5 Reasons to Write a Book Series

5 Reasons to Write a Book Series explains the benefits of writing a series of books versus writing a single novel.

In recent years we’ve seen several book series become very successful and even go on to the small or big screens.

Examples:

And, let’s not forget:

These are just some examples I could think of without straining my brain too much. As readers we know why these series work. We get to follow the exploits and adventures of beloved characters for longer than we could do if they only “lived” in a single novel.

Why Write a Series?

  1. You can reuse and build upon established characters and settings.
  2. You have the opportunity to develop secondary characters easier than you usually can do in a single novel.
  3. You can build an audience that will theoretically grow over time with a series versus the audience that one novel is likely to attract because each book has the potential to draw a reader to the other in the series.
  4. A series is easier to promote, market and sell because:
    • You can offer special prices, bundles or giveaway early books from the series to increase sales of new books in a series.
    • Readers hooked on the first books in the series are going to want to buy the new books.
    • It may be easier to get book reviewers who liked the earlier books to review the new books.
    • You can potentially sell all the books in your series for not much more effort than selling a single novel.
  5. You can establish your brand because:
    • Your book covers can carry over certain recognizable cover and interior design characteristics making them easy for readers and buyers to distinguish.
    • Your website and social media accounts can carry over design aspects and colours from your books.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? If so, tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize reviews why writing characters like those in the Netflix series Bloodline is important to good fiction.

Tonight my husband and I will watch the final episode of Netflix’s new series Bloodline. The 13 episode first season premiered on March 20th.

We aren’t usually ones to binge watch TV series. Well, I should clarify and explain that I would if my husband was more keen to do so. I’m not sure if that says more about my self-discipline (or lack thereof), or his, or the fact that, if I’m reading a good fiction book, I can’t put it down until I’ve finished it and that this trait has transitioned to my television watching habits. The availability of complete seasons or series, being streamed or on DVD, makes this a modern day option, doesn’t it?

Yesterday we watched an unheard of FOUR episodes. You’d have to know my husband to understand my disbelief. I don’t think he’s ever willingly subjected himself to four episodes of one series in one day. Granted, it was a Sunday and a bone chilling cold day at that, the type of day when you want to hibernate, sit on your bum and just veg, but mostly I think we watched so many episodes because this series is just so darned good.

What makes it good? The plot is good and offers lots of conflict and I don’t think it can be disputed that the very talented actors are well cast, but to me the realism of the characters themselves takes the prize.

There is nothing black and white about the characters in Bloodline. Though some of the characters are blacker or whiter than others, or perhaps better said darker or lighter shades of grey, I have felt varying degrees of sympathy, anger and understanding for the actions of each character. They’re all very human and like the rest of us, they’ve all made bad decisions that they’ve later come to regret. It’s probably safe to suggest that these bad decisions and the reactions of others to these decisions, drive the plot.

I’m not sure that I could break my observations and praise for the way the characters of this series have been written into a few bullet points, a how-to article on writing characters like in Bloodline, other than to stress the importance of creating multi-dimensional characters. If I could document step-by-step bullet points so that we could all crank out such excellent characters for our books that would be wonderful for all concerned – you, me, and all of our potential readers, but I think my best recommendation would be to watch this series and decide for yourself, if you agree with me, what pointers you can glean and transfer to your own writing projects.

In the meantime I’m counting the minutes until we watch the final episode tonight!

If you’ve seen the series and care to comment (no spoilers please), I’d be interested to know if you agree with me or not.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A Comma! A Comma! My Meaning for a Comma!

A Comma! A Comma! My Meaning for a Comma! explains how a missing or misplaced comma can entirely change the meaning of your writing.

If you’ve been following the news this week, you know that England is going all out to rebury the body of Richard III. Much pomp and pageantry is involved with a parade and the lying in state of his coffin at Leicester Cathedral. His skeletal remains were found under a car park in 2012.

