an effort to become stronger
  • Taking self-defense classes
  • Becoming obsessed with security (getting a house alarm, a dog, a gun, etc.)
  • Always being on the alert
  • Suspecting all strangers of ill will
  • Becoming prejudiced against the kind of person one was victimized by
  • Vigilantism
  • Becoming confrontational or hostile in an effort to prove that one isn’t weak
  • Resentment towards the police force
  • Drinking or using drugs 
  • Appreciating one’s blessings more; feeling that one was given a second chance

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Writers as Project Managers

I’m kind of an organization/planning freak. I love lists, schedules, containers, and calendars. As a matter of fact, I have 3 separate calendars on my desk right now: one for the family, one for work, and one for my upcoming move. Ok. I may have a problem.

But this is why I was so intrigued when Pascal Inard contacted us about his guest post: applying project management techniques to writing a book. Well, that was right up my alley because, after all, a book is just a project, right? A job that needs completing. And what better way to ensure success than to get organized for that project? Here, Pascal highlights six elements that need to be addressed for your book project, along with your flexibility for each—i.e., how much you’re willing to compromise on each one. If you’re looking for a way to get organized for your next story, I think you might find this interesting.

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Photo Credit: MeganJane Hunt @ CC

You may not see yourself as a project manager, but you are: you invest time and money to deliver a product to the world of book readers, and you want your product to be successful.

A book project, like a construction project or an I.T. project, has a specific purpose and a defined beginning and end time. Project management, like writing, is an art and a science; the same project management techniques that are used to deliver large-scale projects can be applied to your writing to help you complete your book.

Before you put pen to paper or start hitting that keyboard, think about why you’re embarking on this project. Write down the outcome that you want to achieve. It could be as specific as I want my book to be number one in the Kindle best-seller list in the urban fantasy category for five days in a row or as general as I want to feel good about having finished writing my book. There could be more than one outcome, but decide which one is the primary. That is your definition of success.

The next step is to set your six success sliders: Budget, Stakeholders, Scope, Schedule, Quality, and Team. These elements define the aspects of your project that are critical to its success. They are called sliders because you can set them at varying levels, anywhere from 0-100%, depending on your flexibility. Where you set your sliders will determine what compromises you will be able to make in order for your project to be successful.

Let’s take Budget, for example: if you’re going to self-publish and you’ve decided that money is no object, then you don’t need a budget and you can turn the budget slider off (set it to 0%). If you’re going to get professional help for your editing and book cover but you can’t afford to spend one cent more than you’ve budgeted, then set the budget to 100%. But if you can afford to spend 25% more, then set the budget to 75%. You have no flexibility with sliders that are set at 100%, so keep that in mind and set those sparingly.

When it comes to Stakeholders, there are three types: critical, essential, and interested.

  • Critical stakeholders are the people or organizations that can stop your project from succeeding—your publisher or agent, for example, if your book is going to be traditionally published. If you have critical stakeholders, set the slider at 100%, because your project cannot succeed without them, and you need to make sure their requirements (like word count and deadlines) are satisfied. 
  • Essential stakeholders have less impact on your success; they can delay your project from meeting its outcome but not stop it. A good example of essential stakeholders are readers eagerly waiting for your next installment. In an effort to keep them engaged, you may spend time connecting with them through social media, which takes time away from your writing. With a slider set below 100%, you give yourself some flexibility, so if you fall behind schedule, you can choose to spend less time on social media.
  • Interested stakeholders — like friends and family have little or no influence on your outcome; they could be your friends and family. You can set this slider wherever you want. If they’re free to share their opinions but will have no real impact on your end product, then set this slider to 0%. If their thoughts and ideas will be taken into consideration and may affect your story, you may want to set this slider higher to accommodate them.

