Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Why Writing is Like Acting: Characterization on the Page and Stage

I’m currently in the final revision stage of my novel, and I’ve been paying particular attention to characterization and consistency throughout the story. One comment my instructor made was that a certain sentence I wrote didn’t “sound like Aubree,” my fourteen year-old heroine. I reread it, and it really did sound like an adult, not Aubree, was talking. My instructor also said that one line in a romantic section sounded like something from a romance novel, and challenged me to write it “how Aubree would say it.”

For the most part, I’m very consistent with the voice of my precocious teen heroine, but now I realize that it can be easy to deviate from her voice without even noticing, especially when I’m caught up in the action of the story. We writers have to ensure that we’re getting–and staying–in the heads of our characters, never losing track of their voices. And this got me thinking about how similar writing is to acting, except that instead of staying in character on the stage, writers do it on the page.

Think about it: when an actor takes on a character, he or she must become that character. The actor’s thoughts, feelings, and vocal inflections are no longer his or her own. The actor’s life experience and pre-conceived notions must take the back seat to those of the character. “Breaking character” is the kiss of death for an actor; it could cost him or her the audition or the glowing review, and it could lessen the impact of the performance on the audience.

Actress Kristin Wansten Howarth getting in character in downtown San Francisco

Actress Kristin Wansten Howarth getting in character in downtown San Francisco

Writing, like acting, is a fine art, and writers must be as vigilant as actors about never breaking character. We writers must become our characters. Our passions, emotions, motivations, and life views must fade into the background, while those of our characters must jump off the page, grabbing readers with sheer vitality.

We writers can never break character, because it could cost us that literary agent, or that book deal, but most importantly, it could sever the fragile bond we have with our readers. People lose themselves in books just as they do in movies or stage productions, and we writers have to make sure the world we create stays consistent and never lets our readers down.

So writers out there, I challenge you to characterize on the page the way actors do on the stage. Your “audience” will love you for it!

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5 Essential Team Members in Self-Publishing

Writers are introverts by nature; they derive their energy from within. And when you think of how solitary the pursuit of writing is, it all makes sense. In order to thrive in the writing lifestyle, a healthy dose of introversion is necessary.

That’s why, to many of us, self-publishing seems like such an appealing option to get our work out there. You may think, “What? Expose the world to my unadulterated story without the influence of agents, editors, and other gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry? Sign me up!” With the advent of user-friendly self-publishing platforms like KDP, self-publishing seems like something you can do all by yourself. And for a natural introvert, that’s money!

Really, however, writers must have a team behind them to succeed in self-publishing. Some have gone it alone, but it’s a rare author who’s also proficient at social media, book cover design, marketing, copy-editing, running ad campaigns, and designing websites. The most successful self-published authors, a la Joanna Penn, hire experts to help them throughout the publishing process. By using the expertise of others, the writers’ strengths can shine even more.

Since self-publishing my first short story, “A First Time for Everything,” I have learned a lot about team-building for indie authors. Here are five team members that self-published authors should have, and why they’re so necessary.

Self-published authors are most successful when they have a solid team around them.

Self-published authors are most successful when they have a solid team around them.

Five Crucial Members of the Self-Publishing Team:

  • Editor: A copy-editor checks for grammar, punctuation, and typos that the author may miss even after rounds of revisions. Other editors go more in depth, combing the manuscript for plot flaws and consistency.
  • Book Cover Designer: Unless you’re also a graphic designer, putting together your own book cover is not recommended. People really do judge a book by its cover, so why not have yours look as professional as possible? Searching for an eye-catching book cover on a budget? Check out Tugboat Design http://www.tugboatdesign.net/ They have loads of pre-made covers that they can customize for your book. Each pre-made design is sold only once, so no one will have the same cover as you.
  • Website Designer: If you’re anything like me, you’re passable at technological things, nothing more, nothing less. But to catch the attention of your readers, you have to create a dazzling website! So hiring a company to put one together is money well-spent. A company called Tiny Frog is in the process of completing my website. Check them out at http://www.tinyfrog.com/ They also specialize in search engine optimization (SEO), to make authors more discoverable to readers doing online searches.
  • Marketing Firm: Marketing companies help authors to create their “brands” to reach their target audiences. They conduct market research to find out the likes and dislikes of the target audience, and they help authors to run ad campaigns. However, marketing firms are very expensive. A cheaper solution is to employ a company to design your author logo, which can be used on your website and business cards. Mine was designed by Tiny Frog. Then, you can advertise on Facebook using your logo; Facebook already knows people’s likes and dislikes, so it’s a great way to reach your audience. I just kicked off my ad campaign on Facebook, and it’s already brought many new visitors to my author page.
  • Supportive Friend and / or Family Member: I saved the best for last. In order to succeed as an indie author, you have to be 100% in. Sometimes, you may seem mildly obsessed. That’s why it’s so important to have at least one friend and / or family member who’s as obsessed with your writing career as you are. For me, that person has been Antonio, my fiance. We make an ideal team: I’m the artistic, passionate writer, and he’s the marketing and technological expert. While I’m honing my craft as an author, he’s researching SEO and Facebook ad campaigns. We learn from each other, and it works out famously.

So to all you self-published authors out there, build a team, and you’ll go far!

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Short Series: A New Trend in YA Literature

YA series are certainly not a new phenomenon. I grew up reading them. First, it was Nancy Drew. Then, I moved on to the Baby-sitters Club and the Sweet Valley High books. YA series in the 90s seemed to go on forever, with literally hundreds of books following a similar formula. And we kids of the nineties simply devoured them!

One of the great series of yesteryear, The Baby-sitters Club!

One of the great YA series of yesteryear, The Baby-sitters Club.

Now, however, I’ve noticed a trend of shorter series in YA literature. The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games Trilogy are certainly the most well-known examples. But even outside the world of paranormal and dystopian YA fiction, there are tons of series. They’re becoming a trend in contemporary YA fiction as well. I just read two Stephanie Perkins books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, which feature a cast of recurring characters. I’m eagerly anticipating the next novel in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After, which will center on a character who made a brief appearance in Anna and the French Kiss. Another example is Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series; the characters go to the same school, and even though they’re not all from the same clique, they reappear in subsequent books.

These short series benefit readers and writers alike. Readers enjoy them because of the continuity–the characters become familiar, like old friends. And it’s interesting to see the development of a character who, in a previous book, may have only made occasional cameo appearances. Writers enjoy series because they can reuse characters and settings, saving the trouble of dreaming up a whole new batch. And, best of all, book sales spike as readers are drawn into the lives and loves of the characters. Series are the best way for authors to create the literary equivalent of customer loyalty, since a good series has readers coming back again, eagerly anticipating the release of the next book.

So, all you authors out there, YA or otherwise, think about giving series a chance. I know I’m kicking around some ideas in my head:)


Making Your eBooks Free on Amazon Kindle

Free Kindle eBooks are a great way for new authors to get their work out there. If a book is free, the number of downloads may increase dramatically, which in turn increases exposure and expands the network of readers. This is why, as a new author, I planned to price my short eBook, A First Time for Everything, for free.

The only problem is…it turns out that pricing a Kindle eBook for free is not as easy as you might think. If your book is under KDP Select (KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing), it must be published exclusively to KDP for at least 90 days, and it will be available free for five days in a 90-day period. But what if you want your book to be free all the time, and you want to use additional publishing services, such as Barnes and Noble PubIt and Google eBooks?

Let me tell you, I did a lot of research, and it was difficult to find a satisfactory answer.  However, I landed on a helpful YouTube video that illuminated the intricacies of offering eBooks for free on Amazon. Check out the link below.


Before Amazon will allow your eBook to be priced free, your book must be free on either the Nook or the iBook store. Then, Amazon will price-match. This means you must use Smashwords or another multiple-channel e-publishing service, price your eBook free on Nook or iBook, and report the lower price to Amazon through a link on their website. Then, you have to wait a while for Amazon to implement the price-match.

So, for now, A First Time for Everything is 99 cents on Amazon — still not a bad deal. Check out the description below.

Fourteen year-old Olivia has always been a play-it-safe kind of girl, enjoying a relatively simple life in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But her comfortable world is turned upside down when her dad marries mean, bossy Essie…who just happens to live in San Diego. Suddenly, Olivia, who has never moved before, is forced to leave her home and friends, and move two thousand miles away. 
Olivia hates everything about California – until she meets Justin, the adventurous and athletic neighborhood hottie. With Justin at her side, will Olivia be able to brave the SoCal social scene and all the intimidating firsts that go along with it? Or will pressures from her new environment knock her down harder than the turbulent waves of the Pacific Ocean?
I will be publishing First Time for Everything using Smashwords very soon, offering it for free on the Nook and iBook stores. And look for my video narration of the short story, coming soon to You Tube and the blog!
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