Thursday, January 28, 2016

Things Writers Do

A Post By Jonathan 

Before I kick off my post, I just have to say that I LOVE being part of this blog! There may only be eight of us, but we all seem to be at various stages in our writing journeys. I've gotten so much great advice and inspiration from our more experienced, published contributors, through posts like this one, this one, and this one, and I've gotten a ton of encouragement from my fellow newbes as well.

For me, moving my writing dream forward has been a real struggle lately, and to hear that I'm not the only one having a hard time helps me know that I'm not alone. The fact that we can come here, alongside such successful authors, to write about our worries and insecurities (through posts like this one, this one, and this one)... well, I just think that's what makes Across The Board unique-- and a great place to visit every Monday and Thursday. There's something for everyone! We may not all be experts, but we all share a love and passion for writing, and that has made all the difference.

Okay, I better get going before I start tearing up...

So what am I going to write about today? Well, I have been doing things writers do lately and I just thought I'd share. They may not seem like big deals to you, but they are the ways I've been slowly pumping myself up for the herculean task of editing my MS once and for all. It's what I do every time I've been out of writing for a little while (sadly, it happens). Small little things that will hopefully bring out the storyteller in me.

Writer Thing #1: Joined A Critique Group

Joining a new critique group can seem a bit daunting at first, but when you're not doing a lot writing-wise it can be a real lifesaver. It was like someone up there knew that I needed to find a little help from my writing friends. Out of the blue I got an email from someone who had connected me with an MG writing group previously (that unfortunately didn't work out) and bam, I was a brand new member of a brand new critique group in my genre. I'm hoping this will be a way to get a fire lit under my tookus and get back to ye ol' grindstone. Sometimes reading other peoples' work is a good way to get the juices flowing too, I've found. If nothing else, it'll be a great way to meet some new writers.

Writer Thing #2: Finished Reading A Book

I'm almost done reading The Wise Man's Fear, the second installment in Patrick Rothfuss's amaze-balls Kingkiller Chronicles. This guy's really shown me that you don't have to have huge explosions or breakneck pacing to put a great story together. Following Kvothe The Bloodless as he banters from scene to scene has been a joy and a true clinic in good storytelling. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to want to get back on the horse again. And there's just something about the excitement that comes with the ending of a good book that really makes me want to finish my own. Anyone else ever feel that way?

Writer Thing #3: Telling Stories

Lately, I've started telling stories the old fashioned way, without pen, paper, keyboard or ink. This is kind of a new one for me, as I've never really had an audience before. But it turns out my one-year old really loves the sound of my voice. He doesn't seem to want to go to sleep unless I'm talking. So I've taken to telling him stories, since he's still at the age where he'll just tear a book write out of my hands. At first I'd just do a simple retelling of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but recently I've been making up my own.

Last night I told him a story about a prince who lived in a silver castle that was so beautiful that everyone wanted to live in it. The prince's family was always fending off attackers from this army or that. The worst of them were the Black Knights who lived in a castle made of coal. Their castle was so dirty that no one would ever dream of living in it. Luckily, the Silver Nights were always there to defend the silver castle from harm, until one fateful night when the Black Knights overpowered them and took over the castle. The prince, who was also a Silver Knight, managed to escape along with the princess, but everyone else was killed. With nowhere else to go they went over hill and dale to the now abandoned castle made of coal. It was gross and dirty at first, but one day in his frustration, the prince hit the wall and discovered that if you hit it hard enough, coal will turn into diamonds. So he and the princess, and more displaced townsfolk, worked tirelessly to turn the coal castle into a diamond castle (but only on the inside so that no one would try to overtake it...), and everyone lived happily ever after. The End.

Definitely not my best work, but not too shabby for being super sleep deprived and making it up off the cuff. Even had a twist ending...

So these are just a few of the things I've been doing to prepare myself to get back into my writing. Thanks for reading! Any other suggestions?


Monday, January 25, 2016

Facebook Ads -- A (Novice) Overview

I've been running Facebook ads off and on for awhile now and, while I still have A LOT to learn, I thought it might be helpful to share some insights here.

  1. Before you start, I'd recommend Mark Dawson's free video series on Facebook ads. He introduces the Power Editor, targeting and general best practices in a clear, concise way. He metes the videos out via email over the course of four or five days, which feels frustrating when you want to get down to it, but does make it feel more manageable.
  2. As Mark Dawson (and many who do Facebook ads) will tell you, the Facebook Power Editor (available in Google Chrome) is the way to go! It allows you to include a lot more copy and its analysis tools are a lot more robust than in regular Ads Manager.
  3. Images are important! After all, the whole reason people are on Facebook is to look at pictures (and, today especially, check out how much snow everyone got).The image size for a single-image Facebook ad is 1200 pixels by 628. You also have the option of creating an image carousel and the image size for carousel ads is 600 pixels by 600. Either way, it's worth resizing your images outside of Facebook and then uploading. I use PicMonkey to edit and resize my images, but there are lots of options.
  4. Speaking of images, Facebook likes pictures! Images can't contain more than 20% text. This doesn't include book covers, if you're using your cover in your image, but it can feel a little tricky to get to that 20%. The workaround is, of course, to use Power Editor to include more copy in your actual ad.
  5. Facebook offers a tracking pixel and the code is easy to install on your website as a page header code injection. I confess, I'm still getting my head around pixels and I have this article bookmarked to read to educate myself. I will say that I've got one set up for my current set of Facebook ads, which sends people to sign up for my free book, and it's useful to see which devices people are clicking from, for example. Once my ad has run a bit longer, I can use the pixel to create a custom audience.
  6. Speaking of custom audiences, choosing an audience is another one of Facebook's great advantages and I could (should?) write an entire post on this alone. Until then, my two cents worth -- narrower is better. Lookalike audiences (similar to those who like your Facebook page, for example) are a good starting point. You may also want to consider choosing those who've expressed an interest in books similar to yours. So, for example, if you're a romance writer, you could choose everyone who likes Kindle and likes romance novels. Or, you could search for specific authors and choose those who like Nora Roberts, Colleen Hoover, Samantha Young, etc. My personal experience has been best with lookalike audience, but I've had friends who've had great success with narrowing by interest.
  7. No matter what audience you choose, keep your budget in mind! As you set up your ad, Facebook asks you to set either a daily budget or a lifetime budget (I always do daily.) and whether you want to set a maximum amount per click or let Facebook determine how much each click is worth. I always let Facebook decide, but I've heard a good ROI is $0.11-$0.14 per click. My ads aren't quite there yet, but I have noticed the more I narrow an audience the less my per-click cost.
  8. Which brings me to the most important point -- monitor your ads! It's easy to set it and forget it, but it's also easy to waste a lot of money on ads that aren't working. I usually start with a small daily budget (£5) and re-assess after a few days. I also make 3 versions of an ad across 2 different audiences to see which combination works best and then stop all of the other ads. It sounds more complicated than it actually is and is worth the time and effort.
As far as return on investment, I ran a Facebook ad for the launch of my new book in December and saw a steady stream of sales for both books in my series. I stopped the ad on January 5 and, well, let's just say I've sold fewer copies than there are days in the month. My new Facebook ad campaign focuses on gaining newsletter subscribers, so my current ads aren't "selling", per se, but sales have started trickling in again with exposure.

In all, it's worth it to me, although I have a lot more to learn. If you're an author, have you tried Facebook ads? If you're a reader, do you consider Facebook ads annoying or a way to introduce you to authors you may not know otherwise? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Writing Slump

For those of you who don’t know, I’m turning the big 3-0 this year. I’m being a little bit cliche and have made a list of 30 things to do before (ish) my birthday in June. One of these things is to write. It’s been at least two years since I’ve really sat down and written anything for my personal enjoyment. So I decided to challenge myself to write a short story. It doesn’t have to “end” at a short story but I’d like to hit that mark starting off.

It’s been six months since I made this resolution. I’m an expert at procrastination so I will share some of my “excuses” with you in the hopes that you, dear readers and fellow bloggers, can help me overcome them.

1) I write for a living. Every day from 9 to 6 I am writing for a marketing company (about automobiles). So by the end of the day the last thing I want to do is boot up my laptop and put my fingers back to the keys.

2) I need to read. I read so much and have such a large TBR pile that writing consistently gets pushed to the back burner in the search for the next best story.

3) I’m overwhelmed. I have possibly 3 different stories in my head and don’t know which one to start with or really where to start.

4) I’m critical of myself. I’ve always been my own worst critic and in the case of writing that mentality usually stops me before I even start.

So, here’s my call for help. Help!!! I need some guidance from my peers on this one. Where does your drive come from? How do you discipline yourself? Where does your inspiration come from? Any tips, tricks, suggestions will be helpful and welcome! Thanks in advance.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Reading Slump

As readers, there's always the risk of ailments we'll suffer. The book hangover, one more chapter syndrome, the ugly cry, spoilers, etc. Right now, this reader is suffering the reading slump. As in, I can't get through a book.

Oh, I've tried.

I made it a few chapters into The Martian before gently and temporarily setting it down for a book more appropriate of my mood at the time. Given, I did finish Paper Towns by John Green, but I dragged it out way longer than I needed to because, well, reading slump. I've tried listening to an audiobook, the next in a series I've really enjoyed. I'm also most of the way through Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, one of my favorite authors, most of which was read through in one day. But I just can't find the final push I need to finish it out for no other reason than reading slump.

I think it's possible the last book I read before this reading slump was Truths We Tell, book two in the Truth series by our very own Brenda St. John Brown. That was back in November, which should stand as an example of how bad of a slump I'm in. November. Of last year.

Usually, the reading slump is treated with the right book at the right time, but my book choices and timing haven't been matching up. There is hope, though. While catching up on my shows and sewing this afternoon I saw the trailer for The 5th Wave and it caught my interest enough that I'm contemplating jumping into it before the timing escapes me. Wish me luck!

In the event the next book is also a bust, what is your go-to to pull you out of a reading slump?

--Brianna Lebrecht

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Back Jacket Hack-Job #8: FINNEGANS WAKE

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Well, hey there everybody!  Welcome back to our recurring series Back Jacket Hack Job.  I'm sure you'll pick up what it's all about fairly quickly, but if not you can take a look back at our introductory post.  Oh, and we here at Across the Board are always eager to hear from fresh talent, so if you'd like to write your very own BJHJ and have it featured here on the site, just feel free to reach out to me or one of our other contributors.

Since last time I wrecked up my own novel, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, I thought this time I would feature something a little more popular.  In fact, I thought I would feature a work that towers over all others, the crowning achievement of history's greatest author.  I refer, of course, to the greatest English-language novel of all time: 

Ah, FINNEGANS WAKE.  Normally when writing the back cover of a novel I would start with the characters.  Except...that there are none.  Or, well, there may be some.  There could either be thousands or there could be a few iterations of the same five or so.  One of whom might go by the initials HCE?  No one's really sure. 

So characters are right out.

But that's all right.  I'll just outline the plot.  Well...except...the thing about that is...there is no plot.  I mean, there may be a plot.  But if there is it has something to do with a family sleeping and the text of the novel being their dreams or possibly their shared dream?  Honestly it's really not that clear. 

So plot is right out.

That's all right, though!  HARRY POTTER would still be just as fascinating if all you knew about was Hogwarts Academy.  So let's just jump right into the setting.  Well...only...the thing about that is...there's no setting.  I mean, there might be a setting.  It's possibly that there's a house that everyone's sleeping in.  Except...even scholars don't really know for sure.

So setting is right out.

Um.  Not a whole lot to work with here.  Oh!  I could explain the title!  Except...well...there's no one named Finnegan.  And they don't have a wake.  And it's probably not even really about the wake of a guy named Finnegan because then the title would be FINNEGAN'S WAKE with an apostrophe and not FINNEGANS WAKE which may or may not be a play on words about a group of people named the Finnegans who wake up.  Except nobody really knows.

So the title is right out.



You know what, when all else fails, you can throw an excerpt on the back cover.  So let's do that.  And I don't want there to be any spoilers, so let's just grab a couple lines from the first page.  And here we go:


Uh...capti...captivating stuff there, Mr. Joyce. 

Jesus Christ.  Maybe there's a diagram that could explain it.  Hang on, let me check online.  Oh shit!  There is.  Check this out:
Oh...kay.  So, uh, there...there you go everybody!  There's your back cover for FINNEGANS WAKE.  That should just about clear everything up.  Enjoy?

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to make a book trailer on the cheap

A post by Mary Fan
Book trailers are fun. No one can say for certain whether they actually help boost sales, but they
certainly don't hurt. And personally, I find them a lot of fun to make.

There are several different types of book trailer out there, and which book gets what type depends on budget. For instance, if you're a Big Cat Publisher like Hachette, you can made a full-blown Hollywood-style trailer with lights, camera, action, and all the bells and whistles:

If you you don't have $30,000 to spare (that's a guess... I have no idea how much a live-action trailer like that would cost, but I did work on a 2-minute animated promo video at my day job, and that cost $30,000), don't despair. You can still have your book trailer and watch it too.

Unlike movie trailers, which show actual footage from the film to tease the audience, a book trailer doesn't have to be precise. It's more about capturing the atmosphere and idea of a book than the actual events (similar to what many book covers do). The genre and mood matter more than whether the house depicted in the trailer looks like the house described in the book.

This is how to make a basic book trailer on next to no budget. All you need is a computer, simple video editing software (like iMovie), and an internet connection.

Step 1: Choose the music

Nothing sets a mood like music. Or sets up genre expectations. For example, when I worked on the trailer for Kelley Kaye's cozy mystery, Death by Diploma, we used circus music to depict the frenzy of the main character's life and the quirkiness of the situation she finds herself in:

The stock music site Audioblocks has tons of options, from epic orchestral soundtracks to soft piano melodies. And you should be able to sign up for a free trial, so if you just need to download one song, then your budget for music is exactly zero dollars.

Step 2: Write the script

A book trailer's script is similar to the back cover copy. It should introduce the main characters and central conflict in a nutshell and leave the reader wanting more. This is probably the hardest part about making a book trailer. You don't want the script to be too long, since people who watch trailers have short attention spans. Ideally, a book trailer should be under 90 seconds long (two whole minutes is pushing it).

The reason this step comes after choosing the music is so you can time the script to the musical cues (it's much easier to adjust text than to edit a sound file). Depending on what you're comfortable with, you can either narrate your book trailer, like this...

Or use text only, like in the first example. When using text, though, timing becomes even more important, since you don't want to bore your viewer by having them stare at the same line of text for 10 seconds, but you also don't want to make the text go by so fast, they can't read it.

If you have blurbs or customer reviews already, you can also include those, like this...

iMovie cheat: If you want to use a font that's not in their options but have it on your computer, you can type the text into a Word doc, then copy and paste it into iMovie. You won't be able to change the alignment from left, though.

Step 3: Choose the video and/or images

The next step is to find the right visuals to illustrate your script. These can be either videos, still images (though if you use stills, add a panning or zoom effect to keep the trailer from becoming static), or a combination of both. Again, it's more important to capture the mood of your book than illustrate the literal events.

For instance, when putting together the trailer for Traci Borum's Christmas-themed novel, Seeking the Star, we focused on finding images of winter and old-fashioned Christmas decorations, rather than trying to depict the characters or events.

Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't pair words with images that match when possible - just that it's not 100% necessary (and sometimes not 100% possible, depending on what kind of book you wrote. I had a lovely time searching for visuals for my space opera...).

The stock footage site VideoBlocks has a lot of options, though some types of footage are easier to find than others (basically, you're going to have an easier time if you're doing a contemporary novel than sci-fi/fantasy). You can sign up for a free trial, which means so far, no money spent. If there are items around your house or buildings in your area that you think would illustrate your story well, you can also take your own footage (you don't even need a fancy camera... since web videos are small anyway, a smartphone will do). For the Oracle of Philadelphia trailer, I whipped out my iPhone near some local gothic buildings to get those shots depicting hell (hell in the book is a gothic mansion).

For photos, you can get cheap stock images on Dollar Photo Club, or take pictures yourself (some of those Christmas pictures in the Seeking the Star trailer were ones I snapped at a tea house during my travels).

You don't necessarily need a lot of visuals. For the Sleeper Protocol trailer, we focused on the text and pacing, with a few images interspersed to bring the words to life:

Step 4: Edit it all together

Now that you've got the ingredients, all you have to do is piece it together! Personally, I like to match downbeats in the music to changes in text and footage, since it tends to emphasize the words and drama more. Especially when the music has very strong beats, like in this one:

When it comes to transitions, keep the pacing in mind. If you're doing a slower-paced trailer (like the one for Seeking the Star), page-turns and fades work well. Fast-paced trailers (like Seeing Evil) pretty much require cuts only. The music will largely dictate the pacing.

You can also use different text colors and effects (iMovie comes with a handful), though use sparingly, since too many sparkles become annoying.

Fair warning: The editing process will probably take longer than you think, just because there are a million ways to tweak the timing and trim footage. And you might end up adjusting the script slightly depending on how things are looking in practice.

That's it! After that, you have a book trailer!

Oh, and just because, here's the trailer I made for my very own Jane Colt trilogy...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Eek! Put some pages up for a criteeeeeek: A cozy mystery

In addition to my YA stuff, I'm working on an adult cozy mystery series starring Marty Melman, a 60-year-old curmudgeon inspired by my dad. For you mystery novices out there, a cozy mystery is usually set in a small town, where the murder and violence happen off stage. There's no swearing and no sex and nothing graphic. There's also a delightful cast of quirky characters and a slew of suspects. Cozies are more about the characters and the puzzle than the crime. It's escapist mystery for those who find Making a Murderer way too real (raises hand).

In this scene, Marty comes home from bike riding to find out a man he loathed (his daughter's ex) is dead. I'd appreciate any and all comments.

Geared Toward Murder
by Kimberly G. Giarratano

Marty put his key in the lock and opened the front door. The sun was dipping low in the sky, bathing the house in an orange light. It wasn’t late, but daylight savings time always had that way of blanketing the town in darkness before anyone was ready for it. Marty was grateful he wore his hooded sweatshirt. The mile ride home was far easier than the three miles he had ridden that morning. His rubbed his still sore rearend.
Marty tapped his sneakers against the door saddle, trying not to track in extra dirt that he would have to vacuum later. Now that Marty was on a forced retirement and home all the time, he was responsible for the housekeeping.
“Joanie? You home?” he said from the foyer.
“Marty is that you?” Joanie called from the living room.
“Who else would it be?”
“We’re in the formal living room,” she said, her voice shaky.
Marty dropped his wallet and keys into the ceramic catch-all bowl on the vestibule table before heading into the living room. They never used this room, except for company.
He halted at the sight of Jason, Miranda, and Joanie sitting on the beige Ethan Allen couches, wringing their hands. And some stranger. A man in his mid-30s with dark hair. He wore a suit and a navy tie with a pin.
Marty’s eyes flitted around. “What’s going on?”
Joanie leaped to her feet. She was still wearing her nurses uniform. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been worried. Your bike ride ended hours ago.”
Marty inwardly cringed. He thought about lying, but he was reading something in the situation that said this was serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. “I went to see my dad.”
“I knew it!” Jason cried. “You owe me and Mom fifty bucks.”
“Not now, Jason,” Joanie barked.
“What’s going on?” Marty asked. “You’re freaking me out.”
The young man came forward and extended his hand. “I’m Detective Smalt. I came to speak with you about Dr. Gary Highhouse.”
Marty shook the young man’s hand. “What kind of name is Smalt?”
“Marty!” Joanie chastized.
“It’s fine, Mrs. Melman,” said the detective. “I get asked that a lot. My grandparents were British.”
“Oh,” said Marty. “So, not Jewish?”
The detective shook his head.
“Better luck next time,” Marty said, before taking a seat on the end of the sofa. “What’s this about High-louse?”
Miranda hissed, “Daddy.” Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy. “Gary’s dead.”
Marty’s eyes widened. “I just saw him.”
Detective Smalt withdrew a small notepad and pen from his suit jacket pocket. “When?”
Marty held his gaze on the detective who was poised to take notes. “This morning. He was at the Old Spokes ride. I don’t know, 9:50, I guess. The ride started at ten. What happened?”
“He had an accident on the trail,” Jason filled in.
“Well, it wasn’t an accident,” Det. Smalt pointed out. “Someone sabotaged his brakes. He took the curve too fast and …”
Miranda sobbed loudly. Marty put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and tried to comfort her. “It’s okay, honey.” He gave Smalt a glare. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be out there trying to figure out who killed the guy?”
Smalt softened. “Witnesses say you and Dr. Highhouse weren’t on the best of terms. You were arguing this morning.”
“The guy was a two-timing louse,” Marty quipped.
“Marty!” Joanie hissed.
“May he rest in peace,” Marty finished. “Listen, I didn’t like the man. He hurt my Miranda a couple of years ago, but I wouldn’t kill him.”
The detective nodded. “Did you see him on the bike trail?”
Marty shook his head. “He said he was going to bring up the rear. I figured he’d get ahead of me.”
“Why’s that?” Smalt asked, pen paused.
“I’m out of shape,” Marty said glumly. “I’m not fast on the bike — yet. I assumed he’d pass me in no time. But he never did.”
“Witnesses said they saw Gary’s bike on campus, braced against the lamppost. Apparently, he ran into the academics building before getting back on his ride and getting on the trail.” Smalt looked pointedly at Marty.
“Well, I got on the trail immediately, pedaled a few miles, and then veered off toward the Assisted Living place. You can check the visitor’s log.”
“I will,” the detective said. “As a matter of procedure.”
“Right,” Marty answered drily. “Well, you have your work cut out for you.”
The detective rose from the couch and made his way into the foyer. “What’s that mean?”
Marty opened the front door for Smalt. “If his bike was leaned up against he lamppost outside, anyone could’ve had access to it.”
“I realize that,” said Smalt.
“Well, you’ll also realize that Gary wasn’t a good guy. I bet a lot of people wanted him dead.”
Smalt narrowed his eyes. “Including you?”
“You think I’m capable of murder?” Marty let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m a sixty-year-old Jewish man with a heart condition who just bike rode five miles today. I’m lucky I’m not dead.”
Marty waited for Smalt to climb into his unmarked police cruiser before shutting the door.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Go ahead, grab a talisman!

It’s the first Monday of 2016, and it’s time to officially start working toward a new set of yearly goals. In the last couple weeks, we heard about resolutions from Jonathan, the pressures to produce from Brenda, and establishing new reading goals from Brianna. These posts were all timely in preparing us for today—the day we get to start working on making it all happen (or for you overachievers, it’s the 4th day to keep it moving in the right direction). So how can we keep sight of our goal throughout the year, especially when there are so many distractions to hold us back?

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that many writers cant write a single word unless they follow a superstition or cling to some sort of talisman. Superstitions can include a specific writing process, having a certain number of pencils/pens on hand, wearing only a specific outfit or piece of clothing while writing, being surrounded by a certain smell, drinking out of only one mug, listening to a certain type of music, writing only at certain times of the day, or ending every novel on an odd page. Talismans can take the form of any object that has special meaning to an author, and has to be nearby during the writing process.

While it might seem hokey, there is some validity in having a something to help you achieve your goal. Here are three reasons why it’s good for writers to embrace a superstition or talisman:

1. Tangible reminders are effective.
Many self-published authors don’t have deadlines hanging over their heads, pushing them to get that manuscript done. They have to rely on self-imposed deadlines—which are easily pushed aside when life gets busy or complicated. In the case of a talisman, the writer has a physical object to attach to their goal. Looking at it is a reminder that there is work to be done. It can’t easily be ignored, especially if the object holds sentimental meaning for the writer.

2. Friction can stifle creativity.
Obviously, writers need to rely on their creativity to a great extent. When a writer experiences any form of stress, friction is introduced into the process and stifles creativity. Some call it writer’s block. Some call it distractions. Whatever you call it, it’s friction and it’s killing your creativity. Having a specific routine or talisman can reduce that friction. When a certain superstition is observed or talisman is held, calmness can be restored and creativity is able to flow unrestricted once again.

3. It doesn’t hurt anyone.
Assuming your superstition isn’t one that requires you to wear the same pair of underwear every day until your novel is published, a simple routine or sentimental object isn’t going to hurt you or any of your surrounding loved ones.

When I started writing, I never intended to have a talisman. I’m not superstitious by nature, but I do like to have visual reminders of goals and my progress. A good friend gave me a Daruma doll while writing my first book, and I loved the idea of it so much that I’ve decided to have a new doll for each of my novels. If you’re not familiar with a Daruma doll, it’s a traditional handmade Japanese wishing doll. The doll comes with both eyes blank, and you color in one eye to signify your commitment to achieving your goal. Once you reach your goal, you color in the other eye.

The Daruma doll for my current WIP always sits right next to my computer. Aside from the visual reminder, it motivates me to finish because the symmetrical loving person inside of me can’t stand having only one eye filled in! Once I publish my novel, in addition to coloring in the second eye, I write the name of my novel and the dates for when I started writing it and when I finished on the back. They make a great memento for each of my novels.


So go ahead and embrace your quirky writing superstition or talisman! If you already have one, let us know about it in the comments. If not, now’s the perfect time to establish one for the year. Please, just stay away from any that result in poor hygiene!

~ Carrie

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