Top 10 Ways Marketing Your Books Is Like Exploring A Jungle

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Some authors would call marketing an adventure.

Yet other authors would call marketing a long, torturous, mosquito ridden trek full of disease, peril and snakes. In some ways finding buyers for your books is easier than exploring the Amazonian jungle.

If you have studied, worked, created, drafted, revised, edited and completed a novel, it’s unlikely you took the time to learn the skills to sell it.

And because it seems hard, as hard as hacking your way through a rain forest, you may have a negative opinion of it.

You may think that to sell, then you may have to be annoying to buyers, like a jungle mosquito. To sell, you think you may have to cajole, manipulate, and lie, like a disreputable tour guide who brought you out into the forest to take your wallet. You may also believe you have to yell the name of my book as obnoxiously as a howler monkey to get attention. Or tweet constantly. You may think you have to send auto DMs. And it’s likely You may think you have to spend a lot of money, buy ad space, get onto every single social media platform, harass local bookstores, and whatever else to gain potential readers and convince them your book is worth buying.

No matter what you think about selling your book, if you are going to have readers, a make any kind of money, you’re going to have the face the jungle of marketing.

Top 10 Ways Marketing Your Books Is Like Exploring A Jungle by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. Surviving in the jungle is a day to day, moment by moment process, not a one time thing you do.

Marketing is the same way. To succeed, you need to look at the long-term for yourself as an author. You need to slowly build relationships, one reader at a time. You need to be patient, because the only way to have a big readership ten years from now is to work on it as much as you can now. If you want to play an interactive game about exploring the jungle, click here!

2. As you bushwhack through the jungle, you get stronger.

The marketing and publicity I do next week, next month, or next year is easier because I worked at it today. Don’t know where to start? Contact your local library and tell them that you’re a an author. They may want to stock your book, hold an event or keep you in mind for future events. Then, contact local bookstores, consignment shops, senior centers, your local newspaper, local access television, anything  that gets your name out there, helps you engage with the public and may lead to sales. As you get used to talking about yourself, more opportunities will present themselves, you’ll make more connections and marketing won’t be so awful. Here’s a video from a guy who decided to take a camera into the jungle. 

3. You need to be prepared for anything.

A jungle explorer has a kit , pack, malaria tablets, ways to find water and probably something sharp to kill dangerous critters. Book marketers should carry business cards and their books with them. They should be prepared for the “what do you do” question. Marketers should have a 30 second pitch ready. Also, they should have a calendar to schedule an event. They shouldn’t shrink when people ask anything, because they may just sell a book. I’ve sold several books because I was prepared, confident and was willing to make a sale right there. You may also find the wisdom of Guns and Roses helpful in this situation too. 

4. The trails may not be trustworthy.

In marketing, it’s a good idea to study what’s effective for others, but in reality, you have to find your own way. Your book is unique to the world so it will have it’s own marketing journey. What works for some may not work for you. But that doesn’t mean you quit, it just means you sharpen your machete and keep hacking. While you read over your notes, listen to these rainforest sounds!

5. If you’re headed in the wrong direction, you could find yourself in trouble.

I have absolutely no desire to get lost in a forest, Amazonian or otherwise. I also have no desire to waste time and resources on marketing that won’t yield a return. This is the tricky part. We’re the only ones who decide what works and what doesn’t. Marketing plans are just that plans. They need to be flexible. You need to be willing forget the latest social media trend and try a local craft fair, if you think you need to. Everyone who successfully markets has to try and keep trying until something finally works. This guy camped for two nights in the rainforest and took a video of it!

6. There’s always something to learn.

Scientists are still finding species of plants and animals they’ve never found before in the deepest parts of the jungle. They’re discovering that there is more to learn. Writers need to be willing to learn too. Learn all you can about marketing and publicity, but also keep learning about craft and creativity too! National Geographic is a great resource for learning about the jungle. 

7. Rewards come through persevering.

Now you may not conquer a land and you certainly won’t find lost cities of gold, but you will find your own personal treasure if you don’t give up.  The small gig you had at the library lead to this book club, which lead to this bookstore appearance which led to this other opportunity. It’s slow, tedious and sometimes disappointing. If you quit because it gets hard, then you have know idea what success could have been yours. Here’s a video from the BBC. I love them. 

 8. Jungle exploring is for the strong, so is marketing. 
The wisest of explorers would be knowledgeable about their physical strengths and weaknesses so they succeed. Likewise, a good marketing plan should make the most of the author’s strengths. Some of us are great at Twitter. Some  don’t have a good voice for radio. Others are afraid that our big hair will overpower any television set. That’s fine. Figure out what you can do, what you’re good at, what comes naturally to you and what seems to be effective and do it! Wanna explore the Amazon? These folks can show you how!
9. An effective marketing plan, like a jungle journey Is deliberate and thoughtful, not impulsive.
Which means that TIME needs to be invested in creating it and then implementing it. My personal plan starts locally with libraries, bookstores and coffee shops. Then I’m expanding to Google searches with a few key words in my target market. I can’t assume that one blog post or one tweet is all I need to be successful. If you’re ever inclined to canoe in the jungle, just watch this. 
10. Next, a good marketing plan is useless unless the book is EXCELLENT. 
If you are offering a slipshod product with no editing and bad artwork you are insulting writers everywhere. You are attacking the dignity of this art. You’re telling the world that you disrespect your readers and yourself. Do us all a favor and get it right first. I don’t know how to tie this into the jungle/exploring metaphor. If you think of a way, leave me a comment.

Finally, if you still haven’t caught the metaphor, marketing is like a neophyte jungle explorer with a coffee stained map in one hand and a machete in the other, who hacks and trudges through the rainforest hoping not to be eaten alive by local fauna.

If you’ve tried to sell a book, you know this is true.

This is what marketing is: you’re on the hunt for contacts, relationships, attention and sales. You’re looking for the perfect opportunity just like a entymologist is looking for the rare species. Like a jungle explorer, you’ve learned the lingo, you’ve trod carefully and you know the shadows around can smell your fear. And you wonder sometimes if you’ll succeed, get malaria or get lost.

To sum up: It IS a jungle out there, but with the right tools, the right attitude and perseverance, you can survive marketing your book. 

Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent. 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) To Help You Through Nanowrimo

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We’re in week 3 of Nanowrimo and if we’re really honest, it’s been a rough month.

You may have had moments of frenzy, of fatigue, of despair. And you still have several days to go!

Your purpose in Nanowrimo is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) to get you through Nanowrimo by Katharine Grubb

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to get you through the next few hundred words.

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. It will be awesome.

Prompt 4.24.15

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it?

 

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something?

 

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. This will also be awesome.

Prompt 4.3.15

5. Give your main character an ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it.

 

6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible.

 

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned.

Prompt 3.13.15

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want?

 

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements.

Prompt 3.6.15

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. You don’t need that. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Prompt 2.27.15

 

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome. Trust me.

Top 10 Ways You May Be Doing National Novel Writing Month All Wrong

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Is it really November? Is it really time to start that non-stop frenzy that requires 50,000 words in 30 days? It is!

Congratulations to all of you who are attempting it this year!

And to those of you who have tried, get discouraged and possibly think you are on the road to failure, just consider this:  you may be doing it wrong. 

Top 10 Ways You May be Doing Nanowrimo All Wrong, by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You think every word you write is golden. Um, your nano project is a first draft. Please, for the love of all that’s publishable, type this sentence ten times —> MY NANO PROJECT IS A FIRST DRAFT. The solution? Just plan on doing some major rewrites, revisions and edits long before you let a critic, agent, publisher or reviewer see it.

You just have to write the words.

2. The converse: you think every word you write is garbage, so you delete and try again, rewriting the same sentence fifty seven times. The solution? Don’t delete! Don’t edit! Your purpose is a high word count, to have the raw material of a good book. Just keep going and worry about editing later.

You just have to write the words.

3. You’ve got your character stuck in a corner so you quit. The solution? Give him wings and let him fly out of there. Leave him in the corner and throw down 3K on his backstory. Go to a different scene, or a different point of view, and write what’s happening elsewhere. You don’t have to save your hero in this draft. You just have to write the words.

You just have to write the words.

4. Your outline isn’t as wonderful as it was in October, so you quit. The solution? Forget the outline. Go a different direction. You are the master of the outline, not the other way around. If you want start at the ending and work backward. No one says that you have to do your words in chronological order.

You just have to write the words.

5. Your write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method is stressing you out. You thought that this was the way to stay truly inspired. The solution? Go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be a creative genius all the time. Instead of wishing for the muse to show up, write about descriptions of the setting, character backstory, or the tragic forces that made your antagonist so nasty.

You just have to write the words.

6. You obsess over everyone else’s numbers. It feels like all your friends are knocking these big word counts every day and you’ve lost your confidence. The solution? Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. You only have to write for yourself. Also? If you spend your writing time today just writing all the reasons why you WILL succeed, it can count for you daily total.

You just have to write the words.

7.  You think that all the big, famous writers do Nanowrimo, so this must be the ticket to fame. Nope. Not quite. The solution? Realize that every big, famous, published writer had their own unique ticket to fame and fortune. The only common denominator is their hard work. Nanowrimo is a great idea, but it’s only a tool that writers can use to get a draft. The reward comes in completing the goal, not fame or fortune.

You just have to write the words.

8. You think that winning Nanowrimo propels into a magical world of authorship. Nope. The solution to this thought? A reality check. Many, many people complete nanowrimo and their finished draft goes nowhere. Those 50,000 words is the literary equivalent of finding a piece of carbon. Don’t you dare assume that you can sell it off as a diamond without a lot of pressure and hard work.

You just have to write the words.

