Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Some of your questions answered πŸ‘

I was recently invited to a library to talk about my writing but unfortunately, bad weather caused the event to be postponed. Since I didn't get an opportunity to speak, I decided to answer the questions here! 🀩

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I remember writing as a child and in fact, I wrote my first full-length manuscript when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, due to lack of confidence and guidance, I didn't pursue my dream of becoming a writer until around 2007-2008. I published my first book in 2010.

When did you write your first book?

Fire was published in 2010. 

What inspired you to start writing?

Throughout the years, I've always hoped that my writing has caused people to think, to be empathetic and to see various perspectives. I enjoy provoking people because they are more likely to get involved in the story if they feel an emotional connection. 

How long does it take you to write a book?

I write a chapter a day and have 50 chapters in my books, so in essence, 50 days to complete the first draft. Editing and figuring out details such as a synopsis and cover image also take some time but it can vary. For the last few years, I've published two books a year. 

What is your genre and who is your main audience?

I always talk about how I hate being stuck in a genre because I like to think my writing falls into many categories: suspense, thriller, murder, crime, romance and so on. I even have a couple of books that fall into the fantasy category. 

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I gain information from simply reading about and watching documentaries and interviews about topics that interest me. Many of the topics end up becoming a part of my books. For example, I often read about cartels, violence and the psychology of a criminal, which ends up making it in my books. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Check out this answer πŸ–•πŸΌand research time varies. I don't really pay attention to how long it takes. 

Do you write using a pen or computer?

Computer. However, I do write notes on characters and each chapter in a journal in order to keep organized and for reference.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Editing because it's very tedious and it requires extreme focus. Writing the back cover synopsis is always a challenge too but I usually have some help from other writer friends. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Ten so far and my latest, And The Devil Will Laugh is my favorite to date. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? ( if you have any?)

I only write chapters early (like 6 AM) in the morning and I do so with no interruptions, unless necessary. I don't get up to eat, take out the garbage or anything else when I'm writing. I try to stay focused and not divert my attention because it's very difficult to get back once I do. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

It tends to be the other way around. I usually write around my work schedule. On mornings that I'm not working, I get up and write. On mornings I'm working, depending on how much time I have, I might do some light editing on previous work, work on social media, upload or record a video for YouTube or any other task that requires my attention. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I recently read a quote that said that writers aren't playing God when writing a book but are merely the secretaries. This is completely accurate. You cannot force a character to do what they don't want to do unless you enjoy getting writer's block. 

What is your favorite type of books to read?

Non-fiction about topics that interest me. 

Were there any authors of books that had a particular influence on you or your writing?

George Orwell. He was a genius. Orwell had the ability to observe and analyze human nature and create works of fiction that reflected how he viewed the world in a way that was served as much as a warning as an entertaining tale.

How do the books get published?

This could be a rather long answer but essentially, you can self-publish, seek out a smaller publisher who is interested in your specific genre or seek out an agent, who will, in turn, proposition larger publishing houses. Large houses generally only deal with agented writers. Always do your research when doing any of the above. There are a lot of scumbags out there. 

Do you design your book covers or how do they come about?

My publisher designs the cover but I pick out the image I would like them to work with and perhaps make suggestions such as, darken the image, colors I prefer etc. 

How do you market your books? 

I mainly use social media but I also use my website, send press releases when new books come out and give out bookmarks with all my covers. I'm always trying to think of new, creative ways but social media is my first stop.

Where can we get your books, other than here?

Everywhere online!! Check out my site for more details. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

All my books have a hidden theme 🀫

Did you know that all my books have a theme? This is the message that takes the driver's seat and creates a direction for the entire book or in some cases, the entire series. But why are themes important?

In a nutshell, themes are sort of the 'point' of everything you do. For example, when you pick a career, there's probably an underlying reason that goes much deeper than a paycheque and what areas you feel there are jobs. As a writer, I like making people think about things that perhaps wouldn't normally cross their mind. There are tons of other reasons but that would be the 'theme' of why I choose to write.

In my books, themes are essential because they are the lifeblood of the story. I think the best way to demonstrate this is to give some examples.

In my first two books, Fire and A Spark before the Fire, my theme was how our culture often doesn't see entertainers as real people but rather machines who's every move is meant to entertain us, their lives on constant display, kind of like an animal in the zoo. This was brought on when I watched as a celebrity had a very public meltdown and people were essentially laughing at her, rather than having any concern for her mental state. It frustrates me that we have tabloids and silly shows that focus on everything the stars are doing and actually, this has only grown worse since writing these two books. Of course, this wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand.

My third and fourth book had a vampire theme, which is something I didn't want to explore but felt compelled to write about. Not surprisingly, the vampires in my books represent the 'bloodsuckers' or 'vampires' in our lives. Around the time I wrote these books, I felt that I was seeing an increasing number of people who fell in this category, not even in my own life but the world in general. We view it in the news pretty regularly as many of these questionable people are floating to the surface, in clear view. The Rock Star of Vampires is my first of two books that dive into this area and in it, we discover that the protagonist, although she's a vampire, is probably less of a vulture than other characters in her life. In Her Name is Mariah, we learn about a young, troubled woman who preys on others because it's the only way she knows to survive, therefore, showing both sides of the same situation.

My final books turned into an extended series that easing the reader into the whole world of organized crime, criminals and an underground world that most perhaps assume is a rarity, if they even believe it exists at all. The central theme is corruption, crime, collusion and the belief that sometimes it's hard to be certain who the 'good' and 'bad' guy really is; although my books follow a group of criminals, there is a point where readers see that the lines are often blurred. My goal was to make readers think and perhaps ask some questions, if only to themselves. Who really runs the world? Politicians, corporations, religious leaders....or is it you? Who controls what we see and what we know? Is it manipulated? These are the questions that I've explored as the series unfolded a couple of years ago and I continue to ask myself.

I think themes are as important for the writer as they are the reader. It gives us a focus that is bigger than simply telling an entertaining story but something that might have a bigger message.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Switch away from the protagonist?? Don't mind if I do! πŸ˜ƒ

Something I started doing a few books ago is to switching away from the protagonist for one chapter. So essentially, I have another secondary character take over the story for one chapter, usually around the middle of the book, in order to give the reader another perspective. It also gives me an opportunity to shake things up a bit. It adds another layer to the book.

The beauty of it is that you can have a better overall view of the protagonist. For example, if your protagonist has a specific point of view about themselves, you might swing around to another character who draws a completely different picture. It gives the reader food for thought. Maybe the impression that the protagonist is giving isn't completely accurate. Then again, it might also change your opinion of the secondary character as well, since you will be seeing them up close and personal.

I do this with almost every one of my books and find that it really gives me a different perspective too. Sometimes the only way to really understand where a secondary character is coming from is to climb inside of their mind. It's really fascinating.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Characters, Characters, Characters! Why we love Awesome Characters! πŸ˜‡πŸ˜ˆ

Is there a character that you love? It doesn't matter if it's on television or in your favorite book; is there someone that stands out and is exciting to watch or read about? Why is character development so important??

If there's one thing that stands out to me in a great book or television show it is awesome characters. In my mind, these personalities (or lack there of...) can make or break a show. You can have awesome plot twists, terrific writing but if you don't have characters that people connect with, it falls flat.

We like variety, diverse and dynamic characters. As I've said before, personalities that jump off the page because they seem so real, so interesting; they're the people you want to learn more about with every chapter or in the case of a television show, each episode.

Characters should grow especially if you have them in a series. Just like everyday people, it seems a bit unusual to not see growth or at the very least, a change in opinion over time. As you learn about the characters, they're often learning about themselves. Even more interestingly, the characters you're drawn to might also be telling you something about yourself.

Why it's important to see through the character's eyes πŸ‘

One of the really cool aspects of writing for me has been able to get inside a character's head. I love being able to see things through their point of view, to understand where they are coming from due to their experiences and being able to demonstrate this to the reader. There's something really awesome about seeing through someone else's eyes and I wish everyone could do it more in everyday life. It's really easy to judge or put people in categories but it's much more difficult to step back and get a sense of understanding; then again, that's possibly why most people don't make the effort.

With characters, you simply have no choice but to understand and appreciate their journey. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I've learned from writing and probably one that I apply to my everyday life. Actually, when I first started to write as a teenager, I remember that as one of the key reasons why the whole process appealed to me. I felt there wasn't enough understanding of other people and that through characters, we could all open our eyes a little wider and perhaps show some compassion as opposed to ignorance.

Fast forward to years later and I think this lesson is even more relevant than ever. When we look at our world today, we definitely see a strong disconnect, a lot of judgment and even more so, a vast divide. One of the beautiful things about the characters I write about is that they come from many different backgrounds and experiences and I make great efforts to show how this relates to their current situations.

Interesting enough, real life isn't that much different if we take the time to investigate.

Friday, September 7, 2018

I just published my first book! πŸ˜„What do I do next? πŸ™€

I've had a lot of people approach me after publishing their first book because they're unsure of what to do next. This is because authors spend so much time working on the actual novel, deciding on the cover and so many more things that once it is out, they sometimes feel a bit uncertain of how to proceed.

When you're new to the industry, it can be a bit stressful trying to figure out what is and isn't a good idea.  I would be cautious of any site that guarantees more followers or gives you over the top promises (at a price) to promote your book. I've personally never paid for any of these services however, I have had them approach me repeatedly over the last few years. I also would avoid giving books away in exchange for reviews because even though people may agree to help you out, in my experience, many don't follow through. I also wouldn't recommend you pay a large amount of money....well, for anything, really. There are lots of free resources that I would try out first and see how it goes. And speaking of which, here is my list:

1. Press release. Don't know how to write one? Look it up online. Who do you send it to? Everyone you're inclined to contact. I would definitely send it to your own, local media, all free newspapers and places that deal with writers or the arts. You may or may not get a lot of bites but regardless, you're showing off your new book and you never know who's paying attention.

2. Social media. I think that is a given. I personally am having a love affair with Twitter, however, I also use and enjoy Facebook, G+, Instagram, and Linkedin. Make sure you post regularly, reply to comments, shares etc and be consistent.

3. Create a website. It can be super professional but there are also a lot of free sites out there you can try out. It simply gives people a way to find you online.

4. Try to get your books into libraries especially the one in your area.

5. Join Goodreads. Not only can you add your books you can also share what you're reading too.

6. Get reviews. This is often easier said than done but it definitely helps you out.

7. Work with other authors. Sometimes you can exchange books to write a review for each other. Of course, you can always be creative and think of other cool ways to help promote one another.

8. Videos. Youtube, about your book so people can learn about it. I would also recommend writing a blog. This gives people a chance to learn what your book and about you too.

Of course, these are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I also know that some people like to introduce their book in library events, book launches and more. It really depends on the kind of book you have and what inspires you!

The one thing I spend money on is having bookmarks made. I include images of all my covers as well as my website and social media. This is a terrific way to connect with new readers and who doesn't love a free bookmark?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Why Contradictions are Cool! 😎

Contradictions are fun! There's nothing more interesting than a character with vast contradictions in their personality because it's completely unexpected and catches the reader (or viewer, if it's something on television) off guard.  And isn't that what we want? To be surprised?

I tend to use contradictions and quirks a lot in my writing because I feel it adds a little something extra to the characters. Although to tell you the truth,  I don't overthink it either because it comes along quite naturally. Each character tends to have their own unique personalities that encompass some interesting contradictions.

As an example, Diego Silva is a very dapper and sophisticated character so it would surprise people to know that when attacking someone, his weapon of chose is a baseball bat. In fact, if you follow along in this particular series, you will see Diego bring out the baseball bat on at least one occasion per book. πŸ™„Definitely not something you would expect.

Another example would be Paige NoΓ«l-Hernandez who is considered one of the best assassins in the world - but she also likes to meditate and talk about self-help. Probably not what you would expect but it's sort of a neat contradiction.

To me, this helps make characters seem more alive, fun and interesting. And let's face it, we all have our own contradictions that make us unique. What are yours?

Do your characters have quirks? 🀭

Quirks are odd behaviors or habits that people develop and as it turns out, characters are no different. In fact, most of the quirks that my characters demonstrate aren't planned but just sort of pop up in the story and end up sticking.

What makes quirks so much fun is that they usually tell you something about the character. For example, many quirks that I use in my books seem to be associated with nervous or anxious behavior. I have one character that twitches and jerks a lot especially when he's uneasy, whereas another character (who's bilingual) switches back to his native tongue when very upset.

What I love about quirks is that it helps a character seem much more three dimensional. This is especially true when the character regularly demonstrates the behavior. As I mentioned in the earlier examples, two of my characters tend to react in certain ways when presented with stress. This becomes consistent throughout the books to the point that you begin to expect it in the same circumstances.

Of course, not all quirks have to be connected to emotions. A quirk could be someone not wanting the food on their plate to touch or refusing to drink out of a blue glass. One of my characters, for example, has a huge lime tree in his condo. He's obsessive about it and treats it almost like a child that needs constant care. That might also be considered a quirk. Then again...maybe that's just weird.

What are some of the quirks you've noticed with your favorite characters?

Do you need a website? πŸ’»

If you're an author, I definitely recommend you have a website. In fact, if you're a creative of any kind and want to get your work 'out there', I strongly suggest you have a website so people can find you.

The beauty of a website is that it is the one place where people can learn all about you; your work, the latest news, how to connect to your social media, how to sign up for your newsletter etc. It really depends what you wish to put on your site however, the bottom line is that you need all your information put together in one place.

I'm definitely not an expert on websites. In fact, my first website was put together by a friend and it was free. Since that time, I've moved on to get a domain name and a site that I threw together myself. It's not elaborate but it works. It's simple and contains information on my books, interviews, articles I've written and a little bit about me. Again, nothing fancy but it serves the purpose.

I think it's also important to note that websites should be clear and simple. People go to sites to find out basic information and if you're an author, that could be to find a list of your books, learn who you are, check out your interviews and social media. If they go to your site and find it cluttered, confusing or lacks the information they want, chances are they won't stick around for long.

If you aren't super techy and a little intimidated by creating your own website, I would recommend you do a Google search to learn about the best approach for you.

Why authors should challenge themselves πŸ€“

Let's face it, it's easy to fall into the comfort zone and not want to get back up again. It's our nature as humans to want to feel comfortable, to feel in control; but is it good for us?

I think we both know the answer to that question.

As a writer, I've traveled out of my comfort zone many times. Sometimes it is topics that make me uneasy, other times it is something like self-promotion or social media that has made me anxious. Of course, this is normal. When we aren't familiar with something, we become nervous, fearing that we will make fools of ourselves or do or say something wrong. When in reality, we are simply on a learning curve and this is important. Not only does it help with your end goals as a writer, it also builds your confidence.

One of the biggest challenges I've had as a writer is doing interviews. The first few times I've done them, I actually felt a bit dumbfound and not always sure what to say. I've actually had one journalist bite my head off because I wasn't giving her a 'good quote'. In my defense, I didn't exactly have media training and was attempting to answer my questions as best I could.

Since that time, I've also jumped into the whole world of YouTube videos. It wasn't something I was super excited about in the beginning but in the end, I have to say it was one of the best ideas I've had since I started writing. I don't say that because I have a massive following or because I think I'm terrific on camera but because it helped me build my confidence, which in turn, helped me with my interviewing skills and generally talk about my writing.

I've also dealt with writing topics that have challenged me. Believe it or not, I've never been in a cartel, never sold drugs, never been in politics, never been an assassin, never been a vampire or a rock star and yet, these are all topics that I write about. Not only have I done the research, I've paid attention to the world around me; the news, documentaries, films, webinars, books...there are many sources of information out there and many trails away from just the facts to more personal experiences. We have to put ourselves in many shoes when writing and give it fair consideration and that sometimes is a challenge in itself.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Why do I need a newsletter? πŸ—ž

When I first started publishing books, I didn't have a newsletter. The idea of even creating one felt like one more thing that I didn't have time for and so, I put it off. Eventually, I realized that this was an important tool for getting information out there to current or potential readers.

So, do you need a newsletter? If you're a writer and have published anything, even if it's a blog, I would say yes. The reason why is because if people are interested in your work and want to keep up to date on the latest, this gives them an opportunity to do so and not miss a thing. It doesn't matter if you have a new book, blog, YouTube video or simply want to share what you've been up to, it gives your readers an opportunity to keep in touch and know that you haven't forgotten about them. ☺️

One of the mistakes that I feel people make is that they assume that if someone is interested in their work that they will automatically check their website, go on their Facebook page or various other social media accounts in order to keep up to date. Unfortunately, even if people have the best intentions, we live in a fast-paced world and everyone is busy. So as much as someone might love to read your latest blog about your frustrations with publishers or how you've finished a new book, it might not be on the forefront of their mind either. If you have a newsletter, it allows you to update them on the latest and for them, in turn, to check it out whenever they have time.

So what should you put in a newsletter? Everything! Links to your latest interviews, blogs, new books, images of your latest cover, the synopsis for your new novel, any YouTube videos you post, reviews, links to your social media...anything that is relevant to your writing career. These are just some ideas off the top of my head so chances are you will have much more creative ideas to make your newsletter come alive.

Having said that, I also believe that newsletters should be short, sweet and to the point. If you do feel the need to write a longer newsletter, however, be sure to put your main points in bold print in order to catch the reader's eye in case they are skimming it quickly. Sometimes these key points might even make the difference between them deleting it or saving to read later.

How often should you send a newsletter? There is a school of thought that you should be consistent and weekly, however, I think it depends on what you're doing. I try to avoid sending them more than once a week unless a lot of stuff is going on in a short period (this tends to happen the week that a book is published) because people also get pissed off if their mailbox is flooded. I've unsubscribed to emails that interested me because I was tired of my mailbox being loaded to the brim every day. Also, don't be spammy or pushing your product too much because that turns people off and causes them to hit the delete button - and fast!

Are you ready to start your newsletter? Check out MailChimp as an example of free newsletters, however, there are others available that you can find with a quick Google search.

Remember, if people sign up for your newsletter, it is because they are interested in you and want to keep posted on what you're doing next. So be consistent and most of all, show gratitude for their loyalty. A simple 'thanks for your support' goes a long way. πŸ˜„

Why do I do YouTube videos? πŸ“Ή

If you are a writer and have a new book coming out, should you do a YouTube video? What if you are a more seasoned author, should you dip your toes into the world of YouTube or run the other way?

Actually, many people choose to run the other way because it is a bit scary. Recording a video (and even worse, later playing it back to watch yourself) isn't always an experience that people look forward to trying. Having said that, it's usually not that bad and sometimes it can actually be a huge confidence booster.

I started to do YouTube videos a couple of years ago and it was with some reluctance. To be honest, I was terrified. I wasn't exactly excited about watching myself talking on video. It reminded me of those days of public speaking in high school that made me want to hide under my desk, however, I recognized that it was important in my overall goals and so with so reluctance, I gave it a shot. I now have over 80 videos on my channel.

The beauty of recording a video is that you don't have to post it. You can simply take the time to get comfortable with speaking to a camera, explaining your topic in a satisfactory manner (notes help) and of course, you have to stop finding fault with your appearance. These are probably the three things that make most people hesitant. We live in such an overproduced world when it comes to both 'reality' television and even YouTube videos that we often forget that we don't have to look, sound or be perfect in order to record a video. In fact, if you sound, look and seem too perfect, it actually might make you slightly less relatable to your audience.

Having said that, make some effort. Don't roll out of bed, not comb your hair and rambling on for 20 minutes without making a point either. You should lean more toward showing the best of you than the ill-prepared, sloppy version of yourself. It might give the impression that you don't really care and if you don't, why should anyone else?

So why did I start doing YouTube videos? I wanted my audience and potential audience to learn about me. I didn't want to be the anonymous face behind the books or the mysterious author that no one knows. I wanted people to learn where I was coming from, why I was writing about the topics I chose, to explain my books to people who wanted to get more of a sense what they were about and as time went on, it also gave me an opportunity to answer some of my most asked questions from either new authors or people interested in writing.

Most important of all, I believe that YouTube videos are about connection. For me, it was important to connect with people especially those who are interested in my writing. I don't do them because I want to be an internet star or because I want to gather tons of followers, I simply have them available as another option for readers to learn about me, my books and my thoughts as a writer. The beauty of YouTube is that you never know who is watching.