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A character stew

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 20, 2016

I wrote a play last year that is, I'm happy to say, going to be produced this coming January. I bring it up here because during one of the many public readings, I got the inevitable question about what inspired me to write the story. Specifically, they wanted to know if my characters were based on people I knew.


I cringed at this question even though I knew it was coming. The story is about three siblings: a sister and two brothers. My wife just happens to have two brothers. The story takes place at a vacation home on a lake. My wife's brothers, their wives, and the two of us just happened to have vacationed together on a rental property on a lake. One would think that based on this information you could draw a straight line between the characters in my play and my wife's family. One would think that, but one would be wrong.


The vacation and the family structure in the play were obviously inspired by real life, but the characters in the play and their backstories bear no resemblance to the source of inspiration. I took that week together, and I said what if it were six people stuck in a house together, all with secrets and all with conflicting personalities. That is something that could be interesting. If I chose to write about my wife's family, it would be a boring play full of people being supportive of one another, offering zero conflict to capture the audience's attention.


With this in mind, I answered the question thusly: I don't create characters based on anyone I know. I write characters based on everyone I know. That is the best way I can describe the character development process. I start with a germ of an idea of what a character is like, and then I let my subconscious beg and borrow from all the people I've met in my life, and I create a character stew.


 

-Richard


 

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


 

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A Kramer by Any Other Name

 

When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

 

696 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, characters, character_development
5

I have a love/hate relationship with rules when it comes to writing. I'm an artist. Rules, I once believed, were the destroyers of art. I know now that rules are the sparks that twist the creative mind into finding solutions to be artistic without breaking the rules. One must find the creative wherewithal to adhere to the rules while remaining true to one's artistic sensibilities. That is a neat trick when it's pulled off.


To that end, I would like to introduce you to my four rules for writing a novel. They are my own personal guidelines that help me be consistent while forcing myself to be more creative.


  1. A protagonist has to have a dark side: I just think heroes are more interesting when they aren't perfect. I don't like characters that don't have to face their own moral dilemma at some point in the story. It helps me dive deep into character development and paint a more realistic picture of the good guy (that's the gender neutral form of "guy").
  2. Warts are more interesting: I don't connect with beautiful people, mainly because I can't relate. My stories rely heavily on my characters' imperfections. Warts are far more fascinating to me than beauty marks.
  3. Conversations don't follow a straight line: In real life, when people talk to one another, they don't always listen to one another. The dialogue veers from alternate point to alternate point before the original point ever finds its footing. This is the type of dialogue I like to include in my novels. It's more realistic, and it gives the characters more depth.
  4. Know the ending before you start writing: While I have created outlines, I don't believe they are necessary in order to write a novel. I do think it behooves you, however, to know the ending of your story before you start writing, or at the very least, before you meander pointlessly until you finally figure out what your story's about. Knowing where you're going helps you build steps to the ending.


These are my rules for writing a novel. What are yours?


-Richard

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


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When do you know the ending?

Creating a bad good guy

1,659 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, craft, rules_for_writing
0

 

There is something about going to an event and being an active participant that makes it more special than if you're just a passive participant. When you take part in an event, you claim part ownership in that activity. You invest yourself.


As an author building a brand, you may want to keep this in mind when you're planning an event. Instead of doing a standard reading or signing, plan something that requires those who attend to participate. Gear the activity around elements of your book to create a natural tie-in of course, but break out of the standard mold and be bold.


Perhaps your book is a suspense novel about a cross-country runner being stalked in the woods. Why not get with a local charity and organize a fun run with you as the host and ads for your book on every scrap of paper and signage. Maybe a cat or a dog plays a major role in your novel. Why not organize a small un-adopted pet pageant with your local shelter to raise awareness for both them and you.


These are just random ideas, but you get the point. Find an activity and cause that have associations with your book, and create an environment where attendees have to participate. Such a strategy will create a buzz among those attending and their cadre of friends and followers online. It will give all an opportunity to share pictures and videos from the day's festivities, spreading word about your brand even wider.


Remember, people are having fun when participation is required.


-Richard

 

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

 

 

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Preparing for a Personal Appearance

 

How to Make an Author Event Eventful

 

1,296 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, author, events, author_brand
0

If you're an aspiring author, get ready to hear the following question approximately 10 billion times:

 

"What's your book about?"

 

As you already know if you've already written a book, pretty much everyone and anyone in your life will ask you that question, from people you know well to people you just met in the waiting room at your dentist's office. So it's really important to be able to answer it quickly.


Short and sweet.


Make it count.


Pique their interest.


You get the point.


If you start describing your book as, "Well, it's kind of hard to explain, but...there's a good chance that you've already lost the interest of whoever is on the other side of the conversation. If your pitch grabs someone';s attention, however, he or she might whip out a smartphone right there and then to order your book on Amazon. That's happened to me many times, so I'm not just saying that in a "you never know" kind of way. Trust me; I know! Every interaction you have is a potential sale.

 

While it's critical to have a concise, compelling description of your book when it's available for purchase, having one as you're writing it is also important. Why? Because it ensures that you have an interesting plot. Trust me, I know this too, because I recently spent way too many months struggling to write a novel for which I never had a clear vision. I should have realized that I was in trouble early on because anytime someone asked me what I was working on, I found myself uttering the dreaded "Um...well it's hard to explain, but..."


You know what happened to that manuscript? Nothing! Once I (finally) realized I didn't have an interesting story, I pulled the plug on it. It was a painful lesson to learn, and I wish I'd read a blog post like this one to save me a lot of time and effort. So please, learn from my mistake!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing Tip: Know When to Be Concise

How to Craft a Compelling Book Description

1,123 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, author, indie, pitch, descriptions, elevator_pitch
0

Social media is a fairly ubiquitous term these days. It encompasses a vast array of virtual space and includes hundreds of millions of people. An author can easily get lost in the clutter of brands trying to get noticed. What you need is a social media influencer to champion your brand! That is, you need someone with their own well established brand to make their followers aware of your author brand.


A social media influencer isn't just somebody who has a large following, and that's too bad because those individuals are easy to find if you just do the smallest amount of research. A true social media influencer has the right kind of following--that is to say, one that is relevant to your author brand. As an author of a genre, you are most likely a fan of that genre outside of your own work, which means you may already be participating in a group dynamic with one or more social media influencers, and you just didn't know it.


Social media influencers pride themselves on being innovators, early adapters, and trendsetters. They want to know the newest offerings in their world. You will be doing them a favor by contacting them and letting them know about your book(s). Don't be shy. Normally, indie holds a special place in social media influencers' hearts because it gives them a greater chance of being the source influencer, meaning the word starts with them and gives them more credibility. Think of social influencers as a news agency trying to get the scoop. You are the scoop.

 

Find social media influencers who are relevant to your author brand, and who have a large, loyal following, and give them the opportunity to discover your work.

 

-Richard

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

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Building an Author Brand: The Author Brands You Promote

 

Mingle Marketing

 

 

 

 

1,108 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, author, branding, social_media, platform, author_brand, author_platform, social_media_advice
2

     It sounds like a stupid question. What purpose do writing rituals serve? Duh. They make you more productive, right? Yes, overall that’s the effect, but the question is why do writing rituals make you more productive? There are a few notable reasons for this;


  1. Comfort: Rituals provide a comfort zone of sorts for writers. They provide a space (both physical and mental) that puts an author at ease. When an author is more at ease, it’s just common sense that he or she will be more productive.
  2. Discipline: Rituals are disciplines in disguise. When you get up at 4:00 a.m. to write because that’s your ritual, you are a disciplined writer. When you write 500 words before you take a break, that’s discipline. When you meditate before you write, that’s discipline.
  3. Strategy: Rituals are building blocks to your overall goal. When you set a goal to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days, you probably put a strategy in place to help you reach that goal. That strategy consists of rituals you will follow to hit the 50,000 word mark.
  4. Control: Rituals are your way of controlling the process. When you’re in control, you’re more confident, and you’re more productive.


Rituals make you more productive because they help you focus. They strip you of the stress of having to deal with the unfamiliar. They aren’t for everyone. Some authors use the unfamiliar to help get the creative juices flowing, but many authors like the structure that rituals provide them, and it makes them more productive.


-Richard


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


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The Rituals of a Writer's Life

Are Writing Rituals Good or Bad?



1,263 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, help, writing, craft, writing_tips, author_tips, author_advice
0

Many debut authors don't know what to put in their bios. That's understandable! In fact, I recently met a debut novelist--I'll call her Lucy--whose bio at the end of her book was one line long. It said exactly this:


This is Lucy's first novel. She lives in San Francisco.