9. You think writing is supposed to be easy. Oh no, honey, bless your heart. No, it’s not. It’s full of self doubt, of constant backspacing, and of getting the cat off the keyboard. Writing is an art form and to do it well, you must be disciplined. Nanowrimo can work best for you if you see it as an exercise to grow in that discipline. Put one word after another and you’ll get better, you’ll get faster and you’ll be more confident, but it may never be easy.

You just have to write the words.

10. You think that to succeed in Nanowrimo you need certain music, certain hot beverages and certain inspiration. Nope, wrong again. Writers who wait for inspiration are never successful. Writers who work, day in and day out, doing their best to make their work excellent will find the inspiration. Ask any experienced writer and ask them how dependent they were on the muse to show up. Most of them will laugh. They may suggest that we just show up, put our butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard first, then maybe our muse will show up later.

Nanowrimo is fun, it’s hard work, and it can, at times, be stressful. But it is JUST a tool. It is not a replacement for good editing and revising, good character development or any other short cut. It is a great way to create raw materials for future masterpieces. We all have to start somewhere and if you’re working at Nanowrimo then you’re better than writers who never write a word at all.

You can do this! One word at a time! 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War & Peace

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

We’re just a few days in to National Novel Writing Month and it can feel like you’ve decided to read a Russian novel.

Last spring, I read War and Peace for reasons that I can’t quite remember. I think I wanted to add to my literary experiences. I think that I had seen on too many lists that it was one of the greatest novels ever written. And I also think that somehow my 21st century American sensibilities would totally identify with the plight of rich, idle Russian aristocrats who kinda hate the French.

But, oh my, that book was 1300+ pages long. I was committed to finish and I had to push myself forward, even when I thought it was dull and impossible.

Nanowrimo can feel the same way. It can feel like an eternity to get out of the battlefield of the Russian countryside and back into the warm parlors of Bald Hills. It can feel like an eternity when you read page after page after page, and only get 2% more read than yesterday. Nanowrimo is putting one word after another, just like those poor, poor Russian soldiers put one foot in front of another defending themselves against Napoleon.

Oh, Napoleon! Leo Tolstoy really hates your guts! From Fine Art America Images

Like me, you’ve signed up for something bigger than you because you thought it was a good idea. You thought that you’d have the fortitude to endure the daily grind of 1667 words. You thought that the story that’s been rattling around in your brain for weeks/months/years would just flow out of your fingers.

Nope. It hasn’t, has it? This feels about as hopeless as a French army facing a Russian winter. I am probably not the ideal reader for War and Peace and you can read about why I think so here. 

I’m here to help you. With all the imaginary vodka I can muster, I want to give you top 20 ways to get going on your Nanowrimo project.

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War and Peace

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later. In War and Peace, the big emergencies were that Pierre, the bastard son of the richest rich guy may inherit the estate against the wishes of nearly every noble in the countryside. Apparently, besides not having married parents, his big sin is that he’s dull. Put your character in direr straits than that, please.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him! In War and Peace, the many princesses would have a sewing needle. Yawn. Wait, no, I shouldn’t criticize that. What else would they have? An iphone?

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot. Aha! This is where we can learn a lesson from the Russians. Pierre, against his better judgement, marries Helene for her looks.  This connection would ease the grudges that the rest of the nobility have against him. What kind of fix can you put your main character into?

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out? War and Peace has this too. It’s called The Masons. Get this, they require Pierre to think. 

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless! Now, with a title like War and Peace, you’d expect more than just parlor romances, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Nearly every non-curmudgeon male character in the book goes to war to defend against those nasty French. These soldiers get their breaks in various ways: capture, disease, losing a leg. If Tolstoy can use this device, so can you.

6. What would Napoleon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later. Even while I was reading W&P, I was thinking, Hey! These bloody battle scenes remind me of Gone With The Wind!  Wartime saga in which families lose their fortunes and the women have to do anything, anything, to survive! Oh Tolstoy! I know nuthin’ about birthin’ no babies!

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet. Or, if you’re Tolstoy, and thank God you’re not, you could spend 100 pages or so contemplating the purpose of one man, his conscience, the theory of free will, and the wheels that turn history and how you can compare it to bees.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist? And in Tolstoy’s frosty Russia, all it takes to fall in love with an heiress is sitting at her feet while she mourns her broken heart. That’s it. You might touch her hand! OH THE SCANDAL!

This is Alexander I, the emperor that could do no wrong! (At least according to Tolstoy!)

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader! Or compare your setting, characters and plot to bees. Tolstoy did it twice. Twice!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out! And when you grab that towel, brush your teeth with running water and realize just how wonderful it is that you have neither lice, dysentery or gangrenous limbs, you may want to write about it.

Remember, the point of participating Nanowrimo is quantity, not quality.

This draft is supposed to be messy, kind of like War and Peace, but with less hype. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out your rants about Napoleon later.

I got through War and Peace. I started April 1 and I finished April 25. I kept at it because I knew that at the end, I’d be glad I finished. You can finish Nanowrimo. And at the end of it, let me know. I’ve got a big bottle of vodka to celebrate with you.


