Thursday, October 12, 2017

I have to admit, I've been deeply skeptical of the advice to "write for yourself." Perhaps it's a byproduct of my upbringing, of being told again and again that the root of all kinds of evil is selfishness--greed, lust, hatred, coveting, the whole litany of deadly sins. Perhaps it's from interacting with beginning writers who are excessively prickly and hostile to any suggestion that their rough draft "baby" isn't a perfect masterpiece. I hear the phrase and think self-indulgent and even narcissistic.

What about readers? I'd wonder. Do you care about whether they can make any sense of your story? Do you want to pour months of time into something that will no one will want to read? 

The ironic thing is, spending too much time worrying about the questions above is more likely to hobble you than help.

And so will convincing yourself that you have unselfish motives. Because once you start worrying about motives, you're likely to get lost in a hall of mirrors, frantic to find a pure reflection. Could there be a more self-centered pursuit?

But reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic (or more accurately, about half of it so far) has got me rethinking my assumptions about what "write for yourself" really means.

Gilbert says that creativity is "your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart.... Let inspiration lead you where it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a big freaking deal out of it. We make things because we like making things."

How's that for a pep talk with a good dose of kick-in-the-pants? :-)

Essentially, then, "writing for yourself" means engaging deeply with your ideas: follow them, invest labor and energy into them, shape them, feed them. Delight in the ideas and let their song move you to sing along and dance with abandon.

It means you can (and should) stop trying to be helpful--it's a masquerade for the deeply selfish need to be important, and the crippling need for permission and validation from others.

"Writing for yourself" is light and free and doesn't take itself so utterly seriously. If the idea leads down a blind alley, oh well. Part of the adventure! Look around, discover something unexpected. Backtrack if you must, or step through a side door. But when you "write for yourself," these glitches are not devastating disruptions of some Very Important Thing that will make you matter.

"Writing for yourself" comes from a healthy place of a right-sized self that can accept its own simultaneous greatness and smallness. It says "you are enough." Not the be-all-and-end-all, but not trash. Just enough.

Gilbert's book has been an interesting complement to Around the Writer's Block by Roseanne Bane, which I've blogged about HERE and HERE. Bane approaches creativity through brain science, and her main finding is that anxiety derails creativity; to be creatively productive, you need to relax and have fun.

In other words, stop looking over your shoulder, wondering how others will react, or seeking their go-ahead for your creative endeavors, or signs of their gratitude for your "help."

When your authentic self shows up and explores the ideas entrusted to you (Gilbert has some fascinating theories about how ideas find us), you become radically liberated from the impulses of selfishness--specifically self-preservation. The work done "for yourself" then flows and grows.

What do you think about "writing for yourself"?

Thursday, October 12, 2017 Laurel Garver
I have to admit, I've been deeply skeptical of the advice to "write for yourself." Perhaps it's a byproduct of my upbringing, of being told again and again that the root of all kinds of evil is selfishness--greed, lust, hatred, coveting, the whole litany of deadly sins. Perhaps it's from interacting with beginning writers who are excessively prickly and hostile to any suggestion that their rough draft "baby" isn't a perfect masterpiece. I hear the phrase and think self-indulgent and even narcissistic.

What about readers? I'd wonder. Do you care about whether they can make any sense of your story? Do you want to pour months of time into something that will no one will want to read? 

The ironic thing is, spending too much time worrying about the questions above is more likely to hobble you than help.

And so will convincing yourself that you have unselfish motives. Because once you start worrying about motives, you're likely to get lost in a hall of mirrors, frantic to find a pure reflection. Could there be a more self-centered pursuit?

But reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic (or more accurately, about half of it so far) has got me rethinking my assumptions about what "write for yourself" really means.

Gilbert says that creativity is "your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart.... Let inspiration lead you where it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a big freaking deal out of it. We make things because we like making things."

How's that for a pep talk with a good dose of kick-in-the-pants? :-)

Essentially, then, "writing for yourself" means engaging deeply with your ideas: follow them, invest labor and energy into them, shape them, feed them. Delight in the ideas and let their song move you to sing along and dance with abandon.

It means you can (and should) stop trying to be helpful--it's a masquerade for the deeply selfish need to be important, and the crippling need for permission and validation from others.

"Writing for yourself" is light and free and doesn't take itself so utterly seriously. If the idea leads down a blind alley, oh well. Part of the adventure! Look around, discover something unexpected. Backtrack if you must, or step through a side door. But when you "write for yourself," these glitches are not devastating disruptions of some Very Important Thing that will make you matter.

"Writing for yourself" comes from a healthy place of a right-sized self that can accept its own simultaneous greatness and smallness. It says "you are enough." Not the be-all-and-end-all, but not trash. Just enough.

Gilbert's book has been an interesting complement to Around the Writer's Block by Roseanne Bane, which I've blogged about HERE and HERE. Bane approaches creativity through brain science, and her main finding is that anxiety derails creativity; to be creatively productive, you need to relax and have fun.

In other words, stop looking over your shoulder, wondering how others will react, or seeking their go-ahead for your creative endeavors, or signs of their gratitude for your "help."

When your authentic self shows up and explores the ideas entrusted to you (Gilbert has some fascinating theories about how ideas find us), you become radically liberated from the impulses of selfishness--specifically self-preservation. The work done "for yourself" then flows and grows.

What do you think about "writing for yourself"?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Like so many women, I've spent my life trying to be perceived a certain way. A way that earned me praise because it aligned with my parents' values: that I be thrifty and efficient and smart and competent and tidy and spiritual and nice and always on time. That I do the right things at the right phases of life. That I not be wasteful or a burden or a mess.

As I celebrate my birthday (I could now wear a jersey from a certain California football team), I can't help but reflect upon where life has taken me and my own choices in the journey. And at this phase of middle-age, I'm realizing just how much of my choices haven't been about embracing my gifts or pursuing joy, but merely avoiding censure.
Photo by Penywise at morguefile.com

Ouch.

I know I'm not alone in this. Women in our culture are held to very high standards. We're made to feel ashamed if, as Brene Brown put it, we can't "do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat." But, she notes "this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be...is a straight-jacket."

Getting out of the rut of feeling "not enough," and all the ways that feeling impedes living life fully, requires being courageously vulnerable and authentic. Shame thrives in darkness, but withers when exposed to the light and to loving acceptance instead of censure.

That work for each of us begins with being authentic to and with ourselves. The one area I've struggled most with in my writing life is being reticent to allow my inner rebel to exist. The longer I suppress her, the more she returns the favor and keeps me stuck.

My inner rebel currently has me working on a new novel in my series, but *gasp* it's out of order. It would chronologically fit between my first and second published book.

The voice of shame says, "what kind of idiot writes book two after book three? It's creative suicide. You can't do that. It's wrong. Just stop now. You're going to ruin what you've already accomplished."

And my rebel voice replies, "who says you have to write a series in order? What a dumb rule. This project is awesome, and deep, and will take you to amazing places creatively, emotionally, and spiritually."

And so the project stutters along, flowing when I let the rebel have her way, and stalling when that paralyzing fear of breaking a publishing taboo wins the day.

In 2015 I began gathering a bunch of blog posts, and writing some new material, all focused on productivity, especially on tips to leverage small pockets of time to keep in touch with writing projects when life is hectic. That book is about 85% written.

Why haven't I finished it? The voice of shame accusing me: "You writing about productivity? What a laugh. You're the most unproductive writer in the history of the world. You've only put out two novels, four years apart. Why would anyone want your tips?"

And my inner rebel counters, "Well, who wants productivity tips from some four-novels-a-year person who has no friends, no hobbies, no side hussle, and neglects her family? That's not where much of anyone really lives. But there most certainly are people who want to know how you squeeze a little creative joy into an already full life."

See, when I let my inner rebel talk, she's actually pretty awesome. She isn't interested in life's shoulds but rather coulds: "This idea could be a little scary and weird and possibly not pan out, but it could lead somewhere cool. Let's explore!"

What risks does your inner rebel goad you toward? 
Thursday, September 28, 2017 Laurel Garver
Like so many women, I've spent my life trying to be perceived a certain way. A way that earned me praise because it aligned with my parents' values: that I be thrifty and efficient and smart and competent and tidy and spiritual and nice and always on time. That I do the right things at the right phases of life. That I not be wasteful or a burden or a mess.

As I celebrate my birthday (I could now wear a jersey from a certain California football team), I can't help but reflect upon where life has taken me and my own choices in the journey. And at this phase of middle-age, I'm realizing just how much of my choices haven't been about embracing my gifts or pursuing joy, but merely avoiding censure.
Photo by Penywise at morguefile.com

Ouch.

I know I'm not alone in this. Women in our culture are held to very high standards. We're made to feel ashamed if, as Brene Brown put it, we can't "do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat." But, she notes "this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be...is a straight-jacket."

Getting out of the rut of feeling "not enough," and all the ways that feeling impedes living life fully, requires being courageously vulnerable and authentic. Shame thrives in darkness, but withers when exposed to the light and to loving acceptance instead of censure.

That work for each of us begins with being authentic to and with ourselves. The one area I've struggled most with in my writing life is being reticent to allow my inner rebel to exist. The longer I suppress her, the more she returns the favor and keeps me stuck.

My inner rebel currently has me working on a new novel in my series, but *gasp* it's out of order. It would chronologically fit between my first and second published book.

The voice of shame says, "what kind of idiot writes book two after book three? It's creative suicide. You can't do that. It's wrong. Just stop now. You're going to ruin what you've already accomplished."

And my rebel voice replies, "who says you have to write a series in order? What a dumb rule. This project is awesome, and deep, and will take you to amazing places creatively, emotionally, and spiritually."

And so the project stutters along, flowing when I let the rebel have her way, and stalling when that paralyzing fear of breaking a publishing taboo wins the day.

In 2015 I began gathering a bunch of blog posts, and writing some new material, all focused on productivity, especially on tips to leverage small pockets of time to keep in touch with writing projects when life is hectic. That book is about 85% written.

Why haven't I finished it? The voice of shame accusing me: "You writing about productivity? What a laugh. You're the most unproductive writer in the history of the world. You've only put out two novels, four years apart. Why would anyone want your tips?"

And my inner rebel counters, "Well, who wants productivity tips from some four-novels-a-year person who has no friends, no hobbies, no side hussle, and neglects her family? That's not where much of anyone really lives. But there most certainly are people who want to know how you squeeze a little creative joy into an already full life."

See, when I let my inner rebel talk, she's actually pretty awesome. She isn't interested in life's shoulds but rather coulds: "This idea could be a little scary and weird and possibly not pan out, but it could lead somewhere cool. Let's explore!"

What risks does your inner rebel goad you toward? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The biggest challenge to having a fulfilling creative life is mental clutter that keeps you from being fully present in your creative process. The last two months have for me been pretty much all clutter nearly all the time. Some of this is simply seasonal--summer home improvement projects, back to school shopping, meetings, schedule changes--but a large part of it has been the cumulative effect of poor planning and habits.

In the spirit of the twelve step groups, I admit I have a problem and need change. Specifically, I need to make mental and emotional space in my life to create again.

Of course, identifying the problem is just an early step. Next comes seeking solutions. So today I share some resources I've encountered that look to be pretty useful for overcoming my particular issues, because I suspect others will find them equally helpful

Attention splatter


I first encountered the concept of "attention splatter" through a blogging buddy who had linked an article by Christine Kane, a business coach.

She likens divided attention to a snacking/grazing approach to eating. You repeatedly open the fridge and grab a snack or two, over and over, but never have an actual meal. Along the way, you never, ever feel full, because you haven't truly fed yourself.

Bopping from one thing to another, especially giving little bits of attention to many things spread across hours will have a similar result. You end up feeling unsatisfied, like the day was wasted.

Working to your fullest potential, she argues, requires focused attention on the task at hand. Why?

Your attention ultimately feeds you. It feeds your heart and it feeds your mind. This is why it’s so important to notice what you give your attention to. This is also why splattered attention leaves you feeling strung out and unfulfilled. You never actually feed yourself.   ~Christine Kane

It's very easy to get distracted in our noisy world, but especially so if you are a woman with a family who expects you to carry a lion's share of the "mental load" of running a household. The creative tasks that feed you--writing and honing your fiction--can be pushed to the margins.

Kane recommends first identifying key sources of "splatter"--places where you get diverted by choice or circumstance.

Some common culprits:
~e-mail
~social media
~cell phones
~clutter/household messes
~YouTube
~TV
~magazines and newspapers
~video and phone games
~random Google searches
~obsession with metrics and stats
~calendar maintenance

Once you've figured out what things are stealing your hours a few minutes at a time, you need to eliminate them or  schedule them in discrete blocks. For example, if you check e-mail constantly all day, it will gobble up all your time. Instead, plan to deal with e-mail at certain times of day only for short periods, for example from 8:30 - 9:00. 1:00 - 1:30 and 4:20 - 4:50.

Another way to deal with splattering activities is to leverage small windows of time. Say you have 40 minutes before you need to pick up the kids from school. You might be tempted to poke around aimlessly on social media. Instead, tackle a few specific tasks, such as paying some bills and tidying high-traffic areas of your house.

Side note: if household clutter is your biggest foe to creativity, I recommend you check out the advice and tools available from FlyLady. She has lots of great ideas to get your home in shape using leveraged time in small, discrete blocks you schedule.

Plan your larger blocks. Try to be as specific as you can about what you want to work on. Rather than simply "write something today," you might instead plan to "write scenes two and three in chapter eight." Or if revising, "review chapters 10-14 for craft concerns" (see my helpful three-tier revision review process HERE for more on this.)

During your work blocks, isolate yourself from distractions: turn off the WiFi, mute the phone, notify disruptive people that you will be unavailable during certain hours (call it a "work meeting"). Let phone calls got to voice mail and return the calls at a scheduled time. If distracting sub-tasks come to your attention during your work session, jot them down on a list, then let them go until later, to be scheduled for one of your windows for this type of task.

You might find it helpful to have an accountability partner to whom you report when you're working, then how you spent your work block. For example, tweet or text "I'm working on chapter 8 from noon to 3:30." Then at 3:35, "drafted 800 words, planned out scenes 4 and 5."

To reward your efforts further, create an "I did it" list. Each day, simply list what you accomplished. This will become an ongoing source of encouragement as you give attention to what you did, noticing finished projects, not merely unfinished ones.

When you have down time, be fully present to it. This is one of my big struggles--never really resting. If you need a nap, actually sleep, don't beta read, clean out your e-mail box, or have a phone conversation. Do those tasks in their planned slots.

What things steal too much of your mental space? What techniques have most helped you to be fully present to your writing time?

Thursday, September 21, 2017 Laurel Garver
The biggest challenge to having a fulfilling creative life is mental clutter that keeps you from being fully present in your creative process. The last two months have for me been pretty much all clutter nearly all the time. Some of this is simply seasonal--summer home improvement projects, back to school shopping, meetings, schedule changes--but a large part of it has been the cumulative effect of poor planning and habits.

In the spirit of the twelve step groups, I admit I have a problem and need change. Specifically, I need to make mental and emotional space in my life to create again.

Of course, identifying the problem is just an early step. Next comes seeking solutions. So today I share some resources I've encountered that look to be pretty useful for overcoming my particular issues, because I suspect others will find them equally helpful

Attention splatter


I first encountered the concept of "attention splatter" through a blogging buddy who had linked an article by Christine Kane, a business coach.

She likens divided attention to a snacking/grazing approach to eating. You repeatedly open the fridge and grab a snack or two, over and over, but never have an actual meal. Along the way, you never, ever feel full, because you haven't truly fed yourself.

Bopping from one thing to another, especially giving little bits of attention to many things spread across hours will have a similar result. You end up feeling unsatisfied, like the day was wasted.

Working to your fullest potential, she argues, requires focused attention on the task at hand. Why?

Your attention ultimately feeds you. It feeds your heart and it feeds your mind. This is why it’s so important to notice what you give your attention to. This is also why splattered attention leaves you feeling strung out and unfulfilled. You never actually feed yourself.   ~Christine Kane

It's very easy to get distracted in our noisy world, but especially so if you are a woman with a family who expects you to carry a lion's share of the "mental load" of running a household. The creative tasks that feed you--writing and honing your fiction--can be pushed to the margins.

Kane recommends first identifying key sources of "splatter"--places where you get diverted by choice or circumstance.

Some common culprits:
~e-mail
~social media
~cell phones
~clutter/household messes
~YouTube
~TV
~magazines and newspapers
~video and phone games
~random Google searches
~obsession with metrics and stats
~calendar maintenance

Once you've figured out what things are stealing your hours a few minutes at a time, you need to eliminate them or  schedule them in discrete blocks. For example, if you check e-mail constantly all day, it will gobble up all your time. Instead, plan to deal with e-mail at certain times of day only for short periods, for example from 8:30 - 9:00. 1:00 - 1:30 and 4:20 - 4:50.

Another way to deal with splattering activities is to leverage small windows of time. Say you have 40 minutes before you need to pick up the kids from school. You might be tempted to poke around aimlessly on social media. Instead, tackle a few specific tasks, such as paying some bills and tidying high-traffic areas of your house.

Side note: if household clutter is your biggest foe to creativity, I recommend you check out the advice and tools available from FlyLady. She has lots of great ideas to get your home in shape using leveraged time in small, discrete blocks you schedule.

Plan your larger blocks. Try to be as specific as you can about what you want to work on. Rather than simply "write something today," you might instead plan to "write scenes two and three in chapter eight." Or if revising, "review chapters 10-14 for craft concerns" (see my helpful three-tier revision review process HERE for more on this.)

During your work blocks, isolate yourself from distractions: turn off the WiFi, mute the phone, notify disruptive people that you will be unavailable during certain hours (call it a "work meeting"). Let phone calls got to voice mail and return the calls at a scheduled time. If distracting sub-tasks come to your attention during your work session, jot them down on a list, then let them go until later, to be scheduled for one of your windows for this type of task.

You might find it helpful to have an accountability partner to whom you report when you're working, then how you spent your work block. For example, tweet or text "I'm working on chapter 8 from noon to 3:30." Then at 3:35, "drafted 800 words, planned out scenes 4 and 5."

To reward your efforts further, create an "I did it" list. Each day, simply list what you accomplished. This will become an ongoing source of encouragement as you give attention to what you did, noticing finished projects, not merely unfinished ones.

When you have down time, be fully present to it. This is one of my big struggles--never really resting. If you need a nap, actually sleep, don't beta read, clean out your e-mail box, or have a phone conversation. Do those tasks in their planned slots.

What things steal too much of your mental space? What techniques have most helped you to be fully present to your writing time?

Friday, August 25, 2017

by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?
Friday, August 25, 2017 Laurel Garver
by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By guest author SM Ford
First drafts are a bit like this...

Your first draft is done. Now what? Here’s what works for me.

  1. I read through the entire manuscript looking for bumps. If anything stops me, something is wrong. It could be awkward phrasing, missing information, unnecessary detail, lack of emotion, etc. I might even realize a scene is unnecessary or that I’ve left out major plot points.
  2. If the bumps are minor, I fix them as I go.
  3. Major bumps will need more thought and time, so I note them down in my story timeline to come back to later. (A story timeline is a mini-outline I create as I write since I am not an outliner. It helps me know when and where things happened in the story.)
  4. I watch my pacing. Shorter sentences help move the story along in tense times. Longer sentences can give a calmer more relaxed feeling. Did events happen too slowly or too quickly?
  5. Once I’ve reached the end, I ask myself, did the story feel satisfying or was something missing? Did my character change and grow? Was the main problem solved by the character? Did I make the character work to reach the solution? If anything felt too easy, it’s time to complicate my character’s life some more.
  6. Next, it’s time to look at my story timeline more closely. Besides looking at any major bumps I’ve noticed in my read through, I look at the order of scenes. Are they logical? Is each scene necessary? I check the subplots. Did any get lost? Are there places I need to expand?
  7. Now I add new scenes, rearrange scenes, expand or cut scenes as required. 
  8. I relook at the beginning of my story. Is my beginning strong? Compelling and believable? Did I start too early or too late?
  9. Is the setting clear in each scene so my characters aren’t standing before a blue screen? Including at least three sensory details will help with this. 
  10. Then I read through the entire manuscript again. Fix and repeat as above until I don’t see anything to fix.

Now it’s on to polishing. 
  1. I use “find” to search for and destroy (or replace) overused words. I know some of my weaknesses include forms of “looking” and “turning” which are filler actions. I consider each case. Is there a stronger action that will include sensory details? Is there a better action that will help establish setting? Often, the answer is yes. Others include: “just,” “very,” “finally,” “so,” “then,” “that,” “well,” and “really.” I ask myself, how can I say it better? My critique group calls me the “as” Nazi as I’m always on the lookout for overuse of that word, too.
  2. I search for adverbs and weak verbs that could be replaced with stronger verbs by searching for “ly.”
  3. I find passive writing by searching for “ing.”
  4. Of course, I’ve run spell check, but do I have the wrong word, such as to instead of too? Or reins instead of rains?
  5. Is my punctuation correct?
  6. Have I used the right adjective for a noun? Or would a more specific noun be better? E.g. A big dog is vague.  A humongous dog is stronger, but still relative. A German Shepard or Great Dane are both big but very different. Or use a metaphor, but not a cliché. E.g. The dog was as big as a horse.
  7. Have I overused my characters’ names in dialogue? 
  8. I check my “said”s. If I have a “said to him” and only two people are in the room, why would I need “to him?” Probably rarely needed even if multiple people are in the room. If I have a “said and” followed by an action, why not just use the action?
  9. Tightening. Are there redundancies that need to be cut? On the sentence level can I say it with less words?
  10. All this done, I reread the entire manuscript again. By now it should be flowing smoothly. If not, I revise some more.

Of course, once the book goes to a publisher, more editing will be done. I like this quote by Linda W. Jackson, “First drafts are paper plates. After many revisions, they become fine china.” Here’s to making china!


About the Author


SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.

When she was 13 she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

She loves assisting other writers on their journeys and is a writing teacher, speaker, mentor, and blogger about writing.

Connect with her here: website / blog RSS / Twitter / Facebook /  Goodreads

About the Book


ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense published by Clean Reads in 2016.

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year-old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
 
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?

Available here:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords

Do you have a revision checklist like this? What parts of revision do you enjoy most? Like least? Any questions for SM?

I'm on the road today and might be delayed checking in on comments. Welcome new visitors!!
Thursday, August 10, 2017 Laurel Garver
By guest author SM Ford
First drafts are a bit like this...

Your first draft is done. Now what? Here’s what works for me.

  1. I read through the entire manuscript looking for bumps. If anything stops me, something is wrong. It could be awkward phrasing, missing information, unnecessary detail, lack of emotion, etc. I might even realize a scene is unnecessary or that I’ve left out major plot points.
  2. If the bumps are minor, I fix them as I go.
  3. Major bumps will need more thought and time, so I note them down in my story timeline to come back to later. (A story timeline is a mini-outline I create as I write since I am not an outliner. It helps me know when and where things happened in the story.)
  4. I watch my pacing. Shorter sentences help move the story along in tense times. Longer sentences can give a calmer more relaxed feeling. Did events happen too slowly or too quickly?
  5. Once I’ve reached the end, I ask myself, did the story feel satisfying or was something missing? Did my character change and grow? Was the main problem solved by the character? Did I make the character work to reach the solution? If anything felt too easy, it’s time to complicate my character’s life some more.
  6. Next, it’s time to look at my story timeline more closely. Besides looking at any major bumps I’ve noticed in my read through, I look at the order of scenes. Are they logical? Is each scene necessary? I check the subplots. Did any get lost? Are there places I need to expand?
  7. Now I add new scenes, rearrange scenes, expand or cut scenes as required. 
  8. I relook at the beginning of my story. Is my beginning strong? Compelling and believable? Did I start too early or too late?
  9. Is the setting clear in each scene so my characters aren’t standing before a blue screen? Including at least three sensory details will help with this. 
  10. Then I read through the entire manuscript again. Fix and repeat as above until I don’t see anything to fix.

Now it’s on to polishing. 
  1. I use “find” to search for and destroy (or replace) overused words. I know some of my weaknesses include forms of “looking” and “turning” which are filler actions. I consider each case. Is there a stronger action that will include sensory details? Is there a better action that will help establish setting? Often, the answer is yes. Others include: “just,” “very,” “finally,” “so,” “then,” “that,” “well,” and “really.” I ask myself, how can I say it better? My critique group calls me the “as” Nazi as I’m always on the lookout for overuse of that word, too.
  2. I search for adverbs and weak verbs that could be replaced with stronger verbs by searching for “ly.”
  3. I find passive writing by searching for “ing.”
  4. Of course, I’ve run spell check, but do I have the wrong word, such as to instead of too? Or reins instead of rains?
  5. Is my punctuation correct?
  6. Have I used the right adjective for a noun? Or would a more specific noun be better? E.g. A big dog is vague.  A humongous dog is stronger, but still relative. A German Shepard or Great Dane are both big but very different. Or use a metaphor, but not a cliché. E.g. The dog was as big as a horse.
  7. Have I overused my characters’ names in dialogue? 
  8. I check my “said”s. If I have a “said to him” and only two people are in the room, why would I need “to him?” Probably rarely needed even if multiple people are in the room. If I have a “said and” followed by an action, why not just use the action?
  9. Tightening. Are there redundancies that need to be cut? On the sentence level can I say it with less words?
  10. All this done, I reread the entire manuscript again. By now it should be flowing smoothly. If not, I revise some more.

Of course, once the book goes to a publisher, more editing will be done. I like this quote by Linda W. Jackson, “First drafts are paper plates. After many revisions, they become fine china.” Here’s to making china!


About the Author


SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.

When she was 13 she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

She loves assisting other writers on their journeys and is a writing teacher, speaker, mentor, and blogger about writing.

Connect with her here: website / blog RSS / Twitter / Facebook /  Goodreads

About the Book


ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense published by Clean Reads in 2016.

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year-old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
 
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?

Available here:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords

Do you have a revision checklist like this? What parts of revision do you enjoy most? Like least? Any questions for SM?

I'm on the road today and might be delayed checking in on comments. Welcome new visitors!!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

How do you go about writing about faith in a way that isn’t off-putting to contemporary teens, but feels like it’s part of normal life?

My approach begins from understanding that a life of faith isn’t lived across a line in the sand, that this spot over here is where I have a spiritual life, and on the other side is where the rest of the world goes about its business. Real faith doesn’t need a sanitized bubble in order to exist. It walks with courage into dark places through the power of the Holy Spirit, and tries to act as Jesus did. He reached out to those who were at the margins, who were hurting. I write what I hope is an invitation to teens of faith to see their purpose in this way.

In my Christian YA series, faith is a piece of the heroine Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Like any teen raised in a Christian home, she goes through a coming-of-age process in which she has to decide if she truly believes for herself, rather than believing in a parent’s belief.

Infusing lots of humor into the story where possible is also important. People of faith are often stereotyped as dour, fault-finding folk who take themselves way too seriously. So my heroine has a bit of a sarcastic streak and finds the funny in things, quite often the funny in her own foibles—a self-deprecating kind of humor that makes her approachable.

Most centrally, I wrote my novels as dramatic stories, not handbooks or manuals on “how to grieve well/how to handle a family crisis well.” Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion, and doubt. The adults in her world sometimes help, sometimes fail her badly. She has to come to grips with what is really real, with who God is, and with how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

Preachiness in literature comes when characters aren’t given this space to “come to their senses” on their own. Jesus’ example of how to show a transformation well is the prodigal son story. Did someone come and preach at the younger brother, and tell him he had been a selfish jerk and he should just go home and apologize to his family? No, the story events led him to that conclusion. So it is with my characters. They make their mistakes and gradually learn from them. When epiphanies come, they act on them, and test their new understanding. They move from blindness to insight to realized truth.

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to read stories like mine and get something positive out of them. I’m not Jewish, but I really love Chaim Potok’s stories, which give me a glimpse into Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities. One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while.

About the books


Never Gone

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find reason to hope again?

Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Apple iTunes
With sneak peek chapters from the sequel, Almost There 

Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and NobleThe Book Depository (free shipping)


Almost There

How do you find hope when a family crisis threatens everything you love?

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Add it on Goodreads
Read sneak peek scenes for FREE on Wattpad
Purchase the ebook on Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK) / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / KoboApple iTunes

Purchase the paperback from Createspace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and Noble / Book Depository (free shipping)


Do you find characters of faith compelling or off-putting? Why?


Thanks to Cecelia Earl for inviting me to write about this topic for her launch party. I repost it for broader sharing here with her blessing.
Thursday, August 03, 2017 Laurel Garver
How do you go about writing about faith in a way that isn’t off-putting to contemporary teens, but feels like it’s part of normal life?

My approach begins from understanding that a life of faith isn’t lived across a line in the sand, that this spot over here is where I have a spiritual life, and on the other side is where the rest of the world goes about its business. Real faith doesn’t need a sanitized bubble in order to exist. It walks with courage into dark places through the power of the Holy Spirit, and tries to act as Jesus did. He reached out to those who were at the margins, who were hurting. I write what I hope is an invitation to teens of faith to see their purpose in this way.

In my Christian YA series, faith is a piece of the heroine Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Like any teen raised in a Christian home, she goes through a coming-of-age process in which she has to decide if she truly believes for herself, rather than believing in a parent’s belief.

Infusing lots of humor into the story where possible is also important. People of faith are often stereotyped as dour, fault-finding folk who take themselves way too seriously. So my heroine has a bit of a sarcastic streak and finds the funny in things, quite often the funny in her own foibles—a self-deprecating kind of humor that makes her approachable.

Most centrally, I wrote my novels as dramatic stories, not handbooks or manuals on “how to grieve well/how to handle a family crisis well.” Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion, and doubt. The adults in her world sometimes help, sometimes fail her badly. She has to come to grips with what is really real, with who God is, and with how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

Preachiness in literature comes when characters aren’t given this space to “come to their senses” on their own. Jesus’ example of how to show a transformation well is the prodigal son story. Did someone come and preach at the younger brother, and tell him he had been a selfish jerk and he should just go home and apologize to his family? No, the story events led him to that conclusion. So it is with my characters. They make their mistakes and gradually learn from them. When epiphanies come, they act on them, and test their new understanding. They move from blindness to insight to realized truth.

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to read stories like mine and get something positive out of them. I’m not Jewish, but I really love Chaim Potok’s stories, which give me a glimpse into Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities. One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while.

About the books


Never Gone

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find reason to hope again?

Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Apple iTunes
With sneak peek chapters from the sequel, Almost There 

Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and NobleThe Book Depository (free shipping)


Almost There

How do you find hope when a family crisis threatens everything you love?

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Add it on Goodreads
Read sneak peek scenes for FREE on Wattpad
Purchase the ebook on Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK) / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / KoboApple iTunes

Purchase the paperback from Createspace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and Noble / Book Depository (free shipping)


Do you find characters of faith compelling or off-putting? Why?


Thanks to Cecelia Earl for inviting me to write about this topic for her launch party. I repost it for broader sharing here with her blessing.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Being a guest on someone's blog can be a wonderful way to expand audience. But you won't get much traction with your posts if you can't give the visits proper attention.

I've had lots of guest bloggers here, some of whom did extraordinarily well in terms of page views and gaining new fans, and others who got little attention or engagement.

I've also been on the other side of the table, writing posts for others' blogs, in one-off visits, tours I organized for myself, and in a tour someone else organized. I could definitely see a difference in the experience based on how I behaved as a guest more than how the host did or didn't strive to drive traffic to my post.

Make no mistake, getting a post on a high-traffic blog can be very helpful in expanding your reach. However, "landing the gig" is only the first step. Additional follow up will make the difference in whether blog readers connect with or ignore you.

So how do you make the most of guest posting? Here are some helpful pointers:

1. Create value-added content. Clearly you want to excite potential readers about your new book. But if they only wanted to see a book description, they could simply go to Goodreads or a e-retailer.

So consider how you can share something of value to readers that will also entice them to read your story. Perhaps you tried out a new method of research that was really fruitful for understanding your characters' world. Perhaps you twisted a common trope or created a spectacular mash-up of genres. Share the lessons learned and insights gained, Share best practices, or simply something weird or funny, like how a personal life experience led to a particular plot element or choice of setting.

Give readers the story behind the story and they'll become naturally more invested in continuing to learn more about your work.

2. Think "evergreen" with your content. That is, share information that will be as useful to someone who finds it three years from now as those who find it today. Evergreen posts can be part of your long-term social media strategy--a way to continue delivering good content even when you don't have a new release, provided you re-share and revisit them over time. This method capitalizes on "the long tail" of sales, in which readership grows slowly over time.

OR think trendy, and strive to tap into a controversy-of-the-moment. This method is useful if your goal is to make immediate movement in the sales charts. You will need to do more work up front to keep the post alive within its news cycle, before the content becomes dated.

Either strategy will bring more readers to the blog post. You can probably see varying advantages to each approach.

3. Do your part to drive traffic. You need to be a team player with your host, rather than expecting them to automatically deliver readers. After all, you're an unknown quantity to your host's readers. So make sure you're sharing everywhere that you have great content that your existing connections will want to see.


  • Write a short post with a link on your own blog.
  • Create a series of tweets to post throughout the day, with a graphic if possible
  • Retweet your host's tweets about it
  • Share a link on your Facebook page
  • Share links in any Facebook group you're in that might be interested in your content
  • Include links in your newsletter
  • Visit some of your blogging buddies, and they'll likely return the visit


4. Be available. Don't just post and run, or post, tweet and run. Come back and comment.

Be sure to thank your host for hosting you, not only for the sake of your host, but because it shows blog readers that you value the opportunity of being there. Don't let shyness cause you to gain a reputation of seeming standoffish or even entitled. Not sure what to say? Try: "Thanks so much for having me, Host!" It's really that simple.

Interact with everyone who comments. This may be more difficult that you expect, because not all visitors will be lovely and easy to converse with. Some might throw you for a loop with an odd comment you aren't sure how to respond to.

Some will be itching for a fight, so tread carefully, especially if you chose to tap into a controversy. A helpful maxim from St. Paul: "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Rom. 12:18). Try to acknowledge their point of view, thank them for their time, even if they seem nutty. If they personally attack you, don't retaliate in kind. Try to be calm and de-escalate the situation. A helpful post on de-escalating arguments; 5 ways to stop an argument. If your de-escalation doesn't work, stop interacting with that individual. Others might more successfully defend you, but take care that you don't inspire or encourage a mean spirited pile-on. Our world needs good examples of how to have adult disagreements that don't devolve into character assassination. As far as it depends on you, be a peacemaker.

5. Remember that your ultimate goal is building new connections. If you happen to sell some books along the way, great. If not, that's okay because you've done something strategic--become a known quantity where you used to be anonymous. In a glutted marketplace, this is essential.

Seek to connect with those who comment well--follow and comment on their blogs, connect on Twitter and elsewhere. Send a brief message in any of these venues along the lines of "it was great to meet you through [host's] blog." Remember the currency of the Internet is attention. Letting visitors know you see them, that you appreciate their attention and plan to repay it, goes a long way in building goodwill for your author brand.

Those connections can also lead to further guest posting opportunities. If a commenter seems like they are part of your target audience and have a blog, too, it makes sense to reach out. Be sure to offer content that is similar in quality to the post they liked, but customized for them.

6. Don't burn bridges. If someone hosted you on their blog and no one commented at all, or worse, it was a troll-a-thon, don't give in to the temptation to cut ties with the blogger. Some or all of these problems may have been entirely out of their control. Emergencies can keep a blogger from being able to help you drive traffic; trollish behavior can be hard to rein in once it takes hold on a site. It's possible that this blogger can be helpful to your journey with a different book, perhaps if you choose a non-controversial topic to write about, their followers will be more receptive.

Learn what you can from the experience and use that knowledge to approach future guest posting opportunities differently.

Any other tips? What have your guest post experiences been, either as a host, guest, or visitor?
Thursday, July 20, 2017 Laurel Garver
Being a guest on someone's blog can be a wonderful way to expand audience. But you won't get much traction with your posts if you can't give the visits proper attention.

I've had lots of guest bloggers here, some of whom did extraordinarily well in terms of page views and gaining new fans, and others who got little attention or engagement.

I've also been on the other side of the table, writing posts for others' blogs, in one-off visits, tours I organized for myself, and in a tour someone else organized. I could definitely see a difference in the experience based on how I behaved as a guest more than how the host did or didn't strive to drive traffic to my post.

Make no mistake, getting a post on a high-traffic blog can be very helpful in expanding your reach. However, "landing the gig" is only the first step. Additional follow up will make the difference in whether blog readers connect with or ignore you.

So how do you make the most of guest posting? Here are some helpful pointers:

1. Create value-added content. Clearly you want to excite potential readers about your new book. But if they only wanted to see a book description, they could simply go to Goodreads or a e-retailer.

So consider how you can share something of value to readers that will also entice them to read your story. Perhaps you tried out a new method of research that was really fruitful for understanding your characters' world. Perhaps you twisted a common trope or created a spectacular mash-up of genres. Share the lessons learned and insights gained, Share best practices, or simply something weird or funny, like how a personal life experience led to a particular plot element or choice of setting.

Give readers the story behind the story and they'll become naturally more invested in continuing to learn more about your work.

2. Think "evergreen" with your content. That is, share information that will be as useful to someone who finds it three years from now as those who find it today. Evergreen posts can be part of your long-term social media strategy--a way to continue delivering good content even when you don't have a new release, provided you re-share and revisit them over time. This method capitalizes on "the long tail" of sales, in which readership grows slowly over time.

OR think trendy, and strive to tap into a controversy-of-the-moment. This method is useful if your goal is to make immediate movement in the sales charts. You will need to do more work up front to keep the post alive within its news cycle, before the content becomes dated.

Either strategy will bring more readers to the blog post. You can probably see varying advantages to each approach.

3. Do your part to drive traffic. You need to be a team player with your host, rather than expecting them to automatically deliver readers. After all, you're an unknown quantity to your host's readers. So make sure you're sharing everywhere that you have great content that your existing connections will want to see.


  • Write a short post with a link on your own blog.
  • Create a series of tweets to post throughout the day, with a graphic if possible
  • Retweet your host's tweets about it
  • Share a link on your Facebook page
  • Share links in any Facebook group you're in that might be interested in your content
  • Include links in your newsletter
  • Visit some of your blogging buddies, and they'll likely return the visit


4. Be available. Don't just post and run, or post, tweet and run. Come back and comment.

Be sure to thank your host for hosting you, not only for the sake of your host, but because it shows blog readers that you value the opportunity of being there. Don't let shyness cause you to gain a reputation of seeming standoffish or even entitled. Not sure what to say? Try: "Thanks so much for having me, Host!" It's really that simple.

Interact with everyone who comments. This may be more difficult that you expect, because not all visitors will be lovely and easy to converse with. Some might throw you for a loop with an odd comment you aren't sure how to respond to.

Some will be itching for a fight, so tread carefully, especially if you chose to tap into a controversy. A helpful maxim from St. Paul: "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Rom. 12:18). Try to acknowledge their point of view, thank them for their time, even if they seem nutty. If they personally attack you, don't retaliate in kind. Try to be calm and de-escalate the situation. A helpful post on de-escalating arguments; 5 ways to stop an argument. If your de-escalation doesn't work, stop interacting with that individual. Others might more successfully defend you, but take care that you don't inspire or encourage a mean spirited pile-on. Our world needs good examples of how to have adult disagreements that don't devolve into character assassination. As far as it depends on you, be a peacemaker.

5. Remember that your ultimate goal is building new connections. If you happen to sell some books along the way, great. If not, that's okay because you've done something strategic--become a known quantity where you used to be anonymous. In a glutted marketplace, this is essential.

Seek to connect with those who comment well--follow and comment on their blogs, connect on Twitter and elsewhere. Send a brief message in any of these venues along the lines of "it was great to meet you through [host's] blog." Remember the currency of the Internet is attention. Letting visitors know you see them, that you appreciate their attention and plan to repay it, goes a long way in building goodwill for your author brand.

Those connections can also lead to further guest posting opportunities. If a commenter seems like they are part of your target audience and have a blog, too, it makes sense to reach out. Be sure to offer content that is similar in quality to the post they liked, but customized for them.

6. Don't burn bridges. If someone hosted you on their blog and no one commented at all, or worse, it was a troll-a-thon, don't give in to the temptation to cut ties with the blogger. Some or all of these problems may have been entirely out of their control. Emergencies can keep a blogger from being able to help you drive traffic; trollish behavior can be hard to rein in once it takes hold on a site. It's possible that this blogger can be helpful to your journey with a different book, perhaps if you choose a non-controversial topic to write about, their followers will be more receptive.

Learn what you can from the experience and use that knowledge to approach future guest posting opportunities differently.

Any other tips? What have your guest post experiences been, either as a host, guest, or visitor?