5 Apps that Every Writer Should Download

Still using a pencil and tablet to write your novel? Guilty! We get it, there is nothing like jotting down your words, thoughts and scribbles with a freshly sharpened pencil.

While it may be hard to incorporate technology into your writing process, it is definitely well worth it. And, we’re not just talking about Word’s spellchecker!

Here are 5 smartphone apps that every writer should download:

Dragon Diction

We can all talk faster than we can type, right? That’s why this app is great! Dragon Diction allows you to record your voice, then it automatically types it out for you! In fact, it claims to be 5x fasters than typing on a keyboard!

Anti-Social

Facebook…. Twitter… Candy Crush… are you getting distracted every time you sit down to write? Put a stop to it with Anti-Social, an app that blocks you from going to time-sucking websites, games and apps. You simply set the amount of time you want to work and it will block you from going to those sites during that time period.

Writer’s Block Buster

We’ve all had writer’s block and our novels can surely suffer from it. This app, Writer’s Block Buster, will help you beat the block. It has an extensive database of questions and explanations for several things that maybe giving you writer’s block.

Hemingway

Want to know if what you have so far is well-written? Hemingway can help! It highlights long, complex sentences and errors. It shows adverbs in blue and provides you with a list of stronger verbs that can take its place. It marks passive voice phrases in green and words that are too long in purple. This app is just as good as having an English teacher with a red pencil.

Dictionary.com

Okay, this is a given, but it’s really a great app! The dictionary app shows you the meanings of a word, its pronunciation, its origin, and more. It also includes a thesaurus to help you find stronger words. This app even works when you’re offline.

Why Become a Publisher?

The Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Mojocastle Press, Stephanie Kelsey, answers the question “Why Become a Publisher?”

Why did you become a publisher? The eternal question. God knows I could have chosen numerous other business options. So why did I choose an epublishing house over, say, cupcakes? Especially since cupcakes are extremely fabulous?

Like many people have, I blame my mother.

She was a writer since I was a child, and I her first beta reader, back in the days when ereaders were the stuff of Star Trek fantasy and dinosaurs roamed the earth. By the time I was fifteen, I had full blown content editing skills and a healthy respect for author’s voice. I was taught to enhance and correct, not to rewrite.

I got my first proofreading job at Wings, and found out what it was like to work to a deadline. It was fun for me, though, and I probably would have just kept doing similar work. But once again, I blame my mother.

She had joined a partner and opened an indie house, and wanted my skills. After working there for a short while, I was introduced to the erotic imprint. Now bear in mind, there was no front facing erotic romance displays and Fifty Shades of Grey then. We were purveyors of “girl porn” lurking in the shadows. It was an enlightening introduction, to say the least.

I was eventually moved up to Editor In Chief, and that’s when I had my epiphany. I loved this. I loved working with creative people. I loved being able to take a good story and make it a professional work an author could be proud of. I loved sending the galleys for final check, and feeling the excitement at the impending release. I loved telling the author their book was live and enjoying the reaction, whether it was their first book or fifteenth.

I loved seeing “my” books on websites, and reading the great feedback from the readers who enjoyed them. I had entered a world where knowing where commas go created art, and I was addicted.

And that is why I’m a publisher. There’s no rehab for art addiction.

Battle the “Block”: How to Beat 5 Common Types of Writer’s Block

It started off great. In fact, you’re ahead of the word count goal you set for yourself. But, now you’ve drawn a blank. What’s to blame? Writer’s Block.

Ah yes, we’ve been warned about this thing called writer’s block. It’s notorious for halting thousands of potentially great novels.

So, how can you beat the “block?” First, you have to understand what type you’re dealing with.

Here are a five of the most common types of writer’s blocks and how you can defeat them.

You’ve Drawn a Blank

So, you’ve come to a stop because you just can’t think of anything else to write. This is often the most common type of writer’s block. Give your brain the jolt it needs by taking a break. Step away from your work, take a walk, watch a movie or hang out with friends. Just give yourself some time away from your work.
Chances are that a little time away will help spark new ideas and get you back on track. If that doesn’t help, start brainstorming! You can also create “dream boards” that are made up of motivating quotes, magazine clippings, photographs and other items that help inspire you.

You Have Too Many Ideas

You’ve gotten to a point in your novel where you’re ready to take a turn, but you have so many ideas in your head that you can’t choose which direction to go in. Help narrow down the options by creating plans for each thought. Outline the storyline that could take place if you choose this idea. If you struggle to think of next steps in the plot line, scrap that concept and move onto the next.

You Messed Up

The worse feeling for a writer is deciding that you made a plot error long after you made it. Do you trash the hours of work you’ve already completed and start all over again? Or, do you move on and let your story take a different direction. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer and determining the best solution often causes writers to draw a blank.

The best thing to do is stop where you’re at and create an action plan. First, ask yourself “If I make the change, will I have to rewrite everything I’ve already written or can I just make some small edits?” Ideally, you’ll determine that you can make a few edits and move on in the intended direction. If this doesn’t happen, ask yourself if this new story line will make sense. If it does, pursue it. If it doesn’t, go back to the place the error was made and start writing again. Don’t completely trash what you’ve already written though… it may come in handy for your next book.

You Lack Confidence

Some novels get adjourned simply because writers lack the confidence to continue. Meaning, they get hung up on whether plot is good enough or if readers will think their characters are believable or if publishers will laugh in their face when they submit their work for publication. If you’re lacking confidence, give yourself a boost by talking with trusted friends or family members about your work. Explain the characters to them and ask what they think. It’s very unlikely that they will tell you that your work is awful. They will probably point out the things they like best and, perhaps, give you some constructive criticism to help you move on.

You’re Bored

Writing a novel is a lot of work and it takes a lot of your time. So, it’s no wonder that some authors simply get bored. The best solution for boredom is to take some time away from writing, if you can. Try something new or adventurous during that time a way. The excitement you feel will help trigger creativity. If your deadline does not allow you to step away, try adding an unexpected twist to your storyline. This new path may help you generate ideas and stay captivated.

4 Stress-Free Ways Defeat a Daunting Deadline

There are few things in life that will put a damper on your creativity as much as a deadline. However, if you plan on getting your novel published, you will have to surrender to those pesky little timelines.

Here are four ways you can be sure that you meet your deadlines with ease:

1. Put on Your Publish Planning Hat
Have you ever planned a party, wedding or special event? If so, it’s likely that you had a party planning calendar with tasks such as “Order Cake” or “Send out Invitations” that were due far before the event date. You can use the same planning concept for your novel! Simply divide the time between now and your publisher’s deadline and set task due dates. For instance, if you need 10,000 words complete in a month set a due date of 2,500 words every week. Write the dates down in your planner or program them in your phone’s calendar so that you don’t forget. (Reminder alerts help too!) When you meet your own deadline, reward yourself! This will keep you motivated for the next due date.

2. Pencil in Some “Me” Time
Speaking of schedules, don’t forget to make time for yourself! Getting too wrapped into meeting your deadline will just stress you out, deter your focus and give you a serious case of writer’s block. Publishers don’t expect you to work 24/7, their deadlines are designed to give you time to sleep, eat and breathe! So….BREATHE!

3. Keep it Clean
Don’t worry; we’re not talking about that steamy scene in Chapter three. We’re talking about your workspace. A cluttered, unorganized workspace will distract you! So, before you start writing or after you’re done for the day, give your space a quick clean-up. You can take it a step further by decorating your space with inspiring quotes, photos or colors (orange is a great one!).

4. Use the Buddy System
I’m tired… I have a headache… I have to make an appearance at a party… we all have excuses and we all convince ourselves that these excuses are real when they are not-so-true. That’s why having a “deadline enforcer” buddy is essential! Ask a friend, parent, sibling, or colleague to check-in on your personal deadline dates to make sure you’re where you need to be. And, when you’re feeling “sick,” your buddy is likely to make you feel better and get you back on track.

Most importantly, do not stress yourself out! This is your dream and it will come true if you keep your mind focused on your novel.

Boost Your Book’s Buzz with Fun Social Media Marketing Tips

You are a published author! Now it’s time to let the world know. While most traditional publishers will help market your book to the public, it’s also smart for authors to promote their book within their own sphere. With social media, it’s never been easier to do so.

Now, before you starting saying “I just don’t have time for social media,” consider this… social media marketing is free, fun and fairly easy.

Here are a few ways you can start promoting your book on social media networks:

Share on Your Own Social Pages

Who are your biggest fans? Your friends and family! No one, other than yourself, is going to be more excited about your book than the people who love you. So, take an opportunity to share it with them by posting about it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and any other social media account you use.

Don’t be afraid to be silly and fun! Take a photo of yourself holding your book for the first time, tease them with updates such as “Have you gotten to Chapter 3 yet… it’s a real nail bitter!” or post a quick video of yourself reading an excerpt.

Ask Your Fans for Fans

If your social media pages are lacking fans and followers, ask your current fans to help you out. There is no shame in asking the people who already like you to share your page or status. It will only help you grow your fan base.

You can do this with a post as simple as “Hi Fans! I’m very excited about my new book, TITLE. Would you mind helping me spread the word?” Or, you could try something more fun by doing an autographed book giveaway to the person who shares the link to your e-book the most times.

Show the Real You

With social media, you need to avoid over-promoting your book. But, don’t worry… there is a way to promote your book without directly selling it. People follow you because they are interested in Y-O-U, so give them what they want while subtly promoting your book. For instance, post a picture of places that inspire you to write or participate in a #tbt (Throw Back Thursday) with an old picture of a friend who inspired a character in your book.

Have Fun With It

Social media is fun! Just be yourself and you‘ll go far.

Rethink the Way You Rewrite

Let’s face it, no matter how many times you rewrite your manuscript you’re going to find something you want to tweak. If you plan on sending your book off to publication, you need to determine how many rewrites are too many. There is not a magic number for how many rewrites it takes to ensure your piece is complete. There are; however, a few things you can do to limit the number of rewrites.

Walk Away

Before you do anything, the best thing to do is walk away. It doesn’t have to be for long, although many writers like to take a least a week. If you have a time constraint, just take enough time to get your mind off of it. Go for a jog, visit friends, or take a mini vaca… just live outside the life you created in your novel. This will help you detach yourself and return later with an open mind.

Create an Outline

Reread your novel and create an outline of things you want to reconsider. Be sure to prioritize your outline organizing it into major rewrites and minor rewrites. Major rewrites may include change in structure, tone, or theme, narrative point of view, undeveloped characters or plot misdirection. Minor rewrites may include adding more visual descriptions or dialogue, tightening the plot or fact checking.

Be sure to focus on the major rewrites first. Sometimes, the minor revisions need less attention once the major rewrites are completed.

Share

It’s always a good idea to share your work with a trusted friend, preferably one with a literary eye. Ask this person to jot down notes – what they liked, questions they had, parts they would like to see more of, etc. Also, ask them to come up with a list of suggestions. You, of course, do not have to take use their suggestions, but they are likely to come up with new ideas.

Develop a Plan and Timeline

Take your outline and the notes from your reader and develop a plan. Start with the most important rewrites and ask yourself questions about them. Here’s an example:
What is the problem?
Amiee’s character is undeveloped and readers may not understand the connection between her past and her future with Lukas.

How will I solve this problem:

I will expand on Amiee’s life before she met Lukas in Chapter two. I will write about her childhood and her difficult journey to adulthood.
Be sure to set a timeline for your revisions by setting a due date for each major rewrite.

Rewrite and Repeat

Start rewriting! Once you’re done with all your revisions and rewrites, repeat this process: Walk Away, Create an Outline, Share, Develop a Plan and Timeline. You should find that every time you complete this process you will have less and less rewrites until… BOOM! You’re done!

Happy Writing!

Developing Your Author Brand on a Budget

Developing your author brand can be a daunting task, especially if you’re on a budget! Why is it important to build a brand? No, you aren’t a product or a company, but building a brand for yourself can make a huge difference in your overall success.

When you’re building your author brand, you’re essentially setting up expectations for your readers. You show who you are, what you hope to represent, and what your readers should expect from you. You’re brand is an opportunity to create yourself for your fans. Are you the “funny person who writes dramatic novels?” Maybe you’re the “30-year-old- virgin who writes awesome erotica.” Perhaps you are “a laser-focused author fiercely dedicated to their craft.” Whatever you decide to make your brand, make sure that it’s authentic, and that it’s a brand you can live with forever.

Deciding what your brand’s all about is only the tip of the iceberg. How are you going to get your author brand out there? First and foremost, the brand that you choose needs to be represented in your agent letters, bios, and publisher correspondence. Be sure to let your brand shine in all of these.

Secondly, the internet has opened a world of possibilities for developing your brand and getting it out there. If you don’t have a blog, start one! Use that blog to let your author brand shine. Write articles, do guest blogging, and do interviews with other bloggers or news outlets. Build a Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, etc. dedicated specifically to your author brand. Engage with your followers, join groups, and let your brand show through your social media activity.

Third, go out and network! Go to writing conventions, get active in your community, and share your writing at local libraries. Take every opportunity to meet new people. Show your personality and your brand through conversations and activities.

Building your brand doesn’t have to hard or costly. Be smart. Be persistent. Treat your author brand like you would a business brand. Cherish your reputation and work to make it stronger! What is your author brand? What’s the biggest challenge you have with getting your brand out there?

Fishing for Inspiration: Advice from Morgan Hawke

Morgan Hawke is a Mojocastle Press published author. She shares her advice to writers struggling to find inspiration. She says that your mind and imagination are like a pond. Your ideas and your experiences are like fish in that pond. If you’re lacking information, you just have to go fishing!

If you’ve got a case of Writer’s Block, Morgan recommends that you ask yourself a few questions. Ask yourself things like:

• What do you know?
• Who do you know?
• What have you done?
• What can you add to your imagination?

Use the answers to these questions to fuel your creativity. Maybe you know about retail jobs. Perhaps you know a real criminal. Maybe you have been in a sword fight. Use that knowledge and those experiences to create a narrative.

Morgan recommends that you give yourself little observation exercises. She says,

“Describe exactly how it feels when your hand is sliding down a banister…Can you describe the sound of your fingers on your keyboard? What does water taste like? Can you describe what eating a hamburger is like?”

She also says to observe your friends, and describe their facial expressions and moods. Beyond that, Morgan recommends that you write about things you have experienced first-hand and that you choose your best ideas. On choosing the best idea, Morgan says,

“Every good fisherman knows to throw back the ones that are too small, so they can grow up and be worth catching later. The same goes for Ideas – throw back the small ideas so they can grow up to become Big Ideas. Never ever Rush an idea! If it’s too small to use – toss it back. If you try to make a meal (a project) out of a half-grown idea, you will only end up with a half-serving of what could have been something much bigger, juicier, and tastier. “

For Morgan’s full article visit, http://ookamikasumi.deviantart.com/gallery/24356519. You can also check out more from Morgan on her personal website http://www.darkerotica.net/welcome.html

Do’s and Don’ts of Submitting a Manuscript to an Agent

You finally did it! You finished your masterpiece, and you’re ready to publish. Though not necessary to get your book published in today’s digital marketplace, many authors still find it useful to find an agent to conduct the legwork. In order to land an agent, you must submit your manuscript. So, how you do that? Here are some do’s and don’ts of submitting your manuscript to agents.

DO

DO use an easy-to-read, serif font.
DO find an agent that fits your genre and is looking for books like yours.
DO research. Know the agent you are submitting to, and know their preferences.
DO follow any and all guidelines for submission. If they just ask for the first chapter, just send the first chapter.
DO include a brief cover letter and a full, one-page synopsis
DO complete a thorough edit of your manuscript, and make sure the copy you send is clean.
DO add a header and footer to your manuscript that includes your name and page number.
DO make sure that your manuscript has a good sense of tone and punctuation.
DO convey your theme and tone in your cover letter and synopsis. Take that opportunity to impress.
DO take any feedback agent’s give you and apply it to your novel.

DON’T

DON’T choose a fancy font. That drives agents crazy.
DON’T submit your manuscript to every agent possible. Pick ones who would find your book interesting.
DON’T use colored paper.
DON’T use a lot of unnecessary formatting, like italics, bolds, all caps, etc.
DON’T submit a hand-written copy of your manuscript.
DON’T use single spacing (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, no space between paragraphs, and indented paragraphs is standard)
DON’T send your only copy of the manuscript.
DON’T include comments in your cover letter that make you sound unprofessional (“I’m the best writer you’ve ever seen.” or “I can correct any grammatical errors in the manuscript later,” etc.)
DON’T ask for the status of your submission. If an agent is interested, they will contact you.
DON’T submit straight to publishing companies, unless they directly ask for that.

These are some of the big Do’s and Don’ts. Did we leave some out? Tell us in the comment section!

Writing Software: Which Works Best?

There are tons of great programs out there for writers. It begs the question: Which works the best? As with most things, writing software is subjective. What may work for someone else may not work for you. Especially with creative writing, everyone has their own creative process, and needs their writing software to align with that. So, rather than telling you what’s best, we’ll just let you know about some of your best options!

Microsoft Word- When in doubt, go with what you know! Microsoft word is easy, because it’s familiar. You don’t have to learn anything new- just type away! There are a few features in word that are helpful when writing creatively. The review pane can be helpful for taking notes and making edits.

Page Four- Page Four allows you to organize, take notes, password protect documents, and is fully compatible with Microsoft Word. The makers of Page Four also created a program called Smart Edit, which helps you edit your completed manuscript.

Write Way – Write Way is a highly recommended writing software. It is designed by writers for writers. There are tools to help you from storyboarding all the way to completion. You can organize, outline, insert pictures, hear your book read back to you, store research, storyboard, and more.

yWriter- yWriter is a free software developed by a published author. It organizes your work by scenes. It allows you to move scenes around, tracks your progress, story board, drag and drop, and more. It’s great for keeping all of your late night ideas organized!

Q10- Q 10 is a light, portable, free software that’s great for people who don’t want a bulky program. You can maximize your work to full-screen to minimize distractions. You can take notes, format, and set timers. As a bonus, you can set your keyboard to make typewriter sound effects for an authentic feel.

Scrivener- Scrivener is probably the most comprehensive writing software available. You can take notes on the cork board, story board on the outliner, store research, view several screen layouts, set and view statistics and targets, and it even has a name generator. It has several other features. It’s super robust.

(For those of you that are Mac users, check out: Ulysses, Copy Write, Story Mill, Omni Outliner.)

There are several options for writing software. Don’t settle for one that doesn’t work for you! What writing software is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!