How to write a book

Twilight, Arizona supernatural short stories

Lessons learned in the 2018 #AtoZChallenge

This year, I participated in the #AtoZChallenge for the second time. Last year, I jumped on the bandwagon days before it started and scrambled to post all twenty-six articles. In 2018 I approached #AtoZ as a project. Here are some lessons learned:

1. Lesson learned: Have a plan

Lessons learned in 2018 AtoZChallenge. www.cherylsterlingbooks.com

In 2017, in a panic, I wrote about what I knew—writing and book marketing. This time, I took an idea, the unexpected, unexplained antics of a bunch of retirees, and fleshed them into twenty-six stories. Characters crossed over into each other’s stories or reappeared from earlier stories. I strove to attain stories that could be read separately or as a collection.

2. Lesson learned: Start early

Part of my plan included a timeline. Lessons learned in 2017 taught me to allow plenty of time to write the stories. Starting in January, I wrote five stories every two weeks and shot them to my alpha reader for feedback. The last two weekends in March, I edited the stories, formatted them, added images, checked SEO, introductory matter, and ending matter, including links to previous posts. By April 2nd, the date of the first post, the posts were scheduled and ready to go live on their prospective dates.

3.Lesson learned:  Read, comment, share

Part of the fun (and challenge) of #AtoZ is to read as many other posts as possible by other participants. For the most part, I stuck with the #BlogchatterA2Z list. I didn’t visit every blog by every member (more than 60 listed per day) but I tried to spread out my reading time.

Comment. Commenting on each blog I visited validates the blogger’s time and effort. Be kind. Leave a comment.

How to use Facebook Groups to connect with customers

Sharing. Sharing other’s posts on social media is an objective and a perk to participating in the challenge. You might only have X followers, but someone sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and other venues might have XX followers. My Twitter followers increased by 50 in April.

4.Lesson learned:  Respond to comments on your blog

It’s common courtesy to thank your visitors for their comments. Even if they don’t check the box to see any further comments, others will see your answers and know you’re paying attention. Be human. Be nice. Thank your visitors. Make the answers personal.

5. Lesson learned: Promote your blogs

Remember the images I created in Step 1? I threw them into a file along with the one sentence teaser introducing each story. Every morning, I posted both onto my social media as well as theblogchatter.com page dedicated to the day’s posts. I also used scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to ensure the posts showed up later in the day.

I learned how to make an Adobe Spark video and posted it several times. Pretty proud of myself!

6. Lesson learned: Take advantage of the opportunity

At the conclusion of the challenge, #Blogchatter offers anyone a chance to turn their blogs into an ebook. (It doesn’t have to be the #AtoZ blogs, either. It can be any ebook). In exchange, #Blogchatter will answer questions, offer mentors, and guide writers through the process. They will host a free download of the book on their site for two months (the book cannot be offered through any other distributor) and they will promote it for you.

I took advantage of their offer in 2017. This year, because I did so much work upfront, I collected and published the collection on Amazon for 99¢

Twilight, Arizona supernatural short stories

See the bold phrase up above? Offer mentors? #Blogchatter asked if I would like to mentor this year’s ebook authors, guiding them through the process of publishing their works. Of course, I said yes!

On April 15th, I took part in #AMACarnival, a live Twitter chat, and answered questions from new writers.

On April 27th, I took part in a live Facebook chat.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring, but I’m excited about sharing what I know about writing and publishing with others. If only someone had been around back in 19XX when I started!

7. Lesson learned: Look to the future

Don’t be like millions of Americans who are surprised when Christmas rolls around each year and they don’t have any money saved. Look to the future. Toss around some ideas about what to write about in #AtoZChallenge2019.

I had a great time, read a bunch of amazing posts, and plan on being part of #AtoZChallenge2019. Thank you #BlogchatterA2Z and all your writers!

Blessings until my next post,

Cheryl

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Avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings

How You Can Have a Riveting Book Without Sagging Middles and Lackluster Endings

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. A link to buy can be found here. The second chapter addresses how to avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings.

The novel’s middle is vital in holding your reader’s attention.

How to avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings

It’s where the protagonist will encounter the bulk of his trials and tribulations, where her strength will be tested and flaws exposed. It’s where you torture your darlings and force them through life-changing events. It sets up the major crisis at the end of the book and paves the way for a satisfying conclusion.

The middle is also where the writer is most likely to give up. After the first few chapters, he realizes the big bite he’s bitten off. How can he hold the tension? How can he up the stakes and plunge the antagonist into deeper and deeper trouble? In other words, how can he paint his hero into a corner then realistically get him out?

Continue reading Avoid Sagging Middles and Lackluster Endings #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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The opening hook raises questions, piques curiosity, and draws the reader deeper into your story.

The Opening Hook

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. A link to buy can be found here. The first chapter addresses the importance of writing the opening hook.

The opening hook raises questions, piques curiosity, and draws the reader deeper into your story.

How to Take the Headache Out of Starting Your Book

STOP STARING at that blinking curser and start your book. How? With a mind-blowing opening hook.

Even if you’re new to writing, you know the importance of the opening hook. It grabs your reader’s attention and convinces him to buy.

The opening hook raises questions, piques curiosity, and draws the reader deeper into your story.Click To Tweet

Without a compelling, question-producing opening, they aren’t going to read further. You have a few sentences to make an impression. Nowadays, no one has the luxury of time. You have to hit them fast and hard.

Your reader wants to be drawn into a believable world from word one. He expects to be entertained. Don’t disappoint him. Skip the protagonist sitting with a cup of coffee, contemplating the letter she received from dear Aunt Sally. Jump her right into the story—Aunt Sally died, but collecting the inheritance means quitting the job your protagonist loves and moving back to the town that gave her heartache.

Conversely, don’t plunge the reader so quickly into the story with a one-line exclamation from the protagonist. The reader has no context in which to place it. It’s a cheap device that’s been overused.

Instead, start where the protagonist’s problem begins, raise questions that intrigue the reader, and filter in back-story later.

What is a hook? It’s a device to catch the reader’s attention and pull him into the story.

A hook prepares the reader for what’s ahead—the immediate future of a character and introduces the conflict. It sets the mood and style and gives the setting—all the elements of who, what, why, when, where and how.

Continue reading How to Take the Headache Out of Starting Your Book—The Opening Hook

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