Marcy’s Blog

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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:

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

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:

Five Words That Weaken Your Writing

Weak Words

Image Credit: Andrzej Pobiedziski (freeimage.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last week, I released my newest Busy Writer’s Guide, Grammar for Fiction Writers, so today I wanted to give you a taste of what you can find inside. This is a section from “Chapter Nine: Weak Words.” I’m going to share five unspecific words that weaken your writing.

Weak words are words that don’t pull their own weight in a sentence. Most of the time, they’re useless. So useless, in fact, that, by taking them out, you make the sentence stronger.

At first this might seem like a strange chapter to include in a grammar book. Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with weak words. But this is a book on grammar for fiction writers, and so one of the things we have to look at in terms of grammar is tightening up our writing and bringing it to life by removing useless words from our sentences.

Both weasel words and helping and state-of-being verbs could have been included under unspecific words because of how they tend to tell rather than show, but I broke them up because of the slight differences between them. In this section, I want to focus on five words that are weak specifically because of how vague and generic they are.

Got/Get

Get (and its forms) isn’t always wrong, but you want to be careful because it can lead to confusion. It means “to receive,” “to take possession,” or “to obtain.” However, some people also use it in place of have.

Let me show you how this becomes a problem.

I got five dollars.

Does this mean “I have five dollars,” as in “I currently possess five dollars”? Or does it mean “someone gave me five dollars”?

To avoid vagueness like this, you should rewrite your sentence.

Grandpa gave me five dollars.

I have only five dollars to my name right now.

As you go through your writing, don’t assume that your got sentences are clear. Make sure they are.

Things

Like got, things isn’t wrong, but we often use it as the lazy way to escape putting in the work to define what we mean by things. Things could stand in for problems or reasons, which are two very different things.

When your character says, “I have things to do,” what does she mean? Does she mean she has errands to run? A house to clean? A doctor’s appointment? The only time you should have a character saying they have “things to do” is if they’re being intentionally vague, such as if they don’t want their girlfriend to know that they’re planning a surprise proposal. But even then, why not have them give a more specific excuse?

Moved/Took/Looked

How many times have you written something like this?

He moved across the room.

Grammatically, there’s nothing wrong with this sentence. The problem comes from its vagueness. It doesn’t give the reader a clear picture of the way your character is moving.

Look at these three possible types of movement.

He shuffled across the room.

He stalked across the room.

He sauntered across the room.

In each sentence, we have him moving across the room, but they’re extremely different types of movement. Don’t leave your reader guessing.

Both took and looked fall into the same category as moved.

She took the letter from him.

This doesn’t show us what’s happening.

She snatched the letter from him.

She delicately plucked the letter from him using only her thumb and forefinger, as if she were afraid contact with it would contaminate her.

Two different emotions are behind those ways of taking the letter.

Here’s the one I see most often in my editing work.

She looked at him.

But how did she look at him? Was it a furtive glance from the corner of her eyes as if she didn’t want to be caught? Was she glaring? Was she giving him an I-dare-you-to-try-it look?

None of these unspecific words are technically wrong, but you’re shortchanging your reader and yourself.

For more of Grammar for Fiction Writers, please pick up a copy 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:

The Fine Line Between Forgiveness and Accountability

Transformers Age of ExtinctionBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’m going to admit up front that I haven’t been a huge fan of the Transformers franchise. I loved Transformers as a child, but I felt the first of the more recent movies was okay, and then the second two went downhill from there.

So I went into Transformers: Age of Extinction (movie #4) not expecting much. I only went because my husband loves the special effects and REALLY wanted to see them on the big screen.

And then I had to eat crow. Nicely roasted and basted with a raspberry-chipotle sauce of course, but crow nonetheless.

It wasn’t a perfect movie—far from it—but the dialogue made me laugh (in a good way), and I found myself drawn in by a new wrinkle. Optimus Prime was fed up with humanity and was tired of waiting for them to change.

Gone was the sacrifice-for-the-humans-at-any-cost Optimus from the past movies. He’d been disappointed and betrayed one too many times, and all he wanted to do was collect up the surviving Autobots and leave Earth for good.

Cade Yeager, the inventor and single father who is trying to help the Autobots, begs Optimus to give humanity a second chance. He claimed that screwing up is part of what humanity does. It’s what makes us human.

On one level, I agreed with Cade. Humans make mistakes, and we should be willing to forgive people for those mistakes. We should give second chances.

On another level, I disagreed because it sounded like Cade was arguing we should not only always forgive those who make mistakes but that we should continue to help them indefinitely, no matter how many times they make the same mistake and no matter how much we’re hurt by that mistake.

It’s the line between forgiveness (which I believe should always be extended) and allowing someone to walk all over you, never holding them accountable for their actions.

I know that the Transformers couldn’t hold humanity accountable or there wouldn’t have been a movie, but Cade’s answer felt trite. So many of the Transformers had been wrongly slaughtered, despite all they’d done in the past to save humanity. A “we’re humans and we make mistakes” reply didn’t cut it for me. And I had to wonder, is that how our society really feels now? Is there no place left for justice and accountability? Are we really expected to give infinite chances?

I believe mercy needs to be balanced with justice, and help needs to be balanced with accountability.

What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Is this how our society views mistakes, wrongs, and accountability now?

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.

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:

5 Guidelines for Approaching Book Review Bloggers

 

Image Credit: Michael Leach (freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Michael Leach (freeimages.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last month I talked about self-published book awards as one means to help build word of mouth and credibility for your book. Today I want to talk about another important method for letting readers know our book exists and (hopefully) that they’ll enjoy it—blog reviews.

I know blog tours have become a debated topic of late. Are they worth it? Aren’t they worth it?

In this post, I’m not talking about you running a blog tour where you do interviews and guest posts. I’m talking about approaching book review blogs to have them review your book.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll increase both your chances of a review and your chances of a good review.

Join me today at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University for the 5 Guidelines for Approaching Book Review Bloggers!

I hope you’ll check out the books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series, including Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction and How to Write Dialogue.

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: