Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block

Whaaaa? A post on Wednesday? Unheard of! This has never happened in the history of the Hannah Heath blog (I think? Maybe? I don't keep track).

So what's going on? Well, for those of you who don't know, I launched a Youtube channel back in July. That's right. A writer attempting to be a Youtuber. Who thought that was a good idea?

Anyway, this Youtube channel has two aspects: #ChatWithHannah, the series where you can write in questions and have them answered every third Wednesday of the month. AND the brand new #ChatWithIndieAuthor series beginning on October 25th where you can ask indie authors about their writing.

So what does this mean for the blog? These videos are going to start being posted here as well as Youtube. So now you can be lazy and just watch my videos here, rather than having to travel waaaaay over to Youtube. You're welcome.

Now, without further ado: Episode 4 of #ChatWithHannah:
Today we talk about NaNoWriMo, favorite movies, newsletter marketing, how to overcome writer's block (assuming it's real...which I'm not convinced of), and more.

Also, when I said "Perihelid came out today" I meant it came out on October 17th, which is the day I recorded this video, not the day I published it (the 18th). *facepalm* My bad. You can still get a copy on Amazon, though, so we're all good. 

Recommended books: 
Here is the blog post about writing sucky first drafts, in case you're interested.

The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on November 15th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers. OR email me here

The interview with S.M. Metzler will be up on October 25th under the new series title of #ChatWithIndieAuthor, so if you have questions for her, use the hashtag below or on social media to let us know! 

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel, share the video on social media, or buy my short story. Or all three!

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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, October 13, 2017

12 Fiction Genres You've Probably Never Heard Of

Things are about to get really hipster in this post.

Like, hipster Josh from Blimey Cow hipster. Yes, I understand that a percentage of you won't understand that reference. Your loss.

You may think you read a lot. You may think you've read across many genres.

But, no matter how much of a hipster bookworm you are, this post is more hipster. This post is going to discuss all of the genres (and/or subgenres) that you've probably never heard of. So put down your specialized coffee drink and listen up:
12 Fiction Genres You've Probably Never Heard of
Note: I'm listing examples of books and movies for each genre, but some of them I have not read or seen. What? I only pretend like I know everything. Anyway, all of the examples that I have read (in case you care, which I'm not really sure why you would) are listed in green.

1. Wuxia. A genre of Chinese fiction that focuses on the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. I think you all recognized that this was a genre, but didn't know it had a name because you are uncultured swine. Well, now you know. You're welcome.
  • Examples: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or pretty much any of those Chinese action movies that have terrible English dubs that people pretend they've watched, but actually only caught the first twenty minutes of it before giving up. 
2. Epistolary. You know those books that are just a bunch of letters? No? Well, those are epistolary. It doesn't have to just be letters, though. It has expanded to emails, newsletter clippings, diary entries, etc.
3. Atom punk. A subgenre of punk that usually takes place in the 1945-1965. It typically deals with communism, space travel, and what the world would look like with the advancement of atomic weapons, atomic energy, etc.
4. Slipstream. This is also what could be called "weird." It's a genre that slips in and out of fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. It always has some type of surreal or clearly unreal elements, but also some that are very grounded in real life, thus giving it a strange feel.
5. Black Comedy. Okay, so maybe some of you have heard of this one. Calm down. I'm mostly including it because it's a slightly lesser-known genre that I adore.
It's a type of comedy that deals with dark, morbid, or taboo subjects in a comedic or satirical way.  
6. Robinsonade. Yep. This is an entire genre based off of the Robinson Cruseo book. Because apparently that's necessary. It's focus is on people (usually just one person) being stranded on some type of island (or maybe a really secluded area). It's a broad genre, okay?
7. Antinovel. The anti-villain of novels! Not really. It's just a type of experimental fiction that goes out of its way to avoid established conventional styles of writing a novel. It usually lacks a plot, traditional character arcs, linear narration, set beginnings and ends, and "proper" syntax.
  • Examples: *sigh* I don't know. Go ask that grungy, disdainful looking person wandering your nearest used bookstore. He/she will know. 
8. Jiangshi fiction. This is the long lost sister of werewolf and vampire fiction. It is a monster/horror story centering around the jiangshi from Chinese folklore. Jiangshi is a mix of vampire and werewolf: It cannot speak, shambles around, and, instead of drinking blood, sucks away people's chi. So there. That's a fact you now know that is clearly essential and not at all extraneous. 
9. Flintlock. A subgenre of fantasy that, rather than being swords and sorcery, is guns and shooting. Rather than a setting influenced by the medieval ages, it's usually set in a world similar to the industrialized period of the 18th or 19th century.
10. Mannerpunk. You may have heard of steampunk, but have you heard of mannerpunk? Of course not. It's a very tongue-in-cheek genre name that is also alternately named "Fantasy of manners." It is a fantasy novel where there is more of an emphasis on etiquette and social constructs than actual fantasy elements. 
11. Philosophical fiction. This is a type of novel where the plot and/or theme is based entirely off of a philosophical subject. They are specifically written to address a specific question within philosophy and are usually (though not always) pretty hefty and thoughtful. 
  • Examples: Pretty much anything ever written by Fyodor Doestoevky.
12. Cli-Fi. An emerging genre, cli-fi is short for "climate fiction." Put simply, it is sci-fi that deals with climate change. It can either focus on environmental sciences or climate disasters (usually man-made ones) or a negative futuristic projection of climate change or all of these. Because what better way to protest climate change than chopping down trees to make books? 
Bonus Genre: This one came to my attention after creating the cover image for this post and I'm too lazy to update it, so I'm just calling this a bonus: Bangsian Fantasy. Look it up. It's fascinating.

Now, in case you hadn't noticed: These genres are so obscure that their lines are very blurred. They have a lot of similarities to each other or with other, better-known genres. As such, there are a lot of very hipster arguments going on about which of these genres are "real" genres and which books actually fall into which genre. 

The answer to these arguments? Pffft. Like I care. It doesn't really matter. I just think these are fun genres to know about in case you ever find yourself wanting to read something weird and wonderful. Or if you ever want to sound really smart...or just really annoying. 

Which of these genres had you already heard about? Which are you interested in exploring? Do you have your own obscure genres to add? I'd love to hear from you! Get your hipster on and leave a comment below.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)

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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Macro and Micro Editing: What They Are and How to Use Them to Fix Your Story

Wouldn't it be awesome if we had the ability to edit our lives?

If magically awarded this power, I think we all know exactly what parts we'd like to edit. Fix that conversation, don't get that one haircut, change majors, never watch the Star Wars prequel films.

Yet, when coming face to face with our manuscripts, most of us don't know exactly how to edit. We don't know which parts to delete, which scenes to move where, or, on a more minute level, how to punctuate dialogue, correct paragraph structures, or ensure good grammar.

We stare at our book and wonder, "Would it save any time if I just gave up and went mad now?"

The answer is no.

It would not save time or help your publishing efforts in any way. So what are you supposed to do?

Well, there are a lot of editing methods out there. However, a lot of them boil down to a similar formula to this one:

First, Macro Edit. Next, Macro and Micro Edit. Lastly, Micro Edit.

What does that mean? I'll show you:
Macro and Micro Editing: What They Are and How to Use Them to Fix Your Story
What is Macro Editing? 

Put simply, Macro Editing is editing the overall structure of the story. It's stepping back, looking at the big picture, and then setting about to fix the parts that don't make sense. This means you're cleaning up plot holes, strengthening themes, correcting pacing, and making sure the story has an overall clean, concise, good flow.

How do I Macro Edit? 

There are a few methods, but this is a favorite of mine because it makes logical sense to me:

Step 1: Make a list of all of the important parts of the story. The inciting incident, the climax. All of the different characters arcs. The themes or messages you want to convey. The writing style. Specific subplots or twists that you feel are necessary to the story. Write them all down with little explanations next to each. Give this list a name because it will now be your new best friend throughout the rest of your editing process. From here on out I'm going to refer to this list as Batman because...well, whatever. I don't need to validate my naming choices. Clearly Batman is the best name ever.

Step 2: Read through your story. Keep Batman next to you while you read. Do you see anything in your story that isn't in line with something mentioned by Batman? This could be anything from seeing a paragraph that would be better somewhere else to noticing a character arc heading in the wrong direction. Make a note of it (either with a red pen, sticky notes, or using your word processor's commenting function). Do you see anything in your story that is in line with Batman, but could be strengthened? This might look like a weak theme or a slump in the writing style. Make a note. See something that you think should have been mentioned by Batman, but isn't? This could come in the form of an exciting subplot that needs to be foreshadowed or a POV that is more important than you originally thought. Make a note of it somewhere on Batman.

Step 3: Apply your notes. Your manuscript? Copy and paste it into a new document. Now you'll have two: The original and the one that you are about to rip to shreds. Take all of the notes you made and start using them to improve your story. It will be messy. There may be tears. That's okay. Keep going.

What is Micro Editing? 

This is when you get to fix the smaller stuff. Punctuation, typos, sentence structure, page breaks, paragraph size. All of the little, annoying things you probably didn't have time to deal with when you were just trying to get the story down.

How do I Micro Edit? 

It's not easy. Because you wrote the story and have read it so many times, you'll end up reading what you meant rather than what you actually put down. For instance, you'll read "I am on with the Force an the Force is wit me" as "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me." How do you avoid this? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Read it out loud. Preferably to somebody else. Seriously. This will help you catch a lot of errors. You'll notice typos or problems with sentence flow that you probably wouldn't have seen before.

Tip 2: Have your computer read it to you. Yeah, this will be annoying and metallic sounding. But your computer will stutter over incorrect sentence structure or spelling mistakes, which is awesome.

Tip 3: Know your weaknesses. Do you have an affinity for typos? I know I do. Do you have a habit of skipping words? Using commas incorrectly? Know what areas you fail in and keep an eye out for those hot spots when reading.

Avengers, Assemble! 


Now that you have this information, you can start assembling these editing styles into an editing process that works for you. Here's what mine looks like: 

Step 1: Macro Edit. This part is messy. Fire and brimstone. Earthquakes, volcanos! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice. 
It's bad. But that's okay. Because I get to move onto step 2: 

Step 2: Don't panic. Seriously. 

Step 3: Macro and Micro Edit. That's right. More Macro Editing. Why? Because, chances are, in cleaning up plot holes and themes and characters, I've created a few other holes. So now I get to go back and catch those. Thankfully, there are less, so I can also do a bit of micro editing along the way. Also, note that this round of Macro Editing is slightly different. I'm stilling listening to Batman, but I'm also editing with a very clear question: Is this entertaining and does it move the plot forward? If the answer is no, it has be reworked or slaughtered. 

Step 4: Micro Edit and Macro Edit. No, this is not the same as Step 3. My main focus is now on micro editing, but I also keep an eye out for any pesky macro issues that may still need cleaning. 

Step 5: Micro edit. 

And that's it.

What? I didn't say it would be easy. 

