Category Archives: fiction

Interview With Self-Published Author Annie Louise Twitchell

Annie Louise Twitchell used to be like the rest of us, an aspiring writer. But she was braver than the rest of us and took on the challenge of self-publishing. Her book Spinner of Secrets has been described as an “amazing retelling” and “an enchanting fairy tale retelling written with a lyrical hand.” She has been running her blog since December of 2015 and detailed the publication of her book but I was also able to interview Annie about her process of writing and publishing Spinner of Secrets. So please read on for tips and tricks for publishing your first novel.

What is your background in writing?

I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I taught myself to write cursive when I was five or so, so I could “write pretty”. I’ve always adored books. My dad read The Hobbit out loud to me and my brothers when I was quite small; it became my favorite book of all time and still is. I joined my uncle’s website for writers when I was 13, and won my first writing contest within a year – it was a Christmas writing contest, and if I remember, I was the youngest person competing. I was pretty proud of myself for winning. I’m quite sure I’ve written over one million words since then.

What inspired you to write this specific story?

A writing prompt on a forum. The prompt was to write a short story with the following three elements, person, place, and thing: an outlaw, a castle, and a rose. My first impulse was to write Beauty and the Beast, but after thinking about it, I ended up doing Rumpelstiltskin. Why not? I fell in love with the story and just went with it. It was two years in creating, almost exactly from when I posted the prompt reply and when I published the book.

What was it like writing in a specific time period?

I inhale historical fiction, so I have a lot of background for it. It’s a fairy tale, so I didn’t worry too much about having every detail perfect. Fairy tales allow for some flexibility. The biggest thing was figuring out how to convey passage of time – they didn’t measure time in minutes and seconds, as one of my beta readers pointed out. So I had to do a lot of research into that. There were other things I had to research as well; that wasn’t hard, because I know how to do that.

What did you do in order to keep the story of Rumpelstiltskin fresh while staying true to the story?

To keep a little more reality in it, instead of spinning gold from straw, Letta spins linen thread. Linen thread is made from the fibers in flax straw, which has to go through quite the process to get to the point of spinning. It involves water and rotting off the husk. Spinning linen thread from raw straw is impossible to do overnight. I spent a couple years working with fiber animals and fiber arts. I’ve done some spinning and let me tell you, it is not as easy as they make it look.

Do you have any tips for wannabe authors?

Write like nothing matters, edit edit edit edit edit, and at some point be willing to draw the line and say this is good. Not okay, not good enough, but this is good. There are going to be people who hate your work, there are going to be people who are really mean and cruel about it. Don’t you dare let that stop you. This is your story, not theirs. Yes, take the constructive criticism. Take the people saying “I think this needs to change…” – especially if they’re your beta readers or editors and you asked them to. But even then, it’s your story, not theirs. They’re trying to help you improve it. You can decide not to change something if you don’t want to.

What were your goals when you published Spinner of Secrets?

Really, it was about me. Beating my anxiety, putting a finished work out there, putting down the voices in my head that said I’m not good enough, I’m only a girl, I don’t have any right to even try. The month before publication was really hard and exhausting, and I’m still kind of patching myself up after it. But I did it. I have a stack of my books sitting on my chair.

What went into creating the cover and synopsis?

The synopsis, I just worked at for a year or so. I had a sudden burst of inspiration (probably while I was making dinner) and just kept refining and polishing it. The cover was a lot of fun, actually. I took the photo at the river near my house, which I frequently haunt, and my housemate/sister/best friend worked with me to design it. She’s a professional photographer and has a lot of experience with graphic design. I’ve gotten both extremes in response to it – either they hate it and it’s dull and boring, or they love it and it draws them right in. It was mostly other authors who said they hated it, interestingly enough, and other people who loved it. I love it, especially in print, and it’s perfect for the story.

 

What advice would you give to other authors who were going to self-publish?

Get help. Beta readers, proofreaders, an editor if you can afford one (I couldn’t, so I had seven beta readers plus me and my mom and my proofreader.) Definitely invest in a proofreader. It’s less expensive than an editor but it will help polish everything up and catch those annoying typos. Do your research. Just because it’s faster than traditional publishing, doesn’t mean it’s easier. Everything is on you. You are the party responsible for getting it out there looking decent. Market yourself and your book. Run specials and promote them. Do. Your. Research.

Would you self-publish again?

Absolutely. I love having the control and the freedom, as well as doing it on my own schedule. I also found I love the formatting and designing process. It was so. Much. Fun. Definitely work, but it was fun! It was a challenge and it was an exciting one that I was able to meet.

What’s next? Another book maybe?

Ahh, yes. Currently I’m working on eight books as well as a poetry collection. Which one ends up being published first is yet to be seen, although it will probably be another novella, just because I’ll finish with that first. My writing style is really weird – I write and write and write, and then I leave it be for a long time and work on something else. It gives the story breathing space, it gives me breathing space, and it just makes the process easier for me. It’s like making bread. You have to let it rest in between beating the snot out of it, otherwise it comes out dry, flat, tough, and tasteless.

If you want to find out more information about Annie Louise Twitchell find her on Facebook or her Blog! And don’t forget to order her book Spinner of Secrets so you can experience the tale of Rumpelstiltskin like never before.

Writing Characters With Dyslexia Part 2!

Last year I wrote my most viewed article, Writing characters with dyslexia. Today I’ve come back to clarify and expand on writing these quirky characters. Keep in mind, this is how my dyslexia affects me and it might not be the same for others.

First, The science

So when you think synapses are fired in your brain. That triggers another one to fire and the chain is what creates the way you process the world around you. (At least that’s my understanding.) So when someone who is dyslexic thinks the same thought, different synapses fire and it takes longer for us to figure out the same information.

This also means we can come up with ideas others never would!

We think about each idea longer and think about it differently that normal people would. This ends up in us coming up with out of the box ideas and odd ways of doing things. For instance, my dad and I are picking up pinecones, he holds open the bag and tosses them inside. I go find a box and put the trash bag inside it to act as a trash can outdoors, my way is much easier. This principle is also true for concepts. Someone reviewed a novel I plotted out and told me the idea was too complex for normal people to fallow.

Dyslexics are usually called 3D thinkers.

I can imagine what a room looks like from any angle without walking there. I can figure out what it would look like to be shorter, taller, on the ceiling, upside down, all while sitting in one place. I never get lost walking around Chicago. When I leave a building my mind always forms a mental map of how to get back home. I can never give anyone directions though. When I try to figure out how to get somewhere, I start at the place I want to be and work my way street by street backward to my current location.

Memory

I have a great memory for places, textures, and objects but I will not remember your face. I am just enough on the autism scale that I hate looking into people’s eyes. At 19 I still find it hard to look in my parent’s eyes. I wouldn’t make full, sustained eye contact with my boyfriend until I had been dating him for upward of three months. So when I meet someone new I am much more likely to remember their shoes that the color of the hair or what they looked like at all.

I can’t make eye contact with myself in the mirror

 When you meet me you will think I look like a train wreck, my hair will be messy, I might have something on my face and my hands will by stained with dirt and paint. The reason for this is I hate mirrors. I can not look myself in he eye. The first time I remember doing so was middle school. So I don’t look in the mirror when I brush my hair, I won’t wash my face unless I’m in the shower. I don’t even like washing my hands because of the mirror.

I hope this look into my life helps you understand how to write dyslexic characters better. As you can see, it’s much more than just the reading, writing and math parts I covered last time. If you have any questions or want me to expand further, feel free to tell me in the comments!

How I Write Lovable Characters

Here are my experiences and how I write characters I love as well as the mistakes I’ve made. I hope this helps in some way and Happy Valentines Day!

I’ve written many different stories with many different narrators and I know a good narrator will keep me writing. The very first book I tried to write featured a main character who had no faults. I originally thought that this would make the character so much better but as I tried to write it, I started hating the character more and more. It seemed impossible for me to relate to the character and made all the tension dissipate before there was really any action.

        So I abandoned that project and started on another one. This time I was sure to give my character actual human characteristics and flaws. In fact, my main character was enemy number one when it came to the world she lived in but was the hero as far as the book went. This book actually got completed but I kept reworking it. 12 drafts later I was making the character more empathetic and less cold towards everyone. So I learned that even if a character is evil they still have to be likable.

        Not too much later I started writing a character who had lost their memory. This is when I first noticed that half of a character was just what motivated him. It didn’t even need to be on the page as long as I knew what past thing the character had that was affecting the way he reacted now. That is to say, my character was passive and dull because there was nothing motivating his actions. I ended up not writing the most interesting parts of the story because I couldn’t imagine why the character was doing what was supposed to happen.

        Not long after that, I finally started writing characters who the readers enjoyed and who helped push the plot forward. The secret to these characters was giving them emotion and reason. They were no longer a puppet with one general concept making them up but were dynamic and relatable. Sometimes these characters would change to plot just because they started moving on their own.

From then on I started building my characters from the emotion up. I’d begun a book by thinking of a situation that would cause a highly emotional response and then create the two characters who would react in the most interesting way in response to said stimuli. Before even writing the story I’d come up with past events, fears, things they hated. By fleshing them out in every aspect I could, I could understand them better and relate to them more.

Another thing I found key was to make characters have strong beliefs. If a character wasn’t either super outgoing or super shy then they were boring. But if I worked with a shy character and put them in situations where they had to be outgoing, that was interesting. I listened to what others said about why characters were good or bad and I found some interesting distinctions. Characters who were emotionally not ready to take on the climax often came across as overly dramatic and a scaredy cat. Their counterparts who were held back by past memories were perceived as strong and compelling.

The thing that makes a character seem the most alive to me then, is responding to the plot in consistent ways that are unique to the character. If they respond differently every time then I can’t relate to or understand the character. If they respond the same way as everyone else the fall flat and become boring, unoriginal, and paper thin. It is their responses that keep the plot engaging and moving forward.

Self publishing Vs. Traditional publishing: thinking about money

It’s a question as old as the internet, which is better self publishing or traditional publishing? The answer isn’t simple. What might work for you might not work for someone else. I’m going to outline the pros and cons of both, but they are surmised in the picture above.

Of cores everyone is concerned about money, so we will start with that. It’s true, you do make more money per book sale when you self publish, but there is a lot more than that factoring in. For one thing, if you can’t make a great cover of your own, you will need to pay someone to make it for you if you self publish. People are first going to look at the cover and title, so if you aren’t a pro, you might want to hire one. You also might want to hire and editor, which is another up front cost. Keep in mind, you CAN learn these skills yourself, but remember if you self publish, you have to do everything the traditional publisher would do for you. Marketing plays a small role in this. You will be doing most of your books promotion yourself, regardless, but publishers will do a little. The more books you publish that do well on the market, the more they will be willing to invest in you.

Select one of the fallowing statements:

I am comfortable making the cover, editing the book, formatting it and marketing it or am willing to pay someone a one time fee to do it for me.

I want someone to make the cover, edit the book, format it and help me out with marketing and I am willing to let them take a small amount of money from each book I sell in order to do so.

Next week I’ll be posting about the other pros and cons of both.

Day 43s simple task: Day 30 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

You are done! Well, almost. If you are here congratulations, today’s writing should be a breeze. Your probably sick and tired of your work, but who cares, you’re almost done! All you need to do is wrap everything up. Have them go back to their friends. Arrest the criminal. This is what is call “falling action” and it is the only time in your book to have it. Today you will end your book, so put in every little happy moment you can. Good job. YOU MADE IT!

You wrote 50000 words!  You wrote a book!

Day 42s simple task: Day 29 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

The climax is now! Have your characters fight at full force. Today you can show all of your character development. Have them strategize and plan. Make them both strong and smart. Have them pull from their weaknesses so that they may be strong. All the hate toward the villain should come out. Show the truth.  At the end of today, your character should win.

You wrote  48343 words! Go ahead to the next day:http://wp.me/p5y43M-6R

Day 41s simple task: Day 28 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

Rise up! Make the strong. Your main character should overcome their fear. They need to accept the information throw at them and move forward. Have them throw more information back at the villain. Here is a great place to put in the moral of your story. The character should start fighting back. Maybe weakly at first, but tomorrow they will bloom into a beautiful flower.

You wrote 46676 words! Go ahead to the next day:http://wp.me/p5y43M-6O

Day 40s simple task: Day 27 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

Plot twist! Is there anything your main character didn’t know about? Who are their parents? Are their friends really their friends? Is the love of his life really a killer? Throw questions at your reader. What information can your villain give out? Is there no cure? Has your character done something wrong? Don’t be afraid to throw in some fake information too. Everything you wrapped up yesterday should come undone.  This should be the weakest point for your character, but tomorrow they will rise back up.

You wrote 45000 words! Go ahead to the next day:http://wp.me/p5y43M-6L

Day 39s simple task: Day 26 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

The trek to the hidden lair can be a long one.  It can scare the bravest of me but it cannot weaken their resolve. Let dough creep in and then start the struggle against the last obstacle. Today is the day your readers have been waiting for. Put in all your drama from now on.  If there is anything left for your character to wrap up, do so now. That includes all the emotional baggage that they have been carrying around.  You should also get ready to wrap up, any scenes you want to put in outside of the climax can only happen now.

You wrote 43342 words! Go ahead to the next day:http://wp.me/p5y43M-6I

Day 38s simple task: Day 25 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

Today we think about theme again. You can fully express your theme now.  Tell us what lesson you want us to learn. You can tell us right out if your want. Have the theme carry your character to victory. You will also want to start wrapping up sub plots. We are at the beginning of the end. Before your character goes into the final battle have him wrap up his conflicts with others and give a final address. The only thing left to do is wrap up the big, over arcing plot.

You wrote 41675 words! Go ahead to the next day:http://wp.me/p5y43M-6F