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals

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We can’t be the writer we want to be if we keep doing the things we’ve always done.

This is the time self-involved, sensitive writing types, think about how we can make this upcoming year the best ever. Especially if we are participating in Nanowrimo. This is an exciting time of year and it’s also kind of scary.

We’re going to have to make some changes. Sigh.

This week’s list is the Top Ten Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals.

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do To Achieve Your Goals by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You may have to say no to the expectations of others. This is tricky because in the past you may have said yes too much. You may not have been firm with your boundaries. You may not be known for taking time for yourself. If you are a 10 minute writer, then it is very reasonable to request that the people around you allow you that little bit of creative time.  I want to encourage you to love yourself enough to say no. This is an excellent article from PsychCentral about how to reclaim your boundaries and take care of your own needs. 

2. You may have to write down a plan and stick with it. This is tricky because in the past, you may have given up on things too early. You may remember the sting of failure. You may remember the times that having goals did nothing but taunt you because it didn’t work out. But writing down goals and keeping them visible often create a hope in us to keep going. Here’s another list of 10 — 10 Simple Strategies for Sticking to Your Goals. This is good advice.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

3. You may have to go to bed earlier or get up earlier to find time to write. This is tricky because sleep has a way of claiming us. Setting an alarm means we have to take action. Being disciplined often isn’t as much fun as late night television. But your writing goal will cost you. I’d like to remind you that if you can find an extra ten minutes each day to write, and you write 500 words in that 10 minutes, that’s 3500 new words this week. That’s 14,000 new words this month. That’s 168,000 words this year. All you have to do to get those kinds of numbers is set your alarm. Here’s another encouragement to do this from Write To Done.

4. You may have to make writing a priority even though you’ve never treated it as one. This is tricky because this means you may have to face your fears. Some aspiring writers aren’t writing for legitimate reasons, like say, their fingers are broken, or their computer was smashed by an angry toddler. But some non-writing aspiring writers don’t write because they are just afraid to sit down and do it. They fear failure. They fear disappointment. They fear rejection. The difference between a writing aspiring writer who is afraid and a non-writing aspiring writer who is afraid is that the first one is sitting on their butt, putting words down.  All of us are afraid. Write anyway. Find a way around your broken fingers and record your voice instead. Get out a sharpened pencil and notepad while you wait for your computer to get fixed. Despite your fears, write for 10 minutes today. I bet you’ll want to keep going. 

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
Albert Einstein

5. You may have to change your expectations for time spent in other areas, like housekeeping or meals. This is tricky because we have to live. I understand this. There are seven people in my household and they’re under the impression that they should wear clothing and eat occasionally. I believe that all of your required, general life tasks can be made more efficient so that you can find little pockets of time here or there. My favorite ways include doing my errands all on one day, or making meals in my crock pot and rice cooker. I also delegate most of my household chores to my children. Take a day or two to think through exactly how your time is spent and come up with a plan. It’s likely you’ll find pockets of time that will make all the difference.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

6. You may have to apply yourself to learning about craft and then be teachable. This is tricky because beginning writers often have a lot of confidence. Or worse, they have well-meaning relatives who sugar-coat what the aspiring writer. If you’ve never been in a critique group, taken a writing class or workshopped your story, you may not know where you need to improve. If you are serious about pursuing your writing dreams, then you need to be serious about learning. Here’s a list of cheap and not-so-cheap ways to learn to be a better writer. Here’s a list of ways to meet other writers so you can know your work is “good”. And then, of course, a link to the coolest writing group on Facebook. 

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

7. You may have to express your needs to your spouse or significant other. This is tricky because your determination to write will definitely affect your relationships. You may have to communicate your needs. Some spouses and significant others will jump at the chance to help. Others may not be so enthusiastic. Take the time to express how much you need space to work and time to work. Come up with practical solutions that create minimal interference in others’ lives. Make sure that you are reciprocating and supporting them in in their goals too. Jeff Goins has some great stuff to say about this. 

8. You may need to learn a new organizing tool or system in order to reap the benefits. This is tricky because if you’re like me, you’re lazy. If you’re like me, you don’t get excited about learning curves. If you’re like me, you believe that the old ways are good enough. They may be, but if you’re in the habit of losing your work, then you need to find a better system. If you follow 10 Minute Novelists on Pinterest, then you can use our board on apps and software that can make your writing life easier. Good organization is critical for good performance. Don’t let laziness or reluctant learning get in the way of you being your best.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9. You may have to lower your expectations on social media. This is tricky because everyone tells authors that they need a Facebook page, a blog, an Instagram account and a million other things and they all take time to keep up with. I suggest that you pick 2 or 3 social media platforms that you are the most comfortable with, and get the most excited about, and only do those. I have a blog, I lead a group on Facebook and I try to maximize Twitter and Pinterest. Are you leaning toward Twitter, but you don’t know how to make it work? I can help! 