Sure, your order of editing may look different than mine. That's fine as long as we all understand that my process is clearly the best process and all others are inferior. Got it? Okay. With that out of the way: Feel free to rearrange your editing process to match your personal style. However, it can and should involve some forms of macro and micro editing. 

Whichever way you choose will take a lot of time and tears and (possibly) curse words. But that's okay. You are taking an ugly first draft and you are making it better. That's awesome. Go you! 

Do you have any tips to add or questions to ask? I'd love to hear from you!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles: 

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Commonly Used Acronyms In the Creative Writing World

Every profession has some type of lingo. Creative writers? We like to use acronyms.

A lot.

Possibly because we're so burnt out on words that we like to take short cuts wherever we can.

It can get a little bit disorienting because a lot of our acronyms mean different things to non-writers. So if you're new to the writing world (or maybe you've been here a while and still don't know what on earth HEA means), then here's a quick guide.
Commonly Used Acronyms In the Creative Writing World
WIP: Work-in-progress. Yep. That's what writers call their current writing project.
  • Used in a sentence: "Yeah, my WIP is a total disaster and I hate it and want to light it on fire, but I can't because I also really love it." 
MC: Main Character. Not the person connected to parties and rap. That's the muggle MC. The writer MC is our beloved main character. 
  • Used in a sentence: "The MC is actually pretty cool, but I can't decide on her age. name, or eye-color so I just keep changing it as I write and now she's some type of weird shape-shifting, alias-using Dunedain." 
MS: Manuscript. No, not a terrible disease (though sometime it feels like this). Also, if you think this MS is the same as a WIP, you'd be wrong. An MS is usually a completed or decently clean draft. Or the term used on twitter when WIP is one character too long. 
  • Used in a sentence: "I'm going to send my MS off to my editor, then anxiously eat chocolate in a corner while I wait to hear back." 
CP: Critique Partner. This is the fellow writer who has decided to hand over their book to you while you hand over yours to them. You each critique the other's story. 
  • Used in a sentence: "My CP is really, really cool, but if she says something mean about my favorite character I may go off the rails." 
R&R: Revise and Resubmit. For when an agent really, really likes your story, but feels it needs some cleaning up. He/she will ask that you fix it, then send it on over again. 
  • Used in a sentence: "So-and-so requested an R&R, which means my story is actually worth something, which means I'm not a failure of a writer, which means I deserve more coffee right now."
ARC: Advanced Reader's Copy. Writers hope that they can find book reviewers who want an ARC of their story. They're usually sent out to special fans or influential reviewers (or both) as a way of hyping their release.
  • Used in a sentence: "I'm sending my ARCs out as soon as I stop hugging this glorious box full of copies of my beloved story." 
POV: Point of View. Whose eyes are you telling your story from? That's the POV. 
How to do self-promotion, everybody. Take notes. 

HEA: Happily Ever After. This can be used to refer to the style of the story or the actual ending, but it usually refers to both. 
  • Used in a sentence: "My story is no HEA, so if you're wanting something like that then you'll need to go watch the Disney channel." 
LI/RI: Love Interest/Romantic Interest. As far as I'm aware, these acronyms are interchangeable. I'm also pretty sure these terms are self explanatory.
  • Used in a sentence: "I can't come up with any clever examples for using LI in a sentence because I don't write even vaguely romantic stories, so this is going to have to do." 
There are many others, but these are the ones that I often find myself coming into contact with. And these aren't even listing the acronyms used by indie authors, publishing/published authors, and book reviewers. Yep. There's a whole different set for each of them.

Did I miss any main ones? Let me know! And don't forget to leave some comments with your favorite acronyms.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Writer Until It's Too Late
The 5-Star Rating System: What Book Reviewers Mean VS How Indie Authors Take It
14 Signs That You Are Turning Into a Writer

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Why You Should Let Your First Draft Suck (And How to Do It)

I've always had a fear of writing first drafts. A paralyzing one, honestly. We're talking Ron-Weasley's-horror-of-spiders level of fear.

I love writing first drafts, but there's always a terror that accompanies this love. The thoughts that run through my head as I write go something like this:

"What if I accidentally weave in a massive plot hole? Wait, this character's arc just changed half way through and now she has an inconsistent personality. Is this subplot dumb? Darn it, the pacing is off. Oh, look! A typo!"

The amount of doubt that courses through me each time I write a first draft is huge. I start to doubt my ideas and skills. And, sometimes, it makes me freeze up. I'm so fixated on making my first draft good that I can't move forward.

You've probably experienced this. Most (possibly all?) writers have. It's a huge pain, isn't it?

Well, have no fear. I discovered something that has helped me overcome this issue.

The solution is: I need to allow my first drafts to suck.

What? You're telling me that doesn't suddenly whisk away all of your fears? You don't find that a comforting thought? Pffft. Please. Let me explain to you why this is, in fact, an extremely freeing concept:
Why You Should Let Your First Draft Suck (And How to Do It)
1. There's a reason they're call "first drafts." First drafts. FIRST. This word indicates that there will be later drafts. There is no Writing God who says: "Here, I'm giving you one shot at writing this book. You get to write it once, then you have to offer it up to me and, if it sucks, you're going to die." If this were true, our need to get our initial draft perfect would be justified. But this is not, in fact, true. We're allowed as many tries as we want. Whatever horrible mistakes we make in the first draft is absolutely fixable because we get to write a second, a third, even a twelfth draft.

2. Freedom to write horribly means freedom to experiment, play, and enjoy. You don't have to worry about making mistakes. You get to just sit down and write. You can test out that new writing style, play around with story setting, and enjoy the sheer act of creation. Rather than sweating nervously as the cursor blinks back at you, you can get to sit down and have some fun. Every action gets to be an act of creation. Hamilton would be so proud of you.

3. It allows you to get all of the bad ideas out of the way. For every good idea that I have, I experience about 394 bad ones. I'm not suggesting that I write all 394 of them down. Some of them are glaringly terrible to the point that I know not to put them on paper. But some aren't revealed to be horrendous until they're sitting next to something not-terrible. Giving our first drafts the room to suck means that we now know which directions we shouldn't take our stories in. This is very valuable because it means our next draft can focus on polishing the not-terrible ideas and burning the hideous ones.

4. It means you're more likely to actually finish. If you're constantly trying to keep your first draft from sucking, you're having to refocus valuable creative energy into putting a damper on your own mind. You are also in a state of mind that is hypercritical and questioning everything you write, which often turns into doubting your talents and thoughts. This can cripple you as a writer to the point where you won't be able to move on...or you'll move forward with your draft at a Jabba the Hut pace. These are all avoidable issues if you just give yourself the room to write what you want without getting tangled up in the "but doesn't this suck?" mindset.

Now, perhaps this is all sounding logical to you. You see why it's okay to write a sucky first draft. Great. But how do you actually execute this plan? Here's what you need to do:

1. Go in with a plan. Have some idea of where you want this story to go. If you're a pantster, check out this blog post for ideas. If you're a plotter, put together an outline. You are licensed to write a sucky first draft, yes. But going in completely blind is never a good idea. But full-length novels do require some amount of plot, character, and world planning before you jump into that first draft, otherwise editing will be a nightmare. However, do not fixate on your plan. . I can guarantee that you won't stick to it 100%. That's fine. Healthy, even. Your plan is not a rule book. It's more, well...Barbossa will explain:

2. Write the first draft for yourself, and yourself only. This draft is for your eyes only. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Don't let anyone else see it. What happens in your first draft stays in your first draft. When you are writing it, you shouldn't think about how anyone else would see this draft. It's for you: It's helping you kick start an idea, get words on a page, form a story that will be refined in a later draft. It's not for anybody else. If you find yourself writing this and thinking about what your beta reader would say, what your friend would say, what your creative writing teacher would say: Shut that thought down. They don't matter right now. Right now it's just you and the page.

2. Keep moving forward. Be as swift as a coursing river. Do not try to go back and edit what it was you just wrote. Move forward. You can go back and fix "mistakes" later. They are not your concern at the moment. Right now you're just trying to finish the first draft. If you find yourself looking back at what you wrote for any other reason than to remember where you left off, you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. And that's not progress. And no progress means no finished book, which means no book deal, which means no money, which means no caffeine, which means Unhappy Writer. Can't argue with that logic, can you? I thought not. So keep moving forward.

3. Be proud. Do you have any idea how hard it is to write a book? It's hard. Really hard. And yet, here you are, taking on this behemoth of a task of your own free will. You're completely crazy, what are you thinking? turn back now! awesome. Okay, maybe what you're writing isn't perfect right now. That doesn't make you bad or stupid. Don't let the concept of writing something sucky make you think that you are sucky. You're not. You should be proud of what you're doing because it's hard and it takes a lot of guts. Keep at it. You're going places.

4. Remember that you can fix it later. Rewriting and editing. Perhaps you've heard of these terms? Yes? Well, they are lifesavers. After you write this first draft, you get to go back and rewrite the plot to fill in holes, flesh out characters, and make the voice, themes, and pacing coherent. Then you get to edit to make everything look all shiny and pretty. So don't worry about the mess you're making right now. You can clean it later.

Nobody said your first draft had to be perfect. It just needs to be written. That's all. So go and write that first draft with a boldness and craziness and messiness that makes your heart smile.

What do you think? Do you agree with the concept of allowing your first draft to suck? Why or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
Controlling Your Plot Bunnies: How to Write a Novel From Start to Finish

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Character Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them

I'm terrible at remembering people's names.

I can remember the way they talk and walk. I can remember the ways they fidget. I can even remember special features about their appearance: Their hair, the type of glasses they wear, the tattoo on their wrist.

But I can't remember names.

And, unfortunately, neither can a lot of readers.

Think about the last book you read and actually enjoyed. Do you remember the names of all of the characters? Possibly not. But you do remember specific things about each character: Their quirks, their likes, their dislikes, phrases they used a lot.

You remember their character tags.

And that, my friends, is what we will discuss today. Character tags.
Character Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them
What is a character tag? It is a specific device that we, as writers, use to label a character. It is a unique action a character does that immediately calls to mind that character's personality. It is not a replacement for character development: You still need to develop a character and make each one different from the rest. Character tags are simply a way to aid in this process. For example:

Meet Fred. Fred is a very bubbly, excited person. We know this because of how you've presented him in your novel: He's always optimistic, he smiles a lot, and often gets into enthusiastic discussions with others. His character tag? He waves his hands around when he speaks. A lot. Now you can have a character walk into the room and start waving his arms and your reader immediately knows: That's Fred.

Why are they helpful? Because, as mentioned before, readers often forget a character's name. And, if you have enough characters, sometimes they all start to blend together in your readers mind, especially if there are characters with similar outlooks, goals, or names. A character tag helps remind your reader, "Oh, yeah! That's that guy! He's always happy. I know because he's always making excited gestures with his hands."

How can I use them? I'm so glad you asked. There are, in fact, dozens of different types of character tags. Let me walk you through some of the main ones:

Physical Traits

Hair color, eye color, height, voice. Take a unique physical trait and connect it to something unique in the character.
  • Notable Example: Merida. She has wild, fiery red hair. This is not only a tribute to her Scottish heritage, but is also connected to her wild personality and fiery disposition. Of course, other characters in this movie do have red hair, but it's not quite as red or as untamed as hers. 
Seriously, Disney, nobody's hair moves that way in the wind. STOP IT.
It's worth noting that this is the weakest type of tag. Why? Because people don't really have any control over their physical traits, so they aren't generally indicative of personality and thus not always helpful for character building. That's not to say you can't use this tag: It just requires some extra thought. Also: perhaps consider using it in addition to another tag.

Dialogue 

Speech patterns, slang, vocabulary, repetitive phrases, and accents all fall under this category.
  • Notable Example: Yoda. Only speaks like this, he does. Whenever we hear people speaking in anastrophe, we think: "Ah, yes. Yoda, Jedi Master." Or, depending on our level of commitment to the Star Wars fandom: "That creepy-looking green puppet from that one sci-fi movie." 
Speech can tell us a lot of things about a character. The dude who says "yo" all the time is memorable....Even more memorable if he is, in fact, a very intelligent though very casual professor. The character who uses large words is unique....Even more so if she is six years old. These tags help remind your readers of who the character is and what makes them special.

Body Language

Hand gestures, arm folding, slumped shoulders, constantly fidgeting with hair, etc.
  • Notable Example: Heath Ledger's Joker. Throughout the movie we see the Joker licking the sides of his mouth. This enforces his appearance of insanity while also making us wonder more about his scars because they appear to be uncomfortable to him. 
Not only should body language character tags be noticeable, but they should also tell us something about the character. Lots of hand gestures? Oh, that's the excited character. Folded arms? Mr. Grumpy Pants. Always stands with heels together and feet pointed out? That's the ballerina. Rubbing temples? He's the stressed-out one.

Possessions 

You know. That one thing that your character is rarely seen without. It's either an article of clothing or  something that can be carried around with them.
  • Notable Example: Peter Quill. He always has his walkman with him, so much so that it is elemental to his character. Not only does it have an unique backstory (his terminally ill mother made it for him), but it defines an important part of his character (his free, somewhat off-kilter spirit matches the music on his walkman tape). 
This is the most common character tag and arguably the most fun to write. The item often has a backstory, but doesn't necessarily need one. It almost always is an elemental part of the character's personality, but sometimes it's just this weird, unexplained thing a character happens to like. Have fun with it. 

Scent 

Errr. I don't really know how else to describe this? The way a character smells. Which sounds weird, but bear with me.
  • Notable Example: The Pallid Man from the 12 Monkeys TV series. We don't even know his name, but we always know where he's been or if he's nearing the other characters. Why? Because he smells of jasmine and lavender. Two nice scents that now have a very negative connotation to the characters in this series because the Pallid Man is a killer.
The best usages of this character tag is usually when it's done ironically. When scents that should mean one thing (lavender = peace) end up meaning something very, very different (lavender = death). But, of course, you can do whatever you want. I'm not the boss of you. 

What are some issues to avoid? 
  • Stereotyping. I see a lot of very stereotyped character tags: The innocent girl with blue eyes. The villain who always wears black. Let's get a bit more creative. 
  • Overdoing it. If your character tag is stuttering, you don't need your character to stutter every word. If it's a person constantly tapping his foot on the ground, he doesn't have to do that all of the time. You want to avoid using repetitive terms or cramming tags down readers throats. It's okay to be subtle. 
  • Relying on character tags as a substitution for character development. This is a character development aid, not a replacement. You still need to give your character a memorable personality and arc.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are some of your favorite character tags? I'd love to hear from you!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career

Your book on a shelf. Somewhere (a bookstore, a friend's house, a library), somehow (hopefully not one involving bribery). That, ultimately, is every writer's goal. We have a story to tell and we want to tell it. Now. Right now.

But life gets busy. School is hard, but we're pretty sure we need it because that's what people keep saying, so we go to school and keep our stories in the back of our minds. Work is annoying, but eating is kind of nice, so we head off to work while dreaming of our notebooks and word documents. Family is important and a social life is (presumably) necessary, so we take time out for that, too.

What happens to our story? It gets pushed to the side. An overwhelming feeling arises: I need to write it. I need to write it NOW. 

But we're never quite able to write as much as we want...or when we want to. And, so, we feel like failures. Like we're not doing enough.

Have you ever felt this way?

Well, here's the thing:

You shouldn't.
Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career
I look around me and see so many writers rushing after publication: They need it, and they need it now. I get it, because I often feel exactly the same way.

But you know what else I see? Authors publishing stories prematurely, then crawling under their desk in shame when they realize that they just blew their shot at a first impression. Writers spending sweat and tears querying only to receive rejection after rejection because agents or publishers don't want a rushed book.

And I see something else, too: Writers looking over their shoulders, seeing other authors and thinking, "They wrote that book in 6 months! I've been working on mine for years. I must suck."

It's not a good mindset, guys. I'm not completely sure where it came from, but I do know that it needs to stop.

Maybe the mindset comes from our fast-paced society. In which case: This same fast-paced style birthed cheese-in-a-can (because who has time to cut cheese?). Do you really want your book to be the equivalent of Cheez Whiz? I thought not.

Maybe it's a need for instant gratification. Well, I have news for you: It's never going to be enough. You publish one thing quickly? Great. The excitement will last a while, but then you'll find yourself needing more. And then you'll be off again, chasing after some unachievable feeling and invariably trip on something, spill your coffee all over yourself, then topple into a bookshelf and be buried alive. Not fun.

Maybe it's a desire for money or fame. Errrr. No. This is terrible motivation for writing a book. Or doing anything else, really.

Whatever the reason for this frantic need to publish, it's absurd.

This is not a race. You write your story. Yours. You take as much or as little time as you need to make it into something complete and beautiful and worthy of pride.

Don't look at what other people are doing: They're not you. They have different goals and writing styles and story lengths. To compare your writing career with another person is stupid.
Don't do it.

Don't look at what you haven't accomplished yet. Instead, look at what you have accomplished so far. Yes, this applies even if you've only written a paragraph. Look at that paragraph! It's yours and you wrote it. You picked the words, you put them in that order. Those specific words have never been in that specific order ever before, so be proud of what you've created.

Don't look at how long it's taking you. Look at where it is taking you. Are you learning new skills? Discovering new ideas? Then your writing has already taken you to a new, better place. It is already worthwhile. You don't need immediate publication to prove that you are spending your time wisely.

Never feel bad for taking a long time on a story. You'll finish someday.

Never feel bad for not having published yet. Your book will be on somebody's shelf someday.

All you need is time. Not any specific, set amount. Just time. That's all. Maybe a lot, maybe a little. Nobody can tell for sure, which is why you shouldn't feel the need to rush. Because what are you rushing for, anyway? What imaginary deadline are you chasing? If it's killing your story or your soul, then throw it out the window. You don't need it.

What you do need is the willingness to work hard, the heart to keep pushing forward, and the patience to keep yourself from butchering your story in an attempt to earn the title of "author" or "author of multiple books." (Okay, that last one isn't really a title, but we're all just going to go with it, okay? Thanks).

Oh, and you may need a little bit of chocolate. Okay. Maybe a lot of chocolate.

But the point is: Don't rush this. There's no scenario where rushing your writing will turn out well. But there are hundreds where working at your own pace will pay off.

What do you think? Can you relax now? Can you stop killing yourself to get your book off and published and instead focus on the act of creation? I hope so.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles: 

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Friday, September 1, 2017

11 Pieces of Encouragement Writers Need to Hear

Writers. If somebody tries to look over our shoulder while we're writing, we cover the words in horror and give the person a dirty look. Or turn around and say politely:

"Look, I don't mean to be rude, but this is not as easy at is looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me."

Though, mostly, it's the former.

Why do writers do this? Let me sum up:

We spend a lot of time up in our heads, asking questions, creating characters, and writing stories. We do most of this alone. We're so close to our own writing that it becomes a part of us: It reflects our time, our ideas, our skills.

So the thought of other people reading our writing is scary, because what if what we just wrote completely sucks? We just foolishly wasted our time. What if the idea is dumb? Then we must be dumb, too. What if the writing isn't clever or noteworthy? Then maybe we aren't either of those things, either.

And here's the thing: None of these things are true. We writers are not our drafts. We are not wasting our time, nor does a clunky paragraph make us clunky people. Sometimes, we know this. But sometimes most of the time, we need a reminder.

If you know a writer, then you can be this reminder for them. Here are 11 phrases that writers need to hear on a regular basis. So either tell your writer friend or, if you are a writer, walk over to a mirror and tell yourself.
11 Pieces of Encouragement Writers Need to Hear
1. *massive, impressed smile* "You're writing a book/story/poem? That is so cool!" Sometimes writers just need to be reminded that yes, what they're doing is cool. It's not doom and gloom and horrible and frustrating and all of the other things that writers think when their project gets tough. Not only does this make us writers feel appreciated, but it reminds us to appreciate ourselves.

2. "I'd love to read it if you ever need a second pair of eyes!" Note: Asking, "Can I read it?" can scare a writer about as much as shampoo scares Snape. Writers love to know that people want to read their work, but maybe they just don't want it read right at that moment. Thus, letting them know that you're there when the need arises is both helpful and encouraging.

3. "Your idea/book/poem/story sounds amazing!" Whenever they tell you about your story, this is the response they need to hear. Even if their descriptions were rambling. Even if they trailed off mid-sentence and turned the color of Merlin's scarf (neckerchief? I'm not sure). In fact, especially if that's what happened. Now, of course, if they told you their idea because they were asking for feedback, lead with this statement but also offer constructive help. Praise, but offer kind tips and thoughts. Unless they didn't ask for your opinion, in which case: Just be nice.

4. "I really liked ____ about your idea/writing." Mention at least one specific thing you really liked about your writer's idea (or writing...if it's published or if they let you read their work). This will convince them that there is something genuinely good about their work and that you aren't just lying about liking it. Because yes, we do often suspect friends and family of sparing our feelings. In fact, we often have to keep ourselves from squinting at them and saying:
Or maybe just whispering: "Friends don't lie."

5. "Just take your time. Do you know the number of times a writer will question a story that they've been hacking away at for years (or months...depending on how long it usually takes them to write a book)? The number is high. Very high. Some writers just need to hear that it's okay that their book is taking a long time to write.

6. "I would/will totally read that!" Don't say you will if you have no intention of doing so. That's rude. And say "would" if you actually would read it, but it's not published/completed yet. Not, "Yeah, I would totally read that if [insert excuse here]." That is also rude.

7. "Those idiots don't know a good thing when they see it." For when they're gobbling up chocolate in a corner after receiving an unkind rejection letter. Offering to help them burn the publishing house down would also probably be appreciated, but that's not moral or legal, so please don't. The more wholesome plan B would be to talk about all of the amazing authors that were rejected multiple times. Just Google it. There are an insane amount.

8. "I love this character!" Seriously. Knowing a person likes our character is not only exciting (because "oh my gosh, I love that character too! What a coincidence!"), but is also proof that we didn't completely fail in the character-creation department. You'll get major brownie points if you mention that you ship Character A with Character B. Major points. And possibly an excited squeal.

9. "This story made me laugh/cry." Seriously. If you read their story and it evoked emotion, TELL THEM. Causing strong emotion is a sign that the story was well-done, so hearing this from a reader is basically hearing that you have succeeded as a writer.

10. "I can't wait to read more!" If they let you read their precious project (or if it's published and you're writing a review/tweeting them/messaging them/emailing them/help-me-I-can't-stop-giving-examples), this is a massive compliment. You've just given your writer a reason to keep creating stories.

11. "You can do this." Simply telling your writer that you believing in them means more than they could ever express in an entire novel.

Beyond that, there are a plethora of things you can do to encourage your writer. Such as: Don't ask these 12 questions, try to understand how our minds work (but don't look too closely or your brain might explode), and help them find times to write.

If they're published authors: Read their book, review it, purchase copies to give to friends, and buy a hot air balloon and parachute copies of their work down into highly populated areas.

If you yourself are a writer: Try to tell yourself some of these words of encouragement. And absolutely go share them with your writers friends, both online and in real life. Dropping these pieces of encouragement randomly will make somebody's day.

Now, armed with this knowledge, go forth and free yourself and others from the shackles of despondent creativity. Go on. Go. Fly away, Stanley. Be free!


Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity
10 Reasons Why Writers Aren't the Weird Ones 
12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing 

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Fun Facts, Siblings, and Writing What You DON'T Know! - A Guest Post by K.L. + Pierce


Blog post on Monday? As my old and loyal followers may know, I only post on Monday's for special occasions or when I'm covering a topic I usually don't cover. Well, today's post falls into both categories  Something special is about to happen and it is a topic I don't usually cover: A book launching! 

Allow me to introduce you to K.L. + Pierce: An amazing indie author. She is re-launching her first novel: Two Lives Three Choices. It is a fun sci-fi novel with heartfelt themes and an awesome antagonist (anti-villain? I'm not sure. You'll just have to read it and decide for yourself). I've had the pleasure of reading the original novel and have to say: I am beyond excited to read the re-launched version. Pierce has a lot of talent and a lot of heart and I am proud to be able to host her on my blog. 

Today she's here to talk about Two Lives Three Choices: fun facts, themes, and characters. But this isn't just a post about her book. It's also a post about yours. Rather, some tips that Pierce has discovered during her publication journey that she's passing down to us. 

So sit down and get ready to learn about her book, sibling relationships, and writing tips. You're not going to want to miss this: 
Fun Facts, Siblings, and Writing What You DON'T Know! - A Guest Post by K.L. + Pierce
All right, let’s start with a couple of fun facts:

Fun Fact #1: My novel, Two Lives Three Choices focuses on the relationship between two siblings.

Fun Fact #2: I am an only child.

Which means I have a grand total of zero experience when it comes to siblings.

So how did I end up writing a book that focuses on that relationship? Well...guess what this guest post is going to be about? =)

While I don’t have any siblings myself, I know a lot of people who do. From various conversations I learned that there was:
  • A lot of teasing / bickering involved 
  • There was that one sibling who always got into trouble 
  • No matter what, you’re still family 
While I decided I was happy being an only child, I was always fascinated by the connection that siblings shared. Despite the bickering and fighting, a sibling could also be your most trusted friend. I always wondered how far that bond could be pushed. If two siblings went from being each other’s confidant to bitter enemies, would they ever recover from that? Even if they couldn’t, would they still love each other?

I didn’t know, so I decided to answer that question for myself.

And because I wanted to write Sci-Fi, I decided to raise the stakes on the whole bitter enemies front.

Let’s just say that the relationship between the siblings in my story mirrors the relationship between Thor and Loki in the sense that one of the siblings is the antagonist. Or maybe anti-villain. I don’t know. It really depends on the chapter.

Anyway, I took what little I knew about siblings, wrote up two sibling characters, and inserted them into my story. Which is totally as simple as it sounds. Ok, no. Those two characters were hard to write and they ripped my heart out more than once. But I love them to bits so it’s ok. Yes, I’m one of those writers.

After the first draft was done, I asked people who had siblings to read it. I wanted to make sure I was accurately depicting a sibling relationship, because it was such an important element to the story. After incorporating their feedback, I was satisfied my portrayal for those two characters.

Now I just have to get both siblings on the same side. And make sure it’s not the good sibling that switches…. Future books! =D

Anyway, that’s the shortened version for how this only child wrote a book about siblings.

A piece of advice before you go. Just because you’ve never experienced something (like having a sibling) doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. You have many resources at your disposal. Friends, family, peers, etc. Google is my best friend, whether it’s surviving college or writing the next best seller (a girl can dream)!

Besides, this is all part of the territory if you’re writing any sort of fiction. Do the research, and write as best as you can! My guess it’ll turn out better than you suspect it will! =)

Two Lives Three Choices will be re-launched on September 15th, so everybody go mark their calendar. Did you do it? Okay. Good. Now go bookmark her website, follower her on twitter, on Facebook, and pretty much anywhere else her website links over to. Did you do it? Okay. Good. Now join me in sitting here and stalking these networks for new book news. 

Also, while we're waiting, leave a comment below and tell Pierce how awesome her post is! Ask questions, talk about your own sibling characters, mention what it is that you're writing that you don't know about, etc. Let's chat! 

Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Get Your Book Read and Reviewed

There are a lot of methods for getting people to buy your book. Some good ones include clever marketing. Some less good ones include running after strangers and yelling, "Buy my book!"

Yep. There are a lot of ways to get people to buy your book. But we're not going to discuss those today.

Today we're talking about getting people to read and review your book. What's the difference between buying and reading? One is passive and the other aggressive. One engages the wallet for a few seconds and one engages the mind for hours. One will get you one sale and the other will (possibly) earn you several future sales.

You don't want somebody to just buy your book. You need them to read it. And then you need them to tell other people to read it by somehow getting them to review your story. You need them to be the one running after strangers and yelling "Buy this book!" Why be crazy yourself when you can brainwash other people into doing it for you?

The point is: Reads and reviews are an author's lifeblood. So how do you convert a buyer into a reader and reviewer (AKA: A fan)? I'll tell you:
Hannah Heath: How To Get Your Book Read and Reviewed - 9 tips for bringing in reviews for your novel

Note: All of these tips are relying on the fact that your story is, in fact, worth reading. If it's not, then some of these might not work. Sorry. My tips are good, but not that good.

1. Read other author's books (and make sure they know you're reading it). No, I don't mean tweeting frantically at J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman. Find authors who are in a similar boat to you. If you're an indie author: Find other indie books (like by checking out this exceedingly helpful list I've made for you). If you write fantasy: Find some other niche fantasy authors. You get the picture. Find your people and buy their books. Read them. And make sure the author knows you're reading them. Tweet about your progress and tag the author. Do updates on Goodreads. Post a picture of their book on your Facebook and mention their Facebook page. Do your best to make sure that author knows that you're reading and promoting their work. Without being creepy. Creepy is bad.

2. Review other author's books. And, again, make sure they know it's you. Do an Amazon review and make your reviewer name match the one you use on social media. Do the same on Goodreads. Tumblr. Your blog. Whatever other platform you favor. And then put the link to the review on social media and tag the author in it. Why bother with all of this? Because authors crave publicity and reviews. Not only are you helping another author out, but these authors (who have their own followers) now 1) Know you exist 2) Appreciate you and 3) Are more likely to read and review your book. Why? Because authors have this unspoken "We be nice to them if they be nice to us" Gollum pact going on. It's weird, but effective.

3. Be genuine. Regarding tips 1 and 2 (and, honestly, everything else in your life), be genuine. Only read, review, and support authors that you actually like and want to see succeed. And do it because you care, not because you're trying to manipulate reads and reviews out of people. That is mean and rude. You would appall C3PO.
4. Keep working on your platform. If you don't have one already, start working on it now. Here's a post to get you started: 11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform. If you have no platform? Well: You lose! You get nothing. Good DAY, sir. "But platforms look so hard, Hannah, I don't want..." I said good day!

5. Make people like and trust you. Why would somebody want to read your book if they find you annoying? Or if you've never displayed any particular skill in the writing department? Yeah. They wouldn't. So get out there. Make friends! If your books are funny, show people your sense of humor. If your books are sci-fi, engage with them about other great sci-fi novels that have inspired you. Build your credibility and fan base so that, when the time comes, they will become part of your army of crazed followers loyal fan base.

6. Ask for reviews. Did somebody mention to you that they've finished reading your book? Ask them to review it. Is this weird? Not if you're polite about it. Just ask them and mention how much you'd appreciate it. Do not pressure them, and certainly don't pressure them to give you a positive review. 90% of the time the "just ask" method does indeed work. I know it's uncomfortable, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

7. Ask influencers to read and review your book. When I say ask I mean: Offer to supply them with a free copy of your book for review. And when I say "influencers" I don't necessarily mean big-name reviews (Unless you somehow are connected to one personally, in which case: Can you put in a good word for me?). I mean people that you've noticed in your circle that frequently read and review other people's books. Maybe they're book bloggers, maybe not. They have their own loyal fanbase (the size of which doesn't necessarily matter). Now, don't just pop in and randomly ask or their help. If they have a book, help them out with it. Be part of their fanbase for a while. Engage. Make sure this is a person who has fans who will like what you are selling. Then ask. But don't do this too often. You don't want only reviews from people who were asked to review your book. This will just make your review section look like you paid a bunch of people to read and review your work and that will scare people off.

8. Make sure your book is presentable. So maybe you have a great book. But the blurb sucks and the cover isn't anything too special. Good luck with that. In a world where anybody can publish, you need to make sure that you don't look like an "Anybody." Do this by creating a great blurb and an eye-catching cover. Not only will this increase your chances of attracting readers, but it will make readers more willing to recommend your books to others. No reader wants to ruin their credibility by trying to convince their followers to check out an ugly, unprofessional looking book. So give them a reason to be excited and proud of your book so that they'll be stoked to share it with others.

9. Don't be manipulative. Yes, you are trying to get people to engage with your writing. No, you should not be using Mother Gothel techniques. There will be no hostages, no manipulation, no stalking, and no thug-hiring. Nobody owes you anything, so don't be presumptuous, pushy, or manipulative. That's a good way to alienate your readers.

Did this help you? I hope so! If you have any questions, just let me know! And if you're one of the brilliant authors out there who has gotten a good amount of reviews: Please leave your tips below!

Also: While we're on the subject: If you'd like to support me, how about reading and reviewing my short story? What? I didn't just write this entire post so I could plug my story. You can't prove anything.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah and have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
The 5-Star Rating System: What Book Reviewers Mean VS How Indie Authors Take It
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
Lessons Learned from my Indie Publishing Journey Part 1

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