Thank you, Amelia! More Helpful Free Author Tools

I got a lovely note from Barbara Lincoln, a librarian in Salt Lake City last Thursday, who writes:

Good Afternoon Mr. Allen, I would just like to say a quick word of thanks!

As a youth services librarian and educator, I’ve been running a fun writers workshop for 12-15 year olds and thought you might enjoy hearing that we were able to get some great use out of your writers’ interest links lists before the self-quarantine and social distancing. We were even able to use some of this information for our most recent group project!

Thanks so much for sharing! I hope you don’t mind, but one of our youngest, Amelia has also asked me if I could share an article that she and her mother found together on writing basics for young writers, which includes a great breakdown of potential writing careers, education options and essential skills, self-publishing, book proposals, the editing process, etc. I’ve included it below if you’d like to review! We noticed you don’t have this one listed yet, but Amelia was actually the one to bring up that this could be something you might like to include for other young writers who could also be coming across your information and have an interest in becoming a published author someday, like Amelia!

If you find you are able to use this one, would you please let me know? We’re meeting tomorrow virtually, and I would absolutely love to surprise Amelia if you’re able to do so – I’m hoping to keep spirits up in light of what’s happening across the country right now, and I think it would make her day to know she was able to ‘pay it forward’ and maybe even show her mother her contribution if it ends up being included! inkican.com/free-author-tools-to-make-you-feel-like-a-genius/

Thanks again for all your help here Jackson,

Barbara Lincoln

Thank you, Ms. Lincoln – this was a welcome message to receive.

I’m happy to say that I loved the idea and included Amelia’s contribution on the Free Author Tools Page, with credit. Now it’s up there to help other authors, too! Thank you, Amelia!

Information like this is absolutely essential for other authors since learning how to write for a living is a challenge for anyone at any age. I love that I’m able to help the young authors of SLCCN and thanks to kind people like them, I’m able to pass along more helpful author-related info.

Thank you again! You made my day.

 

Writing Pro-Tip: Have an Idea File

So, new writer pro-tip for you and for me. If you’re interested in capturing new ideas when they arrive, here’s a suggestion: have an idea file. Write it down on paper, as a Word doc, in an email – doesn’t matter. Just be in the habit of writing those ideas down when they arrive. Here’s why:

I see tweets like this all the time from other authors:

I can’t imagine whose purpose it serves to admit that you might not be a non-stop idea factory, but that’s another topic. Like a lot of other creative people, I want to do this for a living and so I have to be in the habit of capturing ideas when they happen. A lot of them happen in – surprise, surprise – my dreams. Yeah, I have some pretty intense dreams. Are they story-worthy? Well, that’s a longer question.

Fact is, I don’t dream in a coherent narrative. I had a pretty big one this morning before I woke up, something freakish and terrifying based on every alien movie I’ve ever seen. Usually, I decide that they aren’t worth keeping because I can’t make them into a story but today I decided to do something different.

As soon as I got up, I wrote down everything I could remember about the dream. What I saw, what I heard, how it felt. Then I saved it in my ‘Idea.File’ folder. Maybe the dream can be something that prompts a short story. Maybe it will be something to help me describe a later scene. Either way, now I’ve got a productive way to mine those subconscious sensations that would otherwise be lost to the fog of memory.

Sound familiar? It should – it’s similar to what Salvador Dali used to do. According to this Fast Company article, Dali would hold a key in his hand as he fell into a deep sleep. Once he was asleep, his hand would relax and drop the key onto a plate. The resulting ‘clang’ would wake Dali up again, ready to get back to work with fresh ideas brought up by his subconscious.

‘Does it matter if I write this stuff down?’ I have no idea, this is simply an exercise, learning to write down ideas and thoughts that may turn into something later. Jerry Seinfeld keeps a notepad next to his bed in case he thinks of something funny during the night, so who am I to argue with that?

To wrap up, this sounds like an idea that might work for me and also for you. Passing it along so that we can all make our stories that much better. Write on!

Don’t Shake Your Head Over Too Many ‘Headshakes’

OMG, this is awesome. I found another free resource that I want to pass along to you. If you’re like me, sometimes you get stuck using an idiom too often. For me, I keep using the phrase ‘shake his head’ in this draft of Mesh. I started looking around, has anyone solved this problem yet? Kathy Steinemann, I found out, graciously provided a list of 200 ways to say ‘shake their head.’ If you’re running into a problem like this, don’t shake your head over too many ‘headshakes!’ Kathy has you covered:

200 Ways to Say “Shake the Head”

kathysteinemann.com
Authors help authors. Kathy was kind enough to help me, and I want to make sure I follow her kind example. Go forth, and write! 🙂

PS – Kathy’s website is a little spotty. If the link doesn’t work, you can get to it via the Wayback Machine on Archive.org

Free List of Scifi Magazines That Pay For Your Work

Scifi Magazines Accepting New Fiction Updated - Free Author ToolQuick announcement – If you’re like me and you’re looking for every Free Author Tool on the planet, you’ll want to pay attention to this. I keep a log of scifi magazines that actually pay for your work. My list has been updated again – it’s at the bottom of the Free Author Tools page.

There’s no secret sauce to the Free Author Tools. I hear about things from time to time, and I want to pass those along to other people just like authors pass things along to me. The only way we’re going to succeed is if we help each other.

Lots of love!

~J

Unbelievable Free Author Tools

A common myth among non-writers is that authors’ words just flow from some magical brain faucet with no assistance from anyone, anywhere. I wish! No, the truth is a lot more boring. Authors rely on tools and many of them are free. It’s unbelievable how many of them are out there just lying around. It’s like stumbling on a garage filled with parts, just waiting for a mechanic to go to work.

Well today, that’s you and me. Here are six resources I found and I’ll add more as I go along. Feel free to make use of them yourself as you work to improve your writing:

Wordhippo 

Wordhippo is a thesaurus on steroids. Works great when you’re tired and you can’t think of another way to say “sarcastic.”

List of Adjectives to Describe Tone, Feelings and Emotions
Other Ways to Say “Roll the Eyes”: A Word List for Writers
100 Words for Facial Expressions
Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language
37 Ways To Write About Anger

Got any others? Send me yours and I’ll add them to my list!

New Writer? Start Here

Just ran across this awesome list of advice for new writers from other authors. If you’re a new writer, this is a good ‘Start Here’ for your journey.

11 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers With Incredible Advice

After years of sifting through blogs about how to get started or how to succeed, I love the idea that the process is really simple when you get down to it. We are telling lies for a living. Don’t get crazy. Don’t get intimidated. Nobody’s going to die. It’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.

In the end, I think my favorite advice came from JK Rowling:

Starting is easy. Continuing is hard. Finishing is the reward. Go.

Author DIY: Build Your Own Free E-Book Delivery Tool

Author DIY: Build Your Own Free E-Book Delivery ToolEnjoy lifehacks? Enjoy making your life easier? Read on, because I just spent a number of hours over the past few weeks putting this all together.

Like any other author, I want to make introducing myself as easy as possible. Free book giveaways are a risk-free way for new readers to get to know you and your work.

How do you do that without killing yourself responding to emails all day? There are systems out there that do this for authors with budget. However, what about writers like us?

With that in mind, I put this free e-book delivery tool together for myself. Because I like to share, I’m giving it to you so that you’ll have more time to write, too.

This is involved, so read it through and understand all the concepts first. Then grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You’re going to spend three or four hours setting this all up. Rest assured, once you’re done, you’ll have a kickbutt automated system for giving away free stuff to your readers and it didn’t cost you a dime.

Ready? Let’s go!

Continue reading

Yes, You Need Beta Readers

“Ouch,” I said. “This hurts. It’s also exactly what I needed to know.”

In between updates and binging ‘Mindhunters,’ I’m talking with my Beta Readers. They are hard at work making suggestions and providing feedback on Mesh. Just hearing from them is an experienc unto itself and I wanted to talk about it. Here’s why:

You can only know up to a point what people will think of your work. I can make a guess at how I think my story or my art will land with someone, but after that it’s really up to them. More often than not, you will have your assumptions challenged when they aren’t being completely destroyed.

So the question is, when do you want to hear that your book isn’t good: before or after it comes out? Me, I’d rather know before it comes out and you probably do, too.

Some authors don’t think so. Dean Wesley Smith, for example, will tell you that beta readers harm rather than help you. Nonsense. Beta readers are incredibly valuable to the writing experience. Without a Beta Readers, an author can spend ten years sending out query letters with no response because their work isn’t sellable and they never asked an objective audience to tell them the truth.

If you’re an author, you NEED to hear what people think of your work.

The information only hurts if you have an ego to bruise. Kill your ego, murder your darling. Your ego isn’t going to pay you for listening to it, but the readers will! It’s definitely within your interest to have the people you plan to sell your book to tell you what they think of it.

It’s not just that sucking is the first step toward being good at something. There’s an extra step in the process: How are you going to learn to suck less if you don’t know you suck?

This is the value of a good Beta Reader. They will tell you if you suck, why you suck, where you suck and when you suck. Know that you suck. Put your stuff out there. Hear it. Feel it. Accept it. Then start working at sucking less. Then listen, as they tell you how to suck less.

Don’t worry if you suck. You do. It’s okay. We all do.

Should Authors Do a Patreon?

I’m posting this because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I should consider doing a Patreon to fund my writing. You may not understand what a Patreon is, so let me bring you up to speed. According to Wikipedia, Patreon is ‘an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”‘

In other words, if you like a particular artist and you want to help encourage them to make more art, you’ll sign up to fund their work, either once or on a recurring basis. Sounds good on paper, and yet … that’s not how art works. I’ve never been completely on board with Patreon, anyway. Something never sat right with me about the process. After all, if Steve Jobs is right, and real artists ship, then we need to finish the product and ship it. I followed my gut and backed away from doing a Patreon, and now it turns out I made the right choice.

If you read through this Reddit post, you’ll understand why Patreon is a bad idea for authors. It’s not that Patreon is bad, the math of the Internet is against us. You can’t produce quality writing if you’re writing on a model that only works for viral video-makers and other like-minded individuals. Viral video-makers are people like PewDiePie … is that who you saw yourself being when you started writing?

So in summary, skip the Patreon. Your money comes from selling, and shipping, your work. Real artists ship.