Writing

Dictate the Darn Story If Necessary

Image from Pixabay

Typing is probably the most common way to get your story down. In fact, it is also necessary for submitting for publication, whether it’s commercial or self-publishing.

There’s also handwriting when you’re drafting. I find that works best for me a lot, especially because you don’t have the Internet or other computer-related distractions.

And then there is something I’ve discovered quite recently. It is called dictation. That is when you put up your program microphone and speak into it. The words then come out on the screen.

You need to be as clear as possible, otherwise the words will come out incorrectly. That has happened to me so often. Obviously, you should only do it in your home, or maybe a hotel room, as long as you’re not too loud.

How do you set up the dictation feature, you may ask? On a PC, it is the Windows keyboard and the H keyboard. On the Mac, you press the FN keyboard twice.

It might be exciting to get started ahead right away without thinking. Maybe you can do that. However, I cannot. I need to have words pre-written before dictating them into a program.

I have them handwritten and read off of them. I also have to edit the wrong words constantly. And I have to avoid transcribing made-up words or even uncommon names. I have made-up words because I write fantasy.

It takes practice to do voice dictation confidently. I have yet to master my use of dictation. I will make it there some day. After all, it is often said to be the quickest way to write your story.

Writing

Pick Your Publisher Wisely

Image from Pixabay

Have you written a book? If so, good. Can it please strangers? If yes, great. Will it sell? That depends on who you publish with.

Traditional publishing is difficult to get into. You can get rejected, even if your book is a master piece. If you do get accepted, you have to give up control and wait for your book to be published, which can take months or years.

Self-publishing is easier and quicker. You keep all control and can have a book within hours.

Then there is hybrid publishing. They accept and reject authors, may let them keep their book’s right, and do other things that combine traditional and self-publishing. It’s not exactly the most encouraging, though.

And lastly, there is vanity publishing, which is often called self-publishing by many. They let you keep all the control, but they charge you for publishing (between hundreds to even thousands of dollars) and other services, like press releases, revisions, and more. Despite that, books from those companies usually don’t sell too well, even if they’re well written. I did so much marketing and promotion with them when my books were first published. And even though the books pleased strangers, they only sold an average of 25 copies a year.

I believe it’s because people do not trust vanity publishers. I regret using them. One was fine and I got along with the company. Another, however, constantly forced me to buy services, even if I couldn’t afford them. They wouldn’t let me out of anything. I got mad at them at least a few times.

I’ve learned the (kind of) hard way to not use vanity presses. People apparently judge books by their publishers. Books that may be worthy of becoming bestsellers may hardly sell if published by a vanity press.

Traditionally-published books sell the best. Self-publishing is fine too. In fact, the author is responsible for marketing on their own with either route. Commercial publishers might only market for top authors these days.

If you self-publish, I’d recommend using companies like Amazon’s KDP program. It’s free to publish. People trust books from them more. And books from there tend to sell much better than vanity-published ones. How do you tell if a company is a vanity press? Look for things like publishing packages. So choose your route wisely. I would avoid vanity presses at all costs. It’s better to get traditionally published or self-publish through Amazon KDP or even Ingram Spark.

short fiction

The Curious Case of Sadie: A Flash Fiction Piece

Back when I was five and starting kindergarten, I had wished upon a star for a guinea pig. My parents had been against the idea of having pets. I recalled them saying, “We are not getting a dog or any kind of pet,” right before that moment. They’d ruined my mood and I had almost wanted to give up my flower girl role at my aunt, Katie’s, wedding back then.

             Fast forward nine years later, and I neared the start of my first year of high school. I looked outside my window, and saw a cat. I didn’t know if it belonged to anyone. It could’ve been a stray. We did live in a rural part of Pennsylvania.

             I turned away and sat on my bed. Ninth grade would start tomorrow.

            “Michelle?” my mom called me.

            “What is it?” I answered.

            “Can you help me get this rat out of the kitchen?”

             I paused. Then I opened the door. “Why do you need me?”

             “Because I’ve got cookie dough on my hands!”

             I sighed, but went downstairs anyway. I entered the kitchen. A white rat stood on the corner. It ran into the hole in the wall.

            “Mom, why don’t we call the exterminator?” I asked.

            “Because it’s Sunday,” my mother said.

            “The rat already escaped.” I looked into the hole, seeing no sign of the critter.

            “Go outside,” my mom said.

            So I went out to the backyard. There was no rat. But I did see the same cat as before. It was black and white.

            The cat stopped at stared at me. I smiled. But it came up to me. I turned around and went back inside.

            “Michelle, did you see the rat?” my mother asked.

            I shook my head.

            “I guess it escaped.” My mom shrugged.

            “Yeah, probably,” I said.

            But there was a squeak inside the kitchen hole. I looked inside. A rodent nose stuck out. But it showed itself. It turned out not to be the rat, but… a guinea pig?

            No. That couldn’t be right. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I gazed at the creature again. Yup. It was a black and white guinea pig. It came running toward me. I gasped and bolted up.

            The guinea pig came out of the hole. My mom saw it and screamed.

            “Mom, it’s just a guinea pig,” I said.

            But the guinea pig spun. It sped up and transformed into a black and white cat. My mom yelped. “What’s going on?”

            The doorbell rang. My mother answered to Mrs. Katz, our next door-neighbor.

            “Have you seen Sadie?” Mrs. Katz asked. “My kitty?”

            “You mean the one that turned into a guinea pig?” my mother asked.

            “What?” asked Mrs. Katz. “I mean… I’ve seen it turn into a rat, but not a guinea pig.”

            The cat meowed and ran up to Mrs. Katz.

            “Sadie, what have you been up to?” Mrs. Katz picked her up. “I’m taking you to the vet to cure this problem.” She closed the door behind her and left.

            I stood by my mom and watched Mrs. Katz carry Sadie back to her house.

            “What kind of vet could cure a cat like that?” I asked my mother.

            She shook her head. “Perhaps, it’s best if we don’t know.”

           

Writing

Story Too Complex to Tell? Don’t Sweat it—I’ve Got Tips

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Stories come in all forms, sizes, moods, and so forth. No two plots are alike. Some are similar. Some differ drastically. Some are short or long. And some are simple or complex.

Of course, each story will depend on audience, trends, and so on. Here, I am going to discuss tips for handling a complex story.

Obviously, your book will be short and sweet as well as very basic if it’s a picture book. As the audience gets older, the stories will lengthen and become more complex. And that doesn’t only apply to writing and plot, but also subplots.

Subplots are secondary storylines in a book that weave into the main plot and they all are important for the tale. If you’re writing for middle-grade children (about 8-11), you may only need one or two subplots at most. If you’re writing for teens (aka the young adult readers) or adults, you might need more subplots. Depending on your skill-level and storyline, up to four subplots might be enough.

However, if you feel you are getting too overwhelmed with subplots or storyline complexity, or readers aren’t receiving the right message you’re trying to communicate, don’t be afraid to remove content that doesn’t add or is not crucial. That includes subplots. Depending on your readers’ ages and levels, you can simplify your plot. If you feel you can’t remove a subplot or two, however, that’s okay. Sometimes, complex material is too important to be scrapped. If it takes you years, especially if you’re just starting out as a writer, don’t worry. Some authors have taken ten or more years to work on a story. One of my works took nearly three years to complete.

Remember, write from your gut as well as what you are passionate about. That is how you will improve and have fun.

Writing

I See My Many Colors Writing Through

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Yup, I enjoy handwriting in different colors. Of course, that’s only if it’s independent work, not assigned. And the first project I experimented with is my novel-in-progress.

I’ve discovered that writing my novel-in-progress in different colors actually makes a difference. It’s easier to distinguish chapters and the events that occur in them.

I also use pens instead of pencils. It keeps me from stopping to erase, dealing with graphite smudges, and fading. I do use whiteout when I make mistakes, though.

I have a pack of pens in various colors from blue to pink to brown. Some are bold, some sparkle, and some shine like metal. It’s really interesting. And no, the shining and sparkling do not distract me.

The only rule for myself is not to use light colors, such as yellow. Like everyone, I was taught this as a child. It’s hard to read, obviously. Need I say more?

I also have to deal with the running out of ink. Unfortunately, the colored pens I have run out quickly. That doesn’t stop me from keeping the multi-colored handwriting, though.

I discovered some colored pens work better than others. Of course, everybody differs. Some hold certain pens better than others. Some prefer pencils over pens. Many people favor typing over handwriting and all black or blue ink instead of different colors.

I do think writing in different colors, either by typing or by hand, is worth trying. I am glad I discovered this method worked for me. It has helped me a lot.

 

short fiction

It’s a Wonderful Week: A Flash Fiction Piece

I wish an alarm would notify me whenever I had to complete a task from my to-do list. I get overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, especially when it’s a lot.

            In about a week, I am moving out to college. It’ll be about three hours north. I’ve already met my roommate. Her name is Sienna. She comes from California.

            I have to buy my supplies, for both my dorm and classes. I also have to pack. My mom suggests two weeks’ worth of clothes. Then she would send me warmer clothing as the weather cooled down.

            I am sitting in my room right now, looking at my high school graduation pictures as well as my eighteenth birthday photos from March. I am going to miss my high school friends and their nickname for me in stage crew “Glitters” rather than my real name, Amanda.

            Freshman orientation will happen for the first three days. Then classes will begin. I’ve heard rumors about college and how scary it might seem, especially for first-years.

            My older brother, Winston, had commuted. He graduated last year, when I completed the eleventh grade. Despite his time living at home and attending college, he wouldn’t talk to me a lot about the experience.

            I close Facebook and turn off my computer. My friend, Lola, also living at home for college, is going to hang out with me in about an hour. I will enjoy the last week here in Connecticut until I bid goodbye to my house.

