Articles tagged "writing"

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

Evernote is a powerful note taking and organizational tool. It features a simple and easy to use word processor, but you shouldn’t begin using Evernote with the idea that you’ll craft an entire manuscript using this software. Instead, think of Evernote as a tool for recording and recalling information quickly.

Since all writer’s will have a different process and style for gathering and making sense of information, Evernote will not be for everyone. If you’re the type that needs paper notes piled high into a sort of impenetrable fortress of information on your desk, you will probably find Evernote too concise for you. Or if you already use another piece of software for writing with built in note taking options (such as Scrivener, mentioned in last week’s article), you may find Evernote unnecessary or redundant.

But if you are a writer who spends a lot of prep time and enjoys taking multi-media notes, Evernote is the tool for you.

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Overcoming Adversity: Publishing to Succeed

How do you do it?

This is the most common question I’m asked when people learn my story for the first time.  How do you juggle being an international author and self-promoter, all while traveling for book signings, raising four children; two with disabilities, running a cake business, and homeschooling?

How do you find the time to do it all, they ask. What’s your secret?

No-matter how many times I answer, my response always seems to deliver a certain sense of inadequacy.  The truth somehow falls short of exposing a hidden potion behind my innate ability to fill multiple roles at once.  The illusion is that I am actually a real person with realistic goals.  I just run beside passion and persistence and I never let them win.  I’m not the best writer and I will never proclaim to be.  I simply and wholeheartedly believe in myself enough that my ability to stay focused on achieving never wavers through adversity.  Some might say that being a mother is the hardest job on earth, so the idea of adding other roles seems like straining energy on borrowed time.  But there’s nothing wrong with borrowing as long as you give back; so long as you offer up results.  I simply manage my life one second at a time; one word, one hug, one errand, one interview at a time.

For those who are unsure that it can be done, believe me, it can.  Despite appearances, my path hasn’t always been easy, but writing has constantly remained central to my survival.  When I was younger, I suffered through being raped by four military men, who also videotaped the ordeal, but I bravely made a decision to use what happened to me to help others.  Through the drama novel, The Day it Rained Forever, I have been able to heal, help, and move on.  When my son was suddenly diagnosed with Autism, I felt like he was taken from me and I had to find a way of bringing him back.  I did it through the publication of the children’s book, I Will Always Love You No Matter What.  And from the back seat of a car, at twelve years of age, I recall watching my father grasp his chest with both hands, struggling for air.  I watched as he fought to live for me and, in that moment, I vividly remember thinking to myself; I’m going to lose my dad.  I had to find a way of saying goodbye, and I did that through the novel released last year, entitled, The Night Birds.

Through my adversity, I have come to realize that the struggle is a misconception.  It all just takes time.  Success and dreams are within reach if you just keep writing, while remaining true to yourself.  Good things will eventually come.  Writing is my lifeline and the process of self-publishing has been made all the more enjoyable by Lulu Publishing’s online publishing tool and their tireless support team.

And speaking of good things, I am proud to announce that my novel, The Day It Rained Forever, has been picked up by the talented screenwriter Shaun Jooste.  Shaun and I recently signed a contract allowing Shaun to adapt my novel into film!  Shaun is also managing a Guinness World Record attempt that I am taking part in, to break the world record for the most amount of authors in an anthology.

I also, recently, had the incredible privilege of attending the 2017 Book Expo America in New York City.  While there, I had a chance to thank fans for their dedicated support and encouragement throughout the many years I have been writing.  It was truly the highlight of my year.  So I am elated to also announce that I will be doing it all again in 2018 when I attend the BEA in New York City for another book signing and meet and greet.  You can hear more about my experience at the BEA and all about my journey as a self-publisher, in an author interview I did last week with Paperback Radio.

No matter what happens in my life, I will never stop striving to better my craft, to deliver passionate, exciting stories, to my audience.  My fans have always stood behind me and I refuse to let them down.  I’m exactly where I know I need to be and the view is incredible.  Here, I look up and hope that my father is looking down on me knowing, if nothing else, at least I gave it my all.

 


Lynette Greenfield was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in both Brisbane and Melbourne.  Her love of writing came when tragically, her father passed away at the age of twelve.  It was then that she discovered an intensely personal love for poetry, never once writing for an audience, quickly appreciating the healing qualities words had on her life.  She went on to study creative Arts at the Brian Chandler’s School of Art and Design and creative writing and photography at the University of Technology in Queensland.  Her first publication was a poetry book entitled, Moments with Me.  She has since published many more poetry books and has also gone on to write romance novels, mystery, and children’s books.  Lynette attended to Book Expo America in 2016 in Chicago, signing her debut novel, An Ounce of ExpectationAnd attended the BEA again in 2017 in New York to show her novel, The Night BirdsShe will also be attending the 2018 BEA in New York City to showcase her latest drama novel, The Day it Rained Forever.  ​With 25 years of writing behind her, Lynette is now an established Author, but is always seeking out new challenges in her writing career, enjoying working with other artists including musicians, songwriters and illustrators. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching children with disabilities, specializing in Autism and one of her children’s books entitled, I’ll Always Love You No Matter What, was written for a child with Autism.

Writing Toolbox: Scrivener


Scrivener is a writing focused tool developed by Literature & Latte. One may question the usefulness of having a dedicated writing tool when Microsoft Word is a perfectly serviceable word processor and features all the layout and design tools you’ll need to prepare your manuscript for publishing.

What Scrivener offers is the power of focus. Word is a diverse tool with many applications. Scrivener is a tool just for writing.

The features Scrivener offers help writers gather information into easy to access locations, and refer to information as needed during the writing process. Then it’s all about word processing.

The Basics

Scrivener is primarily a word processing tool. Sit down, limber up your fingers, and let the words pour out. That’s the primary function and use, and after only a short time using the tool, you’ll realize why Scrivener excels at this. Their word processing tool provides some options for layout, fonts, sizing, and spacing, but you’ll get the most out of Scrivener when you ignore most of that and just write. If you have a font, size, and spacing your prefer, you can easily build a template and start from there, so that each section you add will use your preset options.

I personally like to set my template to 6 x 9 and use Garamond 12 point to see an approximation of how the paragraphs will look in a print ready size. If you’re more accustom to the standard 8.5 x 11 (MS Word and Scrivener default to this size) you can always keep that sizing too. Remember, the major formatting and layout work will be done later, so don’t get hung up with settings at this point. Scrivener’s strength is in writing and word processing, with little interest in the final formatting choices.

The writing tool itself is simple and elegant. The word count runs on the bottom, and if you’re goal oriented like I am, you can set a word count target and the tool will update every few seconds so you can track your progress. I aim for 800 words a day, so when I sit down to write, I set myself a goal and Scrivener tracks my progression so I know how I’m doing and when I’ve exceeded my total. You can also set an overall target and see your progress toward completing the manuscript word count goal.

A surprisingly helpful and seemingly small feature is the “Typewriter View.” When this option is selected, the cursor and line of text you’re typing re-position to the middle of the screen when you type. Unlike MS Word’s word processor, which shifts down the page as you type and jumps to the next once the the page is full, Scrivener doesn’t care about pages as you write, and with the Typewriter View the balance of text and white space on the screen is maintained as you work. It may seem like a little thing, probably not even important enough to mention, but once you’ve used it, you’ll see how helpful it is to keep your eyes on the same level while typing. Not only did the Typewriter View help with focus while I write, it also left me feeling less strain on my eyes after prolonged writing adventures.

Scrivener is all about these little benefits to the writer. The developers clearly had writing as a focus when they created this software, and it shows in the simple tools and little elements designed specifically to enable and engage the writing process, with very little emphasis on design and layout.

Powerful Organization

Scrivener brings with it one more incredibly compelling reason to use it as your primary word processor. Organization.

Before I encountered Scrivener, I would create a file folder on my desktop, then generate a multitude of Word files and save them in this folder. This included at least one file for the main body of the work, an outline, a timeline with my word count goals, and at least four files for research. Often times the number of individual research files would exceed twenty. For a non-fiction piece, this would compromise source material, reading material, reference links, and a file with quotes copied in and sourced so I could easily use them in the body when the time came. For fiction, I would create a character worksheet for every main character, a short list of info for secondary characters, research about location(s) based on the setting of the story, and some number of theme or character trait research documents. Is my protagonist an aspiring athlete? Then I need a research page with details about that lifestyle, the work out routine, the income, the means an amateur converts to pro, etc..

By the time I finished a piece, the folder for that manuscript would be massive and often times needlessly confusing.

Scrivener does away with this. When you work in Scrivener, you’re not writing a single file, you’re working within a project. They call the project a “binder” and envisioning it this way can help clarify how it works. Your project is essentially a three-ring binder, and you’ve got dividers and labeled sections, with the various pieces stored in the correct locations. The goal here is ease of use.

The binder is managed with a column on the left, and provides nested style lists with all your content, easily organized into folders. Everything here can be customized. Design folders to suit your needs. Create templates to organize your research into coherent and easily referenced files. Add images, video, audio, and text files so you can include any and all material you think may be useful in writing your manuscript.

Once you begin to learn the ins and outs of Scrivener, you’ll find that creating custom folders and templates helps to keep you background work highly organized and accessible. Writing a scene with a secondary character you thought up a month ago? Forgot how you imagined them appearing? No worries, just expand the Character folder, click on the Character Sketch template you used when you dreamed this character up, and reference the information. Then click back to the scene you were writing and carry on!

Having important and useful information that close to hand not only saves time and gets you back to writing more quickly, but it also fosters good research and crafting habits. Your work will benefit from consistency in the earlier drafts, aiding in the editing process later.

Scrivener offers one more cool way to organize and prepare your writing. It’s called the “corkboard” and it allows authors to organize different pieces within the binder, to begin piecing together the manuscript. The most useful feature of the corkboard is the ability to add a synopsis to each element. You can write a short description or piece of reminder text for each scene or section, then organize with the corkboard to your liking. Need to move a character’s first scene to an earlier spot in the manuscript? No problem, just drag and drop the scene to the right spot on the board and the order is updated!

Cloud Power

The last key feature of Scrivener we’ll look at today is the Cloud storage design. All files for Scrivener use a unique file type and store as a folder through Dropbox. It can take a few minutes to setup and get used to accessing and saving files this way, but once you learn the process, you’ll have the protection of knowing your documents are safely stored online. No longer will you need to fear file loss because of a computer crash or any other technical difficulty.

Scrivener syncs with Dropbox automatically, and will default to backing up your project five times. This means the most recent version, plus the four previous versions, are all saved to your Dropbox for you. On top of that, you can keep your current version saved, and Scrivener will always open the most recently updated file when you load the program. And you can do this across platforms. That means I can work on my Windows machine, save the binder to Dropbox, and if I think of something I want to note or I need to look up a piece of information, I can open Scrivener on my iPhone and see the same synced version.

Cloud storage provides reliability and ease of access, while ensuring the security of your files. Yes, of course you can upload your files from any word processor to Dropbox or another Cloud storage tool, but Scrivener requires it, and in doing so makes it that much more likely that your work will consistently updated and retained.

The Next Step

Alright, you’ve got your manuscript written, and you’re ready to send it to an editor or begin formatting for print. Scrivener’s role in your writing process is likely at an end.

Once you’ve prepared the manuscript, you’ll need to compile it into a single file, and select the file type to export. This, like most features of Scrivener, is relatively easy and painless. The “Compile” command provides some options about formatting and file type, but I find it easiest to export as a basic .DOCX file and work in MS Word to perform the layout and design.

It is worth noting Scrivener can export EPUB files. You can find the instructions for EPUB export, along with a wide range of tutorials, on this page.

 

And that’s Scrivener – a tool for writers to help them write. It is a potent and simple program that will aid in productivity and streamline the research and organization phase. I encourage any serious writers, particularly those with procrastination issues like I have, to give Scrivener a try. They offer free trials on their website, so you can experiment a little before you make up your mind.

Next week we’ll conclude the Writer’s Toolbox series with a look at Evernote, a cool application that can help keep your writing (and your life) organized and on track.

Selling Your Brand: Author Website

Independent publishing demands an effort on the author’s part to self-promote. The task may seem daunting, as many of the tasks involved in self-publishing can, but thanks to the power of the Internet, you can promote yourself online with minimal effort. One of the most potent is the author website.

Creating and maintaining a website dedicated to your work can have a multitude of benefits and uses. Get your name out there on the web, and provide interested and potential readers a location to learn more about you and your work with an author website. The following list provides some basics about creating a website, the content you should include, and the benefits.

1. Hosting and Domain

The first step in creating an author website is actually locating the site on the web. There are a variety of low cost services like WordPress or Wix that can be used to create a simple website. These services, among many others on across the web, offer template and layout tools to help you design the page and keep it looking fresh and up to date. Remember, fashion and standards on the web are always evolving, so keep up to date on the latest trends in web layout and adjust your site accordingly. You don’t want your site to look like something from 2002. You’ll want to purchase a domain, preferably something using your name (like www.firstnamelastname.com) or something including the word “author” alongside your name. This is key for discover-ability and indexing in Google searches and will help potential readers find you.With your site domain ready and a service selected, the next step will be actually building your author website.

One very interesting new tool currently available to authors is TitlePager. The service is low cost ($12/month) and provides software to directly import your book’s information into a website template. For authors less interested in learning the ins and outs of website design, TitlePager is a good alternative to consider.

2. Design and Layout

Your website should have a few “pages” to segment information and help your readers find the information they need quickly and easily. Most websites will use a navigation bar along the top of the page to guide visitors. For an example, look at the navigation bar at the top of the Lulu Blog:


You’ll see Home, About Lulu Self-Publishing, Commentary, and Guidelines for Guest Posting. Each of these links lead to a unique page on the blog website. For your author site, you’ll want a home page, a page listing your books with sale information, a page with personal information about you,  and possibly a separate page for posting blog style articles.

Think about your audience when designing the site. Starting out, you won’t likely have the following of the world’s most well known authors, so you may want to avoid a site that is packed and busy like this one. A good example of a modern, clean layout that still has a lot of content like this site, shows how you can uses distinct pages for specific information, while keeping the front page interesting and inviting. Again, these are highly successful authors, who likely have a rather large budget for creating and maintaining their author pages. Look to these examples for ways you might pick and choose elements to emulate that fit your particular needs.

As the owner of your site, you have a tremendous amount of flexibility, and you should do some research to see how other authors build their sites for inspiration. The key elements will be the attractive home page, the succinct book’s page, and the about page. Consider your genre, the quantity of books you have or will be publishing, and the target audience when you are planning your website. For example, if you have accompanying video content, you might want a “videos” page to house this material. Or if your work is non-fiction and uses a number of references, you may want to make reference links and citation information available on a page of your website.

Another good idea for your author website is to include a subscription option and social media links. You want anyone who lands on your page to share on Facebook and Twitter, and capturing emails through a subscription box provides a way into their inbox, allowing for some direct email marketing and building a mailing list to promote events and new publications. Don’t underestimate the power of a mailing list. The ability to directly connect with potential customers is a tremendous asset.

3. Content

We touched on this above, but the most important piece of an author website will be the content. Is the layout appealing? Are the images relevant? Can visitor’s easily find and buy your books? Keep those questions in mind when working on the layout of your website. You’ll want the pages to be simple but appealing, and avoid cluttered or “busy” pages in favor of simplicity. Readers are coming to your site because they followed a link you provided or because they came across you while searching. Either way, they will likely already be interested in your content, and your site’s goal is to assure them that they should buy your book.

It’s not a bad idea to include a link to your Lulu Author Spotlight, along with direct links to your books. Many author websites will also include some publishing industry news or a feed of news from their favorite publishing industry sites. This kind of content will reward users for returning to your site, which can eventually lead to purchases of your back list. And it helps ensure they notice new works as they come available.

Another activity to consider is blogging. Keeping a blog and updating it regularly (as in, at least once a week) will provide a flow of content to drive readers back to your site, and gives you a great reason to make use of that mailing list you’re building. The goal is to give anyone who comes to the site, or follows you on social media, a reason to keep coming back.

4. Benefits

Your website will be the primary tool in developing yourself as a brand. It will serve as a location for your various marketing efforts to point to, a destination for those finding you on social media to learn more (and hopefully make a purchase), and yet another way for you to show your authoring skills. Think about the website as a project, similar to writing a book.

An author website gives you a means to connect with readers and potential readers, a way to display your skills and work (maybe you offer excerpts free or teasers for a new book), and a central location for your brand. As a self-published author, the key to success will be branding yourself. Highly acclaimed authors are read as much because of their brand as their quality. Your website allows you to promote your own brand, and when coupled with high quality writing, is the best way to grow your readership.

Marketing and promoting your book can be an arduous job. Take the first step to promoting yourself and building your author brand. Create an author website and start selling your book today!

 


 

 

Writing Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Microsoft Office is a widely-used tool for creation, design, editing, and formatting. And Microsoft Word in particular is powerful, and being the most common word processor on the market, it is the software the majority of writers will employ. At least at some point during the writing and editing process.

MS Word is a hefty tool, and has a variety of uses for authors, from word processing, to format, to layout, to review and editing. Some authors even use Word to layout their book’s cover! With the huge variety of applications Word has, we’ll focus today on how to best use Word as a self-publishing author, the benefits and challenges of Word, and some important publishing specific tips.

To begin with, the basics. If you are completely new to Word, I encourage you to use Microsoft’s vast support literature to learn about the software. With a rudimentary understanding the tool, you can create a manuscript entirely from scratch, and prep that same file for publishing.

The first phase (writing the manuscript) is the area Word struggles the most. It’s easy to get sidetracked in layout, or to tinker with design, rather than focusing on the project. And with no stripped down focus mode, the risk of distraction is ever present. [Note – Microsoft is introducing a Focus View, and some may already have access to it, depending on their version and updates]

Where Word really shines is after you’ve written the content.

First, you’ll be editing and proofing the book. Word has a function called ‘Track Changes’ under the Review menu.

Track Changes creates a column on the right side of the document, listing any edits performed. This includes deleting or adding text, updating any existing text, new formatting, and provides the opportunity for in document notation. The notes (called ‘Comments’) allow you and your editors/proofreaders to make changes and have a conversation within the document, without making anything permanent. The file will be a true living document, and the flow of ideas can run back and forth until you settle on phrasing, organization, and other elements of the manuscripts design. If you like a change, or have acted on a comment, they can be ‘Accepted’ to remove them from the running list of Track Changes and keep the interface nice and clean.

Once you’ve got the editing done and you’re happy with the text, you’ll move on to the layout and design of the pages. This is the second piece of MS Word that brings a great deal of control and flexibility to your document.

The layout and design options are so vast, we don’t have the time to go over all of them. But really, I could write a book about all the ways you can utilize MS Word to customize and tweak your manuscript. For now, we’ll focus on a couple of necessities for printing.

The first being page size. Your file needs to be sized to match your book size. Use the ‘Layout’ menu in Word to set the page size for the entire document. I recommend doing a Select All (Command/Control + A) prior to resizing. It’s key to note that the standard US Trade size 6 x 9 is not built into Word’s page size presets, so you’ll need to add it as a custom size.

The second piece to be closely aware of are the margins. Word can automatically build in a Gutter margin for you, and align this to the correct side of the page. These controls live under the ‘Layout’ menu. MS Word has a great help section about how to set up and manage Margins.

Along with the critical layout and design tools, Word can be used to manipulate the content on the page. Breaks (both Page and Section) give you control over the positioning of content, and images can be placed in line with text, behind text, or nested with the text through Word’s ‘Picture’ menu.

Here’s a quick list of the elements most relevant to self-publishing you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Page Size
  • Margins/Gutter
  • Styles
  • Font and Line Spacing
  • Header/Footer Control
  • Breaks (Page and Section)
  • Page Numbering and Table of Contents
  • Inserting and Positioning Images

Using the variety of tools within Word, you can control the line spacing, fonts, sizing, space between paragraphs, and so much more!

 

Bookend Your Book: Front Matter and Back Matter

Books consist of many components, all of them important when creating a full, complete, and professional work. One of these components that often causes self-published authors pause is the Front Matter and Back Matter.

While these components are in two separate locations in the book (the front and the back), they serve essentially the same purpose: they bookend you content, propping it up with important information that your reader may not need, but should have available. Allow me to elaborate.

Front Matter

The front matter is everything on the pages leading up to the actual content. This will include title pages, copyright, dedication, acknowledgments, and a table of contents. Now this is self-publishing, so none of this content is mandatory (except the copyright page for a book in distribution) but it is best practices to hold to some publishing industry standards.

A common layout for front matter pages might look like this:

  1. Half title
  2. Blank
  3. Full title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication (Optional)
  6. Also by {{Author Name}}
  7. Acknowledgments (Optional)
  8. Blank
  9. Table of Contents

From here, you’ll start your contents, remembering that odd pages appear on the right, so you may have to insert a blank page to locate your first contents page on the correct side of the book. Again, how you organize and utilize all of the front matter materials is up to you. The above example is a common layout and one many authors use. You may need to edit to suit your specific needs. For example, some authors prefer to add the Acknowledgments to the back matter.

Its also common to use a different font or a slightly smaller font for the front matter. This serves as a visual clue for readers, so they’ll know when the book’s contents begin.

Back Matter

The back matter should be after the contents end. This material serves to prompt your reader to continue engaging with you and your work. The back matter consists of the following pieces:

  • Acknowledgments (Optional)
  • About the Author
  • Advertising for back list or upcoming titles
  • Sample from a forthcoming title
  • Connections to your social media, author website, and Newsletter

You can be creative with your back matter more so than your front matter. The goal is to prompt readers to continue to engage, so a call to connect is a very good idea. Using images here can be very effective too. Include an image with your about the author page. Show an image of your forthcoming title’s cover. Even if you’re printing in black & white, having an image will catch your reader’s eye. If they pause only a moment on the page, they might see your call to connect, like you on Facebook, subscribe to your newsletter or blog, and be that much more likely to buy your next edition.

Remember, there is no strict formula for setting up the front and back matter for you book. These elements bookend your content, the front matter providing specifics related to the content primarily, and the back matter focuses on keeping your reader invested after they’ve consumed the content. Make the most of your book, include high quality front and back matter.

Guest Blog: Learning about America’s Presidents


Written by former advertising executive turned TV producer, Toni Steedman Zelickson, and illustrated by nationally renowned caricature artist, Jeff Mangum, “The 45 Presidents” is an 84-page, large format activity book featuring a caricature of each president, presidential trivia, First Lady matching activities, and other iconic images such as Air Force One, the White House, and Mount Rushmore. “The 45 Presidents” book is also part of a multi-media trio that includes a new original song and music video by the Raggs Band, the Emmy-Award winning characters from the Raggs children’s TV series.

Early this year, “45 Presidents” was awarded a Silver IPPY from the Independent Publishers Association and handpicked by Homeschool.com, “The 45 Presidents” placed second in the multi-media category from a field of nearly 5,000 worldwide entries across all categories!

Jeff & Toni

The book is a companion to the multi-media offerings Raggs presents, in the form of audio (a extensive library of over 300 tracks) and video located at www.raggs.com. Kids can have fun learning about the history of American Presidents, with fun facts, illustrations, and a historical timeline. Summer is here, and it may be tough to think about learning with the sunshine and vacations on the horizon, but now is the time to get ready for the fall and keep your kids interested and excited to learn about the history of the USA’s leaders!

The accompanying music videos are free-to-view on YouTube, and supplement the book with more ways to learn about the Presidents. You can find the videos at the book’s home page, the45presidents.com.

Raggs is an Emmy Award-winning, musical preschool series about five colorful pups who learn life lessons though an innovative mix of live action stories, music videos, concerts, cartoons and interviews with real kids. With over 200 episodes, 300 original songs and animated new media music videos, Raggs is available worldwide in English, Spanish and Portuguese and has begun dubbing in 15 additional languages for distribution in 100 countries in 2017. The Raggs brand includes CDs, DVDs, toys, books and live shows, including a partnership called “Play at Palladium with Raggs” with the Palladium Hotel Group at resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean and Brazil. The original characters were created by Toni Steedman, a Charlotte, NC, advertising executive, for her then six-year-old daughter Alison. Raggs and all rights are owned by Blue Socks Media LLC, Charlotte, NC. For more info, go to www.raggs.com.

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