She laughed and said she knew it wasn't much, but she had no idea what else to write. She had't won any awards. She'd never written anything before. She didn't feel she had any relevant professional experience.


If you're in the same boat as Lucy, here are my two cents on the issue: I don't think what you write in your bio is as important as how you write it.


By "how you write it," I mean two things:


1)    You write it well. That means no grammatical errors, no crazy long sentences, and no weird syntax.


If you're putting yourself out there as a professional writer, be sure that's reflected in your bio. (For example, I've lost track of how many indie authors refer to themselves as Authors in their bios.)


2)    Your bio shows readers what they can expect in your writing.


If your book is positioned as a comedy, make your bio funny! If your bio makes me laugh, I'm much more likely to want to read your book. If your book is a mystery, write something mysterious about yourself. (I could never write a mystery, so I'm not sure what I would do in this case, but you get my point.)


Of course if you have specific life experience that relates directly to the content of your book (e.g., you were a police officer for 20 years and the book is about a detective, or if you're a nurse or a doctor and the novel is about life in a hospital), of course include that information in your bio. For the rest of us who simply make things up for our stories, I truly believe that elements one and two are enough. So stop stressing and get writing!


-Maria


 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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Marketing Tip: Set up an Author Page on Amazon

Why Grammatical Errors in Your Author Bio Can Sink Your Sales

 

1,193 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, promotion, writing, author_biography
3

As I've mentioned before, I read a lot about book marketing and publishing. The other day I came across an article about an indie author who had recently published a novel about baseball. I love sports and thought his book sounded interesting, so I looked it up on Amazon. There were just two reviews, one of which was five stars and had the title: Great book. Among other glowing things, the review said the book was "a nice easy read for kids of all ages" and "well worth the time and money."


Then I noticed that the name of the reviewer looked strangely familiar. I scrolled to the top of the page and realized it was the same as the author! I couldn't believe someone would have the gall to give his own book a five-star review, but there it was, staring me in the face.


Needless to say, I didn't buy the book. How could I support such unethical behavior?


I've said more than once in this space that I believe asking friends and family to positively review your book is a bad idea. It puts them in an awkward position (what if they didn't like your book?), and it's just not credible. Reviewing your book yourself is even worse. Of course you think it's worthy of five stars; you wrote it! But that's beside the point. For reviews to mean anything, they need to be written by objective readers. That's the point of reviews.


The only time I think it's OK for a friend to write a review is if that person proactively tells you that he/she enjoyed your book. In that case, feel free to say, "Thank you! Would you mind putting that into a review?" Otherwise, don't do it. All you're going to do is shoot your credibility--and your sales--in the foot.


 

-Maria


 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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Get Reviews for Your Indie Book

Dos and Don'ts of Soliciting Book Reviews

 

1,445 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, sales, writing, promotions, book_reviews
2

 

I keep reading (and hearing) authors use the pronoun "that" when they should be using the pronoun "who," so I thought I'd do a refresher post on the difference between the two.

 

WHO refers to people:

 

  • I am the one who is writing this blog post.
  • You are the one who is reading the blog post.

 

 

THAT refers to things:

 

  • The blog post that grabbed my attention the most was the one about pronouns.
  • The topics that seem to be the most popular with my readers are grammar, writing, and book marketing.

 

1) From an interview about a debut novel:


WHAT HE SAID: "I have two boys that judged me at every turn."


WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE SAID: "I have two boys who judged me at every turn."


(Reason: Boys are people, not things.)


2) From an author bio:


WHAT IT SAYS: Lisa's daughters were the ones that encouraged her to write, saying she should turn the bedtime stories she made up for them into a book.


WHAT IT SHOULD SAY: Lisa's daughters were the ones who encouraged her to write, saying she should turn the bedtime stories she made up for them into a book.


(Reason: Daughters are people, not things.)


3) From a book description:


WHAT IT SAYS: The story takes place in a dystopian society where teenagers are the ones that rule the land.


WHAT IT SHOULD SAY: The story takes place in a dystopian society where teenagers are the ones who rule the land.


(Reason: Teenagers are people, not things.)


Got it? People: WHO, things: THAT. Now get writing!


 

-Maria


 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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There vs. they're vs. their

The dreaded "who vs. whom"

 

1,648 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing, grammar_tip, that_vs_who
1

You CAN write a book

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 26, 2016

This morning I received an email that made me smile...or maybe even grin. It was from an aspiring author named Becca. In particular, I loved this part of her message:


"Reading through your blog has been very educational and exciting for me. I love all your knowledge, advice, and mostly your encouragement to not give up when it gets hard. I don't expect that starting into this will be easy; however, I think it will be so fun to try! My husband and my kids are all very much on board and supportive."


Go Becca! I love her positive attitude. And to all the Beccas out there reading this, you CAN write a book! No, it's not easy, but yes, it's fun to try. And at the end of the day that's all it really comes down to--trying. And trying. And trying! If you keep pushing yourself forward, day after day, week after week, eventually you'll have a book. It may not be very good, but that's okay. My first effort wasn't very good either. But once I had that first draft, I went back and rewrote it a few times, and that part was fun. In my experience, editing and tweaking is always more enjoyable than coming up with something from scratch.

 

Writing an entire book takes discipline--and patience. It's not going to happen overnight. Focusing on moving the story forward little by little will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. And then one day, after many days of plodding along, your manuscript will be done. Done! If you're like me, when that happens you'll probably take a step back from your keyboard, exhale, and ask yourself, "Did I really just do that? How did I do that?"


Then, you'll do a little dance and go celebrate!

 

-Maria

 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

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Writing Tip: Stay Committed to the Process

 

Writing Tip: Keep the Story Moving Forward

 

 

 

 

1,569 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: book, author, self-publishing, blogging, writing, promotions, writing_process, author_tips
3

It took me nearly five years to get my first novel, Perfect on Paper, published, so when it finally happened I was over the moon. I'd worked my tail off to make it happen, and after all that effort, at long last I could exhale, sit back, and enjoy myself as the sales rolled in.


Or so I thought.


Needless to say, the sales didn't roll in, and I was more than a little disappointed.


I remember voicing my frustration to my editor on a phone call one day. "Why isn't my book doing better?" I asked him. While I can't remember his exact response, I'll never forget the essence of it. He calmly told me that I should write another novel, then another. He said that success wouldn't happen overnight, that it was important to build a body of work if I wanted to make a living as an author.


While they weren't what I wanted to hear at the time, I took his words to heart and soon began writing a second novel, then a third. Now I have seven, and I make a living as an author. My editor was right. It didn't happen overnight, and it happened only because I kept writing. I will always be grateful to him for his sage counsel.


Other great pieces of advice I've heard over the years include:


*If there's a story you want to tell, tell it

*To write a book, all you really need is an interesting character (or characters) who is (are) in an interesting situation--then go from there

*All major characters should want something


What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever received? Please share in the comments. I would love to hear from everyone who reads this post. Just think of how much we could all learn from one another!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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How to Get and Stay Motivated

 

Want to write a book? Get out of your own way

1,240 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: author, self-publishing, writing, promotions, book_sales, writing_advice
2

Sometimes when people I encounter find out I'm an author, they share with me their own ambitions of writing a book. While some of these individuals go on to reach their goals, in my experience that's usually not the case. I've lost track of how many times an aspiring author has told me that he or she once started writing a book, but then for various reasons it went nowhere. Some of the most common explanations I hear include:


*I got too busy with work/family

 

*I wasn't sure where the plot was going

 

*I was afraid it was awful

 

*It seemed like so much work

 

*I set it down and just didn't pick it up again

 

There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above, but here is the truth: Yes, they are reasons, but they are also excuses. It's completely fine if you don't finish your book or even if you never start your book. No one is telling you that you must write a book. It's your life, and you should live it as you choose. But if you truly want to write a book, you're the only one who can make yourself do it. That's really all it comes down to.

 

Much like losing weight or getting (and staying) in shape, writing a book takes discipline and commitment over a long period of time. There are always going to be reasons for why you can't eat right every day or work out every day. Always. But if you really want to lose weight by eating right regularly, you will. And if you really want to be in shape be exercising regularly, you will.

 

Writing a book is challenging and scary and not always fun. And once you're done, there's no guarantee that you'll sell a single copy. But who cares? For the vast majority of authors, writing a book isn't about the money. It's about writing a book. So if you really want to be an author, get out of your own way and make it happen. I promise you'll be glad you did.

 

-Maria

 

 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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Writing Takes Discipline

 

Think You Can't Write a Book While Working a Full-time Job? Think Again.

 

8,237 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing, writing_a_book, excuses
0

Recently I read a story that was fairly engaging with well-developed characters. I found myself reading anxiously. You might even say it was engrossing. That is until I got to the end of the conflict. It ended abruptly, and it was resolved without warning. What's worse is that it was resolved using a solution that came out of nowhere. I read the story again to see if I had missed even the smallest hint that the resolution presented was a possibility. It wasn't. I felt cheated. There was no pathway for me to follow to the solution.


If the author had used just the tiniest bit of foreshadowing, I would have been a satisfied reader. I may have even enjoyed an "A-ha!" moment, a feeling that the outcome made perfect sense given the information I absorbed previously in the reading. Foreshadowing is an excellent plot device that helps the reader be part of the story. The trick is to not give overt indications of what's to come but to share subtle possibilities, clues that are disguised as background information.


Foreshadowing can be overdone and cross over into exposition. You run the risk of explaining plot points and spoon-feeding information to the reader, a development that will make readers feel just as cheated as springing a resolution on them out of the blue. Incorporating foreshadowing takes skill, and when it's done right, it can take a story to the next level.


Conflicts have to be resolved using logic, even in genres that are as far removed from reality as possible. Foreshadowing can give your resolution the logic it needs.


-Richard


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


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Twist

Is Predictability in Storytelling Good or Bad?

1,412 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, character_development, foreshadowing
0

 

Onward we march in our "taking inventory" strategy. Last time we discussed developing an Author Declaration so you can easily identify your guiding principles as you develop your brand. Today let's get a bit more practical. Let's prioritize your platform.

 

 

 

Your platform is your base of operations. You will engage, entertain, and educate fans with original content via your platform. Now, your platform consists of several online outlets. It's rare these days for an author to use one online vehicle to build a brand. You want to be versatile, but you also don't want to spread yourself too thin. My suggestion is to find three of these conduits you feel comfortable with and make them your platform mainstays.

 

 

 

You are not going to divide your time equally among all three. That is as ineffective as just using one to build your brand. This is where the prioritizing comes in. One plank in your platform is going to be your primary launching point, while the other two are support planks.

 

 

I know one author who has a tremendously successful blog, and about 70% of his time and efforts go into maintaining the blog as his primary brand-building tool, while Twitter takes up approximately 20%, and the remaining 10% is spent on Facebook. Another author has a wildly popular YouTube channel, and that's where most of his efforts go, but he still uses smaller portions of his time utilizing Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

Pick the online tool that best plays to your strengths and throw yourself into it, using two other tools as secondary planks that support your brand.

 

 

 

-Richard

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

 

 

 

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Social Media Best Practices

 

 

The Short and Long of Blog Posts

 

 

 

 

1,300 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: author, promotion, blogging, publishing, media, social, marketing_strategy, marketing_advice
2

     To some writers, procrastination is a dirty word. It's the bane of their existence. I don't mind it. I actually find it productive in a weird way, but for those of you who want to find a way to beat procrastination, here are three strategies to keep in mind:


  1. Disconnect: Let's face it, where there's Internet, there's a plethora of procrastination material. At times, the allure of surfing the web is just too powerful to resist. You need a strategy that removes you from the Internet's irresistible pull. I have a cheap computer that doesn't even have WiFi. It can be directly connected to the DSL line, but that's a task that involves some extra steps, and those steps keep me from jumping online. If you are so inclined, you could leave your devices at home and take off to a coffee shop with pen and paper and keep things analog.
  2. Reward: Give yourself a word count for the day. Break the word count into four sections. Reward yourself with your favorite activity after you complete each section. Write and reward is an excellent way to beat procrastination.
  3. Procrastinate: Putting actual words to the page is an important step in the writing process, but living your life is as important. Procrastinating is part of living. Ideas and solutions come to us creative types when our minds are busy doing other things. Give it other things to do. Procrastinate.

 

 

Distraction-free writing is a nice goal, but in today's world, it's not completely realistic. There's just a lot of cool stuff to see and do on a daily basis. If you can devise a way to keep procrastination at bay, great. But, getting off track and allowing yourself to needlessly waste time is not the end of world.

 


 

-Richard

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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Reward Yourself

 

Being Online = Not Writing

 

4,360 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, procrastination, writing_tips
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