Tag Archives: writing

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!

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

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.

Acting Tips that May Help Your Writing!

I recently picked up a book on acting and directing actors and found some tips you may find useful for developing characters. One of the main ideas is to try to think of yourself and how you are similar to the character. With that in mind as you fill out a character sheet, answer the questions in regard to yourself first. This may help you think of the character in a deeper way. Then ask the tough questions.

What unpleasant truths is the character forced to deal with?

What is the character most knowledgeable about?

How does he/she use their intelligence?

Is the character protecting himself from past pains or avoiding situations because of his past?

What makes him/her laugh?

What makes him/her loose their sense of humor?

What is their blind spot?

What are they doing in this scene that they have never done before?

In what way is this character an artist?

These are the questions I found were most often left out of character sheets that really help me understand the character more. By answering the questions of myself I am more able to relate to my characters and write them more honestly. They seem more human to me when I put little pieces of myself in there with them.

Breaking into the Writing Industry

Today I had the chance to go to a writers conference. One of the panels I went to was called creating a career. It was led by Jay Bonansinga (writer of the walking dead books), Jody Lynn Nye (prolific sci-fi and fantasy writer and author of The Dragonlover’s guide to Pern) and Keith Kappel (Freelancer for online content such as the Star Wars RPG). What I have written below is just a starting off point to do more research, please tell me if you want to hear more specifics on each topic!

Ok enough intros, here’s what I learned about breaking into the writing industry. Jay recommended taking any writing job you can, you’ll learn a lot about all different types of writing. Jody also recommended this suggesting that video games always need a  few dialog lines for NPCs. She also suggested being reading the slush pile.

Let’s dive into that one a little bit more. The slush pile is all of the manuscripts that made it past the twenty-page test and need to be read all the way through to see if they are any good. This job is given to avid readers and you can be one. You would get paid $25-$100 per manuscript and network with the people who would be reading your book and judging how good it is. I hope you can see why this is a great opportunity.

And the last recommendation they told me about was upwork. I haven’t used it yet but I will try to give my feedback on this freelancing website soon.

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!