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February 2012
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Writing is like any other profession; practice makes perfect. If you want to get better at the craft of writing, there's really only one way to go about doing that: write. I think we can all agree on that. The problem is there isn't always going to be the inspiration to write. We creative types often expend more energy coming up with the basis for an idea than we do with the actual writing. Where to start is a common stumbling block for a lot of writers.


Here's a little piece of advice I received long ago in a creative writing class: look for writing prompts. Writing prompts are those little displays of life that contain everyday items in an unusual way. For example, perhaps something is out of place. It may be out of place for the most innocent of reasons, but that's okay. You don't care about the actual reason. You're a writer. You're going to invent the reason. You just need a catalyst to jump-start your imagination. There's a story behind that half-eaten apple sitting on the top shelf of a bookcase in your local library. You could write a novel about why a discarded day planner lies in the garbage can in front of a law office. There are virtually endless natural and constructed writing prompts everywhere you look.


To give you an idea of what I mean by "constructed" writing prompts, here are three photographs I took of items around my house displayed in unusual ways. You tell me what the stories are behind these pictures. Get creative. Have fun. Let your imagination run wild.


https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/images/guitar_s.jpghttps://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/images/rose_s.jpg
https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/images/typewriter_s.jpg


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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WordPlay Writing Prompt: A Mine is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Can Visualization Help You Finish That Manuscript?

1,415 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, writers, writing, creativity, craft
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The late March winds whip through a field of rye grass growing unkempt along the hillside. Storm clouds hustle across the sky, late for an afternoon thunderstorm several miles to the east. You like to take this walk when something is laying heavily on your mind. The weather adds to your mood, the cold wind stinging your cheeks and tugging at the loose ends of your scarf. Usually, you like to walk along the farm road that cuts along the side of the hill, but today isn't a day for the ordinary route. You turn toward the slope of the hill, following a narrow depression that winds toward a copse of trees at the crest.


The path is loose and rocky where it isn't choked with weeds, and because of the wind, you keep your head down as you walk toward the top. Heavy boots shuffle up the incline, knocking stones and dark earth down the slope, when suddenly your foot strikes a solid object. You stumble, grabbing a tuft of grass to maintain your balance. A glance forward reveals that you are closer to the crest of the hill than you thought. Tree roots stick out like dropped stitches on the eroded sides of the path, but it wasn't a tree root that tripped you. The object glints softly in the dull light. Only a few flecks of metal stand out on the otherwise rusted edge. Its triangular shape and the hollow "thock" sound it made when your foot collided with it pique your curiosity. Grabbing a sharp stone, you kneel beside the object and start digging away at the ground.


It comes away easily, the dirt tumbling down the path in rocky clods, and in only a couple of minutes, you have the object in your hand. You turn it over and over, marveling at how well the earth preserved the painted details and, short the edge that was sticking out of the ground, it's relatively rust-free. But your curiosity soon receives a new surprise as a gentle shake reveals that there might be something inside...


Exercise: Buried treasure


What do you think you found on this cold and blustery spring walk? What could be inside the object, and why is it buried on the side of such a remote hill? Write down a line, a paragraph, or use the inspiration to start your own short story!


-Kristin

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Kristin is a content media coordinator with CreateSpace. She draws from a strong background in journalism and creative writing to help authors hone their skills and flex their artistic muscles.


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WordPlay: Starting in the Middle

WordPlay: Line of Sight

1,309 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, writers, writing, craft
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I graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcasting in the early 90s. It goes without saying that most of what I learned and practiced in those early days of video production is dated. Nevertheless, some of the principals still apply. Online video should be a growing part of your branding efforts. The good news is video is cheaper and easier to create than ever today. The bad news is just because it's affordable and easy doesn't mean people aren't prone to creating bad videos or even videos that can damage their brands. To help you unravel the mystery behind making a good online video, here are a few tips gathered from my days of producing videos for a living and from observing some of the trends today.


  • Avoid long shots. More than a few viewers will be watching your video on a screen that's small enough to fit in their hand. Giving them long shots with a tremendous amount of minute detail that is important to the message of your video is pointless because they more than likely won't be able to see it and could even be frustrated enough to avoid future videos you post online.
  • Background matters. Even though small details will elude most viewers, you can bet that someone somewhere is going to see that embarrassing stain on the wall behind you or that photo of you in your Princess Leia costume just over your left shoulder. And if the right person (or wrong person) sees it, it could become fodder for the entire internet community. That's the kind of viral video you don't want.
  • The old reliable head shot. Don't worry about getting too fancy with your shots and setup. In most cases, sitting in front of your computer and recording your video with your onboard camera is more than enough. If you want to invest in a portable camera to take anywhere your laptop can't go, that's great too. Just keep in mind that just because it's a dedicated video camera doesn't mean you have to make things complicated. Just aim and shoot.
  • Keep it short and slow it down. These might sound contradictory, but if you can keep a slow, comfortable pace in a short video, you've created a Goldilocks video - one that's just right. People often shout and race through the information in their personal videos. It almost looks like the room is on fire and they're trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. Even with the frantic pacing, they manage to create a 10-minute video that wastes everyone's time. Three to five minutes in a natural speaking voice is much more effective.

 

 

These are just a few tips to keep in mind as you move forward with your personal branding videos. It will be awkward at first, but the more you do, the easier it will get. The most important tip is to just have fun and be authentic. The viewers will follow.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The 5 Deadly Sins of Amateur Video

Preparing Your Online Media Ki

2,065 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: filmmaking, film, brand, branding
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.


Books/Publishing


How to Become a Twitter Ninja in Less Than 30 Minutes a Day -Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt explains how he gets a total daily reach of 418,908 on Twitter in just 30 minutes a day.


R.L. Stine Posts a Horror Story on Twitter - GalleyCat

The man who brought us Goosebumps is taking his storytelling skills to Twitter in a big way.


Film


Disruptive Film-Making -Visual News

Swedish filmmaker Sebastian Lindstrom talks guerrilla filmmaking in this TED presentation.


Gary King Talks Filmmaking - Filmmaking Stuff

Independent filmmaker Gary King discusses how he's making a name for himself in this new world of filmmaking.


Music


Six Steps to Making Money with Music in 2012 - Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Bob Baker thinks 2012 will be the year many musicians have to rethink their approach to making money in the music industry.


42 Different Ways That Artists Can Earn Money... - Digital Music News

The Future of Music Coalition (FOMC) has compiled a handy list of money-making ideas for musicians.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Weekly News Roundup - February 17, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - February 10, 2012

1,275 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, book, book, music, music, film, film, blog, blog, writer, writer, writers, writers, blogs, blogs, news, news
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I just finished reading a novel in which the author used a lot of exclamation marks in her dialogue. In fact, she employed them so often that I FELT LIKE THE CHARACTERS WERE SHOUTING AT ME THE WHOLE TIME I WAS READING! As you can see, using all caps also has that same effect.


Here is just a snippet, with names changed to protect the guilty:

 

 

"Erin, this is not a battle!" I retort. "And it's not a chess game! It's dinner with a nice man!"


"You're so cynical, Erin!" chimes in Kristy. "I think it's really romantic!"


Do you get the picture?


For your dialogue to ring true, it should read the way people really talk. And other than on trashy reality TV shows, most people don't yell at each other all that often.


A few blog posts back, I addressed the importance of letting the characters speak for themselves. Using descriptive words other than "said" in dialogue is distracting (as demonstrated above), and it takes the reader's attention away from the story. The same will happen if you use too many exclamation marks. In this particular novel, which was written by a bestselling author and published by a major publishing house, I found myself so distracted by the volume of exclamation marks that I often forgot what the characters were discussing. They became caricatures to me, as opposed to real people, and as a result I did not like the book.


Here's a tip: Read your dialogue out loud. That will clue you in immediately as to whether it sounds realistic. Remember, people read novels to immerse themselves in another world. If poor dialogue pulls them away from the fantasy, you lose them.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Just Say It!

WordPlay: A Casual Conversation

2,141 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, writers, writing
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We writers are a different breed than most. We go through life with a heightened curiosity about the most mundane everyday occurrences. For instance, we may see someone smoking a cigarette and wonder why he or she is holding the cigarette in that specific way. That may lead us to think about the first day that person took up smoking, and what events led him or her to actually lighting that first cigarette. Our interpretation is most likely far more dramatic and interesting than the actual story, but that's what we do. We take the ordinary and dissect it until we find the extraordinary.


So with that in mind and in a similar spirit as Mr. Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..." phrases, I thought it might be interesting to explore "You might be a writer if..." truisms. I'll get us started with a few. They aren't necessarily funny (certainly not if you compare them to Mr. Foxworthy's material), and they don't have to be. The goal here is to just have fun. Feel free to add your own pearls of wisdom to this list!

 

  1. You might be a writer if you constantly find yourself looking for the humor in tragedy and the tragedy in humor.
  2. You might be a writer if, while in the office supply store, you view the latest designs in the pen aisle like most people shop for cars or shoes.
  3. You might be a writer if you've complained about how messy your desk is, but you've done absolutely nothing about it because cleaning it might interfere with your creativity.
  4. You might be a writer if you've ever had a brilliant idea that will surely be your greatest story ever, only to forget it before you have a chance to write it down.
  5. You might be a writer if you practice your character's dialogue in the mirror when no one else is around.

2.  

Let the games begin. What do you think are the typical traits of a writer? Start with "You might be a writer if..." and add them to the comments!


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Identifying the Writer Within

When You Cut a Scene You Like, Save It!

2,070 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, book, blog, writer, writers, writing, blogs
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While poets are also called writers, other types of writers are not often called poets. That fact doesn't keep English teachers from drilling poetic verse into young authors' heads, but they have a good reason. Poetry allows for more lyrical and descriptive language, and the optional use of strict forms can force writers to bring creativity to lines they might never have considered in standard prose.


Take, for example, the villanelle, a 19-line poem wherein the first and third lines of the first stanza repeat alternately as the third line in each following stanza, wrapping up in a couplet at the close. Originally known as simple "country songs," the villanelle wasn't given a specific form until the late 1500s, and even then it didn't catch on until the early twentieth century. But when it did, it took flight. Giving rise to such poems as "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke and "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas, the strict structure of the villanelle forces writers to work within pretty tight confines. When trapped there, they are driven to create in ways they might not have considered without the proverbial "gun to the back" of the poetic form.


The sestina is another fierce beast of the poetry world. A sestina is a 39-line poem consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, topped off with a three-line tercet, or envoi, at the close. The same set of six words must be used to end the lines in each stanza, but in a different order each time.


Sounds pretty complicated, right? Actually, it's not as scary as it seems. If you write down six lines of free-form verse (there's no set meter for sestinas), then just take the last word from each line and arrange them according to the sestina structure above. Filling in the lines behind the words might prove to be easier than you expect. It might even get you thinking of descriptions outside of the prosaic box. That brings us to this week's exercise.


Exercise: You're a poet and you know it


Pick one of the forms discussed above, a sestina or a villanelle, and try your hand at poetry. Don't worry about meter. Just stick with the guidelines and see what creative descriptions a strict structure might inspire in your writing!


Villanelle (A rhymes with A and B rhymes with B)


Refrain 1 (A1)

Line 2 (B)

Refrain 2 (A2)


Line 4 (A)

Line 5 (B)

Refrain 1 (A1)


Line 7 (A)

Line 8 (B)

Refrain 2 (A2)


Line 10 (A)

Line 11 (B)

Refrain 1 (A1)


Line 13 (A)

Line 14 (B)

Refrain 2 (A2)


Line 16 (A)

Line 17 (B)

Refrain 1 (A1)

Refrain 2 (A2)


Sestina (for reference, see "Sestina" by Dante Alighieri)


Stanza 1: 123456

Stanza 2: 615243

Stanza 3: 364125

Stanza 4: 532614

Stanza 5: 451362

Stanza 6: 246531


Envoi:

line 1: 6 & 2
line 2: 1 & 4
line 3: 5 & 3


-Kristin

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Kristin is a content media coordinator with CreateSpace. She draws from a strong background in journalism and creative writing to help authors hone their skills and flex their artistic muscles.