Shakespeare immortalized Richard III in his play of the same name and most of us have heard the quote from this play “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” This memorable line is used at the point in the play where Richard III is about to meet his fate at the hands of the future Henry VII, all for the lack of a horse implying that he was going to lose it all, i.e. his kingdom, for lack of something relatively insignificant by comparison.

As writers we put a great deal of thought into our work. Sometimes without even realizing it, we select wording and vocabulary that sound good and flow well together even before we commit them to paper or a computer keyboard. We research our topic if we’re writing nonfiction, our characters and settings if we’re writing fiction, usually intending to create a particular tone and/or relay a particular message.

But sometimes, sometimes we can completely change the meaning of what we intended to say, because we forget to add or correctly position a mere comma.

How’s this for an example?

Let’s eat, John. versus Let’s eat John.

Learn More About Commas

Here are a few sites where you can read more about the proper use and placement of commas:

And, a couple of sites where you can laugh at the impact a poorly placed, or altogether missing, comma can make:

So, be mindful of your punctuation, in particular the lowly comma. It’s placement can make a huge difference. “A comma! A comma! My meaning for a comma!

Photo credit: William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

9 Motivating Mantras for Writers

9 Motivating Mantras for Writers lists nine mantras to encourage writers.

Sooner or later all writers get discouraged and need something to kick them in the butt to get them back on track.

A mantra is “a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power.”

So, here’s a list of mantras just for writers. If you’re at a point in your writing that you need one to help you out of a rut or to spur you on with your project, I hope you can find something here that does the trick. Otherwise, you might want to bookmark this page for a day when you need that little extra nudge to help you with your writing.

I think therefore I am.

Fake it till you make it.

Just be.

Make it happen.

Just do it.

If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.

One word at a time…

Get it down.

And remember:

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. — Confucius

Do you have a favourite mantra that helps you? Tell us in the comments.

Photocredit: Pixabay

Do Your Characters Pass the Test?

Do Your Characters Pass the Test? Why not test your characters’ mental health using online mental health quizzes to see if they possess the disorders and symptoms you want them to have?

When we create our characters, we get to decide everything about them. If they’re main characters instrumental to our plotline, we might go so far as to decide when and where they were born, if they were bullied in school, if they were bullies in school, whether they suffer from insomnia as adults, and everything in between and beyond that.

To write convincing characters, we need to be able to get into our characters’ heads and know how they’d react in particular situations. Depending on our storyline and our characters, sometimes we need them to be depressed, schizophrenic, or suffer from insomnia or obsessive compulsive disorder for example. Perfectly normal people aren’t always very interesting to write or read about, are they?

But, unless we are depressed (or have been), schizophrenic, or suffer from insomnia or obsessive compulsive disorder, or whatever, how do we know we’re accurately portraying our characters in our stories?

Why not put your characters to the test—literally!

Online Mental Health Quizzes

There are a number of sites online offering an assortment of mental health questionnaires.

  1. Find a quiz online appropriate for your character and their mental health condition. For example if your character is supposed to have Attention Deficit Disorder try this test.
  2. Be your character and answer the quiz.

Did your character pass the test?

Online Mental Health Quizzes

Here’s a list of sites where you can find mental health quizzes. You do not need to create an account to use these quizzes and can remain anonymous.

  1. Psychological Tests & Quizzes – This site offers tests to diagnose the following symptoms and disorders for OCD, PTSD, ADD, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and many other conditions.
  2. Online Psychological Tests – This site offers tests in the following categories: Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders, Addictions, Depression, ADHD, Eating Disorders, Thought Disorders, and more.

Let me know if your characters pass the test in the comments below.

Photo credit: Pixabay

14 Free Ebooks on Writing, Marketing, Publishing and Motivation for Writers

14 Free Ebooks on Writing, Marketing, Publishing and Motivation for Writers – a list of 14 ebooks written and complied by industry experts offering information and guidance on a variety of topics ranging from writing, marketing, publishing, and being just plain motivated to stay the course.