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, the Scope is your table of contents. For a fiction book, it’s the outline of your plot. For example, if you’re writing a comprehensive book about the capital cities of Europe, you cannot leave one of them out, and the scope is set to 100%. For other books, the scope might be more flexible.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

You’ll also need to decide how important the Schedule is. Do you want to publish your book by a specific date? If it’s a book set during World War One and you want to release it on November 11, you need to plan accordingly. If your goal is to write the book in six months, give yourself flexibility so that you don’t compromise on scope or quality.

Quality is the most subjective slider. You might want your book to be perfectly written, and you have a very precise idea of what that means. If quality is set to 100%, then be prepared to spend more time or money, in which case you cannot set both budget and schedule to 100%.

Your Team consists of the people helping you to deliver your project: your beta readers, your editor, your cover designer. If you want to attract beta readers by offering them advance copies of your book, you’ll need to include this expense in your budget.

Sliders are powerful tools for making decisions. For example, if you’ve set your Schedule at 75%, but by the end of your allotted writing time you haven’t finished your story, you can spend another month to write. Otherwise, you’re in for some late nights with your laptop.

As we all know, things rarely go exactly according to plan; part of the science of project management is knowing how to deal with unexpected events—or risks as we project managers call them. Think about the sliders that you have set to 100% or 75%, since they’re the most vulnerable to the vagaries of life, and imagine some What If scenarios. What would you do if your car broke down and you had to use your project funds to get it repaired? If you have flexibility in your schedule, you could delay the end date of your project to give you time to save money to recover your losses. Alternatively, you could ask a friend who’s studying to be a graphic designer to do your book cover instead of paying a professional. Keep in mind that not all risks are external: what if halfway through writing you lose your inspiration? Attending a writer’s retreat could be the answer if you have flexibility in your budget.

As you execute your project, you will be able to track how you’re doing according to your sliders. Are on you on time and on budget? Are you managing your stakeholders’ expectations? Remember, you can adjust your definition of success or your slider settings at any time. Nothing is set in stone.

I hope you’ve found this short introduction to the success sliders used in Agile project management useful. I wish you all the best with the success of your project.

 

11207324_720543241400904_2156328636851069110_nPascal Inard writes nonfiction and novels. His latest project ‘The Memory Snatcher’ (the story of a police inspector and a quantum physicist who join forces to stop a memory thief from paralysing the whole planet) will be published next month.

Pascal lives a creative life in Melbourne, Australia with his illustrator and crafter wife Isabella and three children. When he’s not writing or photographing, he manages IT projects for a major Australian bank using the Agile methodology.

You can follow him on Facebook and his blog.

Posted in Guest Post | 4 Comments

Writer’s Key To Success: Make Your Own Luck (Case Study)

In 2012, I wrote a post at Janice Hardy’s blog, Fiction University. In it, I shared what I believed to be the key to success:

Making your own luck.

luckyHere’s an excerpt:

Make Your Own Luck.

Yes, that’s right. These four words hold the key to your success. Read them again, and cement them into your brain.

Each of us knows how to work hard at writing. We read, we study, we write. We join critique groups, network and find mentors. This is the biggest part of success. But often hard work alone isn’t enough. We can hang there on the cusp, feel the air vibrating with greatness. Yet it dangles just beyond our fingertips.

This is where we need to do something that many of us don’t like. Something that goes beyond our writerly, keyboard-between-me-and-you selves…move out of our comfort zone. We need to learn to Make Our Own Luck.

It would be nice if Success would be decent enough to slide over an inch or two and meet us, but life doesn’t work like that. So we need to grab it. And how we do that is by filling in the blanks:

If I could ____, then it would help me succeed.

If I could catch the eye of an agent, then it would help me succeed.


If I could build up an audience online, then it would help me succeed.


If I could launch my book well, then it would help me succeed.

Whatever your “blank” is, instead of thinking that it’s too hard to do, or something out of your control, I want you to remember to Make Your Own Luck.  (Full article.)

I ran across this article on focusing on things we CAN do rather than stressing about things we have no control over, and as I reread it, it was like traveling back in time. We had just released The Emotion Thesaurus. I remember I was so…nervous and worried, I guess, but also determined. Nervous about how my first book would go, worried people would think I was some sort of fraud with no fiction books under my name, determined to do my very best to get over my self-doubt and launch the book well.

In the original article I talked about my fear of public speaking, but how I knew putting myself out there was an important step toward my future. So I had signed myself up to give a presentation at a local conference to follow through on making my own luck.

Now, it’s 2015. How has this idea of “making my own luck” worked out?

The Emotion Thesaurus

  • closing in on 85,000 sold (in English)
  • 2 foreign editions under contract, 1 more in the works

–Two more books published, The Positive Trait & Negative Trait Thesaurus, bringing sales up to 126,000. And then a free booklet, Emotion Amplifiers, adding another 14,000

–Becca & I forming a second company to launch One Stop For Writers creative brainstorming software on Oct. 7th, in partnership with one of the key developers of Scrivener

And that public speaking thing? Where did that go?

RWA get freshAn invitation to speak in Australia, of all places!

(And next year Becca will come to Canada as we have been invited to teach a workshop together, another cool milestone for us both.)

I am not listing any of this to say, Wow, look at me! I’m sharing this because I absolutely 100% assure you, THERE IS NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT ME. I’m Joe Writer, just a girl with a keyboard. Like anyone else.

And if I can step outside my comfort zone and make my own luck, so can you. In fact I hope you are, right now. If not, I urge you to get out there and do something that scares you, something that challenges you to your core. Not only will you discover you are stronger than you thought, it will be good for you in the long run, and each small step forward leads to another, and another.

Where do you want to be in three years? Let me know so I can  cheer you on–I know you can do it. :)

AND ALSO…

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallA massively huge thanks to everyone who has signed up to help with our One Stop For Writers software launch. Becca, Lee & I are so appreciative. If you missed the original post and still are interested in helping, please get in touch! I’d love to have you on my super easy & relaxed street team. :)

Image 1: Belezza87 @ Pixabay

Posted in Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Experiments, Focus, Goal and Milestones, One Stop For Writers, Positive & Negative Thesaurus Guides, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude | 19 Comments

Emotional Wounds: Overly Critical or Strict Parents

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

Overly Strict or Critical Parents

Examples:

  • Parents who restrict access to one’s peers and allow only friendships they approve of
  • Imposing strict rules for dress that allows no room for expression or exploration of identity
  • Demanding one adhere to specific behavior and manners at all times
  • Imposing a strict curfew that does not align with one’s peers
  • Refusing privileges that allow for freedom (e.g.: not allowing one to obtain a driver’s license)
  • Deploying punishments for poor academics or rule infractions
  • Choosing one’s hobbies and interests
  • Insisting one keep to a regimented schedule or attend approved activities even if one is not interested in
  • Withholding praise or affection for less than perfect output
  • Critiquing one’s actions and performances to ensure mistakes will not be made next time
  • Insisting one practice to become better in an approved hobby or skill area, or insist on instruction to speed up proficiency
  • Heaping praise on one’s rivals in order to motivate one into working harder
  • Demanding obedience

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound:  love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’ll never be good enough
  • I am a huge disappointment
  • I will never succeed at anything
  • A person is good enough only if they are the best
  • Second place is the same as losing
  • I need to be less like me and more like X (someone else who one is compared to)
  • I need structure or my weakness will take over
  • It’s better others choose for me because I’d just screw it up if I made the decision
  • Often I deserve to be punished

Positive Attributes That May Result: ambitious, cooperative, courteous, disciplined, focused, humble, industrious, introverted, mature, obedient, organized, patient, perceptive, persistent, private, proper, resourceful, sensible, studious, talented, nuturing

Negative Traits That May Result: confrontational, cynical, evasive, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, needy, oversensitive, perfectionist, reckless, self-destructive, subservient, temperamental, withdrawn, workaholic

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of freedom
  • Fear of those who are in a position of power or influence
  • Fear of public speaking or performing
  • Fear of being on display, being watched/scrutinized
  • Fear of the future

