April 22, 2019– We’re (and I mean, me) are getting pretty creative with titles around here as of late (insert eye-roll here). As authors we often find ourselves teaching seminars and workshops about writing and the business of writing. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, one as a teacher and the other as a listener; there’s nothing worse than having/listening to a terrible presentation that is boring and non-educational. PowerPoint presentations can be valuable tools for your audience if done correctly, so naturally, let’s chat about what makes a sh*tty PowerPoint presentation.
Crowding slides with too much text. Your audience isn’t here to read every word you write, they’re here to LISTEN to your presentation and maybe jot down a few important points. Leave your slides with plenty of blank spaces, not only does it look better, but it allows you to stick to the most important points and dialogue with your audience. If all of your content is on the slides why would your audience need you?
Visual distractions. I’m talking about graphics (too many, too large, too small, too stupid) and backgrounds. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Same goes for meaningless animation-save it because this is business.
Impossible to read. There’s a client of mine who used a font in his email that looked like handwriting; it drove me nuts because I had a hard time figuring out what he was trying to say. Not only did this waste both of our time, but it also came across as extremely unprofessional. Use your fonts wisely and make sure that whatever you choose, that it’s readable. Remember that every PowerPoint presentation is a VISUAL aid for a live presentation.
The bottom line is to create a presentation that will engage your audience rather than overwhelm/put them to sleep. X LLB
April 10, 2019-LOL! This has to be one of my most favourite blog titles to date. Seriously, too funny! As a business owner, author, and entrepreneur, I know how ESSENTIAL it is to be on top of things like hashtags. If you’re an indie author or a business owner, you need to know the power of hashtags! And if you’re not using them or using them incorrectly, you aren’t only hurting yourself, your business, the environment, and baby animals everywhere. Honestly, sometimes I just throw in nonsense to make sure you’re paying attention. I know that for some of you, hashtags, social media, and marketing can seem daunting, but let me assure you, with a bit of help you can do it!
Let’s start from the beginning, what are hashtags? It’s the pound sign (#) with a word or phrase after it. They’re used on social media and they identify specific messages or ideas. Get it? #hamont (Hamilton Ontario) which has been hashtagged 1.7 MILLION times. People use the hashtag symbol (#) before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Instagram post/Tweet/Facebook Post to categorize those messages/tweets/posts and help them show more easily in social media searches. Clicking or tapping on a hashtagged word in any message shows you other tweets/messages/posts that include that hashtag. Hashtags can be included anywhere in a tweet/message/post.
Hashtags are a great way to build your brand, boost your marketing, and keep in touch with your audience! Interestingly enough, using hashtags in your social media posts can greatly increase your engagement and Twitter reported that brands who use hashtags see a FIFTY PERCENT(!) increase in post engagement. See why this is essential? Tweets, Instagram Posts, and Facebook updates that include hashtags were 55 percent more likely to be retweeted and shared by other users.
If you’re not hashtagging your social media posts, you are seriously missing out! Get on it today.
If you want more help with which hashtags to use and how not to annoy your audience by hashtagging everything, send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send you our package pricing.
March 6, 2019– Character sketches are essential to writing because characters are the people in your book that your readers care about the most! If you don’t have a strong, character-driven story, chances are that people won’t continue to read your work. While writing, authors try and develop characters that readers can relate to. We want characters with real-world struggles of the human condition that intertwine us and make us comrades in this life. As readers, we want to look at a character and see parts of ourselves.
So what exactly is a character sketch? A character sketch is simply writing down everything that you need to know about a character from what their favourite food is to what motivates them. It may sound silly, but I always encourage my authors to write down absolutely EVERYTHING about their characters even the stuff that won’t make it into the book, because knowing their character intimately allows their quirks and personality traits to bleed into their writing. For example, Jenna may hate spaghetti, but the reason behind it may be because it was her abusive ex-husband’s favourite dish.
Let’s elaborate and use Jenna as a character sketch:
32 years old
no children but two pit bull dogs
loves old movies
favourite food is roast beef
brown eyes and blonde hair from a bottle
second born of three children (Older brother, her, younger brother)
parents are dead
biggest fear is being alone
listens to opera music but only while in the shower
a non-reader other than gossip rags
spare time is used to scour antique shops
biggest goal in her life is to find true love after four failed attempts
I think that’s enough examples and you guys get the point! So, where does this information come in handy? Let’s use this to create a scene.
Jenna threw her keys into the dish on the counter. She scoured her brother’s almost bare fridge for anything edible but the only thing left was day-old spaghetti. She chucked the pasta in the trash with such force that the container burst open and some noodles stuck to the wall. Memories of her cheating ex-husband came barrelling to the surface as she held back tears. It was his favourite meal and the first meal they shared as husband and wife. The cold, stringy pasta was a horrible reminder of the man who betrayed her trust and slept with her best friend.
How in the world did we get all of this from spaghetti? See what I mean? This was going out on a ledge, but we must remember that people have their reasons for everything that they do or don’t do. They don’t do, or like, or hate things for no reason, there is always an explanation.
So, I hope you’ll take the time to sketch your characters! It will make a world of difference in your writing. X LLB
March 4, 2019- Awesome video to share with you today! Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling. Clue 1- starting at the end and working back to the beginning. (Contains graphic language …) Enjoy!
February 25, 2019-I had a fantastic trip to New York this month, and I learned so much at the SCBWI conference. The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators is just one of the many excellent organizations you can join as an author; the guidelines and specifications are online, so be sure to check them out if you’re interested in becoming a member.
Being an author is a tough business, but you should never give up if story writing is your dream. Here are a few things that you should know:
You are way more capable than you believe. You can do this, you can deal with the rejections, you can write something special and meaningful. Some days it may seem like you’re banging your head against the desk because the words won’t come, but I assure you, you can do this! Keep going.
Lots of people believe in you and want to see you succeed; they also want to help you in achieving your goals. Your family, friends, community, spouse, loved ones, and teachers all want to see you make it! They’re cheering you on, and if you ever need help, all you need to do is ask them, and they’ll be thrilled to do so. We can’t be in this business alone, and we won’t get very far by ourselves.
You have a choice. You can choose to listen to those who want to try and change your purpose, your work, your ideas, your vision, and your path, or you can go with your gut and keep writing and sharing the stories you want to tell.
The truth is, the publishing and writing industry is contradictory at times, and you never seem to get a straight answer. Keep digging for information and advice and go with the choices that speak to you. If you’re a children’s author and you think you need an agent, don’t hesitate to go with your gut even when you get conflicting information.
This is a business. Our business is books and storytelling. Our job is to tell the stories and then sell the stories.
I hope that you get the chance to visit New York and see all that it has to offer! From museums to sporting events, to Broadway and beyond, the arts and inspiration are around every corner. X LLB
February 13, 2019– First, let me say a very happybirthday to my momma. I love you and thanks for supporting me in everything. You are the best, and I’m so glad you’re my mom.
You read the title of this post correctly in that your next novel or storybook could very well be sitting on your bookshelf right now! I’m not talking about plagiarizing or copying other artists work, I’m talking about inspiration. As authors, we own a ton of different books that range from fiction to non-fiction, to romance, thrillers, biographies, magazines, historical fiction, and everything in between because we read as much as we write.
A few months back when I decided it was time to pitch a children’s story to some agents in New York, I knew I needed some fresh material. I also knew that I made a promise to myself that in 2019 I would use what I have. Now, normally, I would have gone to the bookstore and bought a bunch of books for inspiration, but this time, I went to my well-stocked library and pulled a book off the shelf. I was determined to take an idea and make it into a story, and that’s precisely what I did. I can’t give you any more details on this until it’s the right time, but I’ll update this post with news from what transpired with the agents:)
So, how can you use what you have on your shelf to write a great story that’s your own? Here’s how:
Start with non-fiction. You’ve heard the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction and if you’ve ever thumbed through a newspaper you’ll know that it’s true! Use headlines from your daily delivery that catch your attention. Here are few that I’ve put in my back pocket for later use: Woman searched for 24 years for the daughter she was forced to give up, Kitty hitches 40 km ride to Grimsby in a garbage truck, and Spiders Alive-The eight-legged exhibition. Also, think about using some headlines from around the world, a quick Google search will help you find inspiration.
Page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3– This is a fun way to start a story! Quick, go to your bookshelf and choose a book. Turn to page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3. Here’s what I found from the book that I chose by following the above directions: Toe wrestling began in the town of Wetton in 1970. How awesome is that for a starter? You can do this with any book and with any numbers you choose.
Turn to professional publications– I subscribe to a bunch of publications that are relevant to writing and publishing and one of my favourites is Writer’s Digest. It’s always packed full of information and good advice and sometimes even an idea or two. Pick up your trusted magazines either digitally or the ones that are covering the sofa and flip through them for ideas. Here’s one that I picked up from the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest: Investigative reporting often involves tracking down reluctant sources… Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What about a story about a reporter who goes to get answers from a source and they end up running for their life? What if they’ve uncovered a secret that’s too big to keep hidden? What if the reporter finds out that the reluctant source is their spouse? And the list of ideas go on and on.
There you have it; inspiration for your next book is almost certainly lurking in the corners of your bookshelf! It’s up to you to find it:) Happy Writing! X LLB
November 19, 2018– You read the headline correctly; you can make money by freelance writing…IF you do it correctly. Here’s what you need to know about starting your own writing business: (Also, I don’t think that I need to mention that you should be a writing professional in some capacity before starting your own writing for money business).
Decide what you are going to offer. Are you going to start a resume writing service? Are you going to edit people’s manuscripts? Are you going to write copy for a business such as a real estate office or medical center? Are you going to edit e-books before publication? There are so many things to choose from. I recommend choosing something that you’re really familiar and comfortable with to start, as your skills continue to develop, you can expand into new territories.
Set a price point. How much will you charge for your services? What is the timeline in which your work will be completed? Will you have a contract? Will you charge per word or per chapter or per project? Will you charge by the hour or a lump sum? I recommend having a clear idea of what your price includes and what it doesn’t and being straightforward with your clients so that there is no confusion and you aren’t spending hours working for free.
Find clients and writing projects. Now that you know what you’re offering and how much it will cost, you have to find clients for your business. Start by putting an ad on sites like Kijiji and Craig’s list. Also, get business cards printed and leave them wherever you go, like when you’re going out to dinner, leave a stack at the library on the front desk, hand them out to friends and family and encourage them to spread the word. Use social media to your advantage, put up samples of your work and your contact information as well as pricing. Brainstorm a list of businesses that could use your services if you’re offering copywriting. If you’re offering resume writing services, approach colleges, and universities. Make a list of all the people you know who could use what you have to offer and talk to them!
Ask for referrals. Once you’ve got your first client under your belt and they’re happy with your work, ask them if there’s anyone they know who could also benefit from your services. You can also ask them to post a review on social media with a link to your email or website; this will lend to your credibility and people tend to work with people that others have recommended and trust.
Remember, there are a lot of ways to get paid to write and we only touched on a couple of them in the above post; don’t forget that you can be paid by magazines and publications who are looking for submissions! Here’s to your success, happy writing!
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