Below is a list of 14 ebooks for writers written and complied by industry experts offering information and guidance on a variety of topics ranging from writing, marketing, publishing, and being just plain motivated to stay the course.

To receive some of these ebooks, you will have to sign up for a free subscriptionn first.

I have visited a lot of these blogs and have downloaded and read many of the free ebooks listed below. A few of the others were tracked down just for this article and I haven’t had a chance to read them yet so if you do please let us know what you think.

I think there’s a lot of good stuff here.

Writing, Publishing, Marketing and Motivation for Writers

  1. Free Guides on Publishing available at BookBaby.com
  2. Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week available at MichaelHyatt.com
  3. Guide + Workbook, How To Write Better Stories available at Jennifer Blanchard
  4. 14 Prompts available at The Write Practice
  5. The Nearly Ultimate Guide to Better Writing available at Write to Done
  6. How to Get Published, How to Increase Book Sales available at Best Seller Labs.com
  7. 10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing available at The Book Designer
  8. Author 2.0 Blueprint available at The Creative Penn
  9. Twitter Just For Writers: The Ultimate How-to Guide for Authors available at Social Media Just For Writers
  10. 279 Days to Overnight Success available at Chris Guillebeau
  11. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide available at Smashwords.com
  12. Write Good or Die by Scott Nicholson
  13. Time Management for Creative People available at Wishful Thinking
  14. The Cheap Retreat Workbook by Catharine Bramkamp

Photo credit: DSC_0590 via photopin (license)

4 Great Resources to Help You Name Your Characters

4 Great Resources to Help You Name Your Characters lists four online resources offering multiple tools to help with naming characters from various eras and ethnic backgrounds.

Trying to name characters for your novel? It can be a challenge sometimes to select appropriate names for your characters especially if you’re trying to find ones from a particular era or ethnic origin. The list below offers some great tools to help you do this.

  1. Writing historical fiction? Check out the Social Security Baby Names site. This is an American site so may not work for everyone. The data is compiled from US born Social Security applicants from 1879. You can search:
    • Baby Name Data including:
      • Change in popularity of baby names
      • Popular names by decade
      • Popular names by state
      • Popular names in US territories
      • Top 5 names over the last 100 years
    • Top 20 all the way up to the top 1,000 names for any given year after 1879
    • The popularity of a particular name from 1900 onward
  2. Wikipedia offers lists of international first names that are currently popular.
  3. The Family Education site allows you to search for:
  4. Behind the Name offers several tools including:

So next time you’re scratching your head trying to come up with an amazing name for your heroine, hero or villain, check out these sites.

Know of any other sites to add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Friday Fun: Authors Have You Invented Any Words Lately?

Friday Fun: Authors Have You Invented Any Words Lately? See this great YouTube video from John Green of mental_floss about words invented by authors.

It’s Friday and it’s been a long week and I don’t want to think anymore. Maybe this is in part due to the fact that it’s mind-numbingly cold here in the Great White North for the second record breaking week. So, I thought I’d treat us both to something nice and easy.

John Green of mental_floss put together a great video for his YouTube channel. It’s entitled 43 Words Invented by Authors

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Photo credit: Pixabay

22 Free Online Courses for Writers

22 Free Online Courses for Writers provides a list of writing-related courses available online free of charge.

Below is a list of online English and writing courses. Many of these are Massive Open Online Course a.k.a. MOOCs available through universities. At the time of writing this blog post, these courses all appear to be free of charge.

These aren’t degree courses, nor are tutors typically available for these courses, but if you’re keen to learn and have the self-discipline to follow through on a self-directed course, you might find just what you’re looking for in this list to help you with your writing, develop a talent for a particular genre, learn the basics or polish what you already know.

Open Learn Courses

  1. English Grammar in Context
  2. Summarising text
  3. Start writing fiction
  4. Essay and report writing skills
  5. Writing what you know
  6. What is good writing?

MIT OPENCOURSEWARE, Creative Writing Courses

  1. Composing Your Life: Exploration of Self through Visual Arts and Writing
  2. Writing Workshop
  3. Bestsellers: Detective Fiction
  4. Writing and Experience: Reading and Writing Autobiography
  5. Writing and Reading Short Stories
  6. Writing and Reading Poems
  7. Genre Fiction Workshop
  8. Transmedia Storytelling: Modern Science Fiction

Various Sources

  1. The Crafty Writer’s Creative Writing Course
  2. How Writers Write Poetry
  3. Certificate Course in Structured Writing for Technical Documentation (Canvas.net)
  4. English Composition (WEU)
  5. Fundamentals of Structured Writing for Technical Documentation (Canvas.net)
  6. Start Writing Fiction
  7. Adventures in Writing (Stanford Online)
  8. Creative Writing: A Master Class

Let me know if you know of any other courses that we can add to the list!

Photo credit: Pixabay

Do You Know Your Characters’ Backstories and Family Histories?

Do You Know Your Characters’ Backstories and Family Histories? introduces the ideas of using traditional family naming patterns and family tree charts when creating your character’s backstories and family histories.

It’s Family Day here in Ontario, and with that in mind, I thought it might be a good time to ask: Do you know your characters’ backstories and, more specifically, who their families were/are?

Admittedly, knowing this isn’t important necessarily for your secondary characters, and knowing this may not add to your story depending on the genre or your storyline. But, it’s always a good exercise to understand what makes your characters tick, and establishing their backstories and family histories are great ways to do this. After all, who we are as people is due to our “nature and nurture” so why should the same not be true for our characters?

Did you know:

  • English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish typically used a naming pattern when naming children that went like this:

    • The first son was named after the father’s father
    • The second son was named after the mother’s father
    • The third son was named after the father
    • The fourth son was named after the father’s eldest brother
    • The fifth son was named after the mother’s eldest brother
    • The first daughter was named after the mother’s mother
    • The second daughter was named after the father’s mother
    • The third daughter was named after the mother
    • The fourth daughter was named after the mother’s eldest sister
    • The fifth daughter was named after the father’s eldest sister

    Not everyone followed it exactly, but when you’re doing genealogy, if your ancestors did use a naming pattern like this, it can make it easier to trace your ancestors, and knowing this, it might make it easier to write your characters’ family histories. Following a traditional naming pattern might be a good idea if your character’s family is supposed to be conservative and traditional.

    With my Scottish ancestors, when a daughter was named for one of her grandmothers she was given the grandmother’s first and surname. So the first granddaughter of Sarah Whitelaw, for example, was named Sarah Whitelaw McPherson. In this way, the mother’s maiden name was preserved. In Cornwall, the practice was to give all the children the mother’s maiden surname as a middle name.

    I’ve also read that the first daughter born to a second wife was named after the first wife, using her full name. (Presumably, the first wife died to warrant such an honour. Generations ago, divorce wasn’t common and I can’t imagine an ex-wife being held in such esteem in this day and age!)

  • When infant mortality rates were high, names were sometimes recycled. So, for example, if a daughter was born and given the name Sarah Whitelaw, and she died before the next daughter was born, some families would recycle the name, and in the case of our example, this second daughter would also be named Sarah Whitelaw. That probably sounds a bit confusing, but when you’re doing genealogy research, it’s not uncommon to discover multiple children with the same name in the same family. This may have been done in an attempt to continue the naming patterns which honoured grandparents and other relatives.
  • Sometimes surnames were given as first names.

Knowing all of this might also help you when it comes to naming your characters. Please note there are variations on this for different nationalities, religions and cultural groups. You can find lots of information online. This site offers some insight.

Tip: Most genealogists used specialized software to track their family records, but you can also use family tree charts to do this. You can find several options here and these may work well for seeing the big picture when you create your fictional families.

Hope that gives you some ideas for creating your characters’ backstories and family histories.