10. You may have to go easy on yourself in some areas. You may have to kick yourself in the pants in others. This is tricky because every day is a battle. We have to overcome our inner selves to face the tasks in order to achieve the goals. Every day we have to make the little choices that will add up to the big choices. Every writer faces this. You are not alone. I’d like to suggest that the most important step you take in becoming a writer and pursuing your dreams is knowing who you are. Once you know, or at least have a hint, then it will be far easier to make all the changes I listed in steps 1-9.

The creation of words, at times, can be the expression of the inner workings of our soul. The more secure we are on the inside, the more excellent our words will be on the outside. 

You may have some tricky things to do now. 

 Do them anyway. If you fail, keep going.

Your dreams are worth it.

Top 10 Ways To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

National Novel Writing Month is an international event where, in the month of November, writers from all over the world attempt to put down 50,000 words of a story in thirty days.

Ideally, these 50,000 words are all coherent, have a great plot, have full, 3-dimensional characters, and the story is thrilling, romantic, sweet and/or satisfying. That’s the goal.

Nanowrimo is really good for people who need motivation, community and tangible goals.

Nanowrimo is also great for experienced novelists who need the daily writing goals to push them forward in the WIPs. Nanowrimo is for those people who appreciate the prep work that goes into it (if they’re a plotter) or the freedom to write down everything they want, follow any tangent, break every rule (if they’re a pantser). Nanowrimo is really good for people who “pants”, who have low expectations of the final result and who understand that the final product should never be publishable.

Nanowrimo is not good for people who spend hours revising as they go, who may over-outline, and who think that it is quantity not quality that creates a novel.

Nanowrimo is the literary equivalent of taking a test drive in a sports car.  Or it’s the literary equivalent of trying a neighborhood 5K fun run. Or climbing Mt. Washington but can’t afford Everest.

Nanowrimo, over the course of thirty days, asks this simple question: do you have what it takes to make it? 

Top 10 Ways To Prepare for Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

How do you prepare for Nanowrimo? You can be fully ready if you spend a little time on these 10 easy steps.

1. Think about the time commitment! How will this impact your daily life? When and where will you put down your 1667 words per day? I believe that you can accomplish it in 10 minute increments. Here’s a list of ways that you can find those 10 extra minutes.

2. Think about your workspace! Do you have a place that you can work every day, with minimal distraction? Here are six must-haves for the time-crunched writer!

3. Think about your organization! Do you have your files or apps or software in an easy to access location? Here’s the 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest board that’s all about apps and software to keep you organized!

Click on the image to buy the mug!
Click on the image to buy the mug!

4. Think about your story! Before you start, you may want to review what story structure is, read a few books, check out a few blog posts, print out a graph. Here are my Top 10 resources for story structure. Enjoy!

5. Think about your genre! It may be obvious to you that the only decent stories you need to tell are dystopian vampire romances set in 1641. But if it isn’t so obvious, review the rules of genre. Rules, you say? There are rules? Yup. Like all romantic comedies have happy endings. Sometimes knowing what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do, can keep you focused.

6. Think about your plot! You’re going to need a plot. On this Wikipedia page, Christopher Booker explains the seven major plots that are basic foundations for all stories. If you haven’t got a plot yet, chose one and allow it to be your blueprint for your characters’ objectives.

7. Think about your characters! You need a main character (if this is your first novel, keep to just one) a few supporting characters and an antagonist. Check out these three Pinterest boards that I created just for this very purpose — Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Antagonists. Make notes, play around with them, base them all on people you know. I think character development is the most enjoyable part of the whole process.

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

8. Think about your setting! That means jot down a few key locations that your scenes will take place, like the barbershop, behind the middle school, on the moon and somewhere in the Great Coral reef. Your setting is just as important as your main character. It will need detail and description. When you write your story  you should try to visualize what’s going on in each scene. This will strengthen your story and your reader will find it interesting.

9. Think beginning, middle and end! If you’re into math, (and really, of the people who read this blog, we have -2 people who like math) then you need to see that the beginning or set-up of the story shouldn’t be any longer than the first 10,000 words or so, the middle be up to the 40,000 word mark or so, and then the wrap-up, or third act, in the last 10,000 words. This post on three act structure may be able to help you!

10. And then? Go for it! If you followed points 1-9 then you have all the basic ingredients of a story. The rest requires putting your butt in your chair and moving forward in the story a little bit every day. Here’s what you can do if you’re stuck! 

Thousands of people win Nanowrimo every year. You can do it too!

What strategies have you used? What are you doing to get ready?

Top 16 Close-Talking, Double Dipping Tips to Succeeding At Nanowrimo!

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Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.

For 30 days in November every year, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world try to get 50,000 words on paper. In a perfect world, these words would be brilliant and profound. It’s far more likely that the words are a big hot mess. If you are participating, this is the perfect time to organize your ideas and get ready! The objective is to write as much as possible, you know, yada, yada, yada, not to be beautiful doing it. Sign up here so you can participate this November!

I believe that the objective of 50K words in 30 days is doable for anyone who wants to try.

I also believe that much is to be gained from the whole exercise, even if it isn’t a coherent story. I’ve broken down the steps to writing a story for Nano into super-easy steps. If you follow them, you’ll easily make your goal. (It’s only 1,667 words a day. You can DO that!)

So here we go! (This is the Seinfeld version so I suggest you regift your label maker, put on your puffy shirt, and spare a square!)

Top 16 Close Talking, Double Dipping, Tips to Succeeding At Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Step One: Start your story with Did you ever notice  . . .. Is that cheating?  NO! It gets you going and now you only have 49,996 words to go.

Step Two: Pick Two Names: Almost any two will do. Let’s go with Jerry and George

Step Three: Describe these two characters. List their favorite things, their appearance and their relationships. They also need a job that is unrelated to the genre of the book, like say, make them work for Vandalay Industries! In the import/export business! Say they really, really like velvet!

Step Four: Give them an antagonist. This determines your genre. If it’s a mean girl/boy, then it’s chick lit, (Susan?) If it’s a tall, dark stranger who they think is a pain in the butt (at first) it’s a rom-com, (Putty?) If it’s a mysterious colleague with secret who may do something violent to protect it then it’s a thriller, (Tim Whatley?) If it’s someone who had committed a crime and he doesn’t want our couple to find out about it, it’s a mystery, (Newman and what he did to that poor dog!) If it’s bigger than a personality, like, say, a government agency, then it’s a spy thriller, (Kramer probably knows something about this!) If it’s a non-human but nothing technological is involved, then it’s a fantasy. (“The sea was angry that day, my friends!”  If it’s a non-human but technology IS involved it’s science fiction.(The Bubble Boy!) Okay, so these are loose definitions, but this is Nanowrimo! There is no need to get technical, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Step Five: Give them a setting. Make it consistent with the antagonist. Delis in NYC are more for romantic comedies than for science fiction. You could also hang out in Jerry’s apartment, but the local soup Nazis will do too.  But you know what, it’s NANOWRIMO! Go ahead, break the rules, and while Jerry and George are waiting for the baddie to show up, they can order twenty-seven things on the menu, as long as they follow the rules, because that will pad you with a lot of words! Or maybe Kramer drops by because he wants something!

Step Six: Give them an objective: All this means is that the characters want something. They want to be loved. They want to be famous. They want to be secure, forgiven, avenged, or safe. These are primal needs and everybody wants them. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of the objectives, that will come later.

Step Seven: Give them a handicap: What will keep them from meeting their objective?  Sure, the antagonist will do his part, but there’s got to be more. Let’s say George is an incompetent Yankees employee who thinks uniforms should be made of cotton. Let’s say Jerry has the bad habit of bringing Pez dispensers to piano concerts. Be as nonsensical and illogical as you want because HEY! THIS IS NANOWRIMO! 

Step Eight: Give them something to say:  Open your scene with dialogue. Your pair is bickering because of something. This shouldn’t be hard to come up with. As they bicker, the reader learns about their big objective. There is no topic too small to talk about. You can talk about Snapple. You can talk about why the girl you know wears the same dress every day. You certainly can talk about Superman.

“It all became very clear to me sitting out there today that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat – it’s all been wrong.” –George Costanza

Step Nine: The antagonist makes an appearance OR someone challenges them to acquire something. They are sent off on their mission. They bicker about it some more. They get distracted. Now write about this! NEWMAN! 

Step Ten: Stuck? Tell us backstory! This is where Nanowrimo is beautiful. Tell us all about George’s struggle with his parents and how his fiancee died licking wedding invitation envelopes. Tell us about the trauma that Jerry had when he his girlfriend ate peas one at a time. Tell us about that time that Elaine, ahem, danced. In Nanowrimo (unlike your best work) you can have as much bleedin’ backstory as you want. This will add to your word count, will help you flesh out those characters, explain what happens in chapter 47 and help you understand where the story is going. Trust me.

Step Eleven: Stuck again? Put something unexpected in their path! Japanese businessmen! An NBC pilot!  A new J. Peterman catalog! Have your duo fight it out and regroup and get back to the task at hand. (That could kill a couple of thousand words right there!)

Step Twelve: Take a break and think about your ending. What do you want to happen? Do you want them to meet their objective or not? Brainstorm for 10-20 things that need to happen before your duo gets to the end. This is your very loose outline. From now on, as you get stuck, refer to this. Put Jerry and George in these situations or scenes and then get them out.

“I can’t die with dignity. I have no dignity. I want to be the one person who doesn’t die with dignity. I’ve lived my whole life in shame! Why should I die with dignity?” –George Costanza

Step Thirteen: When you get about 10K from the end, try to wrap it up. Get your main characters in positions where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re having trouble, make a coincidence work out for them. Have a high school buddy show up with a solution. Don’t even worry about the logic of it. The important thing is that YOU ARE 10K FROM THE END! You need to fill that space up with something. Sometimes all we need to see what happens next is to put our fingers on the keyboard and plow through. You might be surprised what you figure out for your characters.

