Tag Archives: Books

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!

Why Publishers Will Only Read Your First Page!

I have always thought it was unfair that a publisher spends so little looking at people’s novels before sending the rejection letter. But recently I was able to talk with an editor about why that is.

This is the most important thing she told me.

When a READER picks up your book, makes it past the cover and the back of the book blurb, the most they will read is a page. I was in Barnes and Noble for a few hours and picked up a few books based off of their covers. Most nonfiction got flipped to a random page and I read THREE LINES. I picked up few fiction books and read the back. I opened ONE. This is like the publisher reading your summary or Querry letter. They will be able to tell based off of that if they would open your novel.

The single book I opened didn’t even get the whole page read

In this era, we have very short attention spans. If the publisher didn’t get to the ‘best stuff’ then neither will your reader. Put your best work at the very beginning. But have hope. That one book I picked up came home with me because when I read the first half a page I decided I loved it. So when a publisher picks up your book they will read very little.

They will be able to see how much thought and editing you put in. They will see if you know how to write engaging work and know how to start a story. And most importantly they will be able to see if it’s the type of book they have been waiting for.

This summer I will be editing three novels I have been writing since 2014 and I hope to give you advice on getting published and making your book be one that people fall in love with. I hope this information was as eye-opening to you as it was to me.

Writing in Character Voice; Tips and Tricks

Maintaining character voice is one of the trickiest things in writing but I feel creating a distinct character voice could be trickier. Overall, character voice is often neglected in the writing community. Lots of people write all their character all in the same voice, that’s what I’m here to remedy today.

Font

Yes, font! You might think this is an odd way to write in different character voices and it is. One of the first things I do when opening a blank document is find a font that matches the was I think the character handwriting would look. This is a visual reminder that I should be writing in their voice. When I switch to a different story I’ll remember my style based on that font.

Length of Sentences

Some people ramble, some people don’t have much to say. I pause a lot to think about what I’m going to say, some of my friends don’t have any kind of filter. Try to picture the wheels turning in that person’s head, are they well greased or slowly falling apart?  How long it takes someone to express and idea is very indicative of character.

Word Choice and Dialect

This is a pretty common one. Some characters grew up educated, others are children, some speak English as a second language. Even just having a character from the south with one from Chicago will show you some very different results. Think through your characters past, where they were raised, who the hung out with, and what they know. Some characters will drop a ‘g’ off of ‘ing’ others won’t. These are the little differences that make characters distinct.

Mixed Speech Styles

Many great books use high class, ten cent words, but the funniest ones mix in character defining words.

“I can’t remember why the gods cast me down to Earth but I have continued to believe that they had a reason despite my recent fuck ups.”

I bet one art of that stands out to you. It really gives a sense of the character despite only hearing one sentence of narration from them.  I believe using mixed dictation makes characters seem more alive.

Now Pay Attention

As you go around day to day, listen to all the different people you meet and how they choose to organize their words. Even very similar people will phrase things differently. Try to learn from real life rather than films as those are often inaccurate. People often forget that a very simple writing tool is to listen.

I hope this helped you in some way. I think these are some of my best tips for making character distinct and interesting! Have a great day.

What Does ‘Write What you Want to Read’ Really Mean?

I always heard the advice ‘write what you want to read’ whenever I scoured the internet for inspiration. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood what that meant. I was at a writers conference talking with a creative writing teacher and I brought up this idea to him. When I think of writing what I want to read it stressed me out because it would need to be really well done and extraordinarily interesting (I’m quite a picky reader). I could never combine all the things I like into one book. Then he told me the meaning behind that statement.

If You Don’t Write What You Want to Read You Won’t Write Well

Thus the book you write doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to combine your interests. I have tried to write about things I don’t like before and those parts always end up uninteresting, short, or unfinished. So for that reason, I will write what I find most interesting in this world and I there are others out there who are also looking to read it. Knowing this took a lot of stress off my shoulders when developing ideas and I hope it helps you too!

Books on Marketing your Writing and Building Your Platform

I’m currently reading two books about how to market your novel. These both mostly focus on building your platform. “Sell Your Book Like WildFire” and “Your First 1000 Copies” both have similar content but their approach is entirely different.

Your First 1000 Copies is a very fun seemingly up to date book for having been written in 2013. This focuses on taking down your fears about marketing and making connections with people.

Sell Your Book Like WildFire has a very step by step approach to keep you moving forward. To me, it seemed less up to date but was written in 2012.

Both of these books motivate me greatly and I would recommend them. I personally like ‘Your First 1000 Copies’ more because of his writing style but I can see either beeing more useful depending on the style you like the most.

If you want to see more of my book recommendations or judge me based off of my childish style find my on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/55094969-sparren-fayne

Do I Recommend Lynda.com to Writers?

We’ve all seen the ads for lynda.com where you learn skills for a small fee but I recently had the opportunity to try it out for free. My main goal when reading on there was to learn writing skills. When I went on there for the first time…

I was Initially Disappointed

When I saw the writing classes most of them appeared to be for nonfiction, like for resumes, speeches, and business. Now the ones I have gotten all the way through were very useful!

The Quality of the Videos is Great

There are a lot of good quality editing tips and a few story videos that particularly helped me. But because of the length of the series, I found it hard for me to get through them and often had to do it in more than one sitting. That isn’t the way I learn but…

I DO Recommend Lynda But Not for the Reason You Think

When I was searching for other writing videos I found tons of other resources which I think will help the other aspects of my career such as blogging courses and google analytics tutorials that I wouldn’t have know to seek out if it weren’t for that site. So if you are looking to expand your horizons when it comes to selling your work, then yes I would check out at least the 10-day free trial. If you are going there for the writing specifically, though, I wouldn’t hand over any money.

But That’s Just My Opinion

I am in no way sponsored Lynda.com and made this because I always wondered if I should sign up for the classes. I hope this helped you. Have a great day!

How I Force Perfect Conditions for Writing

As a writer, it is my dream to sit in a warm, sunny spot, surrounded by plants and my cat where it is very quiet. I would sit there and be undisturbed for a whole day, having food be delivered every four hours so I don’t have to move. If I ever become a bestseller then maybe I will get to have writing days like this, but until then I have to sacrifice some things.

To get settled I have to get into a semi-public space, like my living room, when no one else is around so I don’t get distracted by the many wonders of the internet. I can’t go to a super public place, like a coffee shop because that’s too distracting and traveling there feels like a waste of time. I sit in a big chair that already has a soft blanket in it and sit at the table with all of my plants and my fish. I would have my cat but she’s not allowed in my building.

The next thing I do is put on white noise. I used to listen to music but found lyrics would seep into my writing or the beat would change the pace of the story. So anything I listen to either can’t have talking or has to be in another language, this usually blocks out the rest of the world. If it’s cloudy outside, though, I won’t be inspired to do anything and will often time just crawl back into bed. If this is the case, I have to write at night with all the lights on. I’ll also need a sweatshirt nearby so I can regulate my temperature instead of standing up and messing with the thermostat.

I know that the more I move in between writing sentences, the more likely I am to stop writing. So before I start I get all my notebooks and some pencils and a sketchbook, the charger for my laptop, some CDs, a whole pot of tea, and some cookies or other snacks. That way I won’t ever have to stop and grab something.

So now I have my writing station all set up, it seems to be the perfect conditions for writing, but then I have to go on the quest for inspiration. This starts long before I actually write my novel, during the pre-production stage so to speak. When developing the idea I find three or four songs that really fit what I’m going for and save those to a folder. If I need to get in the mood, I listen to those. I also gather pictures of what my characters look like and paste them at the to of the document as well as any world building pictures or props I might forget. My goal with this is to have a strong mental image of what I want to convey and what my characters are doing.

I also need my plot written out in as much detail as I can to be paste at the bottom of the page so I can reference it constantly. I always need to be moving towards the next plot point or be inspired to get to what is next. This will let me get in the flow as opposed to jumping around documents trying to find inspiration. I need to write really quickly so I don’t loose my steam so I’ll either turn off spell check or just not bother with it. I might even turn on text to speech.

That’s everything I do to make the perfect conditions around me, it leaves little to the outside world except for one thing. I always seem to be busy with something else and need to get other work done, or submit something, or read something. Life just gets in the way and sometimes you can’t ignore it. I heard once that writers should wake up earlier or go to bed later than their problems so they can write when they don’t have anything else to do. When I did that it just opened the gates for me to procrastinate on real work until later in the night. I hear some people scheduled time but that has just never worked for me. The only thing I can do is make writing my priority, either by setting a due date or challenging myself. Nanowrimo is very useful for this purpose, it will get me writing 3000 words a day or more. Sometimes I can’t write and I accept that, but I always try to make writing at least a sentence every day a priority of mine.

I hope you can stop waiting for your perfect writing conditions and do your best to force them like I do. Even if what you need isn’t the same as what I need I’m sure you can figure out a hack way to do it too.

How to use Character Worksheet to its Full Potential

Last week I uploaded a character sheet but let me show you how I took it one step further. You can find all of the elements in this character background sheet. Writing it up in paragraph form will help you link ideas into a flowing format. Below I have a character bio base off of this post: http://wp.me/p5y43M-dd
I hope you find this helpful.

Milo Maxx never had many friends. In first grade, the kids who she thought were her good friends left her calling her crazy for thinking she could time travel by merely meditating with an orange stone. She never quite recovered from that, feeling outcast her entire life. Her parents were her closest friends being that they were quite young when she was born. Both of her parents were almost like is themselves, with her dad being an archaeologist and her mother a museum curator, every day was a wonderful look at the past. She would run home after school, ignoring the other kids so she could learn new stories from her parents.

Just like them, she wanted to be an anthropologist but there was more to her goal. Though their family lived happily, they were always a little tight on money. This developed a strong work ethic in her at a young age and a creative spirit and knack for entrepreneurial enterprises. Her parents taught her many other things too, like `to take risks, try new things, and most of all, learn from history or you are bound to repeat it. So Milo worked very hard and was able to go to a private school on a full scholarship.

But as with every story when it is going remarkably well, disaster struck. Milo’s mom was killed in a suspicious accident when she was still quite young. To support them, Milo’s father had to take on more jobs and steadily grew distant. As an only child, Milo got used to doing things on her own and took fate into her own hands. She used the stone that took her back in time and killed a dinosaur. Returning to her time, she showed her father exactly where it was so he could excavate it.

This brought in a huge amount of money to the family. She was able to do this over and over again until they moved from there little house at the edge of the city to a huge estate on the hilltops far away. But with each new discovery, her dad had to sacrifice more and more of his time to the dig and spend less of it with Milo. A maid and butler were hired to take care of Milo and the house and things started to settle down again. She had just been accepted to a prestigious school not far from home when her life got turned upside down again.

Now 17 and halfway through her senior year in high school someone in the government got suspicious of her father’s archaeological discoveries and detained him for questioning. Milo was then forced to move in with the only other relatives she had, her aunt, uncle and cousin who currently lived in Japan.

She arrives having never really met these people before and has no idea what is happening to her father.  She moves into the house which is much smaller than the one she had gotten so comfortable in but more than that is upset by the time stone having been taken by the government. Her winter break is a crash course in Japanese so that she can spend the last half of her high school year with her cousin at his school.

As she starts the new school year she feels more excluded than ever and is completely uninterested in her schools. She quickly becomes the ‘quiet kid’ in class and does not have the confidence to speak up and be friendly. Her extended family is a constant reminder of what her family used to be like and suddenly Milo is more lonely than ever.

Cue the start of the story.

Questions to Develop your Characters Background

Here are some questions to think about when creating a new character. This is not an exhaustive list or character sheet, merely something to get you thinking. It’s primarily focused on their past with a little bit of current situation mixed in. I hope you find it helpful!

Name:

Age:

Where they currently live:

What is the greater area around their home: (city, country etc.)

What they do for a living: (year in school also counts)

Previous homes: (or else why have they never moved)

Why did they move: (or where would they like to move)

How are they feeling at this time:

Who is their father: (specify their job)

Who is their mother: (specify their job)

Siblings: (or how being an only child has affected them)

Family relationship:

How was their relationship to their family before:

How old were their parents when they were born:

What was some advice they learned from their parents: (Relationships, work, life etc.)

What was their education:

What kind of college: (or why didn’t they go to one)

What were two defining moments in their life:

When they were little, what did they want to be when they grew up:

Do they have many friends and what is their relationship to them:

 

I hope there was at least one question on here you haven’t thought of before and that it helped you in some way. Good luck!