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • lying to avoid punishment or sanctions
  • giving up before one starts
  • self-sabotage in order to get the disappointment of others over quickly
  • playing down one’s skills and talents
  • refusing to take a compliment, deflecting compliments, giving the credit to others
  • aggressively seeking every advantage
  • becoming a workaholic
  • exceeding all expectations as one’s goal
  • avoiding friendships as they weaken one’s focus
  • equating self-worth with accomplishment
  • living life and making choices based on what others believe one should do
  • overreacting when criticized
  • avoiding the limelight
  • needing to be in the limelight to prove to oneself that one is worthy
  • berating oneself when one performs less than optimally
  • being exceedingly strict (repeating the cycle) or exceedingly lax (breaking the cycle by over-compensating) with one’s own children

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Three Components to Writing a Successful Collaborative Novel

As you can guess, Angela and I are passionate about the value of collaborative writing and how it can be done successfully. Our experience lies mostly, though, with nonfiction. So I was excited when Kathrin Hutson approached us with a post outlining some tried-and-true techniques for co-writing a fiction book. I’m sure many of you have wondered about the possibility of co-authoring a story and the best way of making a go of it. So read on for some great tips!

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photo credit: Pixabay

Collaborative fiction has received a lot more recognition in the writing community, especially now that some groups have figured out just how to make it work.

The problems I have found with online collaborative forums are that a few people are really dedicated to the project, but most who signed up to participate get burned out, bored, or distracted by life and disappear. Sometimes one person overrides the creative expression of other writers, and a clash of visions for the story ensues. Ideas get lost behind a strong personality, and frustrations arise when an agreement cannot be made on characterization or plot.

All writers have different styles, ideas, and visions for a story. But the whole point of collaborating is to work with other talented writers who want to hone their skills and embrace teamwork. An effective collaboration will create an imaginative, exciting, entertaining work of fiction that is much different than what any one writer could create alone.

Working with the online collaborative fiction community Collaborative Writing Challenge (CWC) as both Chief Editor and Story Coordinator has exposed me to a successful, supportive community of writers who create full-length fiction novels together one week at a time. Our pilot novel was published this June and has received wonderful reviews. In only one short year, CWC has formed a collaborative system with three major components that embrace author uniqueness and encourage open communication and teamwork.

These three ‘must have’ components, when used correctly, ensure that every collaboration flows from section to section, and most importantly that it gets completed.

#1: Teamwork and Always Saying Yes

The whole point of a collaboration is not having to write an entire novel yourself, and not having to formulate all characters and story lines on your own. Adding one, two, or twenty other creative minds to a project makes for incalculable possibilities, and never knowing exactly what’s coming next is half the fun.

Always Saying Yes means that participants accept each writer’s section as it is. If the plot twist is conceivable, if the character could make that decision, if the conflict resolution is not impossible, let it stand. Changing the story’s elements simply because you don’t agree with another collaborator’s choices or wouldn’t have written it that way yourself does not make for happy collaborators, nor for the most imaginative version of the project.

Teamwork at this point takes all the credit for a great collaboration, and for writers who will return time and time again. A writer may submit a confusing section that pulls the story in a new direction, or has details inconsistent with previous submissions. When this happens, do not simply reject the section altogether. No writer wants to hear that their submission just didn’t work, nor see someone else completely rewriting all their hard work. Instead, reach out to these writers, ask questions, give suggestions.

“You wrote that Character X carried a 50-pound box of groceries for his neighbor, but two chapters ago he broke his arm skateboarding. It’s not quite believable that he carries that box with a badly broken arm. Would you like to rewrite that section with those details, or would you like me to try it for you?”          

This open communication is key. Remember to be courteous, to acknowledge that they worked hard for a section of which they were proud enough to submit, and that they still want to contribute. Everybody needs a little reminder of the details or intention of a project.

#2: Keep the Facts Organized

 CWC has a fantastic system of consistently updating its writers with the important details of the stories they’re working on. Every week, a 400-500 word summary of the new chapter is written, as well as a detailed list of characters, locations, and highlights, in order of appearance. We call these the “reference notes”. These give a one or two sentence description of each character and their relationship to the other characters. The same is done with each new location, and the “highlights” are constantly updated.

Highlights are short descriptions of a plot line that has been left open and can be picked back up later, such as: ‘Character Y had only finished applying half of her makeup before she got the call about her grandmother and rushed to the hospital.’ This ensures that the next writer can choose to pick up this vein about Character Y’s unkempt appearance.

Creating detailed summaries and reference notes also makes it easier for writers to get the information they need to continue the story without having to read through every previous chapter. Make sure these are always accessible to every collaborator.

#3: Create a Schedule – And Stick to It

 Having a schedule detailing when each writer is due to submit their section, and when the collaboration is expected to start and finish, is a powerful way to keep the project on track. Agree on a certain length, like 30 chapters or 60,000 words; give each writer one week or two weeks to submit their section; choose the target length of submissions; and decide who writes which chapter(s). Then hold each other accountable to this schedule.

Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and a contribution is late, or a writer cannot finish. Sometimes participants drop out altogether. This is why #1 and #2 are so important – if a collaboration finds these minor obstacles, open communication with one another allows writers to pick up an open chapter, to help a struggling collaborator, and to have all the details at their fingertips, no matter where the finished sections are kept.

You may find yourself part of a collaborative system like CWC’s, with a designated Story Coordinator who updates the information, contacts writers, and ensures each submission is consistent with the story and schedule. Or you and your fellow collaborators may have outlined the novel from beginning to end and cannot wait to fill in the blanks together. Either way, Teamwork, Organized Facts, and a Detailed Schedule are three invaluable tools to keep your project consistent, entertaining for writers and readers alike, and will get the project finished.

Kathrin Hutson Headshot

Kathrin Hutson is the owner of KLH CreateWorks (www.klhcreateworks.com), and offers free tips affordable editing services to writers of all skill levels and in all genres. The first book of her fantasy series, Daughter of the Drackan, will be published this October. She is also Chief Editor and Story Coordinator for Collaborative Writing Challenge (www.collaborativewritingchallenge.com), and enjoys nothing more than working on all of these projects from her home in Grass Valley, CA. Kathrin can be contacted at Kathrin.Hutson@KLHCreateWorks.com.

Posted in Guest Post | 14 Comments

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus Entry: Infertility

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

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Courtesy: Daniel Lobo @ CC

Definition: Being unable to bear children, either with or without medical interventions.

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’m less or a man/woman because of this.
  • This is a punishment for something I’ve done in the past.
  • There must be some reason why I can’t have kids.
  • God knows I would be a bad parent; that’s why he won’t let me have kids.
  • People will pity me if they find out.
  • Without children, I’ll never be complete or fulfilled.
  • Why bother taking care of yourself if things like this are going to happen to you anyway?
  • I’m going to grow old and die alone, with no one to care for me.

Positive Attributes That May Result: discreet, empathetic, optimistic, patient, persistent, private, resourceful, 

Negative Traits That May Result: callous, cynical, evasive, irrational, jealous, martyr, needy, obsessive, pessimistic, resentful, temperamental, ungrateful, withdrawn 

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of growing old and being alone
  • Fear of one’s spouse dying
  • Fear of what others think
  • Fear that one is incapable of parenting or caring for others
  • Fear of other latent illnesses or conditions within one’s body
  • Fear that one will never find happiness or contentment

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Becoming obsessed with conceiving a child, regardless of the inconvenience or cost
  • Tirelessly researching and trying new or unusual fertility methods, treatments, and remedies
  • Becoming obsessed with one’s health
  • Lying to others about why one hasn’t had children
  • Struggling with depression
  • Self-medicating
  • Distancing oneself from couples with children
  • Throwing oneself into a job or hobby
  • Clinging to one’s spouse or parents out of fear of losing them and being alone
  • Avoiding children
  • Building relationships with other childless couples
  • Joining support groups

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments