Looking for Reviews?

All authors, especially those of us of the independent persuasion, understand the importance of reviews and building one’s platform. Readers are less likely to check out an unknown author whose work has zero reviews and ratings.

While just getting reviews are great, what if you could you could also be a part of an awesome community of authors, who all work to propel each other forward? It’s hard enough, stumbling through figuring out how to build your platform and promote your work.

Rave Reviews Book Club has been nothing but superb. It’s exactly that — a community of authors, all working together. I’ve connected with so many writers on Twitter, and not just as authors, but also making friends.

Definitely check it out! Tell ’em Allison Williford sent you. ūüôā

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!

Rave Waves Radio Interview 1/10 @ 1PM EST/12PM CST

This Sunday, 1/10, I will be on Rave Waves Radio @ 1PM EST/12 PM CST to chat about my Contemporary Romance novel, Waiting for You. You can tweet your questions with hashtag #RRBCTagTeam2*4*5 and join in on the conversation! And, as always, feel free to tweet me @AlliW_writes!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ravereviewsbookclub

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6 Tips for Editing Your First Draft

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Before you send off your baby…er…manuscript to your editor or beta readers, it’s important to get it in tip-top shape. No beta reader or editor wants to slog through careless typos and errors that could have easily been fixed by the author.

I know what you’re thinking…¬†but Allison! Isn’t that what editors and beta¬†readers are for?!

The answer is no.

From time to time I do some beta reading. I’ve seen some really awesome¬†manuscripts. But I’ve also seen some really horrible ones, too. I don’t mean horrible as in the story was bad; there were just so many typos, silly grammatical errors, or careless plot holes…so many that it just made me absolutely hate the story itself, and made me internally curse the author. It was very apparent that the author had done zero proofreading or editing.

All authors should take the time to edit their work once the first draft is complete (yes, even if you were self-editing along the way). A sloppy manuscript only screams:

“I’m lazy and I don’t care what you think of my writing!”

Okay, maybe not quite like that. But every sloppy manuscript I’ve read made me doubt the author’s ability as a writer. Every careless error detracted more and more from what could have been a really good story, usually to the point of my being totally fed up and wishing I could just stop reading it.

Editors will also appreciate your efforts. It saves them time from having to correct the little, silly errors such as typos, when they could¬†be focusing on the bigger picture of your story — plot and characterization, or the voice and syntax of your writing.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a¬†Ph.D in English. I do suggest picking up a reference book for English grammar. English for Dummies is a good one; it explains grammar rules in simple terms and offers good¬†examples.

Once you’ve brushed up on basic grammar and punctuation, here are some ¬†suggestions for editing your work. I did all of these (pretty much in this order, too) after I finished my first draft of Waiting for You. But do what works for you!

  1. Step away from your story
    Once you’ve finally written those glorious words —¬†The End —¬†take a break from your first draft. After you’ve spent God only knows how many months¬†of¬†grueling over every scene and chapter, it all looks the same. Your brain knows what it’s supposed to say or sound like, so that’s what your eyes see when you proofread. Step away from it for at least a week. A month is great if you have the luxury of time (and not having a deadline). You’ll be able to come back with fresh eyes.
  2. Proofread your manuscript in various mediums
    If possible, read it in different mediums:¬†print out your manuscript or load it onto your e-reader. If you print it out, mark up that bad boy with colored pens and markers (I’m a nut when it comes to colored pens). If you use your e-reader, load it¬†as a .mobi or .epub file, and you should be able to “highlight” any troublesome passages.¬†Also, make note of any phrases or words that you’ve used too much, as well as those pesky adverbs.
  3. Read it aloud
    Seriously, read your work out loud. You’ll be able to hear any clunky clauses or phrases, or dialogue that doesn’t quite sound genuine.
  4. Use your word processor’s handy dandy search bar
    Once you’ve gone through your manuscript a few times, go back into your word processor (or Scrivener, if you’re in the cool club), and use the search function to find any of those phrases or words you made note of. Reread those passages to see if there’s a more appropriate word or description you can use.
  5. Nix was, said*, very, etc.
    Or any other “weak” verb or adjective. I heard the tip some time ago to search for the word “was” — it was actually very eye-opening. I found that I was using the imperfect tense in a lot of places where preterite tense conveyed the action much more crisply. (i.e. “He was trembling.” vs. “He trembled.”)¬†This also goes for the word “very.”

    *A note on dialogue tags: Tread carefully when it comes to¬†your dialogue tags. If you find yourself having to replace a ton of dialogue tags for stronger verbs, or find yourself using¬†a lot of adverbs, you may need to rework the¬†dialogue itself. While using strong verbs for tags can be great in small sprinklings, your dialogue and your character’s action before/between/after should convey their¬†emotion strongly¬†enough that it doesn’t necessarily require a different tag.

  6. Those-Which-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned… That’s right. Adverbs.
    A lot of writers will cringe and hiss at you if you even utter the word “adverbs.” While it’s true that too many adverbs are a red flag that you should find stronger verbs and descriptions, I’m of the mindset that a few minor adverbs here and there are OK. You can’t seek and destroy every adverb in your story; you’ll end up with choppy passages and forced, awkward writing. If you find yourself scouring a thesaurus, just stick with your adverb. In a lot of instances, it’s extremely apparent when a writer had to look up a word.

Check out 9 Resources for Showing, Not Telling!

Take your time with edits and revisions. There’s no need to rush through them. Once you’re ready to work with beta readers and editors, be sure to keep an open mind to their input. You might find that all your betas have the same suggestions on a certain character or scene. Be receptive and respectful of critique, but also be sure to give your betas feedback as well.

You can also check out my post on Beta Reader Courtesy.

 

What other steps do you take to get your manuscript ready for beta readers and editors? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

 

Book Trailers (what am I doing?)

Book trailers seem to be a pretty popular trend. I’m not really sure why. The whole point of a book is to¬†read, not watch. I browsed through a few on Youtube yesterday — most of them for Romance and Young Adult novels — and a good majority of them featured pictures of models or actors. One even had clips from a TV show. How many people actually watch these trailers?

I have a beef with this. One of the fun parts of reading a book is getting to imagine what the characters and settings look like. Book trailers that feature pictures and video clips of real people take away from the joy of using your imagination. For my previous Meet the Character posts, I included links instead of embedding¬†the image in the post, offering people the choice¬†to look or not. I had a very clear image in my mind of what my characters looked like before I found actors who best resembled them. I get that some people like knowing exactly what a character looks like beforehand, but not everyone does. Besides, you shouldn’t need to rely on pictures to portray your characters; your description in your novel should be able to do all the work.

Here are my thoughts and tips on book trailers, should you choose to make one for your book:

  1. Don’t include images of someone’s face.¬†Perhaps someone looking away, with their face blurred, or the back of their head — you get the gist. Just not the entire face. Not all readers want to be shown exactly what your character looks like.
  2. Brevity is key. Keep it short and sweet. One minute, at the longest, should suffice. There were a few I saw on Youtube that were between 3-4 minutes long. I never made it past the 1:20 mark on any of them.
  3. Don’t spill the beans.¬†What I mean: don’t divulge your entire plot. A book trailer should tantalize your readers and make them want to read it, like your back cover blurb.

For fun, I put one together for Waiting for You. I used iMovies, but to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to making videos.

Waiting for You book trailer from Allison Williford on Vimeo.

What are your thoughts on book trailers? Any tips for authors who are thinking about making one?

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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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.

self-publishing, publishing, writer, writing, ebook, book, novel

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!