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How to Make Your PowerPoint Presentation Not Look Like Sh*t…

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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Did You Blow It?

April 12, 2019– Uh oh, did you totally screw up? Did you drop the ball? Did you blow your one and only shot at properly marketing your book? Well, the good news is, you can start over and begin again, this time more intelligently. Today we’re talking about the top three book marketing mistakes that authors make. Is this you? I hope not.

  1. Starting too late. This is the number one thing that will KILL your sales and have you spending money like it’s no one’s business. Waiting until your book is published before marketing it is a terrible idea. It is NEVER too early to start marketing your book. NEVER TOO EARLY.
  2. Scattered efforts. If your book is for everyone, it’s for no one. I say this all the time. Same goes for your book launch. If you’re scattering your marketing efforts then you’re also scattering your money and time. Please don’t market your book to everyone! This is a huge mistake and such a waste of energy.
  3. Phase Fatigue. Hold the phone, there’s more marketing? Honestly, where did you think you were coming today? Yes, of course, there is more marketing to be done. Marketing is like a human baby, if you don’t feed and water it daily, it’s going to die. Ok, maybe I should have used a plant as a better example. The book launch is only the FIRST phase of your marketing plan! If you don’t continue to nurture each phase of your launch, your book will wither and die (annnnd there’s the plant analogy).

If you’ve done any of these things or haven’t done them properly, stop. STOP. RIGHT. NOW. Focus your efforts, come up with a plan, and start again. I’m always here to help if you want a free consult (30 minutes) all you need to do is email me (pandapublishing8@gmail.com) and I’ll guide you back onto the yellow brick road.

Here’s to your success! X LLB

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Structure and Environment (How They’re DIRECTLY Related to Your Success…)

March 27, 2019- Did you know that structure and environment are directly linked to whether you fail or succeed? If you’re not reaching your goals, your environment and structure of activities may be to blame! Let’s take a look at this concept from a writer’s point of view; we’ve set this up as a case study for the fun of it!

Barb is a full-time writer who has a home-office in a room at the back of her house.  Her desk is barely visible under the piles of papers, sticky notes, and half-full coffee cups. She has two school-aged children who she has to put on and take off the bus at eight am and four pm, and she is a single parent. She is trying to get another book deal with a major publisher who would be a perfect fit for her work since her original publisher told her that they didn’t have a place for her current story. Her phone is constantly ringing and buzzing with updates from social media and email.  Barb has been struggling lately with staying on task since it seems that everything is vying for her attention and pulling her in different directions.  She is currently two chapters behind on her manuscript. How can structure and environment help Barb reach her goal of submitting her finished manuscript for consideration?

  1. Get organized (Environment) First and foremost Barb needs to clean up her office and get her desk nice and tidy. If her work space isn’t clean it will distract her from her work and make it impossible for her to get anything accomplished. She’ll spend most of her allotted working time looking for things.
  2. Assess her time and set a timer (Structure) Barb has from approximately 8:30 am to 3:30 am each day to work on her book and submissions. That is 7 hours of good, core time to get things done. She needs to use the Pomodoro technique which is where she would set a timer and work uninterrupted for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. She could later extend this once she becomes more focused.
  3. Set a routine (Structure & Environment)  Every morning Barb could set an hour aside, let’s say from 9 am to 10 am to check her email, social media, and return phone calls. Other than the allotted time, she should turn off all social media and email notifications as well as any other distractions.
  4. Set goals (Structure) Barb could set a word count goal for each hour of writing. She could start with a small goal such as 250 words per hour. This small goal is better than having a blank page.

There are many other things that Barb could do to improve her environment and the structure of her day; what are you doing each day to reach your goals? Does your environment and daily routine support your success? X LLB

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The Willpower Instinct…

March 13, 2019– If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen me post about a book I was reading last week; The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, is an excellent read for anyone who wants to know how self-control works and how our brains process things. There are three key sentences that really stuck out and I’ve since employed them for the business/writing tasks that I don’t love to do.

  1. I will.
  2. I won’t. 
  3. I want. 

That’s it, pretty simple, right? Now, let’s combine them to make a powerful statement. If you’re struggling with doing mundane tasks consider the examples below. The more specific you are, the better this works!

  1. I will write 500 words in an hour and I won’t get distracted by social media during that time because I want to reach my goal and finish my book.
  2. I will wake up early to finish my blog post and I won’t answer return emails until this afternoon because I want to go for a walk with my spouse after breakfast.
  3. I will finish my fabulous presentation on grammar by Tuesday and I won’t turn on my phone until it’s completed because I want to show my boss that I deserve a raise.

You guys get the point! This will work in many areas of your life such as organization, education, writing, reading, leisure activities, relationships, and more. It works because I will, I won’t, and I want, allow us to be clear on what our priorities are and they draw a firm line in the sand showing us what we are willing and not willing to do and what the pay off is. This technique works really well and I hope that you’ll try it yourself! Let me know if you do and if it worked for you by sending me an email at pandapublishing8@gmail.com.

 

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The Benefits of Writing Groups

March 8, 2019- Up until about a year ago, I was a regular member of a local writing group that met each Saturday at a coffee shop in town. It was super relaxed and there were around eight of us, laptops in hand, armed with new ideas, and ready to write. It was a fantastic experience and some of the things I learned along the way, I still carry with me today. The only reason why I stopped going was that I ran out of time and my writing business took over with events that were held on weekends. Being part of a casual writing group was a great experience and here’s why you should consider joining one:

  1. You’ll get inspired and beat writer’s block. There’s something to be said about gathering in a small group and sharing ideas. Some of my best book ideas have come from just chatting with others and listening to their perspectives on different topics.
  2. You’ll develop discipline. Every Saturday for two hours from 9 am until 11 am is when our group met and started writing. This helped me develop discipline; it made me realize that I could sit down for two consecutive hours and write, uninterrupted.
  3. You’ll get and be able to give constructive criticism. This was the most important thing that I got out of joining a writing group. My comrades gave me constructive criticism and made me take a hard look at my writing. They saw the holes that I was blind to. They asked the tough questions that made me a better writer and for that, I’m eternally grateful. I was also able to give feedback and trust my instincts that I knew what I was doing and what I was talking about as a writer.
  4. You’ll get to network with like-minded people and make some friends. There are people that I’m still friends with from this group and I’ve also been able to do business with a few of them. We still talk about writing and bounce ideas off each other every once in a while.

I highly recommend joining a local writer’s group! You’ll have a blast and be able to hone your skills at the same time. Happy writing! X LLB

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Character Sketches and Why You Need Them

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:

  1.  32 years old
  2. divorced
  3. no children but two pit bull dogs
  4. Aquarius
  5. loves old movies
  6. hates spaghetti
  7. favourite food is roast beef
  8. tall 5’8
  9. brown eyes and blonde hair from a bottle
  10. second born of three children (Older brother, her, younger brother)
  11. parents are dead
  12. biggest fear is being alone
  13. listens to opera music but only while in the shower
  14. a non-reader other than gossip rags
  15. spare time is used to scour antique shops
  16. mid-level income
  17. American Italian
  18. 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

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Mini Habits (They’ll change your writing life!)

March 1, 2019– I was boarding a flight in Toronto recently, and while we were getting on the plane, I overheard a woman and her son talking about a book. Of course, I’m always interested in book recommendations, so I continued to eavesdrop. The young man said quietly to his mother, “This book is amazing, it’s easy, straightforward, and I think this will work for what I’m trying to accomplish!” The book that he had in hand was titled, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. I headed to my seat and took out my phone because the boy had piqued my curiosity. Of course, I had no idea what he was trying to accomplish in his life, but I thought the book sounded intriguing and he sure seemed to believe in it!

I looked up the book jacket info on Amazon and read some of the reviews; they were pretty impressive. I downloaded the audio version and plugged in while we waited on the tarmac. The book, in a nutshell, is about how most of our behaviour happens on autopilot and if we set small goals such as a single push up, once we’re in position, we’ll always do more. Eventually, these small goals will become habits, and we will operate from a place of automation instead of force. So, how can mini habits change your writing life? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. You’ll exceed your goals if you start small. When I first became an author, I created mini habits unbeknownst to myself; I would write every day for only fifteen minutes. Soon those fifteen minutes each day became a habit and the fifteen minutes turned into an hour or more. I have an author friend who started writing only fifty words per day. Soon, his fifty words per day multiplied into fifteen pages per day. The point is, if you set a small goal and stick to it, you’ll reach your goal, and you’ll be motivated to do more.
  2. You’ll create discipline without out even realizing. If you create a mini habit of listening to a business audio book every time you get in the car, or a mini habit of reading one page of a book per day, you’re creating discipline in your life and discipline equals freedom. You would have a massive amount of knowledge in one year if you read one page per day or listened to something while traveling! These mini habits will translate into big results because they will become as automatic and as disciplined as brushing our teeth before bed. Why do we brush our teeth before bed? I don’t know, because it’s a habit that we’ve had since childhood and we just do it. See what I mean?
  3. You’ll get out of your comfort zone. I make it a mini habit of handing out one business card per day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a year it sure adds up! You can cover a lot of ground and grow your writing business if you just implement this one small thing. You could use this approach for sending out queries, submitting manuscripts, connecting with a stranger, or meeting new people. Having a mini habit is an excellent way to get you out of your comfort zone and into a better writing life. Imagine sending 300+ queries out to publishers or agents in a year? That’s a lot of action, and statistically, something is bound to happen!

Start with small mini habits and watch them grow into something amazing! In a later post, perhaps we’ll talk about taking this concept one step further with habit stacking. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Things You Should Know…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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One of the breathtaking pieces of art that I saw at the MET, Alexander the Great
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Your Next Novel Could Already Be On Your Bookshelf…

February 13, 2019– First, let me say a very happy birthday 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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