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946 Posts tagged with the writing tag
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Set a goal

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 1, 2017

If you are reading this blog, there's a better than good chance you call yourself a writer. More than that, you love to write. It's a calling. We write because we feel compelled to do so. That doesn't mean we are always chomping at the bit to sit down and set words to page. There are times when we just don't have the physical and/or mental energy to do so. Let's face it, life is exhausting, and it can make finding the inspiration to write hard from time to time. The good news is there is a simple fix to those days when you just can't write. The bad news is it will take discipline.


Set a deadline. If you've ever participated in NANOWRIMO, you know the power of having a deadline. The key to making it work hinges on having a target word count. In the case of NANOWRIMO, the target word count is 50,000 words. It's a good start, and depending on the category and genre of your book, it's a perfectly acceptable word count. But if you're writing a fantasy novel, for instances, 50,000 words won't do if you want to meet genre expectations.


Once you have your target word count, set a daily word count total that is realistic. Only you know your schedule, so for me to suggest a daily word count would be arbitrary and unfair. My only suggestion is to not make it too aggressive, and when you reach the word count for the day, stop. Even if you have a flood of thoughts on where to go next in your story, stop. Walk away from a writing session knowing where you're going to start the next writing session.


To overcome those times you just don't want to write, give yourself a manageable deadline and feel the satisfaction of meeting your goal step by step.    


-Richard

 

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

 

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The milestones you should track during NaNoWriMo

 

Stage three of writing – the daily word count theories

 

 

 

 

620 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: publishing, writing, nanowrimo, craft, writing_advice, deadlines
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When's the last time you sent a handwritten thank-you note in the mail? When's the last time you received one? If you've sent or received even one within the past year, you're probably in the minority. So think about what a positive impression you can make by sending one when appropriate. Everyone likes to feel appreciated!


Here are some examples of where a physical thank-you note could (not will—no guarantees in book promotion!) make a difference in your marketing efforts:


  • A reviewer who has a mountain of books in her to-be-read (TBR) pile. A thank-you note for "taking the time to read my book" might bump your title to the top of that stack. (Note: be sure to sign the book too.)
  • The editor of an alumni publication that mentioned your book. Your thank-you note might open the door to other opportunities for coverage down the road, e.g. a profile, or an invitation to participate in a regional alumni event.
  • The organizer of a book club that has selected your book. People who run book clubs are usually voracious readers who love to talk about books - and about the time they got a real thank-you note from an author. The more people who talk about you and your book, the better.
  • The organizer of a book club that hasn't selected your book because there are too many books currently in front of yours. A personalized "thanks for considering my book" note might increase your chances of being the book club's selected read down the road.


Ask a hundred authors if there's a magic formula for selling books, and you'll probably get close to a hundred NO answers. But ask a hundred people if they like receiving thank-you notes in the mail, and I bet you'll get close to a hundred YES answers. So what do you have to lose? It certainly can't hurt, and, as a bonus, it feels pretty good to do something nice for someone else.


-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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Use a personal touch when reaching out or following up

The power of a personal connection

632 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, thank-you_notes
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I am constantly in search of ways to build a brand. I come across article after article that breaks down the brand-building process into easily executable steps. I'm sure I've even written an article or two that features similar steps. Although, I hope I never presented the steps as easy. Granted, it's not rocket science, but building a brand is anything but easy.


One element of the process is particularly hard. Hard might be the wrong word. It is laborious, but it is a labor of love. I am, of course, talking about the quality of writing. Building a brand around a poorly written book is nearly impossible. I can sense some of you screaming, "There are plenty of badly written books that become bestsellers!" I agree, but those are exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself. An author who pens a poorly written bestseller or bestselling series rarely repeats the feat.


If you want a brand that will stand the test of time, you have to invest significant time into developing your craft, and you don't just develop your craft by writing. You develop your craft by studying the masters, attending workshops, mentoring other writers. You develop your craft by challenging yourself to grow as an artist.


A brand built on good writing has the potential to be more than financially rewarding. It can be utterly fulfilling. It is worth the investment of your time, and it will make the rest of the steps to building an author brand just a tad easier.


-Richard

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


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The foundation of your brand

That one thing

552 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, branding, author_brand
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My editor once told me that the way to write an interesting novel is to put a series of obstacles in front of the main character. A successful author offered similar advice: put interesting characters into an interesting situation, and you have the foundation for an interesting story.


These statements may sound simplistic, but they are also true. Challenges create conflict, and good stories need conflict. The way your characters respond to obstacles also shows your readers what those characters are made of, who they really are. That leads to emotional connections - positive or negative - between your readers and your characters, which keep your readers engaged. If they aren't engaged, they probably won't be your readers for long.


It can be trying to come up with obstacle after obstacle, but if everything came easily to your characters, where's the payoff for your readers? Without the struggle, what's the point?


When I wrote the first draft of my first novel, I gave it to a trusted friend to read. She told me that she thought it was funny, but she also said "Everyone is so nice." I took her feedback seriously and added in some not-so-nice characters to clash with, to present obstacles in front of, my main character. At the time I didn't realize that what I was doing was adding conflict, but in hindsight I get it.


"Seinfeld," my favorite TV show of all time, was famous for being "a show about nothing." That was a marketing stunt of course, because a show about nothing would be boring. The more things that get in the way of what a character wants, the more interesting the story. So torture your characters (figuratively or literally, depending on your genre), and see how they react. Your readers will thank you.


-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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Quirks make characters real

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

679 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, conflict, character_development
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I get that many (most?) people hate the "who vs. whom" thing, are convinced they'll never understand it, and wish it would just go away forever. If you fall into that group, here's a simple way to look at "who vs. whom" that might shed some light.


If in a similar structure you would use the pronouns I, HE, SHE, WE, or THEY, use WHO.


To illustrate, the following are similar structures:


  • WE live on that street. We are the people WHO live on that street.
  • THEY went to the movies. They are the people WHO went to the movies.
  • SHE will do a great job. She is someone WHO will do a great job.
  • HE wrote the novel. He is the man WHO wrote the novel.


If in a similar structure you would use the pronouns ME, HIM, HER, US, or THEM, use WHOM.


Again, to illustrate, the following are similar structures:


  • You can trust ME. I am someone WHOM you can trust.
  • You believe HER. She is a person WHOM you believe.
  • You saw THEM at the movies. They are the ones WHOM you saw at the movies.
  • You chose US to babysit your kids. We are the people WHOM you chose to babysit your kids.


While the above examples are straightforward, it's easy to get tripped up by more complicated sentences such as:


  • She is someone WHO I believe will do a great job.


It's understandable to want to use WHOM in this example, because it's followed by "I believe." But you're not believing HER, you're believing that SHE will do a good job.


Rearrange that sentence, and the correct answer becomes clear:


  • She is someone WHO will do a good job, I believe.


I hope that helps clear up the confusion!


-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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Grammar Tip: Be Careful with Tenses

Why Good Grammar Matters

554 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip, who_vs_whom
1

I know this a blog for authors, but allow me to jump into a discussion about a television show today. This show isn't just any show. It is perhaps the greatest show since Norman Lear's All In the Family. I am of course talking about Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad. Having binged watched the entire series three times, I feel like I have an intimate knowledge of each character, and as a result, I know why the show works.


It doesn't work because Walt is a genius who uses his brain to get out of the toughest spots. It doesn't work because Hank is a crack DEA agent with incredible instincts. It doesn't work because Skyler is a devoted mother who will do what it takes to keep her children safe. It doesn't work because Saul is the greatest legal mind in New Mexico. It works because Walt, in pursuit of doing a noble thing, commits horrible atrocities and ultimately puts his family in grave danger. It works because Hank is so single-minded that he bends the law to bring down the bad guys. It works because Skyler loses sight of the best way to keep her family safe and thinks she can safely manage a criminal empire.


In other words, it's the flaws of the characters that make the show so innovative and great. If they were good people who never violated common (and even uncommon) morality, the show wouldn't have lasted a full season. Remember that as you write your next novel. It's not the good that your characters do that sets them apart, it's bad they do in pursuit of good.


-Richard

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


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Character traps

Make Your Own Rules

598 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, character_flaws
1

Your author manifesto

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 11, 2017

If you've lost your way, it is time to take a stand. It is time to take ownership, to dive in head first, and shout out what you believe with passion and vigor...Well, don't shout it. Write it down.


Speaking as an author, I know how hard it is to build a brand and sell books. In a word, it can be daunting. You can get frustrated, even disheartened along the way when things aren't going as well as you imagined they would. This can lead to a lack of enthusiasm and focus. Your branding efforts will falter, and you may even be tempted to walk away from your dream.


Don't. Sit down and write your author manifesto. Turn that disappointment into passion. Why did you write a novel? What do you want readers to get out of books? Are you a storyteller that just wants to get characters from point A to point B or is there subtle commentary on the state of the world in your work? Write everything that writing means to you. Remind yourself why you devoted time and passion to writing your book. Feel that passion again.


You can do this privately or publicly. I leave that aspect of the manifesto to you, but be aware, if you choose to go public, you are inviting others to comment. That can be a vulnerable position. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a little nerve-racking.


Find that burning desire you once had to write your book again. Write your author's manifesto. 


-Richard


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


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Why did you write your story?

Quashing self-doubt



943 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: author, publishing, writing, draft, craft, branding
1

One of my favorite books is The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. If you aren't familiar with Portis, he's probably best known for his novel True Grit, the same True Grit Hollywood adapted not once but twice for the silver screen. True Grit is a great book, but it features characters with extraordinary...well, grit. And beyond grit, a couple of them are skilled at dealing with bad guys.


The Dog of the South features a protagonist by the name of Ray Midge. There is nothing extraordinary about Midge. He's just a normal guy whose wife has left him for another man, and they've left for Mexico and Central America in Ray's car. Ray sets out on a journey to get his car back. He doesn't have any special skills. He doesn't even have grit. He just wants his car back, and if he gets his wife back, he'd be okay with that too.


For my money, the ability to make Ray Midge so compelling is much more impressive than making a character like Rooster Cogburn compelling. Cogburn had his demons. He had a rough and tumble past. He lived a life that left scars. He's ripe for the spotlight. Ray was just an everyday Joe who had a bad break. From a storyteller's perspective, building a story around that type character takes a yeoman's effort. Through Midge, Portis demonstrates his own extraordinary skill at character development, and I tip my hat to him.


How about you? Can you name a book that features an ordinary character in such a compelling way?


-Richard

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


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Character Development Lessons from Breaking Bad

Why the development of secondary characters matters

880 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, protagonist
3

Auditing your readers

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 27, 2017

 

Businesses, big and small, do frequent audits to gauge their success. They inventory product. They perform extensive ROI (return on investment) on advertising and marketing campaigns. They research and evaluate the demographics of their customer base. They evaluate the effectiveness of their workforce. They look at everything from the amount of money they spend on staples to the salaries of executive officers, all in the interest of maximizing their productivity.


You are an indie author, which means you are technically a small business owner. You should be auditing your business just like the major corporations. You won't know how to grow unless you know where you stand.


Start with your readers. You might be asking how you can possibly audit your readers. How can you possibly know who your readers are? Because you know your genre. Genres are demographic-specific by design. By-in-large, they attract a common core of readers who are from the same age group and in a lot of cases, the same gender. Depending on your genre, you can even narrow down even further. Find out as much information on the demographic that represents the typical reader of your genre. A simple query with your favorite search engine should get you started. Dive deep. Know their likes, their dislikes, and where they are most likely to share their likes and dislikes with others in their demographics. Know them like you know members of your own family.


Auditing your readers is the best way to build effective marketing campaigns and give you confidence that you are spending your branding time wisely.


-Richard

 

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

 

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Create a reader profile

 

Categories, genres, and subgenres

 

 

 

 

1,093 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, self-publishing, readers, writing, genre, social_media
2

I'm currently enrolled in a screenwriting program to adapt one of my novels for film. When the instructor brought up the concept of outlines in a recent class, I found myself leaning forward to hear his thoughts. In the eight books I've written, not once have I worked from a detailed outline, and I've always wondered if I was going about it wrong. Would my stories be better if I put more planning into them? I was afraid to know the answer. Several times I've tried to write an outline, at least a bare-bones one, but I've never stuck to it, not even close. In each instance the story went in a different direction, and when I finished the first draft I looked back at the outline and thought, "Well that didn't work out how I thought it would."


Getting back to the class - I was not expecting what the instructor said about outlines, which was essentially that they are worthless because he always ends up throwing them away. But immediately after he said that, he qualified that he was talking about his own experience, and that outlines work great for other people. So once again I found myself wondering if I should learn to use an outline...or not.


In the class I was sitting next to a lawyer, and we got to chatting about our respective projects. He had his entire story outlined in detail and said that was how his brain worked. When I told him I was jealous because my brain does not work that way, he said that he had outlines for several books and screenplays but had never gotten past the outline phase, so he was jealous of me. We laughed at how the grass is always greener.


Do outlines work? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear what you have to say! Bottom line though - do what works for you.


-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: start before you're ready

Writing tip: stay committed to the process

678 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, outline, screenwriting
1

After decades of writing and rewriting, typing my fingers off, pouring my heart and soul out onto page after page after page of prose, after studying my craft, learning the structure of a story, and how to hook the reader in the first sentence and leaving them wanting more after the last word, I have finally figured out how to write the Great American Novel. It's so easy. I don't know how I couldn't figure it out earlier. It's really just a one-step exercise, and lucky you, I am here to share it with you today on this very blog.


Are ready for this? It will blow your mind. In order to write the Great American Novel you must do the following:


1 of 1: Don't try to write the Great American Novel.


We all want to be literary giants. We want to write something that will be taught in English lit classes for the next 100 years where our work is enjoyed, picked apart, interpreted, and misinterpreted by millions of book lovers. We want our name spoken in the same sentence with Hemingway, Lee, McCarthy, Steinbeck, etc. Why? Because that is the pinnacle of success in the publishing world. That's where we leave our mark and our work influences the American culture for generations to come. It's a way to find immortality.


But trying to write the Great American Novel is the surest way not to do so. Just write your story. Practice your craft. Service the characters in your book. Don't worry about the readers. Don't worry how the book will be perceived. Just write.


-Richard

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


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Our Responsibility to Language

Use the Chunking Method to Write Your Book

640 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, great_american_novel
11

 

In a recent post I explained that the seasons of the year should not be capitalized, nor should job titles that don't come directly before a person's name. Here are two other areas in which I frequently see capital letters where they shouldn't be:


Fields of study/work


Unless it's a language, fields of study or work aren't capitalized.


  • Gloria majored in Math. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria majored in math. (CORRECT)


  • She's not sure yet, but she's thinking about pursuing a career in Physics. (INCORRECT)
  • She's not sure yet, but she's thinking about pursuing a career in physics. (CORRECT)


  • David teaches high school Chemistry. (INCORRECT)
  • David teaches high school chemistry. (CORRECT)


  • Maria studied both english and spanish in college. (INCORRECT)
  • Maria studied both English and Spanish in college. (CORRECT)


  • He's a world-renowned professor of History and French. (INCORRECT)
  • He's a world-renowned professor of history and French. (CORRECT)


Degrees


When spelled out, undergraduate and graduate degrees are not capitalized.


  • Gloria has a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria has a Bachelor's degree from UCLA. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria has a bachelor's degree from UCLA. (CORRECT)


  • David wants to get a Master's Degree in chemistry at Harvard. (INCORRECT)
  • David wants to get a Master's degree in chemistry at Harvard. (INCORRECT)
  • David wants to get a master's degree in chemistry at Harvard. (CORRECT)


  • She received a Bachelor's in math and a Master's in English from Berkeley. (INCORRECT)
  • She received a bachelor's in math and a master's in English from Berkeley. (CORRECT)
  • She received degrees in math and English from Berkeley. (CORRECT).


Unfortunately, capitalization rules are frequently flouted on corporate websites and in press releases, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't follow them. Just read any article in a major newspaper and you will see that professional writers still take them seriously.


-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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Grammar tip: don't overcapitalize

Are you making this common grammar mistake?

1,600 Views 11 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, capitalization, grammar_tip
1

 

Not long ago, I was watching an old thriller from the '40s. It was a Jimmy Stewart movie that was film noir to the Nth degree. The lighting, the attire, the dialogue all pointed to a gritty detective story where the main character relied on wit and guile from scene to scene. It was crime genre candy. It had one small flaw. It didn't impede my enjoyment of the film, but it did momentarily draw me out of the story.


The scenario was this. Stewart's character got a phone call from an associate. The caller was frantic and anxious to talk to our wise-cracking protagonist. Stewart assures the caller that he's curious to hear his news in person when the caller arrives at Stewart's apartment. He hangs up the phone. Less than a minute later the associate knocks on Stewart's door. Astonished, the hero of the story pulls open his apartment door and delivered the following joke: "That was fast. Whud'cha do, call from the car?"


In the late '40s, when the film was released, I'm sure that joke garnered a chuckle or two. Today, it falls flat simply because calling someone from one's car is commonplace. As I said, it didn't ruin the film, but it did give me pause, and veer my thoughts off into a direction about changing technology. As a writer, you want to limit those sorts of pauses as much as possible.


I'm not suggesting you avoid technology as a device to advance your plot or to even tell a flawless joke, but be aware the more your plot relies on contemporary technology the greater the risk of writing a story that will one day be considered dated. The workaround of course is to make the plot rely on character more than technology, even if you're writing a technological thriller. If you make the story about the people, your slips into outdated technology become nostalgic Easter eggs that readers will take note of instead of fixating on.


-Richard


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


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Avoid pop culture references

Wordplay: anachronisms in writing

644 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, protagonist, dated_technology
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How to scare readers

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 11, 2017

Do you want to know how to scare people? I mean really scare people. We all have our fears. Public speaking, bear attacks, heights: you name an object, animal, place, state of being or activity, and you will find someone who is absolutely terrified of it. The problem is that not everyone is afraid of the same thing. You could write a truly terrifying novel about a bear going on a summer-long man-killing rampage in a national forest, but it may only find a limited audience because you focused on the device of your horror and didn't delve into the cost. 


To write a horror novel that is universally scary, you have to do one thing. You have to make the readers care. Namely, you have to make them care about your main characters. When your readers have an emotional investment in your protagonist, they will fear the potential loss you have in store for them. If a bear stalks a stranger, it offers some thrills and tense moments, but if a bear stalks someone you've grown to know and root for, it chills you to the bone. You know the cost if the character is lost to a brutal bear attack.


As an example, the horror classic Halloween does a superb job of getting you to care and then scares you to death. First, we get to know Laurie Strode. She's a good kid that loves her parents and feels a little awkward in her skin. She has a rapport with the kids she babysits, and she's a good friend. We like her. We care about her. We are terrified for her.


Remember, your scare tactics in a novel become universally scary when you make your readers care about your characters.


-Richard


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


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Horror and the Subgenres

The Elements of Horror

632 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, horror, writing, horror_genre
1

Your brand's obit

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 7, 2017

 

I had once shared on this blog a character development strategy I had learned in college. It was simple and slightly morbid. Our creative writing instructor had us write obituaries for our characters. It turned out to be an incredibly effective tool for developing characters. You never understand someone, even a fictional someone, more completely than when you lay out their accomplishments in obituary form.


It occurred to me recently that you could do the same for your author brand. I know that sounds a bit nuts, but hear me out. Consistency is a key component to building a successful brand. That consistency comes from understanding what your brand is. As we've discussed previously, your author brand is a hybrid between a personal brand and a corporate brand and that can be a tough tightrope to walk. The more you understand what your brand stands for, the better you will be able to deliver that message with consistency.


In your mind, separate yourself from your brand image. Sit down with a notebook and a pen and scribble out a lifetime of achievements for your brand. Personify your brand. Pretend it once existed in the real world and lived a life like anyone else. Did your brand fight for injustice? Did your brand spend its life hobnobbing with celebrities and live a more external life?


Have fun with it. Nothing is out of bounds. Your brand can be as simple or as grandiose as you want it to be. Just make sure that it reflects a message that you can consistently deliver for the life of your author's brand.


-Richard


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


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Branding: The rule of consistency

Consistency: how to develop a living platform

899 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, branding, character_development, author_brand
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