Blogger wanted!

I’m going to just put it out there: I’m looking for a partner in crime. I mean…blogging buddy.

Most of my posts here on my personal blog bounce back and forth between writing and mental health. I’m hoping to separate the two — one for writing, one for mental health issues.

I’d like to keep my own personal blog for mental health, and team up with one or two other writers to start a blog geared towards writing, grammar, book reviews, etc.

If you’re interested in teaming up, please leave me a comment or email me at allisonwilliford@icloud.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Review Opportunity – Xpresso Book Tours

Review opportunity! (In other words, you get a free book. Who doesn’t love free books?)

First, I want to thank Brittney Sahin for recommending Expresso Book Tours! If you’re looking to do the whole shebang of a big tour, a review query, or just a cover reveal, I highly recommend xpressobooktours.com.

My contemporary romance novel, Waiting for You, is available for review:

http://xpressobooktours.com/2015/12/01/review-opportunity-waiting-for-you-by-allison-williford/

You can receive a free copy (file types available are mobi, epub, and PDF) in exchange for a review.

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Waiting for You is now available!

My newest novel, Waiting for You, is now available!

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You can buy the Kindle version on Amazon

or!

You can order a paperback copy from CreateSpace

I’m super excited about my new book, guys. I have loved watching my characters grow. They’re like my babies — I love them!

Also, if you’d like to write a review for me, I will send a free PDF copy. Email me at allisonwilliford@icloud.com if you’re interested!

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-publishing

My very first novel was self-published in early 2013. I recently removed it from Amazon (it had been enrolled in KDP Select). There are a lot of things I wish I had done with that book. Funny how hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Sorta not really. 

One good thing is that I’ve learned a lot from my experiences, and I’d like to share them with those of you considering going the self-publishing road.

That novel was a product of the 2012 NaNoWriMo. I finished 54,000 in about two weeks, and I was thrilled to have finally completed a novel. I’d tried and tried and tried to finish previous projects in years past, but never could quite make it. So thrilled, in fact, that I rushed through a lot of things that needed time and a little more of a delicate touch.

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Lesson #1: Take time (lots of time if you need it) to rewrite and edit until your fingers and eyeballs bleed.

I think I was so excited to finally have a completed draft that I sort of skipped this part. I had done a lot of editing as I wrote, but I failed to take the time to let my manuscript sit for a while before coming back to it with fresh eyes. I was so eager to get my work out there that I didn’t bother really taking the time to edit my manuscript and go through it with a fine tooth comb. I ended up spending a lot of extra time once I had already self-published going through and re-editing parts. It created a lot of headaches down the road.

A great tip: once you’ve completed your first draft, take a break from your novel. At least a week, more if you need it. You’ll be able to come back to your manuscript with fresh eyes and a fresh mind, ready to catch mistakes, whether grammatical or plot-wise.

Lesson #2: Invest in an editor.

I know, I know. We’re writers, therefore we should be super beings when it comes to grammatical errors, plot holes and characterization, right? Wrong! Listen up, people. You’re a writer, not a jack of all trades. I know it’s easy to think that you can write, edit, and do all the formatting for your novel by yourself. Cut yourself some slack. We, as writers, need a second set of professional eyes to look at our manuscript.

Do, however, take the time to do your own round (I suggest 4 or 5 rounds, really) of editing for grammatical errors and typos once you’ve given your manuscript a rest for at least a week. Another great tip: comb through your manuscript in several mediums — computer screen, ebook (see this post on formatting your novel for ebook. If you have a Kindle, you can upload it to your account as a personal document and read it that way on your e-reader), paper. Another great way is to read your entire novel out loud. You’ll hear any clunky clauses or awkward wording that needs to be changed.

Lesson #3: Have someone help you format your novel for ebook if you don’t know how to do it.

If you’re computer savvy, take the time and really, I mean really learn how to do it. Read up on it as much as you can. If not, have someone help you. I can help you, if you’re desperate. I learned how to format documents in Microsoft Word simply by trial and error, and I mean lots of trials and even more errors. It was a constant battle. I’d think it was formatted correctly until it was uploaded to Amazon and then the stupid Table of Contents wouldn’t work in Kindle Previewer. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and frustration if you learn how to do it properly the first time.

Lesson #4: Have someone design a cover for you.

This is another moment when we realize we are not jacks of all trades. A professional cover will truly make your book stand out. I’m fortunate that I have a sister who designed the cover for me for free, although we both missed that the title was misspelled on the spine, which brings me to my next lesson…

Lesson #5: Proofread and preview EVERYTHING. SERIOUSLY, EVERYTHING.

If you’re using CreateSpace for your paperback copies, you can buy proof copies for the cost of what it takes to print the book. Once you have a physical copy in your hands, go through it with your most critical eye. Seriously, look for ANY typos or errors. Really, really look over your cover to make sure it’s absolutely perfect. Really, really look through the entire thing. Don’t make your title available for purchase until you’re absolutely, positively, 100% sure it’s PERFECT. Nothing screams “I’m an amateur!” like having glaringly obvious mistakes and typographical errors. I truly mean this in the nicest way, but having a less-than-stellar book might really hurt your reputation as an author.

Have a friend or family member go through it for you. Hell, have several people proof it for you. Make sure you are completely happy with your book before you make it available. And take your time with it. I know you’re excited to finally have your work out there, but trust me on this. Don’t rush your work. Rushing only leads to more mistakes, which lead to more headaches.

I’m now writing my third novel, and currently have queries out to literary agents for my second book, Waiting for You.

I truly wish you the best of luck no matter which publishing road you travel. What lessons have you learned in your journey as a writer? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Naming your characters

Hello_my_name_isSome writers are extremely picky when it comes to naming their babies…I mean…characters. They research name meanings and origins, and craft these exquisite, beautiful names.

I am not one of those writers.

To be honest, I’m kind of lazy when it comes to naming my characters. Don’t get me wrong, I do some research. But we’re talking a minuscule, micro amount of research like looking up what the most popular/common names were in the year I’ve chosen my character to be born. I usually Google the Top 50 names of that year, then pick one that I like the sound of. Then I look up common surnames for whatever area my story takes place in. That’s it. That’s really all there is to naming my characters.

Scrivener has a nifty name generator feature, which I’ve been using more of since I got Scrivener not even a year ago. You can include or exclude whatever belonging to certain heritages or countries.

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I understand the process will be different if you’re writing genres such as Sci-fi and Fantasy. As far as when it comes to reading contemporary fiction, however, I’ve never really pondered why an author chose a certain name for their character. If it’s a name that’s obviously, overtly clever or meaningful to the character, I might give a small, “Oh. Ha. I get it” and move on. I’ve just yet to come across a character I remembered solely for their name. Characters are made memorable by being real, flawed people, not because they have a funny or clever name. The only, and I mean the only character I have ever written just to have a stupid name is in Waiting for You. The girlfriend of Adam’s father is only named Suzuki so I could make a reference to the Suzuki method of learning music, which is the method I was taught when I was learning to play violin. But she’s only in one minor scene.

Do you have a method for naming your characters? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Creating Your Own eBooks: Part 2

As promised, part deux! (For Part 1, click here.)

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For those of you heading down the self-publishing road, sooner or later you’ll have to format your novel for ebook (unless, of course, you have a ton of money to shell out on someone to do it for you!). In order to use the programs I mentioned in my previous post, Sigil and Calibre, you’ll need your novel in a .htm file.

Luckily, if you have Microsoft Word, you can do it yourself. I taught myself to format my very first novel for Kindle when I went the self-publishing route, and I can help you! It took me many trials and many more errors to figure out how to do it, but in the end I did get it. I’ll walk you through it!

(I suggest creating a new document and copy/paste your novel, just in case something happens to the file while you’re working on it.)

Step 1. Let’s start with an unformatted .doc/.docx document of our novel. Make sure your entire text for each chapter is set to “Justified” — not “Align Text Left” — most books and ebooks are formatted this way. If the text is not justified, you’ll have a lot of ugly blank spaces at the end of most lines of text. For my example, I’ll be using the first five chapters of Waiting for You:

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Step 2. We need to format each chapter title as Heading 1, as pictured below. To do this, highlight each chapter title and click the style option “Heading 1.” You can change the font and size, but make sure it is selected as Heading 1 (there’s a way to change each style option, which I can cover in a separate post if requested). Do this for each chapter.Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 12.55.44 PM

Step 3. In between each chapter, make sure you have a “Page Break” at the end of a chapter. If you’re not sure, there’s a button you can click to show all nonprinting characters. This will show all your formatting. Like in the example below, you should see “Page Break” in between a line if your text is formatted correctly (that is, there is a page break before each new chapter). If you don’t see this, go ahead and add in the page breaks now. To do that, go to Insert>Break>Page Break.

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Step 4. Next, let’s add our Front Matter. Go back to the very first page of your novel and enter a Page Break to create a blank page at the beginning. Here, we’ll create a title page. Center your text and add in your novel’s title and, of course, your name! If you want to add a dedication page, insert another page break and type out your dedication on a separate page. Don’t forget to also add your copyright page! If you have a foreword, add that here, too.

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Step 5. Now comes the tricky part: the Table of Contents. The TOC is especially important in ebooks, as there are no page numbers. An active TOC can be very helpful for readers if they want to skip to certain chapters without having to go through the entire novel. If you’re on a PC, Microsoft Word has an option to create an automated TOC. But if you’re on a Mac like me, we’ll have to build it ourselves.

Remember those heading styles we assigned to the chapter titles? This is where they come into play. On a new page after our dedication and copyright pages, we’re going to create the TOC. First, type out your chapter titles.

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Next, highlight your first chapter. Right-click and select “Hyperlink”:

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You should see three options in the box that pops open (as pictured below). Select “Document.”

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Click where it says “Locate” under “Anchor” — this will create a hyperlink in our table of contents. Select your first chapter and click OK.

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You should now see “#Chapter One” (or whatever you have saved under that Header 1 style).

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Step 6. Repeat these steps for each chapter. Once you’ve done that, you should now have your Table of Contents!

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Step 7. It’s time to save our work. From the drop down menu, select “Save As” and “Format: Web Page (.htm)” — if you’re on a PC, you’ll also have the option of “Web Page, Filtered.” Use this option if you’re on Windows operating system.

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Now you have the correct file to load into Sigil! Once in Sigil, you can generate an interactive Table of Contents. Your .epub file from Sigil can than be loaded into Calibre to create a .mobi file for Kindle. Be sure to preview your ebook for functionality and formatting!

Creating Your Own eBooks (and a treat for reading!)

Alright, I had an entire tutorial on how to format your novel for .mobi file for Kindle ebooks. I spent hours taking screenshots and writing instructions on how to build your Table of Contents, what HTML tags to use in your source code, and I was going to offer a sample from Waiting for You as an example. Then, for whatever reason, the interactive Table of Contents wouldn’t work after I converted the .htm file to .mobi using Kindlegen. I fought and battled with my HTML coding, but it just wouldn’t cooperate. Le sigh. I just wanted to help out my fellow writers who are opting to travel the self-publishing road.

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Insteaaaadddd…I did some research and found two programs that are much, much easier to use than doing the formatting and writing the HTML coding yourself, rather than battling Kindlegen with DOS commands like I did. Trust me, it’s a handful. By no means am I a computer wiz like my sister and her husband who do graphic design/coding for a living, but I know enough basic HTML coding to get by.

ebook, kindle, nook, format, novel, bookHaving a functional Table of Contents is essential to a good ebook. A reader may want to skip ahead or go back to certain sections or chapters of your book without having to search the entire file.

If you take a peek at most ebooks, you’ll see more options than what I have here in my example. Some might have an active link for the book’s Dedication or Copyright pages, some might have a Foreword.

I’ve discovered two programs that are helpful in creating ebooks, specifically .epub and .mobi files. Kindle ebooks use the specific .mobi file extension, while most other e-readers use .epub files. I will, however, post the other post I was working on today on formatting your novel in Microsoft Word, as you’ll need an .htm file for these programs to convert into your desired file type.

The first program you’ll need, which is free to download, is Sigil (click here to go to their website). Sigil only has an output option for .epub files, which is not compatible with Kindle. Create a new file, and you can add your .htm document. Under Tools, you can edit your novel’s metadata settings (such as the title of the novel, author name, etc.). Also under Tools, you can generate your Table of Contents. This will work as long as you have your original Word document formatted correctly, with working hyperlinks to each chapter title within the document. Once you have everything set up in Sigil, you can save your ebook as an .epub file.

Your next program you’ll need to create a Kindle ebook is called Calibre, which is also a free download (click here to go to their website). Here, you can add your .epub file and convert it directly to .mobi. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Calibre also has options to edit your ebook’s metadata settings and whatnot. If you’re graphic savvy with Photoshop, you can also add your own cover.

In the next few days I’ll repurpose my draft on creating an .htm file to use with these programs and get that posted!

And now, here’s a thank you for sticking with me!

First 5 chapters of Waiting for You (for Kindle)