Step Fourteen: When you hit 50K, CELEBRATE!  You deserve that badge! You deserve a pat on the back And don’t worry about  the story.

Put it aside for a minimum of three months. Do it, Jerry. Do it!

Step Fifteen: When three months have passed, get the story out and go on a search and rescue mission. You are now digging through the haystack looking for the needle. You are digging through the stable full of ca-ca, looking for the pony. You are mining for diamonds in the cave. DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! I repeat! DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! If you have any kind of sense, you will take that 50K words and see if there’s something salvageable, like an exchange of dialog, a good description, a well drawn character or a little bit of a plot line. This is your good stuff. SAVE IT.

Step Sixteen:  Question my method completely. “What’s the point of writing like a mad man for a month if all we’re getting out of it is a little bit here and there.” I’ll tell you. You are learning discipline. You are learning to think fast. You are learning to appreciate the struggle. You are learning basic storytelling elements. You are learning what doesn’t work. You are learning what is good and what is drivel. You are learning to write the hard way.

Nanowrimo is not HOW to write a novel. It is however, a way to build muscle and skills. To stretch your story-telling abilities. To gain perspective and insight. It’s good for you. And your car will look nicer too.

So, veteran Nano-ers? What do you think? How has past Nanos worked for you? 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves, for delicacy, for images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety for reasons, but no one can deny how beautiful art serves a purpose.

Beautiful art points us to the good in humanity.

As we write, we can organize our words  in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.   Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Beautiful sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. Beautiful words can enflame anger.  Beautiful words can render jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. Beautiful words are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Beautiful words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents.

Beautiful words play dress up when they are metaphor,simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on disguise, like a fake moustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

“I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Beautiful art exalts mankind’s creativity.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful art echoes ancient truths.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and entymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

Beautiful art feeds our souls.

Beautiful words are parts of a whole, the vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent e can’t object. Poor insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Poor Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up. The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.”
― Dorothy Parker

The beautiful words are our medium.

They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. They are precise like a fine pen. They are bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. They are rich with facets and carats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

How can we make words more beautiful?

How can we sculpt our sentences in such a way that the true essence of our meaning shines through? How can we enhance truth through a well-crafted sentence?

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

 

Try these suggestions:

 

 

1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun. Need inspiration? The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor. 

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion. Need inspiration? Try reading Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.

3. Don’t let it start with “There was” or “There were.” Look at these quotes for the structure or how they begin the sentence. This may give you a good idea how to improve. The website calls it, “These 33 One-Sentence Quotes Will Blow Your Mind Every Time. Especially The 8th One.” That’s a bit of an overstatement, but they are nice and noble and short! (That can’t be said about the ads!)

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence, but don’t make it passive. Poets and songwriters have to tinker with word arrangement to make sentences work better rhythmically. Need examples? This fascinating article from The Guardian admires the beauty of the lyrics in Stephen Sondheim musicals. I loved this!

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make. Here’s a list of 317 “power words” that you can sprinkle in your prose. The context of this article is blogging, but any of these words will do for your fiction too!

6. Use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
Edgar Allan Poe

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening. You can be more expressive with a little work and imagination. Need inspiration?  This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated! 

8. Substitute every word for a synonym just to see what you can come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi syllable words may muddy your meaning. Just for fun, check out these multi-syllable words that can add a bit of flavor. 

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. In a similar vein, this is a  fascinating article from NPR about loving sentences. I want to sit and read this forever.

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”
James Joyce

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?  My friend Jude Knight has a list of “filter words” that are dull, uninteresting and serve little purpose. Use this list to weed out the ugly and make room for the beautiful.

Beautiful words are our powerful medium.

We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.

Top 10 Things To Give Your Characters That Will Make Them More Vivid

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Forget about hair color and broad shoulders and kissable lips.

The best stories have characters  that are complex,  well drawn and have such interesting inner and outer struggles that readers can’t help but be fascinated by them.

There are hundreds of ways to develop character, from figuring out their favorite ice cream flavors to starting with an archetype and building on it. This is just one little list to set you thinking.  If you only manage a couple of these, your characters will be more vivid, more interesting and strong enough to carry a reader through your story.

Top 10 Things To Give Your Characters That Will Make Them More Vivid by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. Give them a secret that you won’t reveal to the readers until halfway through the book. It can be a huge plot twist, like the fact that they are blind or it can be something small, like they have an addiction to reality television. This could also be a habit that they’re ashamed of, a criminal record or an unconfessed sin. The fear of exposure should be a driving force for them.

2. Give them a chronic disease. Now this will require some research on your part, but having some physical limitation or hindrance will not only make them more interesting, but it will also require them to compensate. Do a little homework though, and pick diseases that aren’t overdone by other authors. And don’t forget to research this well. A reader who spots an inconsistency or laziness will not be happy.