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WordPlay: Putting Your Worst Foot Forward

WordPlay: A Strange Note

1,308 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, writers, writing, screenwriting
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As I've said repeatedly, in the world of publishing, the author is the brand. It's a concept that is a little hard to embrace for people who are new to the publishing and marketing world. Some authors are under the impression that they should spend their branding capital on their books. This is not the case. I advise using your marketing capital on your books, but focusing your branding on you, the author.


Your brand is associated with a number of attributes: appearance, writing style, affiliations, etc. As your notoriety grows, so grows your brand recognition, and the more scrutinized every move you make will become. Even after you've written several different titles, your brand as the author will remain the same. Consistency is the key to building a lasting brand.


So, what's the key to consistency? It's simple: be authentic. That's it. Maintaining a brand that centers on your natural behavior is the easiest thing in the world. It's something you don't have to think about, contrive, or plan. It's just something you do. Eventually, your brand will be recognized as falling within the sphere of certain archetypes (Intellectual, Rebel, Philosopher, etc.) but that's okay, because you arrived at your archetype organically. Those who ultimately fail with their brands are those who try to force themselves into an archetype that doesn't fit their natural behavior.


It's possible you're reading this and you're not really sure who you are, or you may believe your behavior gives you a sort of cross-archetype identity. In both cases, time will sort your brand out. Without putting much thought into it, a fundamental theme will emerge just from you being your authentic self. In effect, your brand will find you.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Branding 101: What is Author Branding?

Branding 101: The Keys to Successful Branding

2,500 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, books, books, authors, authors, authors, authors, selling, selling, selling, selling, book, book, book, book, author, author, author, author, writers, writers, writers, writers, writing, writing, writing, writing, branding, branding, branding, branding
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.


Books/Publishing


Designers on Book Covers of the Future -Publishing Perspectives

While publishing turns to the digital world, designers are finding ways to capitalize on the way technology is shaping how we shop and read. 


5 Tips for Fearless Writing - Writer's Digest

Are you prepared to go where few writers have gone before?   


Film


How to Be a Better Camera Operator - Part 1: MINDSET -Through The Lens

Twelve tips on how to get your mind right for working as a camera operator on a film shoot.      


Dear Filmmakers: Subvert A Genre All You Want, But You Have To Respect It First - Bloody Disgusting

Blogger Evan Dickson makes the argument that to make a good genre film, you have to respect the genre.     


Music


Frank Hamilton Records and Releases a Song a Week for 2012 - Milky Tea Kid

In an industry that advises against oversaturation, Frank Hamilton is following a different path.   


Trent Reznor - An Exclusive TuneCore Interview - Tunecore

The founder of Nine Inch Nails discusses the difference between recording an album and recording for film.  

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Weekly News Roundup - February 10, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - February 3, 2012

1,326 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, book, book, music, music, film, film, blog, blog, writers, writers, blogging, blogging, writing, writing, blogs, blogs
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A couple months ago, I received an email from a woman who had heard me speak at an event out on the West Coast. She had recently self-published a short story as an e-book, and she said that even though she knew I was extremely busy, she was hoping I would give it a read.


 

The short story was available on Amazon for just $.99, so I bought it for my Kindle. Then, I replied to her email and told her I'd purchased it and was looking forward to reading it.

 

I never heard from her again.


 

At first I thought she was just busy, but it has been more than two months now. I am clearly never going to hear from her, and she clearly has no idea how to be a good marketer.


 

If you email people you barely know and ask them to buy your book, and they do, it is important to THANK THEM. I'm sure this woman probably sent a message to everyone in her address book, and I have no idea how many of them actually replied like I did, but it couldn't have been so many that it crashed her email.


 

As you begin your book marketing campaign, you're going to have to do a lot of outreach to get the word out. But if all you do is ask people to buy your book and then move on, you're not going to engender a lot of goodwill. Not everyone is going to respond to your request, so it's important to acknowledge those who do. Remember, a little bit of courtesy goes a long way!