Writing

Bulleting Your Outline Points

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We all outline our works differently. Some of us use the snowflake method, or index cards, or mind maps. Some folks do not like to plan and writing the story or project as they progress works best for them. However, my method has been different both in the past and now.

For a few years I have used chapter by chapter summaries in Word to outline. Now, though, I discovered a more effective and quick way to get my stories down. And that is bulleting.

I write the chapter number and bullet the events that happen in each chapter. I check them off one at a time as I complete them.

On the flipside, though, it can be time-consuming to get all the chapter bullets for your whole story, depending on its length or complexity. In fact, I have yet to complete the outline bullets for the nearly second half of my story. I am writing the story and outlining simultaneously. In the past I have outlined the entire story before writing. Or sometimes, I have outlined as I went. I have tried being a pantser rather than a plotter. But planning helps me the best. Writing and planning at the same time is not always easy.

On the bright side, it is easier to follow the bulleted outline and not unintentionally change things. There were a few exceptions for me where I either removed or changed bullet points. But generally, I follow the bulleted events better than the summaries.

 

Writing

Hasten Up with Handwriting

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Who says you can only type your work on the computer? Yes, we have programs beyond Word, such as Scrivner. But nothing writes better than the hand if you want to be quicker with your writing process.

When you handwrite, you have no distractions on the Internet or the computer in general. No pop-ups, Facebook notifications, computer crashes, etc. Just you, your notebook or any form of paper, and a pen or pencil.

I actually am writing my current W.I.P with a notebook and pen. I am also using different colors for different chapters. It’s easier to read, believe it or not, as long as you don’t use colors that are too light, like yellow.

I have aimed for 2-3 chapters a day. Some days were less, though, especially if I was busy. Another pitfall is that I wasn’t focused on much else.

So now I am limiting to one or two chapters on the weekend and as much as possible during the week.

I try not to write at home too much. I either go to the library or cafes that are not too noisy and are painted with light colors. Yes, that does make a difference.

The library can be a little better, though. You don’t have to buy anything and it couldn’t be any quieter. With two libraries near my house, you don’t have to be a member to just sit and do work.

After I handwrite the current draft, I am going to type it on the computer.

Writing

Want to Publish a Book? Here’s What I Learned

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We all dream of being published authors with people enjoying our books and getting the same popularity and attention that big authors, such as J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, have received.

However, it is not easy to become just a decently well-known author, even for those like Alice Hoffman or Gail Carson Levine. What I wished I had done before publishing two books (which, unfortunately, are temporarily going off the market), was building a platform. No matter what route you take, whether it’s traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing, you need to establish a fan base before.

Even if you get accepted by a big publishing house (which is extremely difficult), they want to see how many people have heard of you and admire what you do. That excludes people you know personally. Think the publishing house will market your book for you? Think again. These days, regardless of what publishing route you select, you need to market your book on your own.

I self-published my novels without building a platform prior and knowing that children’s self-published books are among the hardest to sell. While I did a free promotion for five days, and got 1662 free downloads during that time, my sales were only around 25 a year, even after the free promotion ended.

I am working on a non-fiction book and am considering hybrid publishing it. Hybrid publishing is a mix of traditional and self-publishing. They accept and reject books, but let you keep some control. They are not all alike though. Some lean toward the commercial method, where if they do accept your story, they have all the control for its production, cover design, title, and even content, and some lean toward self-publishing, where they let the author keep the control, but might not care much about the content, title, or design.

If the non-fiction book is successful after release, then I will re-publish my novels. But having a platform (Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.) is absolutely important. I have done a ton of promotion and marketing techniques for my novels. I could go on and on with a list, but everything I have done has gotten me little to nowhere. People don’t usually like to buy books from unknown authors, because they worry about wasting their money. That is why every aspiring writer or any kind of creator needs a platform.

**Update** I have self-published my non-fiction novel through Amazon KDP instead.

Writing

Why You Should Let Inspiration Come Naturally

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We all know what inspiration is and does. A good majority of creative works, whether it’s art, writing, acting, music, or anything else, has some sort of inspiration behind them. Popular sources for inspiration may include life experiences, dreams, other creative works, inventions, and more.

One important thing about inspiration, though, aside from it not being the same as copying, is that it should come to you naturally. That means you should not force something to inspire you for any reason. I’ve tried it so many times, and guess what—it backfired. I got bored with the projects and abandoned them.

Just because you have a goal to complete, whether it was your choice or someone else’s assignment to you, that doesn’t mean you should force something into it that doesn’t feel natural. Unless someone requires you to use something that doesn’t appeal to you, you really should do what works for you, personally.

Not everybody has the same methods of getting inspired, and that is what makes each one of us special and unique. However, just like you wouldn’t force yourself to enjoy something others love, even if it’s incredibly popular by the general public or your friends, you shouldn’t push something to inspire you to complete something. Listen to your (internal) conscience. You will not only complete your projects more quickly, but you will also have more fun than if you push yourself to do something that doesn’t work.