Tag: writing (page 1 of 3)

My Two Favourite Online Courses For Authors

I love learning. I’ve read tons of books on writing craft and marketing books, as well as taken several online courses. There are many good options out there, but to save on space (lest I overwhelm with too many good options) I’ve narrowed it down to my two absolute favourites.

  1. Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Michael

I’d been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing, but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener coach Joseph Michael. I realized there were so many more things Scrivener could do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more!

But, as a long time Scrivener user, I thought I should be able to figure things out for myself. The software comes with tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I tried to format a book. About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought. In desperation, I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course.

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the corkboard function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and – voila! Problem solved!

If you’re planning to delve into indie publishing, this is the course for you. It is worth every penny hundreds of times over!

  1. Your First 10k Readers by Nick Stephenson

I’m sad to list this course second, because it has also been such a good investment for me. Nick Stephenson has appeared on multiple podcasts with the likes of Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Joel Freidlander and others. He talks about ‘lead magnets’, permafree books, automations etc. all with step-by-step videos and very useful cheat sheets and other helpful resources. You can find many similar courses out there on creating ‘systems’ for writing and marketing, (like Shelley Hitz’s ‘Author Audience Academy”) but I happened to come across Nick’s back in the summer of 2015. I took the risk and signed up – my first time actually spending hard earned cash on an online course.

It has been worth the cost ten times over. It’s not that I’m now rolling in cash. Nick cautions students right up front that his system takes work. It is not a get rich quick scheme or a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants way to fool people into buying your books. What it is, is a really smart and well laid out system for growing your audience while offering value to your readers – all in a step-by-step format that keeps that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling from taking over.

I voraciously listened to the entire course in the first week or two upon receiving it, but there is so much content and so much detail that there is no way I could implement everything at once. Heck, I’m still taking baby steps two years later, but I’ve managed to make some significant inroads. Another wonderful thing about Nick’s course is that he continues to add new content and update old information without adding to the cost. Plus, he’s a very funny guy, so it’s quite entertaining to listen to him teach. You’ll see what I mean if you watch his free training videos. (Excellent, but the entire course is so much more in depth.)

Of course, there are many more valuable resources out there but these are my two all time favourites.

Nano Time Again!

November is my favourite time of year for one simple reason: Nanowrimo. In case you’ve been living in a cave (or aren’t a writer), Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. Writers of every genre and experience are encouraged to write 50,000 words during the month of November, cheering one another on via forums and other incentives. I missed last year’s Nano, but I have completed my required 50,000 words six consecutive times before that. Two published book came out of it (NEIGHBOURS 1 and KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS) as well as other works that I hope to publish some day.

This year I am breaking with tradition and trying my hand at non-fiction. Technically, I’m not writing a novel, but I figure 50,000 words is still 50,000 words, right? I’m excited about several memoir projects that are in my head, so that is the direction I plan to go this year. As a former homeschooler, I have lots to say on that topic. As a heart attack survivor I’ve got some revelations to share. As a drama teacher, I’ve got some advice on teaching theatre in the ‘boondocks’, and I recently was inspired by something a house guest said about ‘agism’ in our society. Where I actually end up will be anyone’s guess, but I have lots of inspiration. Stay tuned for more.

And now back to those 50,000 words…

Work Your Writing Muscles!

There are some wonderful standbys when it comes to finding writing inspiration. Take a walk in nature. Reflect on a passage of scripture. Listen to music. And of course, always have that journal handy for when the muse strikes! Here are a few more that you might want to add to your arsenal.

At the spring WorDshop in Blackfalds, Alberta, instructor Susan Plett suggested using the following prompts:

  1. I remember/ I don’t remember…
  2. I want to write about / I don’t want to write about…

These are simple, yet surprisingly powerful, places to start. I was amazed at the depth that came out of such uncomplicated phrases.

At another workshop I went to a number of years ago, (also led by Susan), she chose a random line from a novel which we all had to use as our first line. Again, it was amazing how different everyone’s pieces were even though we started with the very same opening.

I’m a big fan of what used to be called ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. (It might have a different name nowadays, but I think the old term is quite descriptive.) Basically, one just writes whatever is in their mind at the moment – no self-editing, stopping to think things over, or choosing the best word allowed! The only rule to this exercise is, “Don’t stop writing!” I use this frequently in my high school English classes. I tell students to think of it as a ‘brain dump’. Unless you’re unconscious, there is something going on inside that head! Students can share their writing with me, or a peer, if they choose. If they don’t want to, they simply staple the page shut. This allows for privacy and eliminates the fear of someone reading something embarrassing.

Another idea I’ve used is writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. This can be fun and translates well into children’s fiction and poetry, but can be quite serious, too, depending on the object and the writers’ frame of mind.

Something I have not tried, but which I think sounds fascinating, is using the cards from a board game like ‘Trivial Pursuit’, “Balderdash’, or any other game that has a box of questions. Ready made writing prompts! Thus my title ‘Out of the Box Writing Ideas – Literally’.

For those who haven’t tried it, Inscribe offers ‘Word Challenges’ every month on the ‘Listserv’. (Thanks to Glynis Belec for tirelessly coming up with these prompts.) It’s a fun way for members to hone their writing skills and sometimes the pay-off is publication.

There are tons of writing prompt books and blogs out there to glean from. Writing from a prompt is great practice no matter what you ‘normally’ write. It gets the creative juices flowing and builds writing muscle. So… have fun and experiment with some new writing ideas.

This post originally appeared on Inscribe’s professional blog on August 10, 2017.

The Power of Fiction

While non-fiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.

A few months ago I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.

That’s what good fiction is supposed to do: transport us into the lives of the characters in such a way that we feel what they feel; experience what they experience. As a Christian writer, I see huge opportunities to spread the gospel in an unobtrusive way while highlighting some of the struggles common to both Christians and non-Christians. I don’t need to get on a soapbox to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, the occult, or sexual promiscuity. I just let my characters struggle with these issues. Hopefully, but not always, they come out on the other side with the help of the Lord and other caring individuals. Sometimes things don’t get wrapped up quite so neatly, however, but I think there are lessons to be learned no matter what the outcome.

I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I’m not sure I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to have to go through some of the abuse that my characters have had to and I don’t need to murder someone in order to be able to write about it authentically! I think this is where writing from a place of personal passion comes in. My goal is to expose the darkness and shine the light of Jesus on whatever situation my characters find themselves in. In the end, it is up to them how they choose to respond.

I’ve taken some criticism about the use of ‘edgy’ content in my work. My characters have pretty much done it all: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pornography, dabbling in the occult, promiscuous sex – not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, greed, doubt… the list goes on. Some are believers while involved in these activities, some aren’t. For me, God’s grace and the redemptive power of the cross is everything – for those who don’t know Him and even more for those who do and mess up. While I do not feel comfortable writing graphic scenes (most of the aforementioned occurs ‘off camera’) I don’t try to hide the fact that it takes place. God’s power shines brightest against the darkness.

Perhaps part of my desire to write what I do stems from my own experiences. I came to the Lord as a young adult, having dabbled in some of the seedier side of life before crossing over to the light. My husband and I have also been in ministry for many years and we’ve seen some pretty dark things, even among believers. The truth is, all have fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend that hot button issues aren’t relevant in the church is to bury one’s head in the sand. All is not always as it seems.

The good news is, nobody is too far gone for God. Hallelujah! That’s why I will continue to write the kind of fiction that I feel called to write. God’s redemptive power can shine, even in fiction.

This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Professional Blog on June 29, 2017. 

 

I LOVE Scrivener… Now That I Know How to Use It!

I’ve been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing. but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, and I was so impressed. There were so many more things Scrivener can do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more! I decided I needed to delve a bit deeper.

But… I figured as a long time Scrivener user, I should be able to figure things out for myself. I wasn’t about to pay some self proclaimed ‘expert’ to show me how to do it. Scrivener itself offers tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I went to format a book. I had done it before using ‘Word’ but apparently it was so much easier with Scrivener and the same file could be converted to an epub, mobi, paperback, pdf… whatever was needed with just a few clicks.

About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought.  In desperation I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course,  LEARN SCRIVENER FAST

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the cork board function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and VOILA! Problem solved!

LEARN SCRIVENER FAST has continued to be the best investment I’ve ever made in my writing career!

One year later, after paying for the course, I’ve decided to become an affiliate of Joseph Michael’s program. I mean, I’m always advising others to sign up for his courses, so why not get paid while doing it?

So… if you have ever thought about taking the course (and if you haven’t, you should! It’s SO worth it!) you can do so through any of the links on this page, or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. You’ll get the benefit of Joseph Michael’s training (which you won’t regret) and you’ll help me out, too. Win-win!

I’m preparing to teach a workshop at Inscribe’s Fall Conference this September on Scrivener Basics. It will be VERY basic, since there is only so much one can do in an hour. I will be recommending that students sign up for Joseph Michael’s training. it is truly an amazing course and worth every penny hundreds of times over!

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