“Which of us has not felt that the character we are reading in the printed page is more real than the person standing beside us?”
Cornelia Funke

3. Give them an aversion or irrational fear toward something that is common, like cell phones. A fear like this has to have a cause and it also has to change their behavior in some way. Use this fear against them when the plot thickens, when the antagonist finds out about it, or the love interest can’t understand it.

4.Give them a desire that they don’t even know that they have, like security or acceptance or love. At our core, we all have desires for justice, security, love, and even sometimes vengeance. The best characters touch on this universal desires. Any struggle that your characters have with these big issues will make them more interesting to the reader.

5. Give them a significant other/sidekick/sibling/partner in crime who is their exact opposite in every way. Opposites attract, right? Make your sidekick and other supporting characters different from your main character. Pay attention to the opposing stands they take to the issues and events that your main character faces. This can add some juicy conflict and conflict is what story is all about.

“Character, I think, is the single most important thing in fiction. You might read a book once for its interesting plot—but not twice.”
Diana Gabaldon

6. Give them a significant other/sidekick/sibling/partner in crime who is just like them in every way, only exaggerated. Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Think Frasier Crane and his brother Niles. They were alike in so many ways, but Niles was more exaggerated. This similarity made Frasier look reasonable by contrast. Niles provided much needed comic relief. And together, they were pretty funny.

7. Give them a personality disorder. Don’t know which one? Check this out. Personality disorders are very, very common in real life. And if you know how to write a character who is a clinical narcissist or who is histrionic, then not only  will you get some great conflict, but you’ll also engage the reader. These types are fun to read and write about. In real life, ahem, not so much.

8. Give them a mental list of things that they will not do, ever. If you had a character who had a few OCD tendencies, say, and they wouldn’t wear the color red, say the word moist, walk on one side of the street, allow their food to touch and make their shoes always point north, then you would have an interesting character. Then, of course, put them situations where they must do them. Hehe. That’s the fun of being an author!

“The best books come from someplace deep inside…. Become emotionally involved. If you don’t care about your characters, your readers won’t either.”
Judy Blume

9. Give them a chance to order a pizza with friends. Explain every decision they make doing this. I love this tool. I find once I have created my cast of characters, little exercises like this will allow me to see them in new ways. Make sure that you’ve developed all your characters in such a way that making decisions like this will be easy.

10.Give them five favorite books. One from childhood, one fiction, one non-fiction, one that they would never admit to and one that they often give away as a gift. Why? Our bookshelves speak a lot about us. Think also about your character’s reading habits: Hardcover or Kindle version? A fast reader or a slow reader? Book club member? Audiobook lover? Any specific decisions you make about this will fill your character’s personality and preferences out nicely.

Each of these suggestions are here not necessarily to fill out that 90K manuscript.

Instead, they should be used as a way to sculpt the character better in your mind.

When you write description, dialogue, when you put them in their conflicts and when you have them react to the situations around them, you’ll know them. You’ll like them. And hopefully, your reader will too.

Got any more? Let’s here them!

Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics (With Taylor Swift & Zombie References!)

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Writers today have dreams of instant success and fame!

And because the idea of easy publishing is so tempting, we rush into it with  no idea what we should do to promote ourselves.

Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. We may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums.

We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain advantage in this industry.

But we may be pursuing fame and fortune at the cost of ethics.

Ask yourself the following 10 questions and test and see how ethical you are as an author.

 Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies, when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors do not promote books by making false statements about them. Ethical authors do not lie about position on bestseller lists or consent to anyone else promoting them in a misleading manner.

3. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading your readers/buyers of my books, then you’re behaving unprofessionally.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
This is the badge for ALLi’s Ethical Author campaign. Feel free to put it on your blog if you want to remind yourself and others about good author ethics.

4.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never react to any book review by harassing the reviewer or getting someone else to harass the reviewer. Ethical authors would never intrude on a reviewer’s privacy or condone a personal attack. If you do, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also creepy.

5. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never hide behind an alias to boost sales or damage sales of another person. They should also not hide behind aliases to hurt another’s reputation. Pen names should be used for good, not evil. If you do this, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also a coward.

6. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre, just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

 You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you do not behave with courtesy toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals, then you are making us all look bad. If you air grievances or complaints in the press or online, then you’re behaving unprofessionally, possibly immaturely and come off as a whiner. Just don’t.

No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. – Taylor Swift

7. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night, if they give you a five star review?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should always be transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements. Better still, they should avoid them altogether just so people won’t raise an eyebrow. This review by your author friend really isn’t worth it.

8. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens,  and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Plagiarism is bad, bad news. Don’t do it. Passing someone else’s works as your own is a sure fire way to lose years of credibility and a good reputation. Cutting and pasting is always easier, it is never, ever better.

9. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why:  Everyone needs to report income, pay taxes and keep good records. We know you got into writing so that you didn’t have to do math. If it’s really that hard for you, hire an accountant. This is the law, follow it.

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale.