Blog, Writer's Blog

Tips for Book Series Writing

My first book was never supposed to be a series. I’m now on my third series and starting a fourth soon. If you want to save yourself a lot of headache, check out these tips from what I’ve learned about writing series intentionally and unintentionally. Let me also clarify that these series I’ve written are in science fiction and romance, but I have several in YA Fantasy near completion as well.

Why should You write a series?

Series are great for gaining a consistent audience and sales. If you start with a book that interests readers, they’ll want to keep reading and buying your books. This is especially key if you hate advertising and don’t want to manage a ton of books. With a series, you’ll continue to advertise the first book in the series and (if the book is strong enough) you’ll get sales on further books in the series without doing any marketing for them.

Know Reader Expectations

The first question you need to ask yourself is does the genre I want to write a series in commonly have series? If so, how many books are typically in those series? How long are the books (word count)? What sorts of themes, settings, and characters do well? What twists, subplots, climaxes, and endings seem to be successful? If you can solidify what works, what doesn’t, and you feel you can align your story in a way that in some manner fits reader expectations (not necessarily all of the above because breaking the norms can also make your series successful if done thoughtfully) then you’re likely ready to start a series.

A Story Concept Big Enough

Seems simple, but truly having the expansive ideas to fill multiple books is critical to making a successful series. It’s common for book 2 to fall flat or sink into a reader-interest dip because so much of the excitement authors outline happens in the beginning with introductions and at the end with the finale. So you’ll want to setup the series plot and the individual book plots in a way that continually builds the whole series plot. Do this before you get started writing book 1 if you can.

That said, I wrote my first book with no plan to expand on it. But when I reached the end, I found that the climactic point wasn’t as intense or inspiring as I wanted it to be. I started changing details and adding subplots that in the end needed to be resolved later. So I started writing book 2. The same thing happened again with book 2, and I ended up publishing a third book. Now, I’m writing book 4 with the idea in mind of a much larger collection of three series with books written and in progress in each. But it has been chaos to organize after the first book was written. What’s worse is book 1 is from the middle series in the collection. Major face-palm…

Having an idea of the grand nature of the series going into your first book will help you pack enough detail and mystery in the subplots, and leave enough loose ends, to keep readers engaged and wanting to read book 2.

There must be enough left open-ended at the culmination of each book that leaves the reader with questions, concerns, and interest in the next book, while also balancing enough satisfaction that they don’t give you bad reviews for feeling like nothing was resolved at all.

I didn’t plan ahead initially, and book 1 isn’t as strong as it could be. Because of that, I struggle to get enough read-through of my series. So now I have to go back and edit and relaunch book 1. It’s a huge pain and takes away time that I could be spending working on new books.

Take a look at this quick plot series concept chart (it’s a PDF) I’ve designed. Maybe it will help you get started, or you’ll find a way to improve upon it for yourself.

It’s a good idea to spread out your details and the critical series plot events and character introductions throughout the series. With a standalone novel, it’s common to provide a ton of background information and character intros in the first act. With a series, you don’t have to do that, and you won’t want to. Save some of the good stuff for later. Tease your readers along a little with tidbits of what’s going on periodically throughout the story. Solve some things, leave others alone. You want the series to end strong, so save the best pieces for last.

A Story Concept like a Mother-in-Law

She’s going to live with you for awhile. You better like her or at least be able to tolerate her.

If you’re going to invest yourself in writing a series that could take you months to years (depending on the length, number of works, and the writing time you have) you have to want to invest that amount of effort into your project.

Series burnout is frustrating because you know you have a readership that wants to see how the ends will be tied up. They want resolution. They expect that next or last book. The farther you get in a series, the more series details you’re going to have to look back on to make sure they’re correct. The pressure and the effort to complete it will close in on you. All of your subplots will have to line up. It’s a ton of tedious, time-consuming scanning and checking your facts. You have to be committed.

Infinite Spark Series on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Book 4 coming 2021.
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Characters worth Befriending for the Entire Series

I can’t say for sure how many times I’ve heard my husband complain about a TV series he was watching and, after the main character or the beloved secondary character died, he just couldn’t watch the series anymore. The same can be said for books.

Some writers can get away with keeping the scene/environment the same and changing characters in each book, usually by making the character related somehow in the book prior. There needs to be consistency of one kind or another in the series. But what engages readers most is a character with depth and identifiable personality, one with investment in the end of the series and struggles that are relatable or intriguing.

Create complex characters with important roles to play throughout the series. They don’t have to be the lead role in every book, though it’s best. They must be solid enough in design (with quality strengths, weaknesses, and challenges they must overcome) to be interesting throughout each book and the entire series.

How will it End?

You’re going to have to know the final goal of the series when you start it, and you’ll need to come up with strong mid-series resolutions for the end of each of your books. If you’ve started out not intending to do a series and now you’re thinking “Crap, I’m writing a series but I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” figure out how you can expand or complicate the ending of book 1. For my book, it culminated with a soldier sacrificing herself to destroy an alien ship that was attacking earth. In book 2, the attack isn’t over, and more of the alien race are coming. They got the warning signal and the empire has been summoned. The series will finish with the ultimate end of a species (I won’t say which one just yet!)

Trilogies are easiest to start with. Like a dummy, I’m doing eight books in my first series, three books in the two series I’m working on/finishing and six in the series I’m starting next month. But if you can ensure there’s a strong progression of character learning or growing, or a change in the world that includes a climax and resolution in each story, you can make it as many or as few books as you want.

A triangle (trilogy) is one of the most stable shapes. Readers like this number of books unless they’re sci-fi space opera fans who often prefer ten or twelve book series. Some historical romance and other genres can get away with long series as well.

Have Series and Character Detail Charts.

I’m not kidding when I say to keep track of every single detail from strange words you make up for alien materials to the color of the most menial character’s hair. Write everything down. It’s especially important to get the spelling right and whether something is capitalized or uses a hyphen or other punctuation.

Make a note if a character always gets a term or a pronunciation wrong so that you can be consistent in even dialect and colloquialisms. Does a character have a drawl? Do they talk like a two-year old? What is the level of their intelligence, skill, or motivation? Write down everything you can about their personalities, what makes them tick, what their weaknesses are, common thoughts or feelings, and typical body language.

When you’re writing the next books, you’re going to be using these cheat sheets a lot. I often find that organizing them alphabetically helps, but sometimes I have to group certain terms together because they’re related concepts that I’ll want to refer to the collection when I’m writing a character working on an engine of a spacecraft or gathering their firefighting gear, etc. These will save you tons of time.

I often use Excel to print out a blank grid or keep a running list in Word. Just watch for auto-capitalization if a term isn’t supposed to be capitalized. That auto-anything you don’t notice happening when you type could end up making you have to go through every word and fix it in your manuscript if you referenced an incorrect term. Sometimes, I just keep the list in a notepad for simplicity’s sake. Then again, my handwriting sucks. So make sure if you use that method that you can read it!

Read the Earlier Books before You Edit

Yeah, this sucks, but it will help prevent you from screwing up something major that readers will likely pick up on. You have to remember that some of these readers will chain read your works back to back even if you don’t. They will catch consistency flaws and often let you know about them.

After you’ve written an outline or the rough draft, read your earlier books and make notes on what details you might’ve got wrong in your draft and ideas for how to intensify your work. Series and character cheat sheets are great, but they aren’t going to remind you of everything a character said, did, promised, broke, etc. in the earlier books. Trust me, if you think you remember everything, you don’t. Take the time to reread those books and check your work.

Book Titles and Cover Design

If you’re a traditional author, or agented, you’ll be talking with them about titling. They’ll likely look at what you come up with and decide for themselves. Cover designs will also be taken care of by them.

If you’re indie or planning to self-publish, start thinking about titles and covers early on. You’re going to need consistency in format, font, and theme for both titles and covers across the entire series. If you don’t create something recognizable, readers won’t necessarily know or assume those books belong together. I know this because, like an idiot, I designed covers and titles that fit my books individually. At the time, I didn’t have the skill to or the awareness of the importance of matching covers and titles.

Since redesigning the covers, my series books have had more read-through. I’ve now planned titles and cover designs earlier in the series writing process for future works and already feel more confident with how they will be received. (You can see examples of my book series covers and titles on this page.)

Writing and Publishing

Don’t be trigger happy on that publish button. Readers like series books that are published close together. I’ve been researching this and have noticed when I publish closer together that my books get more attention (sales and read-through). I’ve also read comments and questions on many sites from readers wondering why they have to wait so long for books to be finished.

Some readers will understand that we get burned out writing the same genre and the same story for years on end. I admit, I’m one of them. So I alternate what I write: one sci-fi, one romance, one fantasy. Then I start the cycle over, unless I’m on a deadline. I can focus when I have to. But it’s important to consider reader expectations for series availability and interest level in waiting. If people absolutely love your books, you can probably make them wait a bit because they’ll be willing to wait.  If the interest is mediocre, you best publish fast or risk losing those readers’ attention.

I recommend getting the series written first, then publishing each book two weeks to a month apart. It will build much more steady interest and sales than if you publish one book every year or two years. People forget about you and your book if there’s too much time between publications. You don’t want to lose them.

If you’re anxious about getting your series read by people, put it up on a review platform like Story Origin, Prolific Works, or Book Funnel. That way, you’ll likely get them on your email list and be able to ask for feedback or early reviews if you want. This will also help when it comes time to publish. The more of a readership you build up before you launch your series, the better the series is going to bring in royalties in the future.

Don’t Write a Dirty Penny

I’ve been following an online writer’s group of people who are financially successful writers. It’s every writer’s dream, right? They were cranking out a book or two a month…and made me cry from the pressure to be and do more than I was because I so wanted to be like them. I haven’t posted anything in the group, just always watching, reading, trying to learn their magic tricks.

I’ve noticed a few people recently mentioning they were slowing down their writing because they and their readers had been catching major flaws in consistency. Someone even used an incorrect name of a character for the first few chapters of a book, changing it half way through. It confused readers.

Reviews always tank when readers are unhappy or unsatisfied. Aim to create books that are more like shiny silver dollars instead of dirty pennies. I know it’s hard to be patient when you’ve worked so hard for so long on these books. But trust me, take your time to get your series ready, polish it, build up a marketing plan, and release the books close together.

Organizational Programs

I don’t personally use any of these because I’m the mind-map, sticky notes kind of gal. I am constantly moving pieces around and it’s easier for me to just move them than have to shift things on the computer. But it’s important to be organized when it comes to your series. A lot of writers like these programs. Maybe you’ll find one to help you as well. (Screenwriting)
Google Docs, Google Sheets
Novel Factory
Scrivener (program download) Lots of people I know use this one. (Apple program)

A Marketing Tip for Series

Don’t waste money advertising the book two, three, etc. in a series. New readers won’t want to start a series in the middle if they encounter your ad. They’ll be forced to research earlier books and won’t likely be interested in putting out that effort. Some will, most won’t.

I did this in the beginning. I always get 20-30 sales on book 1 when I run an ad, and 3-5 sales on later books (which doesn’t return enough profit on the cost of the ad to be worthwhile.) It doesn’t matter how you structure or order or pair the books for ads. But it does matter if you run sales of the series books at the same time.

My recommendation: If you arrange a sale for book 1 and are going to run an ad on it, set up the later books in the series for the same or similar discount. This will encourage readers to buy all the books at once. The benefit here is that they won’t be as likely to forget about those books in their library if they snagged many or all of them. And they’ll be more likely to read them.

People in this modern era have very short attention spans. When you write a series, at the end of the books it’s important that you provide links to the next books in the series if you can and a way for those readers to review the book they’re in. If they see it the moment they’re done, they’re more likely to stay “in the series zone” and not get distracted by other ads, book recommendations, the dog wanting to go out, etc.

Final Thoughts

If you’re not getting engagement on a series, you’ll want to start a new one rather than invest your whole life into one series that might be a dud in the marketplace.

A series is a great way to get readers invested in your work and earn you sales with less marketing. It also shows your commitment to your genre and writing, but it is a commitment. Take the time to outline, plot, subplot, design your characters, and plan how you’ll publish.

Patience is important with a series. But if someone like me can do it without intending to the first time, you can do it too. Because you’re one major step ahead of where I was. You’re reading this and thinking ahead. Good for you!

Go get ‘em, writer!


Blog, Writer's Blog

If I Could Start Over as an Author…

I would have a better plan. I often interact with new writers who are anxious to be authors, and I regularly say the same things. Build your author brand, your author platform, a collection or series of books to release, and a marketing plan… because I wish I had. What I’ve experienced since my first publication back in 2016, through my twelve publications and two collections, has taught me the importance of those things. I want to briefly go over these for any writers looking to be authors.

Now, I can’t speak to traditional publishing specifics since I’m indie through and through. But I’ve worked with a lot of writers and authors that are, so I know these things are still important. If you go traditional, you’re still going to want to know the author business and what it takes to get the attention of readers. Even if you get early subscribers and end up going traditional and scratching a few of these plans, you’ll still have a selection of people ready and eager to read and review your published works.

Author Brand

This is the basic concept of your author business. What genre(s) do you want to write? What mood do you want to represent? What colors and themes and images do you want to be associated with your name or pen name? Do you want a pen name?

Your Author Brand is the recognizable collection of your work defined by your cover designs, your website graphics, the language you use when speaking to your readers and narrating your work. But it’s more than this.

You need to know why you write and how you plan to determine your success as an author. Do you want to inspire people, make money, be famous, or just publish stories that mean something to you? Knowing these things will help you decide if you need to write for mass market (money and fame) or if you can write niche works and have more freedom in your content. If you want money and fame, you’ll especially need to understand the genre tropes and expectations and how to effectively implement them in your work.

You’ll want to think about your target readership and what they’ll be interested in. Research websites of authors in your preferred genres and look at how the design their pages, what content they’re including, and which other media platforms they’re on. Take a look at those other platforms to get a feel for how their author brand shows up. This is a critical component of your author brand: being recognizable. You’ll want to replicate, as best you can, your author brand (fonts and their colors, portrait, images, etc) across those accounts so readers will immediately know if they’re where they want to be.

It’s important that you use the same author portrait for your professional author accounts. By this I mean your publishing platforms, inside book covers, any posters or media representing book signings or speaking gigs, and your main social media accounts that engage mass amounts of readers. You want them to know your face.

As many publishers don’t permit avatars as author photos, you’ll have to put your best picture up for the world to see. And you’ll want it everywhere. Don’t worry, you’re not posing for Vogue. You’re a writer. Readers know that. So don’t worry about what you look like. Just be presentable and avoid hugging your dog or significant other or mother in the photo. They didn’t write the book. You did. Be proud of that, and let yourself shine for that tiny moment.

Author Platform

This is a pretty hefty part of being successful in any way as an author. If you have no platform, there’s no real solid way for anyone to discover your books. So what is a platform? It is the collection of locations that readers can interact with you and find out more about your writing and publications. This is where you’ll put to use your author branding.

Your biggest, most important first step is to build a website. Build always sounds like such a hefty word, but really this is very easy. There are tons of websites that let you set up an account for free. Fill out the About section and make sure you give people that visit a way to contact you. Start a blog related to your books or your writing. If you’re not ready for that, then you can always write about other books you enjoy, ones you hope to write similar content to. Do book reviews. Study the science or theories of something you’re interested in that has influenced your work. Build mood and inspiration boards with pictures you find online (either royalty free like with Canva or provide credit of course).

Next will be to set up a professional email account. There are several sites online you can use to do this. I use MailChimp because it’s free for one email list and up to 2,000 subscribers. I’ve broken mine into two sub lists for my Science Fiction Fantasy Fleet and my Sweet and Spicy Romance. I hope to expand in the next year and need to purchase the next step up to include my self-help books, dark romance, and my YA fantasy.

My recommendation: always start out with free services. A lot of authors I know give up after their first book or three because they can’t drum up enough interest or snag enough sales to justify their business. So I suggest you start out free and be very hesitant to purchase anything until you know for sure if your business is going to take off.

I had no help or anyone to talk to and spent thousands on edits and courses on edits and marketing… and books on writing and publishing. This is all money I’m still trying to earn back. I don’t want you to have to go through that, especially with the world’s economy struggling through this pandemic. When you get to the point that you need to upgrade (i.e.: you’ve got too many subscribers, you want to integrate something on your website that requires a different package, or you’re making so many sales you need professional bookkeeping) then do it. But not until you need it.

Integrate your email with your website if you can. If you can’t because it costs money, then put links on your website that connect to subscriber landing pages you’ve set up in your email account. That way, if someone wants to make sure they hear about your newest release or the upcoming Advanced Review Copies before publication, they can sign up to be on your email list.

This is a critical part of your author platform. Email subscribers are by far the most likely to purchase or download (free early copies – I’ll get to this in a minute) your book and post reviews on your platforms. Social media doesn’t do nearly as much for you as consistently as those people who have specifically subscribed to your content. Friending or following someone isn’t the same as saying, “I like this book I spent hours reading, or I want to spend another 8 hours buried in your stories.” But social media can be good for other things.

Social media as a component of your author platform is a great bonus. I’ve often found other writers and writing groups to talk with and exchange ideas. You can run ads on most platforms for your books. And if you research how to do it well, you can make a lot of sales that way (but only via ads. Most regular posts don’t get you any decent interaction). Social media expects high numbers of followers to give you any attention. And everyone is on social media for themselves, not to research quality content. It’s like flash fiction… a momentary story people forget about seconds later when the video of the cat falling in the bathtub scrolls into view.

What I suggest is that you have a presence and link your website and or publishing platform to your account so people can find your content if they only really use that one account. I am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LibraryThing, LinkedIn, BookBub, and Goodreads. I think that’s all of them. But I really only use the first two and the last two. Twitter and Facebook have great writing communities, and we often support each others’ publications. BookBub is huge for running ads and connecting with readers. Goodreads is a wonderful review platform that gets far more interaction than BookBub for me. But they each have their perks when it comes to finding new readers and bringing them to your profile page.

You’ll want to consider also being on Reader Magnet or Advanced Review Copy sites like Prolific Works, Story Origin, and BookFunnel. There you can give away an early polished copy of your work so readers can have reviews ready to publish the day your book goes live on your publishing platform of choice. Of those sites, Story Origin is currently still free as of the time of this post. Prolific Works is unless you want to integrate your email list (for $20/month) so subscribers can auto-opt in without having to click a link in your book (though that is an alternative). And BookFunnel, last I checked, is $20 a year for new authors and has 500 downloads max and 5 books with no email integration. You can integrate your subscription system for $100/year. BookFunnel has more package options as well. Again, I would start with the free options and upgrade as necessary.

One of the biggest perks of these RM/ARC sites is the ability to join group promotions where all the people will share the link to the page displaying your ARC copy and everyone else’s. Of course, you’ll have to share this promotion page with your email followers, or at least your social media accounts if you’re just starting. There are ways for the group promo coordinators to check and see if you’ve driven any clicks to the page (via a special tracking link). So you’ll want to make sure you use the right link when sharing.

But the benefit is if you have, say, 50 people in the group promo, that’s (hopefully) 50 people promoting it. If they all have email lists of maybe 1,000, that’s 5,000 people that will receive an email about the promo. That said, most often, there’s about a 30-40% email open rate and a 10-20% click rate. So it’s more likely that 500 or so people will actually visit the page and download free books… but that also means they’re (usually) signing up for the email lists of those authors to get the books. Some will undoubtedly unsubscribe because they don’t want more emails. Others will become unresponsive, and you’ll have to clean them out of your email subscriber list due to inactivity. (And you’ll want to do this to make sure your prime readers who actually pay attention get the good stuff and you don’t unnecessarily go over your subscriber limit with your email provider.) At the end of this though, you’ll have gained subscribers you can send further early copies to, tell them about publications, and remind them when and where they can leave reviews.

Reviews are crucial to convincing people on publishing platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, etc. that they should buy your book. This brings me to the next point. You’re going to want to know where you want to publish before you do. Research each location and the rules or requirements for publishing works with them. Amazon has KDP Select which is fantastic because you can earn sales on your books at 35-70% royalty rates and when people read pages from your books through the Kindle Unlimited subscription program they sign up for. The catch is that you cannot publish those books anywhere else, not even as a trilogy, series, collection, or omnibus. You’re in KDP Select for 90 days. Those are the kind of rules you’ll want to know about before you decide where to publish. There are also aggregate publishers that can help you distribute your books to multiple publishing platforms for free, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I won’t go into detail regarding types of publishers here, only the basics. Independent publishers like Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble (to name a few) have a website you can go to and upload your book and your cover. You will be in charge of handling pricing, marketing, and the book sales content like blurbs and editorial reviews. An aggregate publisher has one site that you upload your content to who distributes the book to many online stores. Vanity or Independent presses make authors pay them to do the work of uploading and formatting content, but marketing is still up to the author. Traditional publishers are hardest to get on with due to the querying process. Authors can either submit book queries to them or an agent can do so on their behalf. If authors have work accepted, they will go through edits with that publishing house and often receive a sum of money that is part of anticipated sales upon publication, though each individual situation varies.

Collection or Series of Books

My biggest mistake was being trigger happy when it came to my first book. I’d worked for 5 years on it and was finally ready to just throw it into the universe. So I did. Then I had nothing else to give my subscribers. My sales fell on their face. It wasn’t until I’d published my third book in that first series that I started to see sales pick back up. Now I have another series started and one almost complete. I’m writing the fourth series at the end of this month. But it took me a long time to realize one simple thing that would’ve changed the last four years: write the series first. Not one book. Not two. Three or more. Have them ready when you publish the first. Rapid publishing is far more enjoyable to readers. Many don’t like waiting for the next book to come out (unless it’s super famous like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or Red Rising) in which case a year or two between books is tolerable. But for most of us, we’re forgettable… another book in a sea of paper and ink and e-readers online.

Writing three books might seem like a huge task. So start with short stories or take a novel and break it up into three or four parts and make them begin and end like short stories. This will give your readers a gradual taste of your writing, providing them a spread of content to engage with while you write the next book or books. Starting small and easy like this will take your stress level down and help you learn to write succinctly and be very engaging with your narration, dialogue, and descriptions in a limited space. Some of the common pitfalls of first time writers include: backstory and dialogue dumping, too much daily life, and not being precise in their language. Their narration will take on copious description that could be condensed into language that paints a more vivid image or implied sensation in fewer words. They need to be concise. See what I did there? Super long versus the ultimate point. Short stories are just a great way to engage with potential subscribers more than once.

If short stories aren’t your thing, I still recommend at least three books you write, edit, and prep for publication before you release the first. They don’t have to be in a series or collection, though that will serve you best. Having three books in the same genre or related subgenres to offer your subscribers will keep them hooked and less likely to unsubscribe or just forget about you altogether.

I started with one scifi, one children’s, and one romance, because those were the genres I wanted to write. I had email lists started for those, but they quickly faded to almost nothing because I could not offer any more content to them. It wasn’t ready. I had to basically start over. And that is immensely frustrating. All of that work to build up for the first release was essentially lost until I published the third book in that first series.

I now do my best to have free ARCs available throughout the year to my subscribers. I try to publish three to four times a year in my two lead genres. Sometimes, I can’t make it. When that happens, I search out other free books, reader magnets set up by other authors in my ARC platforms, and I share those with my readers, so they always have free content that I know they’ll enjoy. It’s important to keep them happy and interacting with your content, even if it’s a recommendation for someone else’s work that’s related to yours. It shows you value them and want to ensure they’re happy. If you let your email list(s) die down, you’ll have to do what I did and start over.

Marketing Plan

Marketing is the only way you’re going to get anyone to notice your book. Most often, people start by sharing on social media and running maybe an ad or two for launch without much luck. Then they give up and move on, or they buy more ads with no real design to their strategy.

Your first marketing is done usually on social media or with your email list if you have one from maybe a blog you started early on in your writing career to drum up reader interest. You’ll share teasers like book cover reveals, blurbs, and expected release dates. What’s worked best for me are quotes from the book on a small graphic with the book cover and some indicator of when or where it’ll be published. Another good one is to use any quotes you can from early reviews. Try to pick ones with powerful words or relevant terms to the genre. Say you write thrillers and someone reviews it with “I love this book.” That’s not really going to send the same message as “Intense, jarring action. Slept with the lights on.”

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Next, you’d be best served to set up Advanced Review Copies of your book to get subscribers on your lists and readers who will have potential reviews to post on publication day.

At this time, or possibly earlier if you’re confident on your publishing date, you’ll want to set up a preorder to start gaining purchases that will process on publication day (at least on Amazon). It’ll help create a professional presence online that proves to readers that you mean business.

A trick I’ve learned with Amazon publishing, is to publish the paperback first so that readers can leave reviews that will show up on the day the ebook publishes. To ensure they do this, send out an email to those subscribers in your list that you gave ARCs to and let them know where they can leave reviews. (Preorders only work for ebooks, at least on Amazon’s site.)

So say you’ll have 50 preorders process on the day of publication and you get twenty reviewers to post feedback that day. That will give your book a huge advantage on the top-selling book charts Day 1. This will help Amazon’s algorithms show potential readers (who read in your genre) your book via the recommendations list or customer also-boughts. Having those twenty reviews up there will boost the likelihood of those potential readers clicking the purchase button.

If you want to give your book that extra kick, plan to run a few outside ads (not through the publishing platform) that first week. I usually run three ads spread through that first week if I can afford it. A few sites I like to use are Written Word Media, Just Kindle Books, and Fussy Librarian… because they don’t have review requirements, and I don’t always hit my expected review count or rating the day of publication. I then try to run one ad a week after for the first month, then one a month for each month after to keep drawing interest. But I do highly suggest varying which sites you use and which days you advertise on so you don’t end up showing your ad to the same people that always look for books on, say, Friday at a particular site.

If you can leverage ads on the publishing platform of your choice, do so. Anyone who is actively searching for something to read is going to be more likely to purchase what they find. The fewer steps they have to take to get their content, the better. There are plenty of low cost ways to advertise your book. You just have to research the right advertising sites for your budget.

But if you’re super broke and have zip for funds, you can search for readers in your genre who have reviewed books and contact them directly to inquire if they’d be interested. You can also contact bloggers who focus on your genres and ask if you can do a guest post. I recommend that before you contact anyone that you avoid spammy chatter like “here’s my new book, you want to read this.” Research them and their site. You can do this early on, before you publish, or after. Find out what they like, and see what you can offer them as a post with a mention of your recent book at the very end.

If your book will be free, you can check out AskDavid. It’s a free site that advertises free books in a few locations. I usually get 20-30 downloads that way. So if you just can’t manage anything else, check out this site.

Whatever you do, don’t self-promote where it isn’t warranted. Random people do not want a direct message (DM/PM) from you telling them where to buy your book, especially not immediately after you’ve friended them. You’ll get blocked and irritate people. Reply bots are only good if you’re being helpful or kind. Jamming buy-links down their throats will get you to lose their respect. It’s not a useful way to spend your precious marketing time.

Always make your work and your interaction about others. If you don’t put the reader first, your work won’t go anywhere because it won’t connect with them. Readers are the lifeblood of our publications. If we don’t treat them right, they’ll leave. If we don’t engage with them, they’ll never know we exist. Marketing has to be done, and be done effectively.


Decide on your Author Brand: how will readers recognize you?

-Images you’ll use
-Genres you’ll write in
-Theme/mood of content
-Same author portrait

Author Platform

-Email Subscriber Provider
-Social Media
-Advanced Review Copy distribution sites
-Publishing platforms

Marketing Plan

-Book Teasers
-Set up Preorders
-Remind readers where to leave reviews
-Run outside ads to draw readers to your sales page
-Keep promoting (within your budget)

BONUS: If you can, put subscriber links at the ends of your published books that take them do your subscriber landing pages. Set up a way to send them a free book or short story as thanks for subscribing. When you’re ready to upgrade your subscriber system, build an email campaign workflow that sends several emails over a course of a few months that includes other freebie stories. The more you keep your subscribers engaged, the more likely they are to notice your email amid the tidal wave of promotional messages they get every week. It’s easy for us to get lost. Be memorable and they’ll hunt for your content!

Know your audience and what they want. Know where to find them. Know how to engage with them. If you can get these things under control, you’ll be off to a far better start than I was. I send my best to you and hope these tips help you build your author business into a thriving force to be reckoned with!


Upcoming Book: I Want to Be an Author – Where Do I Start?

The release date isn’t set yet as I’m finalizing content before editing. But my hope is that this book will help other writers who dream of being authors to get started on their journey. All I wanted was something that told me where to start and what I was getting into when I began looking into publishing. But there were so many best seller courses and books on writing and editing and marketing that I felt turned around. I’ve written this book to guide those unfamiliar with the process. I go over writing and publishing a first book with everything I wish I knew when I began plus all the lessons I’ve learned through my twelve publications. I hope you’ll stick around to see it publish!

Blog, Writer's Blog

Writers: Great Books to Help You Show Not Tell

Fiction thrives on the emotional journeys of characters as much as the physical quests to hunt down murderers, slay a evil kings, or jump across galaxies to rescue survivors of an alien infestation. The way characters talk to one another can open the reader up to characters’ motivations and personalities, or it can push readers away by being boring or lackluster. Having a small library of references to stimulate your creative mind when writing can help avoid any reader engagement pitfalls.

But there are so many reference books out there, it can be dizzying trying to pick which ones to add to your inspirational collection. If you’re interested in expanding your writing with better description, plot, dialogue, and structure, read on. I’m going to share with you the books that have worked for me (as someone who never thought she’d be a writer and now has twelve published works). I’m indie all the way. Without a mentor or even a friend to bounce ideas off of in the beginning, I needed direction. These books changed everything. I hope they’ll help you too.

Master Lists for Writers
Bryn Donovan

I’ve had a lot of friends ask for ideas on improving description to engage their readers more effectively. One book I use a lot is Master Lists for Writers. Mine is full of sticky notes and dog-eared corners because I’m the messy creative type. This book has a nice selection of descriptive terms for scents and colors as well as plot ideas, character jobs, and other traits. I personally like the body language sections because sometimes it is hard to think about how to show an emotion without being repetitive. Character quirks is a section that always makes me think of people I know who have these odd habits that never really registered with me before.

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve edited and critiqued that have copious nods and head shakes. People do so much more than this. It’s critical the reader doesn’t get bored with the characters, or they’ll put the book down.

This book also has name lists and some terminology for medieval and regency times. It has plot twists, motives, goals, and tons of types of plots to study for inspiration. You can get ideas for expanding the every day dialogue so it doesn’t always have to be hi/bye and yes/no. This book is just plain chock full of useful references. If you don’t have a reference book or are looking to expand your collection, this one is fantastic as it covers a lot of topics.

We want our readers to be inspired and captivated by our stories. The best way to do this is to introduce vivid description within our narration, and keep the pages full of fresh concepts and ideas. This book is a great, general genre (how’s that for alliteration) reference book that I keep with me when I’m writing and line editing. I bought two copies of the paperback, that way I have a spare for after the first is worn out! It is worth every cent I paid for it.

I’m going to be honest. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I also sell my books solely on Amazon. But here’s a pic of my copy of the paperback books I’ve listed on this page. If you’d like to check out Master Lists for Writers, you can via the link below.

Get: Master Lists for Writers on Amazon

The Emotion Thesaurus
Angela Ackerman
Becca Puglisi

I have a few books from this collection. They’ve been particularly helpful in understanding how emotion manifests physically. It’s important to be able to conceptualize your characters’ emotional situations before writing (since their progressive arcs depend on them), and this book will help you do just that. I also have Emotion Amplifiers which dives deeper into the generic emotions we often gloss over. Sections that particularly caught my eye were those of “Cues of Acute or Long-term Pain” and “Cues of Suppressed Pain.”

Often, people express a combination of emotions that isn’t clearly defined as sad or happy or angry. They’re bored and angry, tired and drunk, sad and stressed. This collection of books has helped me open up the emotional realm of characters to make them truly reflect their reactions to the situations they’re in. If you don’t have a strong emotional reference book in your collection, check these out.

Get: The Emotion Thesaurus on Amazon

If you’d like to check out the entire seven book series, you can go here:

Writers Helping Writers Series

Writing Vivid Settings: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors
Rayne Hall

I love this book because it dives into how light, color, and weather (among other things) affect the ambiance of a scene. It really helps you narrow down the appropriate details to create the mood that fits your genre. It touches on opening scenes, climactic scenes, and symbolism. The segments have assignments at the end, which are questions for you to think about as you’re writing. I like this because it helps you learn to ask yourself if you’re truly creating what needs to be in place for the reader to understand and connect with the story.

Get: Writing Vivid Settings on Amazon

This is just one of thirty-one books in the Writer’s Craft series. If you’d like to check out the entire series, you can visit this link:

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
James Scott Bell

I’ve read a lot of manuscripts that have quite a bit of standard, every day dialogue that just doesn’t quite hook the reader. It’s too normal and often implied enough it doesn’t even need to be said. Having characters do interesting things is important, but the way they actively engage the reader through dialogue is going to truly show their personalities, agendas, and concerns. This book helps develop unique verbal exchanges between characters including influences like cursing, dialects, humor, and the narration around it that can influence how the dialogue is interpreted. If you struggle with having diverse or character-specific dialogue, definitely check this book out.

Get How to Write Dazzling Dialogue on Amazon

The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book
Jean Kent
Candace Shelton

This isn’t just for romance writers, though it’s amazing for you if you are! This has great body language lists for arguments, laughter, embarrassment, determination…so many ideas condensed into this little book. This has been useful for me in writing scifi as much as my romance. Even if you have a waitress flirt with an officer on his lunch break while he’s furiously trying to solve a homicide and could care less about her attempts, this book can be useful. It also has helpful lists of descriptions for eyes, faces, body types, hair, smiles/frowns, and color name ideas. This is my main go-to book each time I write. It gets me started. Then I’ll move on to my other references as I dig much deeper into the story.

For romance writers, this book is a given. It has your usual spread of body language, plus segments on attraction, embracing, and lovemaking without the erotic words. More than this, the biggest benefit has been the “after-effects” sections as I’ve called them. Toward the end of the book, you’ll find thoughts and realizations a character might have after spending the night with someone or simply falling for them. This often gets left out in romance I read. I want to know about the regrets or other thoughts characters might have, in detail. Not simply: I shouldn’t have done that, or I’m so embarrassed, or he better marry me. There’s more to the thoughts that circulate after being with someone, and this book delves into those. So if you’re a romance writer but don’t want to read explicit content, this is the book for you.

The only catch is this book comes solely in paperback. It was first published in 1984, well before ebooks were a thing. But it is honestly worth it, especially if you’re a beginning writer or a writer looking for romantic interaction inspiration.

Get: The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book on Amazon

I hope you’ve found some useful books in this collection. I sure have. I plan to write more posts with other books I’ve found useful in self-editing, publishing, legal and business, genre specifics, marketing, and the best books on writing short fiction.

It’s hard to justify forking out money for reference books when you’re trying to make money instead of spend it, I know. I’ve burned some cash with the hit and miss risks and don’t want you to have to do the same. If you’ve found a book to be particularly useful for descriptions, dialogue, emotions, or other lists, you’re welcome to add it to the comments below!

Best wishes!


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Self Pub Book Checklist

Page 1 of 2: Self-pub checklist

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the tasks you need to complete to self-publish your book, and you’re having trouble finding that sticky note with that “thing you were supposed to do…” I’ve compiled a Word document I use as a guide for what to get done to prep my self-published books for launch. It lists everything from back cover blurbs and copyrights to things to look for when editing your book and ad services to run after you’ve published.

Mind you, this is a list, not something with explanations. But I am totally a sticky note girl and after publishing several books, I found I needed to consolidate my pen scratches to something more concrete and organized.

This is something I print off and ink in so I have a hard copy to carry around, but you’re welcome to use it on your computer however you see fit. I hope this helps you conceptualize what needs to be completed and that it helps you prioritize your efforts as you close in on publication. Good luck and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if you have any ideas of things to add!!

Self pub Book Completion Checklist on ELS Word document

I want everyone to be able to realize their dream of publishing!

Best Wishes!


Blog, Writer's Blog

AMS Ads and CPC Help for New Authors

So I posted this to one of my lovely FB groups and thought I’d share it here in case anyone is searching for help on this topic. I don’t speak for Amazon. I’m just another writer who’s been trying to understand how to work Amazon ads and was hoping this could help some of you beginner advertisers out there. This post is regarding use of Amazon’s advertising dashboard.

Choosing the right Cost Per Click is important so you don’t blow your budget without making any sales. With authors, it’s nearly impossible to make money on books priced under $2.99 which are not in the KDP Select program, in my experience…and from what I’ve encountered in the multiple author groups I’m in. Below, I’ll help you understand why.

It’s critical that you take what I’m about to show you and try to calculate this for yourself, but also that you understand how many variables there are. Impressions, clicks, customer interests, these things change every day. I just want to help clarify how you can maintain some control over your goals with your advertising. You can use this method on other platforms, adjusting the costs etc accordingly.

AMENDMENT: The easy version of the break-even is as DB points out in the blog post comments… if your individual book royalty is $1.89, ($2.99 book at 70%) and your book makes 1 sale for every 10 clicks (just an easy math reference number), your break even would be any bid under $0.189… which of course is $0.18 because we can’t do tenths of cents. But we’re going to talk about maximizing budget limits and ensuring we accrue at least that amount in royalties (with $10 as our easy reference amount for this nutty math) so we can do this again in the future. 

I’ve been working on this CPC thing and have made a chart that  helps us figure out how to pick the Cost Per Click and also what we should be charging for our books to make this insanity worth it. There are 2 charts on the same page of the link below (AMS Ads Breakdown.xlsx).

1 is for CPC and how many clicks it takes to get to $10 (As a simple, general number).

2 is for looking at how many sales it takes to make $10 so you can look into cost of your book and how the change in CPC affects your chance of income.

AMS Ads Breakdown (xlsx) Excel

I was really worried about spending too much. I think a lot of us are. I wanted to make this more scientific rather than some crazy numbers floating in the ether. And of course if someone sees an error in my table please please correct me and comment below! I haven’t had math since college and relied a lot on Excel formulas. Anyway… We need a way to know if our click numbers are getting too high for the amount we earn in royalties from sales… that’s what this is for.

Say we have a book that costs $2.99 on Select’s 70%. (Remember, with 70% they take out a delivery fee that’s dependent on book length.) So for me, 70% of 2.99 is $2.09 minus about $0.23 for the book’s delivery fee. (I rounded this up in the chart to $0.25 because I think it varies depending on country?) – but I honestly don’t know if they take the delivery charge first or after they calculate our royalty.  I took it after in the table because I’m a dummy and forgot it until after and am too lazy to redo the thing. My brain already hurts. I generally make about $1.89 so that’s what I’m using.

To make $10 in profit so I can have $10 ad spend:

Okay so we’re working with an ending royalty of $1.89.  I need to do this: $10 profit / $1.89 per book = 5.29 sales. Five sales won’t make me quite 10 bucks, so I round up to 6. Six sales will make me ten bucks at this price for this book.

Here’s where it gets tricky. You’ll need to know your ratio of clicks to sales for this to work. You can figure this from your dashboard.

Say you get 1 sale for every 10 ad clicks. If you want to make $10 you need 6 sales (from above).

So… 6 sales x 10 clicks is 60 total clicks needed to make that $10.

60 clicks = $10 in royalties at your price, for that one book, for that ratio of clicks to sales.

Got it? Take a breath!

In order for us to at least break even, those 60 clicks have to cost us $10 or less, right? $10 sales = $10 cost of advertising.

$10 ad cost / 60 clicks  = .16666 So we have to round down to $0.16 Cost Per Click.

For Summary Here’s My Stats:

Book Cost to Customer: $2.99

My Royalties at 70% minus Delivery fees = $1.89

To get $10 in profit I need 6 Sales

(Pretending I’m this lucky) I make 1 sale for every 10 ad clicks.

To make 6 sales I need 60 ad clicks

Goal is at least $10 Sales so we can have $10 for ad spend.

$10 spend / 60 clicks means each click must cost $0.16 or less.

So I must set my CPC for that.

Now this doesn’t account for the delay in royalty payment. I know it’s a pain. So this specific example really only works if you have a set budget for each month that remains at $10. That said, I hope this math can help you figure out how to calculate your desired royalties and CPC relative to your ad spend budget threshold. 

Clarification and explanation notes from my post comment below:

***If people are wanting to LIMIT their ad spend to a certain amount of money…they’ll want to know how to calculate their ad spend beneath their threshold. (That’s mostly why I created this and why it isn’t a straight up $0.18 cent bid.) So let’s reverse engineer our thinking.

In order to have the money to do this again in future months:

You can’t spend more than $10, right? Because we blew the rest of our cash on Starbucks and books. But we also want to make our money back (so we have to hit $10 minimum in royalties). Five books doesn’t make us $10, but 6 does. (click rate is still 1 sale to 10 clicks) So if we want to maximize our available ad spend budget and our royalties in this situation, we need to make at least $10 and spend under $10 at whatever maximum bid we can to make this happen so Amazon will show our ads as much as possible but we also don’t top our budget.

If you want to hit a goal amount of money (like $10) you’ll need to sell 6 books, because we can’t sell 5.29. 5 books sales = $9.45, 6 book sales = $11.34. If your click ratio is 1 sale per 10 clicks and your bid price is $0.16 (still needing 60 clicks to make 6 whole sales) you’ll spend $9.60 (which is under $10 budge limit). If you bid $0.17 at 60 clicks, you spend $10.20. If you bid $0.18 at 60 clicks, you spend $10.80. Which is still under your royalty amount, but OVER your budget spend. 

Sale to Click Ratio Flux:

Also, the margin for click ratio changes at $0.18 is non-existent. If your click ratio changes to 1 sale for 11 clicks, at $0.16 bids, (66 clicks to $10 sales) you’ll still be under your *accrued royalties* at $10.56 ad spend. (but over budget) If you bid $0.17 you’d be at $11.22 ad spend. (Again under royalties but over budget) But at $.18 bids, ad spend would top your accrued royalties at $12.54. If the click ratio increases to 1 sale to 12 clicks, $0.16 isn’t even low enough.

I agree, we often spend too much on ad bids. I think going lower is financially safer, and most of my bids have kept me at a break even under $.20. But I do think if you have the money to learn, (that means burning some of it) running the higher bids will get you enough clicks to know which ads and search terms convert to sales. I didn’t have money to spend $0.35 on each ad bid when I started. Now I’m struggling to have enough decent clicks on my ads to know what’s working and what’s not. I think, if people can, starting high can be a quick lesson in which clicks convert to sales and which don’t. Then you can narrow it down and expand the great terms with new ads. Otherwise it’s a very slow process with tons of waiting and weak data.

Now, I set portfolio limits for each month (to stay under budget) and am trying the higher bidding to see if I can find substantially successful search terms, not ones with only a few clicks. Those aren’t strong enough for second and third gen ads.

This is definitely a tedious process.

Of course this is a super rigid way to look at this situation. There are so many variables in impressions, click-to-sale ratios, and delivery fees, seasons, market trends, that its hard to know for sure. But I hope this brings some clarity to those of you who are struggling too. Remember that with sales (even if you aren’t making money yet) there are more people with your book, more readers to review it, and Amazon indexes your book with the customers’ other purchases so you have the inherent likelihood of more visibility.

Don’t be discouraged. In the words of David Gaughran, “We all start from zero.” Seriously, look him up. And please holler if I screwed anything up! Or if you have questions! Best wishes and I hope you are well and safe where you are!


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30+ Character Clothing Styles


I haven’t found many straight forward lists available online that cover different styles of dress. I studied this some in college but really wanted to lay it all out in a way that I could compare them in a condensed form. Occasionally, I’ll get an idea for a plot, but won’t know which style, setting, or era is best until I sit down and scan through this list for ideas.

Only general descriptions are provided to help sort the styles because so many overlap. If you find something missing, please leave a comment!

  1. Western (cowboy) – boots, jeans, plaid, cowboy hat, spurs, chaps
  2. Rocker (traditional motorcycle) – black leather, band shirts, spike studs, skulls
  3. Punk – spiked colorful hair, black outfits
    • Anarco-punk – militaristic style
    • Steampunk – brass gears, buckles, latches, mechanical hardware, goggles
    • Cyberpunk – futuristic tech, pleather, goggles, colorful cable/dread hair
      • Biopunk includes more of the tech+body integration
    • Celtic punk – kilts and leather jackets
    • Glamorous punk – sparkles and spikes
    • Ska-punk – suspenders, black and white stripes/checkers, skinny jeans
    • Rockabilly – retro hair curls/greaser, white T-shirt, jeans, short A-line dresses, polka dots
  4. Gothic – black fishnet/lace, spikes, skulls, pale skin
    • Vampire – brocade, corsets, cape, black leather, blood, sheer fabrics
    • Voodoo/witch – long dresses, long hair, dark eyes, long necklaces, lots of rings
  5. Post-apocalyptic – thick, often torn canvas clothing, hoods, gas masks, knee boots, buckles
  6. Classy – simple suits, jackets, solid colors – neutral tone with a single color
    • Chic – classy mixed with a lace or floral pattern
    • Sophisticated – typically one color, a single form fit dress or suit, often with a single expensive accessory, a Coach/Prada purse
  7. Bohemian (boho) – tassels, lace, natural colors, sheer fabrics
    • Gypsy – richer color, corsets, more adornments, hip scarf
  8. Casual – jeans, hoodies, T-shirts, sneakers
    • Loungewear – sweats, hoodies, T-shirts, slippers, nighties
  9. Hippie – long flowing fabrics, flowers, bell-bottoms, bright colors
    • Romantic – pastel colors, flowers, skirts
  10. Tomboy (for girls) – dresses like a man
  11. Effeminate (for guys) – dresses like a woman
  12. National (ethnic) – dress based on cultural history and tradition
  13. Preppy – sweaters and slacks or skirts
  14. Sexy – torn/minimal clothing, showing a lot of skin
  15. Metrosexual (men) – skinny jeans, form-fitting tops, vests, manicured, long bangs
  16. Lumbersexual (men) – boots, skinny jeans, red and black plaid flannel, beard, long bangs, pipe/cigar
  17. Formal – suits for males and females
    • Glamorous – silk, fur, diamonds, floor-length form fit dress, expensive suits
  18. Active – stretch fabrics, tennis shoes, armband/waistband for mp3 player and keys
  19. Retro – 1980’s neon triangles/circles parachute clothing, and 70’s muted colors in t-shirts, high-waist jeans, and swimsuits, big hair/puffy-brushed out curls
  20. Vintage
    • Early 1900s – full-length corset dresses, casual suits, floral patterns, lace trim
  21. Medieval/renaissance – tunics, under-bust trim, silk, gold thread, accentuated sleeve openings for women, puffy sleeves and pants for men
  22. Skater – large flat-soled shoes, beanies, hoodies, torn baggy pants or skinny jeans
  23. Nautical – navy and white colors, often stripes and solids
  24. Vibrant/Flamboyant – boldly colorful, patterned, and shaped
  25. Exotic – rich colors, trimmed with gold/silver, gems (Stylized with ethnic elements)
  26. Seasonal – self-explanatory, depends on where you are.
  27. Artistic (Arty) – this can go two ways:
    1. The creator – casual with effects of work present, paint, wood dust, ink
    2. The professional – clean jeans/slacks, suit jacket/sweater, camera bag/satchel, and a beret or other well-known symbol of art appreciation
  28. Minimalist – simple clean lines with few to no adornments, no pockets, nothing in excess.
  29. Eclectic – a mix of tastes, plaid and paint splatter, breaks fashion rules, what most of us normies are.
  30. Street/Urban – a trendy casual, follows pop culture fads in everyday style
  31. Functional – work-wear, jumpsuits, overalls, gloves, grounding straps, harnesses
  32. Costume/Character inspired (Cosplay) – over 20 sub-categories.(Wikimedia Reference) here’s a few:
    1. Fantasy armor
    2. Superheroes
    3. Cyborgs
    4. Machines
    5. Legend and creatures
    6. Spies
    7. Martial artists
    8. Anime
    9. Maids
    10. Pirates
  33. Ancient
    • Egyptian – typically long white tunic adorned with gold and turquois, headdresses
    • Mayan/Aztec/Inca – loin cloth & tunics for men, skirts and scarves for women, body piercings
    • Viking – long canvas dresses, furs, cloaks
    • Nomad – thick pants and tops, full overdress, trimmed with geometric patterns
    • Barbarian – stud-trimmed leather, furs, skulls/teeth/round-stamped metal adornments
    • Greek – Chiton, men no sleeves, women had sleeves
    • Roman – Tunica and toga combination
    • Minoan/Cretan – layered skirt, jacket, brooches and daggers for women. loincloth and pants that folded into a triangle shape at the waist for men, no shirt
    • Israelite – animal skin apron with a long shawl-like tunic
    • India – a single piece of fabric wrapped around the entire body, bright colors, trimmed with gold thread
    • Chinese – darker colors, loose and wide sleeves, Hanfu tunic, sash
    • African – bark cloth, animal skins, paint, scars, beadwork
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Master List of Colors & How They Can Change Reader Interpretation

(Color Charts Below)

Though it’s often not the most important part, the right color can invigorate any description. I made these lists for myself, to help me pick color names that were exactly what I was searching for without becoming repetitive. Depending on the content, you might consider selecting recognizable names within a specific category to supplement your theme. Metals Emanate Strength– steel, titanium, gold, bronze, copper, tungsten, platinum, brass, chrome, aluminum, iron, silver, nickel, pewter, zinc –Flowers Radiate Elegance– cornflower, violet, lilac, lily, rose, cosmos, hyacinth, baby’s breath, carnation, anemone, iris, daisy, begonia, amaryllis, daffodil, buttercup, larkspur, dahlia, hydrangea, marigold, freesia, crocus, azalea, bleeding heart, hollyhocks, orchid, gladiolus, snapdragons, touch-me-not, tulip, peony, eremurus (this list seriously goes forever) –Nature Adds Grandeur– sky, sea, mountain, desert, lake, forest, meadow, pine, redwood, ivy, storm, autumn, winter, spring, summer, nebula, astral, cosmic, lightening, sunshine/sun-baked, dusk, dawn, moon, sand, field, grass, sequoia, eucalyptus, –Stones/Gems Provide Dimensionality– jade, emerald, diamond, garnet, ruby, onyx, aquamarine, citrine, amber, amethyst, jasper, beryl, peridot, quartz, opal, lapis, druse, tourmaline, topaz, coral, agate, hematite, howlite, labradorite, moonstone, obsidian, pyrite, sapphire, serpentine, sphene, sodalite, sunstone, turquoise, zircon (this list also goes forever, though I might suggest using the shorter names)

My favorites are ones that add another sense:

–Foods Add Flavor– dark chocolate, cinnamon, divinity, caramel, coconut, strawberry, peach, butter, cake batter, cookie dough, currant, licorice, grape, punch, pistachio, pear, melon, coffee, cherry, tropical, marshmallow, margarita, beer, kiwi, rum, honey, apple, banana, passion fruit, papaya, almond, horchata, plum, pomegranate –Or a Flavor and a Scent– mocha, mint, lavender, lemon cream, pumpkin pie, sage, apple cider, bubble gum, maple, cocoa, rosemary, nutmeg, clove, ginger –Animals Can Add Texture– Buckskin, manatee, mouse, sable, calico, tiger, zebra, snakeskin, alpaca, alligator, peacock, rhino, cardinal, shark, anemone, squid, camel, scarab, seal, chameleon, flamingo –Cybernetic/Artificial Adds Futuristic Elements– (These can add each element to any color) Surge, electric, circuit board, trace, flash, digital, clone, print, scan, screen, l.e.d., laser, fiber-optic, carbon fiber, wire, cable, grid, connector, capacitor, transformer, regulator, relay, switch –And Then There are the Generics– cool/warm/neutral, light/dark, faint/deep, polychromatic, monochromatic, antiqued, patina, sepia –Some Add an Element of Light– iridescent, phosphorescent, pearlescent, crystallized, transparent, translucent, opalescent, prismatic, lustrous, effulgent, brilliant, bright, coruscating, incandescent, scintillating, radiant, lucent, luminous, glowing, flaming, fluorescent, lambent, auroral, burning, blazing, dazzling, mirror-like, smoky –Level of Color Added/Manipulation– Sprinkles, infused, dense, foggy, haze, overlay, swirled, blended, wash, baked, crackled, peppered, dusted, opaque, inky, milky, creamy, suspended, foamy, fried, dripping, drizzled, folded in, saturated, drowning, oozing, frosted, glazed, vivid, intense, burnished Then there are behaviors that can be implied by picking a specific one for instance: 1.Shark gray vs. Squirrel gray Naming something shark gray implies very aggressive behavior vs. the aloofness of a squirrel. 2.Marshmallow and Margarita use Marshmallow white might imply a taste, scent, and a texture, or even a quality of comfort. Margarita green might suggest a taste, a salty personality or edge to the story, or that the night might end a little more wild than if (spring) green were used in its place. Happy writing (or whatever else you create!) Heaven knows I’ve missed some I’m sure, and there are plenty of colors above that cross multiple categories. Feel free to add your favorite in the comments below!
color chart red through pink
color chart violet through misc
Blog, Writer's Blog

Guest Post: Critique Partners – What They Are, Where to Find Them, and How to Make the Best

(Read the post below) Just want to give a quick shout out to Rae at A New Look on Books and thank her for letting me guest post on her website:

She is also a freelance editor and a very kind soul. Twitter: @anewlookonbooks

An important goal of critique swapping is getting constructive feedback. It’s critical to be open-minded about comments and reactions because they’re from real people, readers, potential customers. For an overview of what you can expect with critique partners as a writer, check out the post on Rae’s website here: For an example Critique Sheet to download and use, go here: Critique Sheet (docx). We have to look at our writing as a job, not a child. It’s very hard, yes. But if we want quality writing and happy customers, we have to put our opinions aside and look at the pieces with unbiased eyes. This is what critique partners are critical for… perspective. Critique Partners: What They Are, Where to Find Them, and How to Make the Best CPs can help you stay on target if you have trouble motivating yourself. It’s like self-imposed homework. The concept might bring back bad memories, but it helps you achieve a goal you set out to reach. We need to challenge our fellow creative-types in a supportive way. This is one way we can do just that. Stay tuned for a CP Question Cheat Sheet below! What They Are: A Critique Partner is someone with whom you swap written work in an effort to gain a crucial, fresh perspective on your story. Yes, this is necessary. I say this firmly from experience. You want other writers (people that study the craft and like to read) to let you know what they see. We all do our best to convey the message/themes/characters/scenes we see in our minds. But are we doing this effectively? How do we know? This is where Critique Partners lift the veil of uncertainty and help us pinpoint areas for improvement. I’ve encountered some confusion between Critique Partners (CPs) and Beta Readers (Betas). Technically, a CP is someone with which you share a chapter or a few at a time as they are written—an ongoing process. You’re not co-writing; you’re sharing impressions to tune the work. These are writers that work with one another through the process of writing the book, offering tips and feedback as the story unfolds. Betas are people that read the book when it is one complete unit, providing overall feedback to check for consistency, plot holes, character arcs, etc. Where to Find Them:
  1. Local Writing Groups – This one is a fantastic option if you can get into a group in your area. You’ll be able to meet face-to-face with others and talk about your ideas and concerns as you write. Some groups will have requirements for participation (like waiting for your turn/week to swap and bringing enough paper copies of your work for the entire group). That’s just one example. Sometimes, they’ll want you to hang out with the group for a few weeks or months before submitting work for the group to review (so they don’t get flighty drifters). I’ve seen a few that require you to earn points by critiquing other works before you can submit your work.
I use the MeetUp app to find local groups and take a look at their rules. Often, the public library will have postings if any groups have a schedule to meet there. Some of the bookstores may have writers events or rent out rooms for meetings as well.
  1. Online Writing Groups – Most of these are free, and you can find ones specific to genres. is a fairly large writing forum where you can connect with other writers and authors. There is a section where you can post a request for feedback partners, but you have to register to post. And in order to start your own thread, they require you’ve made 50 posts first. is similar to the above. It is a thread site but aimed at those more interested in traditional publishing and being in contact with agents. has a network of engaged people where you become part of a like-minded team and swap critiques. It is a paid membership, $85 annually, but offers a more constructive and timely environment. They also have online versions of NaNoWriMo camps. is a free website (with paid upgrades). You do have to earn points to post if you want critiques. They have free writing contests, a writing blog, and a forum for educational information. You can only post 3,000 words at a time for critique, and it requires 5 points to post that. It’s a great process with a high expectation of positive/constructive feedback. But it is definitely a time consuming process. Examples of genre specific options: Mystery Writers: Science Fiction Fantasy: Literary: Christian: Kingdom Writers – Sorry Romance and Children’s peeps. I searched but couldn’t find any genre-specific online groups for you. Try social media and the non-genre specifics listed above.
  1. Social Media – I have found the best crew on Twitter via Megan Lally’s #CPMatch hashtag. I love it because it’s FREE, and I’ve made a ton of connections with other authors this way. She runs events every month to month-and-a-half where people storm the hashtag with their short synopses and occasionally a mood board or book cover. Posting the genre of the writing helps find compatible works to swap with.
You can also use #critiquepartner, #cpmatchmaking, #betabustle and #betareader on Twitter, but I haven’t found a more loyal and excited group than the one listed above. Facebook has a lot of writer’s groups as well. I’m not even going to delve into this one. But I will say this: many are tired of spammers – I mean the self-pubbed gurus that just want to drop their links and leave. (This isn’t effective, and it isn’t nice) Become an active member. You will make friends. Friends make a network. A network is how you will succeed. Wattpad is a fantastic place to meet a lot of work-in-progress folks. It’s a place where you can post your upcoming works one chapter at a time and get feedback from your followers for free. That said, it counts as publication. So… if you want to maintain copyright, make sure you include a notice at the beginning of your book on Wattpad. And when you do officially publish for sale, you need to be aware of this when filing on They will ask you if it has been published previously. But if you’re looking for a fast turnaround with feedback, this is a great way to do it. Wattpad is heavier on the YA and Fan Fiction side, so the crowd there tends to be younger. They give great advice on how something reads, plot, characterization, etc. But not always the nitty-gritty voice, line, and copyediting advice. Goodreads is a good place to connect with readers. You can also find groups where you can post your work for review or beta reads. This is only as successful as you make it. If you want to be noticed here, you have to interact with lots of other people. There are numerous posts made every day to many of the groups. Here are a few examples: The Circle: for readers/beta readers/critiques/reviews/free reads size: 1,681 Goodreads Reviewers’ Group size: 5,846 Support for Indie Authors size: 14,401 Making Connections size: 11,932 Goodreads Authors/Readers size: 29,859
  1. Writing Associations and Organizations
Local organizations, like the Writers’ League of Texas can offer you a host of options for a decent membership price. Texas, of course, isn’t the only location. I’m just using this one as an example because I was a member when I lived there. The great thing about WLT was online classes. Yes, you can take courses online and not have to live in the state. Members get a discount on courses. If you plan to take several a year, it’s worth it. They also have a website where you can get counseling and one-on-one attention with your work. I met other authors at classes they had at St. Edwards University. This is one way to grow your living, breathing, human network. There are quite a few online organizations, several of which you might be familiar with. This list is not all-inclusive. There are many more. American Christian Fiction Writers Erotica Readers and Writers Historical Novel Society Military Writers Society of America Mystery Writers of America Nonfiction Authors Association Poetry Society of America Romance Writers of America Sisters in Crime Small Publishers, Artists, And Writers Network Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators Western Writers of America Writers Guild of America
  1. There is always the Fiverr option if you’re looking for timely feedback and haven’t made many other connections yet. If you haven’t heard of it, Fiverr is a massive website where people can post their work-for-hire ads. Be very careful. Always read reviews. This site does not filter quality of work. However, there is a lot of talent to be found here from editing to cover design. Let me just stress this again: be picky.
  2. Some freelance editors will also work with you, but this depends on the editor. A lot of editors will provide an initial, free, ten page or first chapter critique as a display of their skills (and a way to find out if you’d be a good match for future editing). This critique is a little different. They’re expecting your work to be as refined as you can make it before they get it. The term implies different things depending on who you ask. So an editor is less likely to walk with you through the construction of the book. Maybe later, after you’ve sold tons of books and you and your editor are best friend. Then they probably would.
Keep at it. You’ll get there. I believe in you! How to Make the Best: There are benefits and downsides to both online and in-person critiques. Online is great (through certain methods) for quick turnaround and removing any personal bias a family member or friend might have. You can send digital feedback, collect all of the responses in one file or folder and look at it simultaneously. Google Drive and Docs is awesome for collecting group feedback. Just upload your book and share the link to whoever you want via their email address. Seriously, it’s awesome. It’s difficult to gauge the level of importance an avatar/icon puts on the feedback they give you. It can lack the depth you may be searching for. The comments may also come across heartless and hard to read. Some might respond with something too vague like, “Great read, just move the ending to here.” Or they might never get to it and you find yourself waiting indefinitely. They could also redline your work to shreds and leave you feeling like giving up. With a personal contact, you can meet them face-to-face, get a feel for them as a person, and decide if you’re comfortable swapping. The human element is hard for a lot of introverts, but it can be a powerful tool in the long run. A tip for people with unpredictable writing habits… isn’t that a vast majority of us? Finish your book first. Or at least be close to ready before you search for CPs. The reason I say this is because we often have life events that get in the way of completing our weekly or monthly goals. Instead of making your betas wait (This still happens to me because of lack of internet) you will be prepared to send the next chapter. You can still swap one chapter at a time and critique it, but you don’t have the pressure of having to finish writing each unit while you’re critiquing their recent work and holding down a job, dealing with family, fixing the car, etc. The key to online critiques: SWAP A SAMPLE. Yes, I guess, I’m yelling. Never send your book in its entirety right off the bat. (This is a security measure.) Send one chapter or five pages, whatever you agree upon. Critique it the way you would normally. Then exchange your feedback. This way, you can see if they give you what you’re looking for in responses and also, if their writing is of content and a reading level you’re comfortable with critiquing. That said, people are ready at different stages, so I tend to prepare myself to work with wherever they’re at. Giving feedback can seem like an easy thing to do. Anyone can say, “I like this,” or “This sucks.” But that doesn’t tell the other writer what’s wrong or missing. I’ve included a list below of possible questions to ask when critiquing work. I hope it helps tune your mind as you read so you can offer the best experience you can to your CP. If they enjoy working with you, they may stick around to swap with you in the future. Try to keep it a mixture of what you like and what you think could use improvement. Every writer needs to know what works just as much as what doesn’t. We need to know our strengths to be able to build on them like we need to know our weaknesses so we can fix them. The ABA approach (good, bad, good) doesn’t always align with things as they happen in the story. Just aim for balance. And be kind with your words. Example: Don’t say – You picked a terrible character name. Change it. Say – This character’s name reminds me of (…). This way the other writer can see what you see. If it’s not the imagery they were hoping for with the name, then they can see* why they should change it. Offer suggestions and observations. Keep personal opinions out of feedback. Maintain professionalism. Never criticize the other writer as a person because of something they wrote. If its fiction, they’re constructing a story, not living it. And if it’s nonfiction, then it actually happened so it’s a fact that needs to be accepted. Be mindful of your emotions and comments. We’re here to build one another up and help each other reach our goals. On the flip side, it isn’t easy receiving feedback either. We all send it off knowing it isn’t perfect, but hoping the other person will find some things they enjoy. This is the biggest reason for swapping a sample. You want to make sure they are going to give you what you need and want and not too much of what you don’t. Keep in mind, not everyone is going to present ideas to you in an objective and impartial manner. Some people can be downright mean. (Which is why we have to be the mature ones and lead by example.) Their critiques are only theirs. They do not represent the mass majority. They are one person. Don’t judge your work’s value based on one person’s opinion. You’re not being fair to yourself. This is why you need to get feedback from at least three different people. You will have critique partners back out from time to time. It seems to happen in waves. We all have a lot on our plates. Few of us are full-time writers. Always ask more people if they’d like to swap than the number you think you need. Maybe you’ll get lucky and snag them all! Just be prepared to work through that number of stories if they do. Play fair, and it will work out in your favor. Be encouraged by the feedback. It’s better to chop your manuscript up and rework it now, than let your readers do it for you on public websites. I know it can seem overwhelming sometimes. That’s okay. Cry it out. Get some extra strong coffee. Hug whatever or whoever is close to you. Deep breath. Take the news in stages if you have to. Look at the notes one at a time. If there is a consensus among your returned critiques, then you know what needs work. It can be a bit more ambiguous when it comes to the individual comments that don’t line up with the others. Filter them for anything confusing and ask for clarification on the comment if needed. Sort the opinions from the facts. Opinions are subjective statements that contain assumptions, judgments, and beliefs. Facts are objective statements and are backed by evidence and reason. Some writers are very good at hiding their opinions in a factual statement. Fact checking is crucial in non-fiction but can be a component of many fiction genres. But, in truth, CPs are only able to give you their best observations of your work as it coincides with what they’ve been taught or researched is “correct.” There is a level of differentiation to consider as you read their comments. If they explain why a concept/scene/character action doesn’t fit, you’ll want to consider delving into this. If someone is providing you an opinion on something menial, let it go. So they don’t like it, big whoop. It’s not worth getting upset over. Critiques are recommendations. Be open-minded about what they’re suggesting, but don’t change everything just because others think you should. Instead, take their notes as help in deciphering what messages or concepts may not be coming across clearly. Sometimes, we want them confused and misled. Maybe because of a Red Herring we carefully wove in, or we’re trying to make our readers think. Confusion would be a good thing in those cases. Otherwise, it may mean there is a deficit in showing of a component in your writing. On the flip side, if critiquers feel bored, it may be a sign you’ve shown too much, and they’re not actively engaged. A little mystery is the key to a good hook. Swapping critiques can lead to insecurity among writers. I hope you’re one of the lucky few that hasn’t had this issue. It’s been my experience that new CPs need a gentler approach. Find out the stage they’re at and see how it compares with yours. Swap the samples. Find out if they want a full critique or a traditional one, in chapter segments as they write. Make sure you’re on the same page. I love ending with terrible puns. Remember, when we write, we’re in our comfort zone. When we send off our work for its first critiques, we enter the zone of fear, doubt, and insecurity. Getting our feedback is when we are offered the chance to learn about our skills and how we can make our writing better. It is when we accept it and work on improving our craft and our stories that they shine, and so do we. Framework for critiquing: General things to discuss upon swapping samples of writing Is this a finished book or a work in progress? Is this the genre you like to read? Is this the genre you write in? Have you done critiques before? How long have you been writing? Who is the target audience? What are you looking for in feedback? General (plot/scene setting/characterization) or more detailed (voice/structure, line edits/copyedits)? Notes If you’re doing a group critique, don’t read others notes while critiquing. You run the risk of bias. Remember to provide professional and polite feedback Point out what you liked as well as what you found problematic Read through these questions before you begin the critique to help you hunt down critical issues and answer them as thoughts come to mind Leaving in-text notes can help you with a final (overall) assessment and also point out specific problem areas to the writer The Questions!! First Chapter/Opening Do the first few lines hook the reader with the main character and their problem/conflict? Can you visualize the environment, the main character, and the problem? Is the manuscript starting where you think it should? Is there enough tension and emotion to draw the reader in? Does it start with a cliché, or is it a unique and intriguing beginning? Conflict/Tension Was there a major resolution to the main conflict? Or did you feel something was missing at the end? Were the stakes enough? Did the tension ebb and flow in a way that made you want to keep reading? Were there tense hooks at the end of each chapter? Did the beginning of each chapter give you the premise with a subtle hook as well? If this is a series, is there a bit of conflict left unresolved for the next book? Could you understand the internal/emotional battles the characters were fighting? Did they contribute to the progress of the plot and the character’s overall change (arc)? Did any details or events seem convenient/contrived? Characters Were the chosen names, dress, and ages appropriate for the genre and setting? Could you follow along with the emotional journey of the character? Or did it feel glossed over or forced? Did the characters encounter enough struggles, including between characters, to complete a transformation at the end? Do you understand why the villain/antagonist is a protagonist in their own mind? Does each characters’ behavior seem believable? Are the characters three-dimensional in personality? Do they experience all emotions? Do they improve the story? Do they have flaws/limitations? Are their goals, morals, and desires understandable? Are they relatable to a level that fits the genre? Are their back-stories compelling and well-rounded? Did you find the characters’ changes satisfying at the end? Were the social relationships among the characters genuine and supportive to the story? If any, was the hierarchy presented believable and beneficial? If this was a character-driven piece, do you feel the work was appropriately saturated with detail? Did you find the characters motivating, compelling, or inspirational in any way? In general, were the emotions, actions, and dialogue shown effectively? Plot If this was a plot-driven piece, do you feel the work effectively tackled this as a priority? Do you know what the main plot is/was? Was it consistent from beginning to end? Is the sequence of events consistent and believable? Were there too many dreams or flashbacks that detracted from the clarity of the plot? Were any aspects predictable? Were any events dwelled in for too long or not long enough? If there was more than one plotline or any subplots, were they constructive to the storyline or the character arcs? Is the influence of any “daily life” in the work helpful? Are the twists realistic? Surprising? Setting/Worldbuilding Can you clearly visualize where and when the story takes place? Do you understand the cultural norms? Is each change of scene distinguishable? Were there any environmental descriptions that were overwhelming? Does the setting/world frame the plotline effectively? Is the history/back-story of the landscape fitting and believable? (Why are we here?) Was every scene necessary to the plot? Dialogue/Language Are the colloquialisms effective or overwhelming? Did the language seem to fit each character? Was the dialogue constructive in moving the story forward? Were there too many formalities? Hi/Bye, Thank you/You didn’t have to Any dialogue dumps? Any moments that needed more? Did it evoke emotions or thoughts in you as a reader? Did the dialogue reflect the displayed emotions of the characters? Point of View – Format of narration for the book Is the point of view effective for the story? First person – “I am telling you.” Second person (rare in novels) – Narrator tells story *to* another (the reader). The “you” perspective. Third person (limited) – Narrator is outside of character minds. “He read it to her.” Third person (omniscient) – Narrator is in characters’ heads. “Josh hated the concept. This sucks, he thought. But he read the book to his little sister anyway.” Was the point of view consistent? (Especially between third person limited and omniscient?) Perspective – Comes from all characters telling the story as we meet them throughout it. This is their view on situations because of their pasts, prejudices, attitudes, and personalities. For works with multiple perspectives, do the changes from character to character seem fitting or does the story head-hop too quickly? Are there too many perspectives? Is there a character whose perspective you’d like to see? Craft Pacing Did the writing carry you along smoothly? Were there any problematic slow/fast areas? Did any sections of backstory/info/descriptions slow the story? Are the transitions helpful in moving from one scene to the next? Does the pace fit the genre? (ie: Action Adventure vs. Historical Romance) Show vs. Tell Any clichés used? Once upon a time… Does the work show things where it is needed? Are the moments of telling appropriate? Format Are the chapters broken up appropriately by scene/perspective/time changes? If there are breaks within chapters, do they seem fitting? Or could pieces be joined? Were any sentences or paragraphs too long or short? Voice/Tone Did the voice flow along with the story or did it seem choppy in calm moments and too calm during action? Is the tone fitting for the genre? (ex: Humorous, dark, melodramatic, literary, mechanical) Grammar Was punctuation used correctly? (comma splices, run-on sentences, not too many ; or !) Any misplaced modifiers? Are there too many adverbs? Are the sentences sticky with too many conjunctions? If there are curses, were there too many? Are there vague filler words? Is the writing concise? At the End Did the beginning fit now that you know the ending? Did you notice any inconsistencies in plot/character/scene? Does the author have any redundancies, catchphrases, or go-to words? What was your personal take on the story? (Keep this separate)
If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way via the Contact Form. Or, you can find me on Twitter (@ElysiaLStrife). I’m most active there. Best wishes! -Amy/Elysia
Writer's Blog

Copyediting Certification

As a self-publisher, I’ve had to wear a lot of hats… Knowing how to edit helps me write more effectively. Writing helps me understand the struggles of working with authors from an editor’s perspective.
I’m only beginning my journey as a freelance editor, but I hope to help other indie authors polish and prepare their stories for publication. I know how hard it is to receive feedback as a first-time author. It’s an intimidating process. Spending the money to have someone fix all of your developmental problems, walk you through line and copy edits, and coach you through the whole journey can be extremely difficult when you have little income or none at all. I don’t want anyone to give up on their dream of being an author because of the struggle. I believe just about any book can become publishable material with appropriate editing. My goal is to help frustrated indie authors to achieve their dream. This summer, I completed my first official course (From Writer’s Digest University) in my journey to acquire the professional know-how with editing. I’ve been swapping critiques with other authors for several years, and have begun to offer them for free to authors (as time permits). I took creative writing in college and a few other miscellaneous marketing and writing courses, but my Bachelor’s Degrees are in unrelated fields. So I’m aiming to step up my game. This fall I am studying developmental editing, line editing, and book mapping through the Editorial Freelancers Association. I plan to have completed their courses of study by spring 2020.
And for those that are confused by the name on the certificate, Elysia Strife is a pseudonym. Like many authors of different genres, I go by multiple names. If you’re an author interested in having someone look at your work but aren’t sure if you have the money for edits, stay in touch. I’ll be offering free novice feedback soon! Hope you stick around! Best wishes! -A/E
Blog, Writer's Blog

Fiction Novels: How Creating a Language Can Enhance a Story

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Blogging Authors. You can view it here:

How weird would it be if all aliens spoke English? Or witches and warlocks had no spells? We all know that creating believable characters is a critical component of successful storytelling. As authors, if our works are fantastical, we can’t always design our tales from developed belief systems: rituals, dress, language, etc. Constructing worlds from scratch isn’t easy, and I wanted a way to ensure cohesiveness even when my characters changed alliances. With the number of alien species being introduced in my first book, “Stellar Fusion,” creating new languages was an absolute must.

Language is one of those details you can’t borrow or steal like a hat. It can expose the characters’ pasts, secrets, and truths without major word-count-consuming action. It strengthens the authenticity of the culture and provides a level of intimacy when getting to know the characters’ that dress and ritual may not be able to do alone.

For example, avituvey is a word I created in my fictional language for the Xahu’ré people of planet Vioras in my Infinite Spark series. You can meet them in “Stellar Fusion.” Avituvey means freedom. Consider what might happen if a character, who primarily speaks English, says “for avituvey” when confronted about their loyalty while on Earth. What might that imply about their alliances?

The critical thing to understand is that language makes a connection between Character A and a culture. One word, not because of what that word is, but because of the language it’s spoken in, can change the entire direction of the plot.

When writing science fiction and fantasy, our characters are usually relatable in some way but must still be set apart to be captivating. I like using this language technique to show a hidden loyalty by having the character converse privately with others in the preferred language. But languages can be used in many ways.

It’s helpful to consider what sorts of phrases, quotes, or sayings might be important in the base culture of the language and why. How could they differ from what we say in our pivotal moments? Also, consider creating some colloquial terms for more regular use to cover everyday things and events.

The language you create can help set the mood or even the emotional presence of a character or culture. Think of the Sindarin, or Elven, language from “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is wispy and smooth as it rolls off of the tongue, reflecting the way the characters act and move in his books.

I know some people discourage creating new languages, saying that it overcomplicates the story. This can easily be the case if the creation of a language lacks direction and purpose. But I believe if you follow my tips below, a new language can bolster the cultural aspects and characters in your work.

Tips for Creating a Language in Your Book

  1. Keep it simple at first with just a word or a short phrase here and there. Ease your readers into the language then build upon it. Don’t start with a paragraph.
  2. If you accumulate a lot of words, provide an alphabetical list of translations to your readers, and make a dictionary of your own to use while writing.
  3. When possible, offer translations in text or a footer. Sometimes I use italics to show the definition of a phrase in English after it is said by a character in another language.

Example: “Dakan avituvey!” For freedom!

Or, if you like to show more than tell, then imply the meaning of the word or phrase with the actions and dialogue of characters.

  1. Make sure you can pronounce it, and ensure it sounds like something your characters would say. Don’t make a word with so many consonants or vowels that it looks like a hungry monster on the page. Readers will skip what they can’t comprehend. Make sure you know the limits of your created language.
  2. Be consistent with the arrangement of statements, questions, possessives, plurals, and conjunctions. How will you handle them? Keep a cheat sheet handy.
  3. Decide how you want your words to connect. In my Xahu’ré language, everything is constructed by association: sua=cruel, sua’o=cold, and Suanoa are the main antagonists. The root is “sua.”

Just put a little thought into the way your words will work together. Linguaphiles and logophiles can look deeper into morphology for sharper language creation.

  1. There must be a history of the culture’s existence to form the language. Words draw meaning from objects, events, and trends. Solidify your background information, and the language will come much easier. Word etymology is a good way to learn about where our words came from and might be helpful inspiration for this component.

I thoroughly enjoyed developing my Xahu’ré language. Since Stellar Fusion, I have created words in three new languages that I hope to build upon in future books. Besides enhancing culture and character in stories, new languages can be fun when chatting with friends and fans!

Thanks for reading! I wish you all the best on your creative journey!