 

-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

 

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Giving Books Away: A Strategy that Still Works

How to Manage Your Volunteer Sales Force

1,687 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, book, book, blog, blog, blogs, blogs
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Your brain is a complicated organ. It is your command center. You breathe, eat, see, walk, and perform intricate tasks all because of the gray matter beneath your skull. It is a marvel of nature. There is nothing more complex on the planet than the human brain.


Yet, it can be fooled. I know this first and foremost because my high school football coach insisted it was true. He always turned off the lights in the locker room before a game and told us to spend some quiet time visualizing the game. He wanted us to picture ourselves on the field, running through the plays, making tackles, catching passes, etc. If you can see it in your head, he'd say, your brain already thinks it happened. It's just waiting for time to catch up with it.


As I got older and started to write in earnest, I realized I was using the visualization trick my coach had taught me to finish manuscripts. I'm not talking about visualizing the stories. That goes without saying. We all spend quiet time exploring the fictional worlds we're creating. I'm talking specifically about the act of completing a manuscript.


I often spend some time imagining stacks of paper sitting on my desk full of words I have written. I will see the title page. I will flip through the pages until I get to the last one and read "The End." I smell the warm ink on the page. It is a completed manuscript in my mind only, but the more I picture it, the more my brain believes it's real. As my coach said, it's just waiting for time to catch up with me. 


It may sound a little ethereal, but I encourage you to give this little "completed manuscript visualization" exercise a try. I'm not suggesting you visualize your book into existence. You're still going to have to write, but I think you'll find that the more you visualize the manuscript, the quicker time will catch up with you, and your visions will become reality.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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How to be a Confident Writer

Unlocking Writer's Block

30,398 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, authors, authors, authors, authors, authors, authors, authors, author, author, author, author, author, author, author, author, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, writers, writers, writers, writers, writers, writers, writers, writers, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_process, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style, writing_style
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"I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die." - Isaac Asimov


It's Valentine's Day, and there's no better time to stop and think about your love of writing. What is it that drives you to write? No really, take a moment and think about your answer. It's not because you have to. In order to write, and write well, a little bit of your heart needs to find its way onto the page. Whether it's your passion for laser technology that drove you to write a technical manual or your love for unearthing secrets that led you to write a mystery novel, there is something about you that makes your writing absolutely and truly unique - because it contains a vibrant piece of you.


Take a moment and think about what you are working on right now. What is your manuscript about? What drove you to write your story? And don't just settle for the simple answer on the surface. Think about why writing is so important to you and why writing this particular story is so imperative that you are taking weeks, months, even years out of your life to complete it. The answer might surprise you. And that brings us to this week's exercise.


Exercise: The heart of the matter


As you think about your reason for writing - and it doesn't have to be the reason behind your current project, it could be the reason you simply love to write - jot down your thoughts. Even if doesn't seem like the real reason, scribble it down with sincerity. Try to follow your thoughts back to your earliest memory of writing and what truly drove you to first put pen to paper.


Once you have it all down, keep that piece of paper with you. On days when the ideas just won't come, or your heart really isn't into it, read over that little missive with your most sincere thoughts, memories, and myriad reasons for writing, and it will fan the embers and bring a much needed spark back to your passion for the written word. In the immortal words of that wordsmith William Wordsworth, "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."


-Kristin

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Kristin is a content media coordinator with CreateSpace. She draws from a strong background in journalism and creative writing to help authors hone their skills and flex their artistic muscles.


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WordPlay: A Raisin to Write

WordPlay: Idioms

1,250 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, writers, writing, screenwriting
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There are certain subjects that are just infused with controversy. Politics, religion, war...the list goes on and on. If you're breathing, you probably have an opinion about all or any one of these topics. They may be things you discuss freely or awkwardly with friends and family members. The question is, should you attach your opinions about controversial subjects to your brand?


The undeniable fact is that posting on your blog or making a personal video stating your opinions on the latest controversy or the one that means the most to you will stir up debate. And when debate ensues, traffic follows. You will get hits and you will be exposed to groups of people that may have otherwise not located you online.


But do you want that kind of exposure? Can your brand handle it? Mine cannot. I sit and watch debates about one topic or another, and I feel as impassioned as the next person, but I do not take to my blog doling out my opinion in long, inflammatory postings. I've just made the conscious decision that doing so would do more to hurt my brand than benefit it because I don't want to risk alienating groups of people who may not share my opinions.


There are authors who do not follow my branding tactic. They relish in the heat generated by their controversial posts. Frankly, most of them probably get more traffic to their blogs than I do. It is their brand, and they've not only embraced it, they've sold books because of it.


So, can your brand handle controversy? That's not something I can answer for you. My advice is to take your cue from the genre you've chosen. For instance, writers of suspense novels and mysteries can get away with things that writers of children's books can't. You also want to look to your heart. If you really have the urge to write about a controversial topic, do it. Just be aware of the effects it could have on your brand and your sales.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Does Blogger Equal Journalist?

Tag Your Blog Posts

1,657 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, authors, author, author, writers, writers, blogging, blogging, writing, writing, branding, branding
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.


Books/Publishing


Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book -TechCrunch

Author James Altucher explains why self-publishing was the right move for him. 


Online Grammar Resources - Editors Only

Here's a great little resource for those times when you need a little grammar guidance. 


Film


What is Filmmaking Success? -Filmmaking Stuff

The film industry has changed, and so should our perceptions of filmmaking success. 

   

How to Make Sure You're Ready Before You Walk on the Set - FilmmakerIQ.com

A good director is a prepared director.   


Music


Why You Need an Artist Management Company - Musicgoat.com

Manager Matthew Downes makes his case for artist management in the music industry.

  

Finding Your Voice: Vocal Uniqueness - Judy Rodman

Judy helps you find your own vocal style through journaling.

 

-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Weekly News Roundup - February 3, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - January 27, 2012

1,374 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, book, book, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, film, film, blog, blog, blogging, blogging, films, films, blogs, blogs, filmmakers, filmmakers
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When you begin to write a book, you may have an idea where you're going, but you probably don't know the exact route you'll take to get there. I've written three complete novels, and in only one of them did I (loosely) adhere to an outline. I've found that plot lines often take on a life of their own, and when that happens it's best to follow them to see what happens.


This freewheeling approach can work well, but not always, and sometimes it can lead you to a dead end. If that happens, you may end up with entire scenes that you need to cut. Ouch. No author likes to cut precious words, much less entire scenes, but if they don't fit, they don't fit.


My advice is this: if you like a scene but don't see a place for it now, cut and paste it into a new document. You never know where part or even that entire scene may come in handy, either later in the book or in a separate book entirely.


This happened in my most recent novel. I wanted to write a scene where a character visits a particular city, and I remembered that I'd once started a novel (never got very far) in which a character did just that. I looked the old scene up on my computer and was able to plop it right into my new book. Of course I had to massage it a bit to fit the new characters and storyline, but the visual descriptions saved me a lot of time. Plus, using the older material made me feel like that abandoned novel wasn't a complete waste of time after all!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


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WordPlay: Line of Sight

You Have More Than One Book Inside of You

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Earlier this year, I wrote about some writers' lack of confidence in a post titled How to be a Confident Writer. The gist of the post was that if new authors can confidently identify their style when asked, they're more likely to attract readers and fans. Why? Because it presents a commitment to craft that people want in their authors.


So just how do you identify your style? It's more complicated than you might imagine. A lot of us might have difficulty identifying our own personality, much less our writing style. Both can only be identified by some deep introspection followed by a heavy dose of consternation over said introspection. But in the end, you must know thyself to grow thyself as a citizen and author on our little blue planet. Here are some questions to get you started on your writer self-examination.

 

  1. What do you read? As I stated in the previous post on this topic, you are influenced by the authors you read on a regular basis, either knowingly or unknowingly.
  2. Why do you read certain authors? This is my favorite thing to do after reading a book I enjoyed. I ask myself why. Why did I connect with this book? The author and I use the same language when writing, yet somehow he or she aligned the words in such a way that it influenced my own books.
  3. What is your preferred genre? You may partially answer this question with your answer to the first question, but I still think you need to examine why you look for a specific genre over others. What is it that makes you search that section first when looking for something new to read?
  4. What genre can you absolutely not stand? What we don't like says as much about us as what we do like. What is it about those books you loathe that turns you off? And just how much different is your writing style from authors in that particular genre?
  5. What's your "one book"? It's that deserted island scenario. If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could only have one book with you to read from now until the end of time, which one would you choose?

 

Answer these questions, and you will nail down your writing style. Once you know it, write it on a 3x5 card and place it somewhere in your writing space. Whenever you get stuck, look at it and remind yourself what kind of writer you are. Those are your writing roots, and knowing where you came from can help get you to where you're going.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Branding 101: What is Author Branding?

Evaluating Your Author Brand

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WordPlay: Bookisms

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Feb 7, 2012

Bookisms, or said-bookisms, are commonly defined as overly elaborate dialogue tags used in prose. While the occasional use of a logical bookism is acceptable, filling a book with bookisms can distract a reader and ultimately turn them away from the rest of the work.


In general, authors are encouraged to keep their dialogue tags simple. "Said" works the best as it simply fades into the background for the reader, and while "asked" is implied with the use of a question mark, it still works. Even tags like "whispered" or "muttered" may be used sparingly without throwing the reader off. In reality, however, it's difficult to actually "hiss" a phrase, especially if it's lacking sibilance ("Hide" she hissed.), or growl a line ("Get out of my garden," the old man growled.). If you're questioning whether or not a certain tag works in dialogue, try it yourself. Can you actually laugh at the same time you say, "Of course you will!" or gargle while saying, "Help, I'm drowning!"?


A good rule of thumb while writing dialogue is to stick with simplicity. You don't want your reader pausing and wondering how a person grimaces a greeting or worries a question. But there is always an exception to the rule.


In 1910, the very first Tom Swift book hit the market to wide acclaim. Featuring a young teenage inventor, the Tom Swift series is credited as the idea source for many modern inventions, including the mobile home, the "photo telephone," and the Taser, which was actually named for Tom Swift by its inventor (Tom A. Swift's Electric Rifle). But it wasn't just this young inventor's creations that grabbed the attention of readers; it was also the authors' unique use of bookisms:


"This game is foul," Tom groused.

"I teach at a university," Tom professed.

"Superglue!" Tom rejoined.


This unique use of dialogue tags as a form of pun quickly caught on in the literary world and became appropriately known as "Tom Swifties." And Tom swiftly leads us to this week's exercise:


Exercise: I could write a bookism


While bookisms may be something to avoid in general writing, no one can blame you for enjoying a good pun or two. Try your hand at writing a few "Tom Swifties" such as the ones shown above to get your creative juices pumping. "You could even write four or five!" the writer enumerated.


-Kristin

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Kristin is a content media coordinator with CreateSpace. She draws from a strong background in journalism and creative writing to help authors hone their skills and flex their artistic muscles.


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Just Say It!

WordPlay: A Casual Conversation

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Since I have a fairly active blog, I have been called a journalist by a few visitors and acquaintances. Some have used it in a complimentary way, and some have chided me for not being a very good journalist. I am flattered by the former and in agreement with the latter. Not only am I not a very good a journalist, I'm not a journalist at all. That's not why I have a blog. 


I have a blog because I think it's the ideal brand building tool. It's a way to showcase my writing and build my online persona at the same time. I do some research for the posts I write on my personal blog, particularly if I'm especially fascinated by a topic, but by and large, I am reacting to an event in my life or in the news on my blog. In other words, I'm sharing my personal opinion. That's not to say I don't try to be accurate. I do, and I carefully source all of my supporting material, but I don't adhere to strict journalistic rules because I'm not selling myself as a journalist. I'm just selling myself, period.


I realized at some point that equating journalist to blogger is what has some authors hesitant about starting their own blog. They think they will have to change their writing styles to fit journalistic standards. That's not the case at all. Your blog is your space to do with as you please. Don't attempt to write like a journalist unless you are a journalist and that's your brand. Be yourself, because that is what you are trying to sell.


I have a lot of respect for journalists. It's a hard profession and I admire anyone who can make their living writing objectively about the news, so I don't mind when I'm occasionally identified as one. But honestly, I don't want to be one. I am an author with a blog. We authors with blogs get to set our own hours and say whatever we want. How great is that?


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Five Blogging Prompts

Branding 101: The Keys to Successful Branding

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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.


Books/Publishing


Six Reasons You Should 'Like' My Facebook Page -The Huffington Post

Elizabeth Tannen humorously outlines the frustration of an author trying to promote herself in today's publishing world. 


When You Are a Beginning Writer, the Keyword is Focus - Pub Rants

Agent Kristin thinks it's a mistake for writers to jump from genre to genre.   


Film


Interconnectedness of Story World - A MOON Brothers film

Some filmmakers forget that the primary purpose of the film is to tell a story.     


3 Simple Tips for Filming Indoors without Lights - FilmmakerIQ.com

When all you have is available light, what's a filmmaker to do?  


Music


11 Ways to Create Unforgettable Music Video Content - Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

If you're a musician, you should be utilizing online video to promote not just your band, but your brand, too. 


A Musician's Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals for 2012 -Music Think Tank

Giving order to the chaos that usually surrounds change is how you turn that change into achievement.  


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Weekly News Roundup - January 27, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - January 20, 2012

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There are more than 1,500 books published every day. That is a LOT of competition, especially if you're an indie author in control of your own marketing efforts. With all that noise, it's important to give your personal brand the best chance of making a positive impression on readers.


What do I mean by "personal brand"? Let me give you an example:


For the past few months, I've been hanging out in a handful of LinkedIn groups for aspiring authors and self-published authors. I'm always interested in seeing what people are chatting about, and it's a good way for me to stay current for my consulting business. While the e-conversations are usually congenial, sometimes the comments take a negative turn. And when that happens, it can be disturbing to watch. Disagreements escalate into back-and-forth arguments that are ugly and unnecessary. Witnessing it unfold on my computer screen makes my skin crawl, because no good can come from it.


Let me repeat that: NO GOOD CAN COME FROM IT.


When people attack each other in an online discussion forum, all they are doing is making themselves look unprofessional - and damaging their personal brands. No matter what your day job is, it's never good, and if you're an aspiring author, it is ALWAYS BAD. After all, you may be an aspiring author now, but once you have a book out, potential readers are going to look you up online and make judgments about you based on what they read in these forums. And if you already have a book out, negative comments can come back to haunt you even sooner.


More and more people are using new search engines such as socialmention.com, which track social media and blog comments that Google doesn't always catch. If a potential reader comes across mean things you've written to other people, what is she going to think?


Remember back when an angry Faith Hill was caught on camera after she lost out to Carrie Underwood for female vocalist of the year at the CMAs? Yikes.


Better quiet than sorry, right? So take a deep breath and keep your cool.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Keep Your Chin Up!

Keep Track of Your Successes

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Trusting Your Gut

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Feb 1, 2012

Recently, I was faced with a decision concerning one of my books that put me at the proverbial crossroads between art and commerce. I was basically told that one simple change to the beginning of the story would give the book a better opportunity to break through and sell more copies. I trusted and admired the person who gave me the advice because he had more experience selling books than me.


I took the advice very seriously, and I wrestled with the decision for a number of weeks. I didn't want to take an artistic stand that served nothing but my own ego. Call it kismet or universal harmony or whatever, but I pulled into a convenience store parking lot one day in the midst of pondering this decision, and my wife pointed to a bumper sticker and said, "There's your answer." The bumper sticker read as follows:


Never apologize for your art.


Seeing that bumper sticker brought it into perspective. I was considering making a change because it would make my book less objectionable. There's nothing wrong with that if it makes the book better, but in this case, my gut told me the change I was asked to make wouldn't make the book better. It would just make it safer.


I've said it here before, but it bears repeating: your primary role as the author is to serve the story first. Any time your gut tells you that something isn't right for the story, listen to it. If you do that, I promise you will feel better about yourself as an artist.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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How to be a Confident Writer

You Know More Than You Think You Do!

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