Writing

Back Cover Blurb Issues

Image from Pixabay

If you publish the commercial route, a copywriter in the publishing house writes the blurb for your book—that is, if your manuscript gets accepted. But if you self-publish, you retain control over your book, including the blurb for the back cover. That’s right.

Writing the blurb that’ll sell your book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, is no easy task. In fact, it can be super-difficult. At least for me, it was. I recrafted my blurb for my series’ first book several times, especially after I re-published it as a new edition and eventually changed the title. Not only did I fail to create a strong description, but I also had trouble judging it. It would feel strong to me, but weak to others, and I was unable to pick up on the weaknesses.

Frustrated, I searched for services that edited blurbs. I didn’t find anything relevant—except a service that writes your blurb for you. So, I hired that person, and I think it made a difference. I used this same service for my second book, as well. From that point on, I told myself, you don’t illustrate your own cover image, quit writing your own blurb. That’s how it is in traditional publishing, anyway.

That being said, I am re-considering that for the future. I want to improve my copywriting skills for a certain career change, regardless of earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. I haven’t been producing much art, anyway, these days.

But back to the point, I shouldn’t just give up on something I could eventually improve on. The struggles with blurb-writing were the same with prose writing in my late teens years ago. I’m now in my mid-twenties. It took me around seven years to go from poor storyteller to being able to produce great novels. When I say great, I mean that. The reviews are a lot better than they were even just a few years ago.

Hopefully, I’ll become a better copywriter later. But for now, to stay on the safe side, I will hire others to write my back-cover book descriptions. If I master copywriting, then I’ll return to crafting the blurbs myself.

Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

Writing

Want to Revive Your Childhood Imagination? If so, Be Careful

Image from Pixabay

Many young children love to play make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like that.

As a little kid, I would imagine fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.

When I was around 7 years old, I read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.

That had inspired me to write my own version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.

Later I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a jungle with talking animals as her friends.

At about 10, I abandoned the idea of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one, except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I removed it from the market.

No matter how much you love and value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.

As you get older, you realize certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.

So, while other writers tell you to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with), unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good. Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the less-than-great books off the market.

Writing

I Am Not Like Other Writers…And Let Me Tell You Why

What makes me different from other writers, you may ask? Do you know how writing experts say that all authors must love reading, too? Well, that’s not how I am.

Yes, it might be strange for me to say this, but while I love writing, I don’t love reading. You read that right. I hardly ever read for fun. Usually, I read to enhance something for myself or if I’m forced to—which hasn’t happened in years since I’m out of school and college.

The last year I’ve enjoyed reading stories for fun was 3rd grade. Starting in 4th grade, I’d only read non-fiction for fun. Not much has changed with that since—well, except in 8th and 9th grade. I would only read “Harry Potter” for pleasure. I constantly borrowed the books from my school library. And because I started reading them after the first four movies had been released, I read the novels out of order. It was no problem.

Anyway, another unique trait in me is that I’m not just a weak reader for my age, but I also have younger tastes. I am not kidding. I would often get surprised when I heard about young children reading about characters at least a few years older than them and advancing faster than I thought. There are even complex books for kids who advance quickly, but are appropriate for their ages.

When I heard about a 7-year-old who wouldn’t be caught dead reading Dr. Seuss and read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, I was thinking Caught dead? At that age, I was constantly borrowing Dr. Seuss books from my school library. I also heard about a 4th grader who read about 14-year-old main characters. When I was that young, 14 would’ve been an extremely big number for me, and I would’ve considered myself way too young for that. I am not exaggerating. The first time I read about a 14-year-old character was early 8th grade, and that was “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. I was reading about characters at that age when I was 16. I also read “Judy Moody” when I was 10. I’m, like, the only person who read down a lot—the opposite of many people, children and adults. My mom even had to stop me from reading a certain book for school summer reading because it was too young.

Excluding required stories for school, I’ve rarely read up for fun. I read the 7th Harry Potter book from age 13-14 (I read super slowly and have a short attention span) and where the protagonist is 17. But that was only because it was a bestselling franchise. Had it been at the level of “Percy Jackson” or “Eragon”, I likely would never have touched the book.

Last year, right before turning 25, I was just getting interested in new adult stories. As a college freshman, my classmates would discuss books like, “The Help” while I was far from ready to outgrow young adult novels.

On the bright side, if you write children’s books, reading other stories in your target audience’s age range will help you with your own writing. So, there’s a benefit of reading below your level.

Above all, don’t let others judge you. Be who you want to be. Read what you like and when you want. Hey—it might benefit your own writing.

fiction

If Chicks Hatched in a Refrigerator: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Grocery stores usually sell un-fertilized eggs, although some do sell fertilized ones. We all know where eggs come from. So, when I was little, I used to imagine what would happen if we bought fertilized eggs.

            While this would never happen, and probably wouldn’t be funny one bit, I had once considered it humorous if chicks hatched in my family’s refrigerator. My mom would probably scream and jump. The chicks would also make messes all over the house. And who would take care of them?

            My parents never wanted pets, though they let me have a fish until it died, about a month after buying it. But there is no way they’d want to raise chickens. We also don’t know any farmers nearby.

            Nevertheless, chicks hatching inside the fridge is something that’ll never happen. Even if the eggs are fertilized, I am pretty sure there is something that keeps the embryos from developing.

            Therefore, that idea is complete fantasy. While I never had a pet, except for the fish, I must admit it’s still peaceful in my house. No mess to clean up, no animals needed to be fed—I get more free time.

            Soon, I’ll be graduating from high school. Then I’ll be off to college hours away from home. I only have a couple months left with my family. At the end of August, they’ll be saying, “Goodbye, Esme, and good luck with your studies.”

Writing

Why You Should Wait to Publish a Hardcopy of Your Book

Image from Pixabay

I know, I know. Many people prefer hardcopies over eBooks. Many writers and publishers will say you should have a hardcopy or paperback available with your eBook.

I agree…if you’re satisfied with your reviews. I realized this recently. I’ve published too many premature books that got just okay reviews but not super-satisfying ones. So, I removed them from the market. However, only the eBooks are gone forever. Sadly, the print books will be there for the rest of time. Amazon and other retailers list print versions for third-parties to sell copies, even if the author removed them from the market. And if the paperbacks and hardcovers are listed permanently, the reviews will be there forever.

Now I have a bunch of books on Amazon that aren’t available anymore (except maybe from third-party sellers) but will never be taken down. I hope it doesn’t ruin my reputation as an author.

That’s when I started to give myself a new rule: no print copies may be published unless I have at least a few reviews that are very satisfying—not just so-so. That way, if I’m not happy with the reviews, I can remove the eBook and the listing shouldn’t stay up.

If you’re traditionally publishing, this might not work as the publisher will have the rights. But if you’re self-publishing, then I would highly recommend this, even if you send out pre-publication copies and they’re all satisfying. That excludes people you know personally.

I have an eBook on pre-order and it’s the third time publishing a particular story that has only okay feedback the first time and even the second time, despite the drastic changes I made. I revised and removed even more material in this third edition. I am still nervous about the reactions, both before and after publication.

Hopefully, the reviews will be more pleasing than ever. But if they’re not, I will know what to do.

fiction

If You Gave Your Mom a Snake Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I don’t know about you, but my mom is super-grossed out by snakes. She has freaked out around them every time.

            A few memorable times include my brother’s eighth birthday party, when he got his picture taken with a snake around his neck. My mother ran away, saying, “Ew, ew, gross,” several times.

            Another moment that stands out to me is when we were buying food and supplies for our dog. The cashier had a tiny snake around his fingers. My mom asked if it was fake or real. The guy said, “It’s real.” My mother freaked out.

            The event that stands out to me the most is when we watched the news and they announced a snake massage at a zoo in Australia. My mom sent me the link to my email. Her personal message was, “Ewwww! Gross!” It cracked me up so much that I almost lost my breath.

            Anyway, last year, I thought it would be funny to throw my mom a snake-themed party for her birthday. I decorated the house with snake streamers, snake-balloons, jungle trees with fake snakes, and a game called pin the rattle tail on the rattlesnake.

            So, I invited some friends and family to our house. When my mom came, we all yelled, “Surprise!” My mother was speechless when she saw the snake decorations. She said to me, “Rayna, you know I don’t like snakes.”

            But the funniest part of all was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and I carried a cake—that resembled a live snake—literally. My mom deepened her frown, making the inside of her bottom lip come out. My brother videoed the whole moment. Everyone kept singing as my mother looked more grossed out than ever. After we sang, I told my mom to make a wish. But she was too grossed out to blow out the candles. My brother laughed. He blew them out instead.

            The inside of the cake was red velvet filled with cream cheese. My mom wouldn’t eat the cake.

            While I planned to consider the party a silly prank, my mom banned us from hosting her surprise parties ever again. She then gave us a lecture on how a snake-themed party was very inconsiderate. From that point on, I learned to respect her dislikes, including snakes.

            My mom is fine with turtles. But I will not buy her a turtle gift for her next birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion. I promise to treat her birthdays with respect and consideration from now on.

fiction

Mice and Rats: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat at the train station. Something moved on the tracks. It was nighttime, so I couldn’t see what it was. It might have been a rat.

            Unlike most people, I’ve always found mice and rats fascinating. I stood up and stared at the movement. Yup—it was a rat.

            I wished I could take a picture of the critter. But everyone would’ve consider me crazy. While I still didn’t mind mice and rats, I couldn’t pull my phone out of my purse.

            Just a few weeks ago, my husband had called an exterminator for a rat. He had fit in with the majority, who disliked mice and rats.

            Anyway, the exterminator had come. He’d been about to put out rat poison when I’d seen the rat and had said, “Before you put out that rat poison, I’d like to take a picture of the rat.”

            The exterminator had looked at me like I’d had five noses. He’d put out the poison before I could even photograph the rodent. And I hadn’t wanted to take a picture of it after it’d died.

            Not only had the exterminator considered me crazy, but so did my husband. I was aware that mice and rats carried disease. Nevertheless, I’d still considered them interesting.

            If I were ever alone, and I saw a mouse or rat far away from me, I would love to photograph it. But I was never alone in Queens, not even in my home. I lived in an apartment. While the others were in their own sections, I could still hear their voices, TV’s, music, and more.

            I hoped to move out and live on Long Island at some point—in a place of my own. Purely for me.

fiction

The Spelling Assignment: A Flash Fiction Piece

I stood in the classroom and observed the second graders as they presented different stories. It was my first time student-teaching. I was a college sophomore, which is the youngest you can observe classrooms in schools.

A familiar little girl stood up and presented her story. I looked at her as her bangs covered her eyes and her thick bobbed hair covered her cheeks. She reminded me of someone I’d babysat from four years ago. It couldn’t be Emma Da Silva, who used to play with a stuffed polar bear she’d called Spike.

The child faced the class and read the story. “For our spelling homework, I wrote about a polar bear named Spike.”

I gazed at her.

“Once upon a time, there was a polar bear named Spike. Spike wanted to play with the otters and the elephant seal on the glacier. There was a rainbow in the sky, which made Spike happy. But the other animals said no when he asked if he could play. Spike was sad and cried. His mommy came and gave him company. She walked with him back to the other animals and made them say sorry. Spike ran toward them and they accepted him. They lived happily ever after. The end.”

The class applauded. Mrs. Jackson, the teacher, stood up. “Wait to go, Emma. But you missed some of the spelling words.”

“No, I didn’t,” Emma said.

“You missed the words, bitterness, community, social, alligator, and cooperate,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“Aw,” said Emma.

“Sit back down,” said Mrs. Jackson. “We’re going to move on to something else.”

I approached Emma as she returned to her desk.

“What is it, Miss. Whitney?” Emma asked me.

I hesitated. “That was an interesting story you wrote.”

“But I’m going to get a zero,” said Emma.

“Well, I remember a little girl who also had a stuffed polar bear named Spike,” I said.

Emma tilted her head. “Are you talking about me?”

I flushed.

“You used to babysit me?” asked Emma.

“Is your last name Da Silva?” I asked.

Emma nodded.

“I… I did babysit you.”

Emma brightened her eyes.

“Jaylin, get back here,” said Mrs. Jackson.

I returned to the chalkboard but continued to gaze at Emma. That story made me smile.

Writing

Why I Differentiate My Characters from Myself

Image from Pixabay

Many authors base their characters off of people they know. A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences. However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.

One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from me.

For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde, and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2, so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the sad moments in my life.

I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to purchase the books.

Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I could be wrong, though.

Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.

While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall, though, I differ from other writers.