Marcy’s Blog

7 Essential Things to Know About Staying Safe on Twitter

Twitter for AuthorsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

For all the wonderful things that technology provides us, it also comes with new risks. We need to be smart about our social media use because Twitter won’t be fun and our platform building won’t be sustainable if we don’t know how to stay safe.

So today I wanted to share seven tips for how to protect yourself and your information on Twitter so that you can make new friends, reach new readers, and grow as a writer.

Join me today at Jami Gold’s blog for the rest of my post on 7 Essential Things to Know About Staying Safe on Twitter.

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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7 Reasons Twitter Isn’t Building Your Author Platform

Twitter for AuthorsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Almost as soon as authors were told they should be on social media to build their platform, a counter-contingent of people started talking about how social media was a waste of time. They’d tell their stories of how they were on Twitter or Facebook or whatever the flavor of the month was and how they didn’t see any increase in sales or growth in their readership.

Usually there’s a simple reason for why social media didn’t work for them—they were doing it wrong.

So today I want to save you some time and heartache by explaining seven of the biggest mistakes I see authors making on Twitter. When we use Twitter correctly, it’s still one of the best possible tools for expanding our reach.

Please join me at Jane Friedman’s blog for the rest of this post!

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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7 Reasons Every Author Needs to Be on Twitter (And A New Busy Writer’s Guide)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’m thrilled to announce that the next book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series is now available!

Twitter for Authors

Building a thriving social media platform doesn’t have to steal all your precious writing time or cut into your time with your family.Twitter for Authors is about building a successful Twitter platform that’s sustainable for busy people.

Twitter often gets a bad reputation from people who don’t understand it or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, Twitter can be one of the best tools for increasing traffic to your blog and gaining new readers for your books. And it’s fun!

In Twitter for Authors, you’ll learn…

  • essential Twitter terminology,
  • how to set up your account,
  • the differences between TweetDeck and Hootsuite,
  • techniques for staying safe on Twitter,
  • how to build columns and lists and use them to find readers,
  • the value of link shorteners and hashtags,
  • what to tweet about,
  • the most common mistakes writers make on Twitter,
  • how to run a successful Twitter event,
  • how to manage your social media time,
  • and much more!

Twitter for Authors contains helpful advice for both Twitter newbies and long-time Twitter users who want to take their platform to the next level.

Due to popular demand, I’ve made Twitter for Authors available in both print and ebook form.

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords. More sites will be coming soon! The ebook is priced at $2.99 at Amazon.com and the print version costs $12.99.

I’d appreciate it if you’d share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out. And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

For those of you who aren’t convinced about the importance of Twitter yet, how about this…

7 Reasons Every Writer Needs to Be on Twitter

Twitter often gets a bad rap by people who don’t understand it, misunderstand it as full of spam and celebrity stalkers, or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, though, Twitter can be one of the best tools for meeting new readers and increasing traffic to your blog. Not to mention it’s fun!

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you then. I have seven reasons why I think every writer should be using Twitter.

Reason #1 – Twitter has over 100 million active accounts and growing.

Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your readers are on Twitter. You just need to know how to meet them.

This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. If you write for kids, your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for.

Reason #2 – Twitter allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site.

People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers (at first) because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags.

Reason #3 – Twitter makes you a better writer.

Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.

Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. No weak verbs modified by adjectives. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.

Reason #4 – Twitter brings you the news faster than any news site can.

Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. In August 2011, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. My husband and I were able to call my mother-in-law right away to make sure she and the rest of the family there were safe.

In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas in April 2012, Twitter might have even saved lives. So many tornadoes hit the Dallas area at once that meteorologists couldn’t keep up, even if people still had electricity and the ability to check their television, use their computer, or tune in on the radio. But what everyone could still do was tweet using their phones. People banded together to warn others and report sightings, keeping all involved safer than they could have been alone.

Reason #5 – Twitter allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the publishing industry.

Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.

Reason #6 – Twitter helps you research.

In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.

But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. (I did and fell in love with Scrivener.)

In my co-written novel with Facebook expert Lisa Hall-Wilson, we mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.

Reason #7 – Twitter gives you a support network of friends.

I’ve left this to last because, to me, it’s the most important. Writing is solitary. We sit at our computers and play with our imaginary friends. Which is great, but also leaves us without the support network we need if we want to make writing a long-term career.

On Twitter, you’ll find someone to talk you down off the ledge when one too many rejections or poor reviews leave you wanting to quit writing altogether. On Twitter, you can make writers friends who’ll run word sprints with you to help you keep on track. On Twitter, you can make reader friends who’ll be excited to go out and buy your book and tell everyone about it.

Twitter is like the workplace water cooler. Come, chat, and get back to work. It doesn’t take all day to make Twitter a valuable place to be!

If you’re not on Twitter yet, what’s holding you back? If you are on Twitter, what do you struggle with?

And if you’re on Twitter, make sure to leave your username in the comments so we can all follow each other!

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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Choosing the Right Social Media Site for You and Your Readers

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

When it comes to how to spread the word about your book, you’ll hear widely divergent opinions. Don’t bother with promotion. Promote in every possible way. Do real life events—forget about social media. Don’t bother with real life events—stick to blogging and social media. Buy ads. Don’t buy ads.

The one thing everyone can agree on is that indie writers need a way to let potential readers know their books exist. We don’t have access to a publisher’s ready-made audience. My experience (backed up by discussions I’ve had with other authors who’ve used the same methods) is that social media does help build your audience.

Thanks to social media, I’ve grown my blog and newsletter, moved my books into the top ranks of their respective lists when they released, and have grown my business to the point where I work full-time as a writer, editor, and writing instructor. I wasn’t able to achieve those things by networking in real life. My reach was too small.

But social media can also be a giant waste of time. The key to social media is to choose the right site for you and then learn how to use that site in a time-effective way that builds relationships. Spam never works.

The first step to using social media effectively is to figure out what site is best for you and for meeting up with your potential readers. So today I want to give you a quick overview of some of the major social media sites, how they’re different, and who they’re best for.

To read the rest of this post, head over to Janice Hardy’s Fiction University!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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How to Use Traps to Create Suspense in Fiction

 

Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via sxc.hu)

Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via sxc.hu)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, you need suspense to keep readers turning pages. Adding a trap can increase suspense because not only will your reader worry about whether or not your character will fall into the trap, they’ll also worry about how (and if) your character will escape. Will they escape unscathed or irreparably damaged? What will they have to sacrifice to get away?

You need to be a bit diabolical to write a great trap. For those of you who don’t find this comes naturally, I’ve put together a list of four ways to set a fantastic trap.

#1 – Use their greatest weakness or their greatest strength against them.

Say you have a character who’s terrified of the dark. If your villain knows this, and he knocks out the streetlights on the path she normally takes home, she’ll be redirected to the path he wants her to take.

Or you have a character whose strength is how patient and altruistic they are when it comes to the elderly, who maybe even works in a senior’s residence. Lure them using a senior in need.

The important thing with using your character’s greatest strength or weakness against them is to establish that quality well in advance of springing the trap. Anything that’s going to be important to the plot should be shown two or three times before it becomes a central plot element.

#2 – Find a plausible way to remove all the reasons your character would avoid the trap or realize it’s a trap before it’s too late.

Unfortunately, traps are difficult to do well because you don’t want your readers to feel that your main character is too stupid to live. (Come on, admit it. We’ve all been annoyed because a character did something incredibly stupid that no sane human would do, like chasing after the bad guy in the dark, unarmed and alone.)

A good example of removing the reasons your character might avoid the trap is found in Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. When Susie meets her neighbor walking home after dark, you’re screaming at her to run. But, of course, she doesn’t.

If she’s uncomfortable with adults and cold, why doesn’t she leave?

The natural authority of his age, and the added fact that he was a neighbor and talked to my father about fertilizer, rooted me to the spot.

As an excuse to leave, she tells him her mom likes her home before dark.

“It’s after dark, Susie,” he said.

He tells her that it will only take a minute to show her the “hiding place” he’s built in the cornfield. Why, though, does she go into the underground structure he’d built when he’s been looking at her lustfully?

“What is it?” I asked. I was no longer cold or weirded out by the look he’d given me. I was like I was in science class: I was curious.

Susie enjoys science and the underground structure he’s built is fascinating enough to a teen who loves science that her curiosity overcomes her fear. (This is also a good example of using a strength to set the trap. Susie loves science and her neighbor uses that against her.)

And once she was in, there was no way out.

By having Susie make the objections the reader might be making, and then dismantling them one by one, Sebold makes sure we find the trap believable.

#3 – Let the reader know about the trap a few chapters before it’s sprung.

A trap works best when the reader knows about it and the character doesn’t because it gives the reader the chance to worry longer and wonder whether each choice your protagonist makes will be the one that throws her into the trap or saves her from it.

If you’ve chosen to include scenes from your antagonist’s POV, cluing your reader in prior to springing the trap is easy. If you haven’t, you can also create a trap where your reader doesn’t consciously know ahead of time, but when it happens, they still feel like they should have seen it coming. To do this, you need to layer in hints—with a light hand—using symbolism, atmosphere, and other little details.

#4 – Don’t let your character out of the trap on their first attempt.

Seeing a character succeed at almost anything the first time is boring. The reader wants them to succeed eventually, but you can’t make it too easy for them. This is where the try-fail cycle comes in. As a general guideline, your character should fail twice before you allow them to succeed.

There are two ways for your character to “fail” at their escape. You’re asking the question, “Will my character escape?” You want to create one (or both) of these two answers initially.

YES, BUT…

Yes, they escape, but it actually makes their situation worse than it was before.

Your character escapes out of the window only to break their arm on the fall down.

Or your character escapes…but finds out that they’re now in the middle of nowhere, in a blizzard, in their underwear. It might have been bad to be in the villain’s clutches, but now they’re facing hypothermia, starvation, and being eaten by a polar bear.

NO, AND…

Not only does your character not manage to escape, but their attempt makes it worse.

They try to make it out the window, but the noise they make alerts their captor to their escape attempt and now their hands are tied behind their back.

If you put these four elements into practice, you’ll be able to create a great trap and increase the suspense in your fiction, regardless of what genre you’re writing.

What are you favorite examples of well-set traps in fiction? Or have you set traps for your characters in your own writing?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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The Danger in Trying to Revisit the Past

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. For both of us, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a childhood favorite. We watched the cartoons, watched the movies, played the video games, had the Halloween costumes.

We went for the nostalgia.

But they’d downgraded the acting, had less plot, and made the turtles seem less like teenagers and more like twelve-year-olds. I was disappointed because I wanted to re-experience the joy I found in the Ninja Turtles as a child.

I think most of us have the desire to relive some of the happy moments of our past and re-experience some of the things we used to love.

Most of the times I’ve tried, though, they haven’t been the way I remembered.

When I was a kid, I loved those Hostess chocolate cupcakes with the white filling and white icing loops on the top. When I tried them as an adult, they tasted stale and lacking in flavor.

Maybe the problem was in looking back rather than looking forward. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to relive or recapture the good moments of the past. Maybe we should leave those as happy memories and instead focus our time on forming new happy memories in the present.

Have you tried to recapture a happy childhood memory? How did it work out for you?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen, on sale for 99 cents. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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Does Genre Matter?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I was interviewed by Julie Duffy of Flash Fiction Chronicles for her ongoing series of practical articles about genre. Let me give you just a taste of how the article starts.

No longer simply a genre of heaving bosoms and discreetly closing doors, Romance burst into the digital age as one of the broadest, most forward-looking—and profitable—genres in the publishing business. Romance titles represented $1bn in sales last year, or 13% of the adult fiction market. There couldn’t be a better time to be writing Romance, so whether you’ve ever hidden a Harlequin between the covers of the latest Pulitzer Prize winner, or if you have no idea what all the fuss is about, prepare for a brief encounter…with Romance.

Julie goes on to cover the importance of the central love story, whether or not you need an optimistic ending, and much more. I hope you’ll swing by and read “Does Genre Matter: Romance.”

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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How to Save Money on Editing Your Book

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Self-publishing your work means all the profits are yours, but it also means all the costs are yours. The two universally accepted areas where you shouldn’t skimp on quality are your cover and editing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your costs to a minimum when it comes to editing without sacrificing quality. Today, in my guest post at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, I’m going give you tips that can help you save money no matter what level or levels of editing you need.

Click here to read the rest of How to Save Money on Editing Your Book.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Kiss Your “As” Goodbye: A Simple Grammar Trick for Better Fiction

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A good grade in a high school or college English class doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to write great fiction, so it’s easy for us to mistakenly think understanding grammar isn’t important for fiction writing at all. Isn’t that what a copy editor is for? Won’t they fix all your mistakes?

A copy editor will fix our actual errors, but some of the rules we were taught in English class will actually hurt our fiction writing, not help it. And some easy grammatical tricks that our copy editor won’t do for us can improve our fiction.

In my work as an editor, one of the most common mistakes I see made by fiction writers is the reversal of the necessary order of cause coming before effect, action coming before reaction.

When we reverse the two so that the effect comes first or comes at the same time as the cause, our readers will feel thrown off-balance and disconnected from our writing, even if they can’t always explain why. In real life, cause always comes before effect. The effect can’t come before what caused it. They expect the same in fiction (unless we’re writing a science fiction story with a temporal paradox, of course).

If you’d like to read the rest of this post, please join me at Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog.

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Behind the Scenes: Ava Louise and Mail Order Brides in Space

Ava LouiseI have a special treat for you in this episode of Behind the Scenes. I asked Ava Louise to write a guest post for me because of how much the idea behind her series Intergalactic Matchmaking Services intrigued me. I don’t want to give too much away–I’ll leave that for her post–but I do want to introduce you to her.

Here’s what Ava said about herself:

I was born an Army brat overseas, and have been married to a retired Navy sailor for 25 years. Life in the military has given me many opportunities to see different parts of our beautiful country. Currently, we live in the Midwest. Since writing came to me later in life, I like to think I’m living proof that it’s never too late to reach for a dream or to achieve it. Before I started writing my own stories, I usually read from a wide array of genres. I love Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mysteries, Thrillers, and Young Adult.

And now for her post where she shares with you what aliens and mail order brides have in common and how they inspired the books in the Intergalactic Matchmaking Services series. Take it away, Ava!

**************************************************************************************************************************

Thanks for the opportunity to guest on your wonderful blog. It’s a true honor to be here.

You asked how I came up with the idea for the Intergalactic Matchmaking Services series. This was a case of art inspiring art fed by a dare. When I read, I like to immerse myself into the story to the point of asking myself, “What if?” A truly good book, in my opinion, makes the reader ask that question in one way or another. What if this were really possible? What if it happened in MY life…how would I react?

Last Fall I was on a reading kick about Mail Order brides in the Old West. While mail order brides did (and still do) exist, I wondered what it would take for a woman to give up her current life for a completely unknown environment. The bravery it took to embrace that choice must have been tremendous.

A friend and I were talking about books and this topic came up. She suggested I write a book about it…she dared me. Writing about mail order brides sounded fun, but I didn’t want to write about the Old West. Inspiration struck!

Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I’ve always been fascinated by space travel. It’s an area that is open to endless possibilities in reality and fiction. I chose that route for my story.

I started by asking “What if?” From there, the ideas just sort of blossomed. What would make a modern-day woman give up her life? How bad would things have to be for her to make that decision? What if she had an emotional tie to someone or something here on Earth? How much harder would that make it? How would that emotional entanglement impact her interactions with an alien race?

When it came time to think about the males in my story, I didn’t want to go the route of the Tarzan/He-Man/Caveman stereotype. I don’t find that personality appealing, and I figured there had to be readers out there that felt the same. Give me a man who has manners and can still be strong without dragging his knuckles, thank you!

But what would make an alien race consider approaching human females—without just kidnapping them and racing off to the other end of the universe like some galactic Neanderthal? What could force the necessity while demanding diplomacy at the same time? The only thing I could think of would be that they were in danger of extinction, therefore, they needed other races.

Then, because my cat, Mamzell, is such a large part of my life, I wondered “How would I leave her behind?” The answer was simple, I couldn’t. So Mamzell was woven into the first story! What cat wouldn’t want to be the first one into space? And how would an alien race react when faced with this relationship? Mamzell offered me many avenues of humor in the first book!

I like to think Maggie’s Story or Shirley’s Story could happen one day. Not exactly as I wrote them, of course. But hopefully there is life out beyond our own galaxy. Perhaps we humans aren’t alone. And perhaps we have a role to play in the lives of these as-yet-unknown races.

Shirley's StoryAbout Shirley’s Story (Intergalactic Matchmaking Services, Book 2):

Just as Shirley decides to try opening herself up to a chance at love, a stalker from her past returns. How does she move forward when her past comes knocking? What’s going on with her young student, Hannah? Will her dog, Oreo, be okay with Shirley looking for love?

This is a novella-length story.

You can buy a copy of Shirley’s Story on Amazon!

Find Ava Online:

Email: AvaLouiseAuthor@yahoo.com
Website: http://avalouise.net/

Blog: The Road to a Dream: http://avalouiseauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@avalouiseauthor

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