The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel

I don’t usually use an outline when writing my books but I found this really neat method I’d like to try. While I can’t say I’ll stick to it like glue, it looks like something that will help me to organize my thoughts without the confusion. For my next project I’ll be using The Snowflake Method. Click Here to check it out. After your reading, research, and daydreaming is done (when you have an idea of what the story is about), here is Step #1 from the article:

Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.” (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.

When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. It’s the hook that will sell your book to your editor, to your committee, to the sales force, to bookstore owners, and ultimately to readers. So make the best one you can!

Some hints on what makes a good sentence:

  • Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
  • No character names, please! Better to say “a handicapped trapeze artist” than “Jane Doe”.
  • Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
  • Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.

Another important point: It doesn’t have to be perfect. The purpose of each step in the design process is to advance you to the next step. Keep your forward momentum! You can always come back later and fix it when you understand the story better. You will do this too, unless you’re a lot smarter than I am.

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Sounds exciting! There is also a book which you can find here. Are you writing a book? Share the method to your madness! How do you stay organized?

Information Dumping In Writing

“It has to be very relevant to your protagonists experiences. If it’s nice to have, but doesn’t actually move the story on, you just have to cut it, you don’t need it. The dreaded info dump slows the pace of a story so much and bores the reader to tears, or even worse, closing the book and falling asleep. You can be sure they won’t pick it up when they wake. Info dumps show you know a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t make for a good story. Decide what you absolutely need to set the scene, give your hero their incentive to act, and drip feed it throughout the story as you need it, not all at once.”

– Author Ali Isaac

I love this advice. My favorite part is: “..drip feed it throughout the story as you need it…”

Taking Advantage of Your Blog Pages

Tidying up the place today made me think about how important it is to produce content that is valuable to our blogs while maintaining integrity. Instead of constantly producing what doesn’t seem to be doing well, why not take advantage of Pages? Pages make it possible to store away content in a permanent capacity without completely doing away with it. A series or routine post that no one seems to really care about can be fun but it can also weaken your blog if its not helping to strengthen it. By weaken I’m not really talking about your numbers because numbers can be deceiving. I’m talking about your ability to reach people.

I have a brother who is really big on this. If he has something that is not working for him he doesn’t see a reason to hold onto it. What’s a $1,000 computer worth that can’t produce? At the same time, bloggers still need to feel good about what they’re posting without worrying about who cares because self motivation is what will keep them writing. As a result, we bloggers have to create a balance between content that is engaging and content that is genuine concerning who we are as individuals. Despite what others think, we must never sacrifice or compromise our individual selves. So, how do you keep on with what’s important to you but that doesn’t seem to be engaging to your readers? Pages my friends is the answer to our prayers. Don’t give up on it, store it to a page.

In this way, you can monitor how many people are still engaging by looking at that page’s views in your dashboard and from there you can make the decision as to whether it is logical to bring back or if it should stay where it is. For instance, I am taking my own advice with Movie Night Friday.

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Movie Night Friday was a weekly segment of my blog I created to help shine light on some of my favorite movies and why I love them. The inspiration came from my attempt to connect more with bloggers by sharing some more intimate parts of myself aside from books. However I recently withdrew from posting the series because I’m the kind of individual who seeks to improve and to grow. That said, because Movie Night Friday was not producing any growth to this blog, I have decided to store it away to its own page. In this way, those of you who are interested can still find it. I may still post a movie randomly so I won’t say you’ve seen the end of Movie Night Friday, it just won’t be an every week type thing.

I am however, contemplating bringing Black History Fun Fact Friday back, which I also moved to its own page for a different reason. Black History Fun Fact Friday was fun and enlightening but it also became taxing. I have not been able to keep up with it and I really hate to half do anything. But since I’ve re-arranged my schedule a bit I am contemplating bringing it back since it is something I know you enjoyed.

Having a page for Black History Fun Fact Friday has helped me to keep my eye on whether or not people are actually visiting the page. As a result, I have noticed that the page has picked up some views and I am now contemplating bringing it back to fill my Friday Night slot. So take advantage of your pages. They are not just for your about page, but they can be utilized in lots of creative ways. Just something to think about.

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Before The Week Ends

Diversify your bookshelf

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I just want to share one final thought before I snuggle in for this week and that is to remember to diversify your book shelf. This can be a project we can all do over the weekend. Look through your books, do they repeat themselves? Are there three rows of Toni Morrison on a five row book case? Do you have 300 books and 250 of them are Chit-Lit? Are there 50 Sci-Fi novels all right next to each other? If you fit this criterion, I want you to take every last one of those books off of the shelf and re-evaluate your reading life. Then go to the thrift store, independent bookstore, flea market, library, Wal-Mart or Barnes and Nobles and buy a book that has nothing to do with your interest. That’s right; pick something you can never see yourself reading. Got it? Great. Now you’re ready.

We all have those books we absolutely love, authors we cannot get enough of or just books we can never throw away. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about reading it is the importance of having books covering a full range of subjects. I have cookbooks, medical books, dictionaries, bibles, concordances, and textbooks from back in the day, encyclopedias, journals, literature, urban fiction, poetry, general fiction novels, how-to books and the list goes on and on and I just think you should kinda be like me in this respect.

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When you expand your readership to cover a range of subjects it broadens your perspective and opens you up to a whole world of experience right there at your fingertips. It also helps you to learn. Have you ever wondered how people can go to prison and come out scholars? It started by reading and reading and reading on a wide range of subjects. Sure I love history, specifically African American History. I also love poetry and black literature and literature in general but if these are the only kinds of books I have around my outlook is one sided. I will be limited in my way of thought and miss so much knowledge in regard to those other great topics out there and the information these authors have to offer.

The Hobbyist Writer & Understanding Goals

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“Do you consider writing to be a Hobby alone? Or do you intend to build a business around it”

This is a question I often ask people who approach me with the idea of writing and self-publishing a book. Mostly young people who are new to the industry and do not have a lot of information about how to go about the Self-Publishing process. So I thought I’d write about it here since I was recently approached by a young woman who’s writing her first novel (yayy her!). The core of the question is this: What goals do you have for this book? Is it the first of many or something you just want to try and see where it takes you? Do you plan to become an author with websites and blogs and networks or is this just something you want to put out to see your name in print? Do you plan to publish Traditionally or Self-Publish?

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It benefits to weigh the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing. Even though I’m a Self-Publisher, by looking into TP (the unofficial abbreviation for Traditional Publishing), I’ve learned a lot in my career. I’ve learned how to be better organized for example. I have always said myself: “if you don’t think you can put in the work necessary for self-publishing, it may be a good idea not to.” But I have learned too that everyone does not have this option, though they have this option. For most people, the option to publish traditionally flies out the window at the thought that it will never happen because it’s based on the approval of someone outside of themselves and it is therefore no guarantee. But as a result, they blindly plunge into this ever growing sea of books and fall into the category of a Hobbyist Writer.

What is a Hobbyist Writer? Something I made up. But, more specifically, a Hobbyist Writer is someone who’s infatuated with the idea of publishing. There is no specific goal or reasoning behind publishing the book except to see what it’s like to hold its preciousness between your fingers and bask in the awe of what you’ve done. The internet has made it easy to publish almost anything. Thus, there are waves of new authors out there who write specifically to publish their work and to see it in print. I think this is great. On the other hand, if you plan to get more serious and organized, to simply write books and publish them without vision, or direction does nothing for your writing career. So know what you want and the requirements to obtain it. Writing a book doesn’t have to mean you want to publish it and publishing a book doesn’t mean you want to sell it. Thanks to today’s technology, we have these options. You can sell a book or you can just give it away for free. So I would definitely say to clearly define your goals before stepping out. A goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve and in my opinion does tend to change over time.

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Personally, I publish often, at least once a year (with the exception of this year, where I plan to publish three books as part of a short story series) because I like writing and I think the best way to polish any skill is to do it often. And I do hope that the more I engage in the process, the better at it I’ll become and the more people I’ll reach. What I enjoy most is that with each book I learn something new, and I am able to add that to my stored chamber of experience. Though I write a lot, I do not consider myself a Hobbyist Writer because the desired result, the end game if you will, is to build something greater than a sea of published books. There’s a lot I want to do eventually that go beyond writing my own books. At the same time, I like to keep everything organized and this is when the business me kicks in. I believe that everything you do, whether you get paid or not, should be done with some level of professionalism. So if you’re going to write a book, it should have some level of significance even if it’s just a hobby. If nothing else, I have learned that if you don’t place value on your work, no one will. And that’s why established and clearly set goals are important; it adds value to the work. Whether that work comprises something you just want to try or something you want to build on.

5 Spring Cleaning Tips

simpsons_couchYes. The flowers are budding. The birds are singing. And everything is in its state of renewal and freshness. As the children prepare for spring break there is something we adults have always looked forward to ourselves. That’s right: Spring Cleaning. It may sound simple enough, but there are lots of people with hectic schedules and little time to dedicate to the home front. But male or female, it is important to keep a clean house, especially in heat. Here are some tips to help get you motivated and to ensure that domestic duty never finds itself being neglected. They are also tips from my personal stash, meaning these are tips I actually use:

Tip #1: Paper Craze

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One of my biggest faults is having too much paper and stuff laying around. You know what I’m talking about: Those papers that are too important to throw away but not quite important enough to keep? Yea, those. I always find myself holding on to what looks needed but in reality is just occupying unnecessary space. If you don’t nip the paper craze in the bud though, it can create unnecessary mess. To solve this problem, our first tip is organization. First, set-aside a paper bin. You can even name it “Paper Bin” to add some fun to the mix (it also helps to date it so you know just how long you’ve had it). Every time you find paper you can put it in the Paper Bins. Next, clean the Paper Bin! Every so often your job is to sort through the bin for papers you know you don’t need. Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to hold on to old stuff you really don’t need. Make this a weekly chore. Once every week throw something away. This helps when you need to add more papers to the Paper Bin. The last step is very important because if you don’t start throwing stuff away the paper bin will get crowded and you’ll find yourself in the same position. Consider it taking out the trash or doing laundry. If you don’t cleanse, things can pile up around here!

Tip #2: Laundry Day

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This point is mostly for those of you with multiple little ones. If you have lots of children or just more than one (especially if they are small), laundry can be a scare. However, there is hope: Laundry Day. Set aside a day specifically for washing clothes outside of your normal household duties. By doing this, it lessens the load of everything else you already have to do. Why not give yourself room to really focus on cleaning by not worrying about the laundry too? Setting aside a separate day for washing clothes organizes your cleaning in a way that fits your schedule. I do it myself and getting laundry out of the way makes my Special Cleaning Day a breeze.

Tip #3: Special Cleaning Day

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This is especially great for those of us who work a lot throughout the week. Set aside a special cleaning day; a day that will be dedicated to scrubbing, washing, and wiping. On this day, you want to clean the house from top to bottom without sugar coating it. This is not the time to scoop things into secret places or leave lingering for too long. On special cleaning days, you clean the house spotless. Why? It will help you throughout the week!

Tip #4: Weekly Tidying

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One thing that helps me keep a clean house is to perform little jobs throughout the week. This is not the big cleaning you do on Special Cleaning Day; this is the minor stuff such as vacuuming a few rooms and keeping things out of the way. Doing something new every day helps ease the load on Special Cleaning Days and Special Cleaning Days helps to ease the load throughout the week. See how that works? It goes hand in hand.

Tip #5: Kitchen & Bathroom Taebo

1421840009_takaritasra-felThe key to maintaining a fresh look even if things aren’t really as clean as you would like them to be is all in these two places: Kitchen & Bathroom. If you manage to keep dishes out of the sink and rings from around the tub, it tends to give the house a clean feel to it. Even if your dirty clothes basket overflows and there is dust elsewhere, you can still maintain a good grip by combating these two beloved places by keeping them nice and neat. It also helps for uninvited guest. Obviously it’s not a good idea to have a nasty home, but that doesn’t mean things can’t get messy (especially if you have children). Hey, it happens. But if you understand people you know they are apt to keen in on two places: The Bathroom and The Kitchen. Someone almost always enjoys a sit at the kitchen table or need to use the bathroom. Keep these tight and there are no surprises.

And I actually have one more: Life. Don’t just stop at cleaning your home, but take this time to reflect on life. What is it about your personal life that needs a good scrub? Now is the time to do it.

Do you have a Spring Cleaning Tip? Be sure to share it with us!