Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Train Your Mind for Writing with Great Books

Pride & Prejudice

When's the last time you read a classic?

Summer is beach, pool, park and bleacher time. The perfect time for sunning yourself, enjoying a glass of iced tea and a good book.

Instead of a beach read why not refuel your mind with a time-tested read?

I hear you. Some of those novels break the writing rules we are often taught. They contain long paragraphs, more than the occasional run-on sentence. The plot twists and turns aren't always enough to keep you turning the pages. In fact, some of the conflict seems downright boring.

In our fast-paced society, do classics have a place and do they have anything to teach the modern writer?

1) Classics teach you to read S-L-O-W to absorb the layers.

As a fast food society, we want to be spoonfed. Studies have shown that on a screen our reading can be haphazard, missing key details. Our words per minute rate on our devices is higher, and that's not always a good thing. If you have a minute, here is a fascinating NY Times article on your brain's reaction to ebooks. According to one professor at the University of California, digital media doesn't balance attention well.

I have been swinging back from my kindle to paper books as over time I noticed my enjoyment of reading was less. I read through books quicker and I found with my favorite authors, I wanted to savor their words and it was easier to do with a library copy. However, when I"m reading a mystery, I actually prefer the ereader format. Just my personal opinion though.

Don't we want to write novels that readers can read over and over?  Books with depth that yield something new with each reading. C.S. Lewis believed the best books grow with us. Who better to learn from than celebrated greats of the writing world.

2) Reading great old books increases your vocabulary, which spills over into your writing.

Its no secret that the average reading level of an adult book is fifth grade. Borrow your grandparents McGuffey readers and you'll see that wasn't always the case. A few words may be obsolete, but it's still fun finding their origins. The average read doesn't send me to a dictionary, but Charles Dickens almost always does. The more words we know, the more shades of dimension we can offer to our descriptions and settings.

3) Your voice will grow and deepen as you observe other writers.

One of the most helpful exercises we were given in college was to try to imitate various authors. It was challenging. We were taught we needed to learn the fundamentals of style while developing our own.

So try it. What was your favorite book from your college years? Give it a slow reread and try to write in the author's style. Not only is imitation a form of flattery, it also leads to growth.

4) The best books challenge us to think and that reflects in our written work.

Classics include strong themes and such elements as foreshadowing. How can you strengthen the theme of your own story?

My husband and I had a recent discussion on Ayn Rand and the relevance of her novels for today. I've struggled to make it through Atlas Shrugged several times and lamented to him about the snail-like pace of the plot, sharing that I prefer modern authors. He argued that it was a hard book but I ought to stick it out because it has a lot to teach about the human condition. I have a feeling Rand belongs back on my summer reading list.

Les Miserables
So, how about it? I challenge you to read ONE classic this summer. 

---But where do I start?

Modern Library has a list of 100 best novels that might provide a good starting place. 

The Great Books List is divided by eras and provides plenty of choices.

The American Library Association's publication Booklist provides a database of award-winners.

What's your favorite classic and why? What did it teach you about writing craft?

 Julia Reffner is a writer and reviewer for Library Journal and a blogger for Wonderfully Woven. She lives in central Virginia with her husband, two children, and three ragdolls cats.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Writer's Game Plan

We just came home from one of our last tournaments of my son's baseball season. Over these months, I don't know how many times I have leaned forward with elbows on my knees, my fingers entwined tightly, and my teeth gritted as he threw his next pitch. I must admit, pride swells a bit when I see him up there. He zones in on the strike zone, keeps an eye on the runner at first base, adjusts the ball in his hand according to the catcher's call, and makes sure his foot is properly positioned on the mound.

Pressure comes at him from home plate, from the bases, from both dugouts, and his fans (um...team parents). All angles at the very same moment. And yet, somehow, in that pivotal second, he throws a pitch straight down the middle and strikes a kid out.

There something similar that happens in our busy lives these days—especially as writers or dream-followers.:) We have pressure and responsibilities coming at us from all directions, blocking us to write, or to even care to write at times.

We focus in on our book—the strike zone—but then someone steals second (or your spouse gets laid off...or your kids require extra loving care) and you must pay attention to a different part of your life. Then, right when you settle back in position on the mound—er, the keyboard—the obnoxious dugout filled with hootin' and hollarin' ball players (aka crazy children, pets, nephews, social media), pull your eyes away from writing...and sometimes...you just have to take a walk around the mound. Yep, leave the keyboard again, deal with the chaos, and hope for another chance to write soon.

Other times, you might just be too darn tired from the game to throw one more pitch, and you call “time”, heading to the bench.
It's no use pitching when the game has heated up and worn you out. There's no use writing when life brings heartache and you just need to regroup and rest.

The thing I found is, while baseball is the game, writing is not. Writing is just another part of the game called life. It's such an important part to me...probably as big in my mind as a major league player's career is to him (although, I know I'll never make his paycheck).;) But, really, there are many more things that take precedence over my current story—and I have to tend to those first, no matter if the “at bat” is incomplete.
That absence from the dream-tending, is just fine, really. I have gotten more at peace with the short spurts instead of the lovely, long writing sessions. Life's base-running forces me to have quality writing sessions when I do sit down at the keyboard. And just like a ball player practices during the week, building up ability for that next baseball game, the going-ons of life around me is a great workout for those few, or many, moments I actually focus on writing. My heart is on a journey, and when I am called to the mound, I have plenty of experience to get some fastballs, curveballs, and sinkers smack dab in my story's “strike zone.”

Batter up! Your turn—what's your game plan when life starts stealing your attention from your writing?

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at www.facebook.com/dicken.angie, her personal blog at angiedicken.blogspot.com and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken
Pinterest: pinterest.com/agdicken

Friday, June 26, 2015

On Writing and Inspiration. A Guest Post with Rachelle Rea

Recently someone asked me a two-fold question: am I a morning or a late-night person, and how do I stay inspired? Well, then, that's a loaded one. :)

To the first half, neither! On the one hand, I enjoy writing in the mornings because I feel productive; there's nothing quite like living the rest of my day with the knowledge that I wrote a chapter that morning. But I also enjoy writing late at night because I'm trying to keep my eyes open at the same time as my heart is pumping with the excitement of whatever scene I'm in. It's exhilarating.

But I'm neither an early bird or a night owl right now. At this stage in life, I write during my lunch hour at work.

The latter half of the question, though, is even more complicated. Right this very second, I'm inspired. I'm excited to be guest posting on the Writer's Alley, a writing blog I've loved for years. Outside my office window, a thunderstorm is shaking the forest. But, to be honest I'm not always inspired. I know, I know, surprised, right? :)

In answer to that question, I said, I write. Or I don't. Sometimes when a scene idea pops into my head, I write it down right then. In chapter form, on the back of a napkin, or in a note on my new Iphone. I sometimes let it simmer for a while.

Or I don't. Sometimes when I'm not feeling particularly like writing but it's my designated writing time, I tell myself to take a break.

That's right. I tell myself to take a break. To not use that writing time for writing, after all. I don't write.

That's not to say I don't make myself write every time I don't feel inclined to do so. Skipped writing sessions pile up on one another like the raindrops plopping onto the sidewalk outside my office window right now, until suddenly I could be staring at a puddle of a month gone by with no words written. That's not good.

But neither is always forcing myself to produce words, I've found. That may work beautifully for some (I commend you), but I've discovered I'm a healthier person when I realize the artist, the wordsmith, in me needs room to breathe.

Sometimes I don't make myself write on my lunch break. Other times I let myself stay up until 2am to finish writing a chapter just to see how the scene will end. It's like the rain: sometimes the clouds roll in when I least expect them; other times there appears to be a slight drought.

But eventually it rains again, all is drenched, and I'm writing The End again.

When I was in college, I had more of a structured schedule because I knew when classes began and ended. Perhaps one day I will return to that same sort of predictability. For now I'm settling into a world where my novel is on shelves--it's new and exciting. So I write. Or I don't. I'm learning to give myself grace and take a break...

How about you? When during the day do you write? How do you stay inspired? Do you ever give yourself permission to take a break?

Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she's lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. An Oreo addict, she is also a homeschool graduate and retired gymnast. She wrote the Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writing Selfishly

I'm a huge believer in teaching my kids not to be selfish.

All the tshirts you see in stores these days make me want to vomit. "Do what makes YOU happy!" Yada yada yada.

While I agree on the surface you need to be true to yourself, living a life where YOU are #1 and everyone else takes backseat, where you're looking after your own comfort and happiness with no regard to anyone elses, sounds pretty horrific to me and is very sad when you look at the generations we are raising up with a selfish, ME ME ME mindset.

Can you tell I'm passionate about the subject?


Even while I think it is VERY important in life AND in writing to consider the needs of others, there does need to be an element of ME in there.

People who don't take time to care for themselves get burnt out on loving others and become ineffective.

And when we write books purely just to make others happy and fit into a rigid box that a market might be currently wanting, we run the risk of growing to despise the very stories we've worked so hard to craft.

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to get "serious" about my writing schedule again. Life has been crazy lately and writing needed to go on the back burner.

On this particular story, I was stuck big time too. I would write a little but something was missing. I had no LOVE of the story, no excitement for it. It was frustrating because I really wanted to tell this character's story but she was being super quiet about what it was.

So on a Monday, I scheduled a babysitter (yeah for teenager daughters!) to watch my kids ALL DAY, went to my favorite writing spot (a 20 minute drive that I rarely indulge in) and just wrote.

The first few hours were horrible. I'd write a little and delete. Write a little  more and delete. I was only on chapter two and I just wanted to delete the whole project and give up. I was about ready to cry... but decided to finish the chapter then give up. Didn't matter if it was crappy or not, it was gonna get done.

But a funny thing happen as my fingers typed.

My heart thudded in my chest as an idea sparked. I probably looked maniacal as I sat there frowning one moment then grinning like someone had just handed me a lifetime supply of Dr. Pepper the next.

I'd found a missing link.

I still have no idea if anyone else is going to like it.

But at this point, *I* like the turn of the story.

It made MY heart flutter while writing it.
It made ME write for another three hours, causing me to call my husband and beg for him to handle dinner because I just couldn't WAIT to finish a few more scenes and figure out whats happening.
It made ME bite my lip in anticipation for the next chapter.

Will it do that for a reader?

I have no clue. Even when I'm done writing the story, there will need to be a LOT of editing, as is normal for seat-of-the-pants writers like me.

But I've got my excitement back for my book. I'm writing a bit selfishly, thinking more about what makes ME giddy with excitement than a reader.

I figure though, if I like it... chances are someone else will too, right?!?

So when you're editing, start thinking about that reader again. The one who needs to be hooked and pulled in just right, to have good pacing and great hooks. To show them characters on paper that you see so well in your head. To make sure your theme has been intricately weaved throughout the story so it makes the reader live the journey, not get a concussion from you knocking them in the head with it.

In summary... my tip is this:

WRITE what makes YOU happy, then EDIT to make THEM happy.

Discussion: Are you writing what you like to read? Do you read more in other genres outside of what you write?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, A Side of Faith and A Side of Hope. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Help, I'm Blinded by The Words!

Some of you know I went to Alaska recently. Not only did the inspiration for this post come from the many gorgeous hikes I took in the one week, so also did the photos. 

Photo by Mary Vee
The setting: The Iditarod trail in Alaska. The official site states this about the Iditarod race: 
"You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race covering  1000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams."

What better way to describe our writing experience!

Photo by Mary Vee,
Iditarod Trail

1. Enter the woods: You have your first nugget of a story idea. If you are a plotter, you've outline the book and are ready to write. If you are a pantster, the words are tugging at your shirtsleeve demanding your attention. "Hey we have a page to get to. Do you mind? Sit down and key us onto the screen already."

2. Step into Alice in Wonderland: Engaged in the words, you find yourself in a new world populated with characters you haven't seen before. They introduce themselves to you. Although you greet them, only one stands out above all the others. She takes your hand, says her name is MC and guides you to a path labeled for MC only. "I'm not sure where this leads," she says. "I only know this is the way." As the two of you walk, she tells you about a problem that has so engulfed her every thought she can't think.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail
3. The enticing side trail: You and MC have been walking a while. The roaring sound of water seeps through the trees and greenery. A narrow trail, barely the width of your foot, separates the foliage. MC stops talking. She looks down. "I wonder what is this way." Before you can stop her, she drags down the offshoot. The trail disappears around the bend, but the roar of the water echoes louder off the trees. She takes a step then wobbles, "Help!" You grab her sleeve and pull her back. The woods have disguised the edge of a high cliff, which only a moment ago, guaranteed her demise. Although MC is elated you saved her life, she finds herself enticed by other narrow trails, each, she discovers, offered doom as the destination. 

4. The canopy: There hasn't been a post marking the path in a long time. You begin to wonder if you've slipped onto some other character's path. You've never been directionally challenged before, but suddenly you're not sure. MC speaks, but you can't hear her words. You look up at the canopy searching for answers. What time is it? Where is the sun? The fullness of the branches and leaves block the sky. The sun is hidden. And you are lost in the words.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

5. The fork: Somewhere on the path, you and MC turned the wrong way. Nothing makes sense. You and MC hear voices in the distance but can't tell where they're coming from. Sounds in the word forest have fooled you before. They've echoed off boulders hidden afar, and surrounding trees. Where are the other characters who introduced themselves in the beginning of the story? They promised to help when needed.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

6. Blinded by the words: The word trees suddenly grew closer together. They're standing together, arm in arm, branch in branch, blocking the way to the end. You look down and see hundreds of narrow trails. None of them look right. MC turns a 360 and puts her hands on her face. She doesn't know what to do. She looks pleadingly at you. "Help. I don't know the way." 

Everything has become a tangled mess. You slam your laptop shut and pace, wearing the carpet fibers of your workspace thin. You call your crit partner and five other people. Help! I don't know what to do! The words are tangled, and there doesn't seem to be a way out. 

You hear a few plausible idea--but then eureka, you remember to pray. 

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

Thought sort themselves. Cohesive words align.

You open your laptop and click on the document. In the distance, a small wooden sign sprouts in the path. You point to it. MC runs ahead. She turns the direction indicated by the sign. You try to keep up, but she runs faster. The sound of rushing water grows closer. If you don't catch up, MC might encounter danger. "Wait, MC!" you call. 

Photo by Mary Vee
Iditarod Trail

7. The gorge: The trail switchbacks down the mountain. Temperatures rise, and bugs come out of nowhere to sting and bite. The trees stay back, leaving you to walk into the meadow. Still the path descends at a sharp angle toward the roaring water. You round a curve and find MC stepping into the hand tram. "Come on! It's the only way across the gorge," she shouts. 

A fear of heights overtakes you. You step back. 

"This is the only way," she pleads. "I see it now. Please come with me."

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

Your stomach twists. You lean over and lose your last meal. If you let her go without you--the story will never end, and the words will keep you lost in the word forest--forever. 

You have to make a choice. Follow the call or not.

I know I didn't offer solutions here so much as I: 
1. Acknowledged that these issues happen to all of us at one time or another; 
2. Called the issue to your attention incase you are lost in word trees and can't see the forest around you; 
3. Encouraged you to keep going to reach the end of your story. 

Photo by Mary Vee
An arm of the Pacific Ocean
I heard in a class somewhere that we should write one sentence describing our story on a card. You don't have to sweat this one, it's not a pitch. No one will see the sentence but you. 

Take the card with the sentence and fix it to the upper corner of your monitor. As you write each scene, glance up at the card and ask yourself: 

*Are you on the path that will lead to "The End"? 
*Have you taken a rabbit trail? 
*Has your MC become distracted? 
*Have other characters tried to leap into the story to steal your attention?
*Has your desire to write flowery, impressive narrative and dialogue clouded your voice?
*Are you ready to ride the tram across the gorge?

I can't wait to read your comment!


If you found any typos in today's post...sorry about that. 

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes young adult mystery/adventure Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Most Important Ingredient in Your Writing Recipe

Hermione Granger is my spirit animal. Just a little tidbit you may not know about me.

Like our favorite wild-haired brainiac, I’m a reformed know-it-all, hopefully a little more bearable to live with than the girl whose hand was raised so high, her fanny had lift-off from the plastic, grade school chair-desk. But I still devour information about topics that interest me. Google has especially enabled this tendency. 

Now that you know this important piece of trivia about me, let me tell you what happened after pressing send on my second manuscript. I bought a ton of craft books. I studied the industry -- both my little subsection of it and on the whole. I tried a variety of writing tactics recommended by plotters, pantsers, speed-writers, and the like. But despite abiding by my tried and true M.O., I began to flounder between book ideas. The DELETE key became my BFF.

Why were my first and second books so much easier to get on the page? After months, I finally had an epiphany this weekend.

Yes, it's important to study what's selling in the industry, to follow your agent's recommendations if you have one, and to sharpen your craft until it reaches an almost deadly fine point. But there was one important thing I'd forgotten:

You have to write what you want to read. 

I learned that you can read all the books and blogs until you've fine-tuned a rubric with the most popular and sellable aspects in your genre, but if you don't start with what makes your story one you'd like to read, 1) it likely won't be unique enough to thrive in the industry, 2) it might not have the pulse that breathes life into the muscles and bones of the plot anyway.

So. What kinds of ideas spark your stories? Inspiration from real-life? Music? Movies? Themes or scriptures? That indignant feeling when you would have ended a novel differently? 

Tell us in the comments!


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business. 

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and received the Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance). 

Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:

Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson

Monday, June 22, 2015

What A Writer Learns from Facebook Partying

DON'T Look at me!

Don't! ACK! Make me share my best qualities? AAAH! Not happening.

I am a self-criticizer more than a self-promoter. Writing my author bio was like torture. It was much easier to list my flaws besides my accomplishments (side note: if you're anything like me, it's always helpful to have someone "unbiased" help tweak things like that).

BUT in this social-media-driven world, it is more and more important these days to build an online presence as an author OR an aspiring one. For years, I have been nervous about "a brand" or gaining "followers". After some very good advice recently, I forced myself to step out of my "skin" and become more intentional with growing my potential audience.

I took a deep breath and asked myself, what do I have to offer an audience, besides stories that have yet to be published? Well, I have a mom blog and a bit of knowledge, and a love for graphics. I decided to re-design, zoning in on myself as an "author" as well as a "mom-blogger". Funny, but it was just a matter of choosing to actually USE my existing corner of the web and answer some of the questions friends have asked me over the years...
the Whats, Whens, Wheres, Hows, and Whys of being a mom and a writer, and how they co-exist.
After I started playing with "the look" I decided to share it all with a Blog Kick Off (and this was as much for announcing it, as holding myself accountable to committing to it)!

I am sure there are a gazillion ways to promote a blog. I chose to throw a Facebook Event since I had experience with a direct-selling company which uses this tool.

So, I sat down and decided that it could not just be about telling people all my stuff. That's just a little heavy on the self-promotion side of things. I had to make it worthwhile for my guests. I needed a purpose greater than announcing "redesign":

My Event Purpose: To SHARE, SOCIALIZE, and UNDERSTAND my guests in light of my passion for books, my season of mothering, and as potential readers.

Here are some things I learned as I went through the prep and actual party-throwing:

1. PARTY "DECOR" & GRAPHICS:  I wanted my "look" to be memorable and meaningful. I had some head-shots done a while back, and so I decided to use them in several different ways as I posted and promoted. I shared my first attempt with some very trustworthy friends --the Alley Cats--and they were honest in telling me it just didn't seem like "me". It is very important to know that WHAT you are putting out there is WHO you want to be known as! Here is my first attempt at branding myself as a Historical Author and Mom Blogger:

I like this crisp look, but my Cats know my style and my stories,
and they gently steered me in a different direction.

Here is what my new blog banner became:

This has a bit more historical flare, with the artsy fartsy stuff that I love. :)

I also created my own images and clipart to promote my party and add to my posts to pop up across newsfeeds. This kept that "decor" going throughout the party period.:)

2. POST LIKE YOU MEAN IT: As far as my actual POSTS went, I first made a script for myself to be sure to have something productive and informative to say to keep the day-long party going. I looked over my script the night before the party and read, "blah, blah, blah." It did not sound like me one bit! Who wants an infomercial on Facebook?? There are PLENTY of those. So the next two points are how I *tried* to keep it fun and authentic:

3. TREAT IT LIKE A PARTY!  An event must be fun in my opinion. I go to social media for information, sure, but I want it to be worth my time too. Instead of using the script, I chose to include what I was actually doing at the moment of my post, or talk like I would at coffee shop instead of as a salesman. I'd like to think that my Blog Kick Off party was a social affair...and not just self-promotion. Facebook parties should be just as much about conversation as promotion.

My points list: Fun way to get friends involved and start up conversations!

4. GAMES AND GIVEAWAYS!  I said fun right? Games are a great way to get those conversations going, especially those, "What kind of....are you?" quizzes (But, be careful to review them first...some can be a bit inappropriate)!  The giveaways were a blast! I LOVE giving stuff to friends...especially when they are so supportive. I didn't feel like I was expecting too much attention from my audience when I knew I could make it a true party for them.

I must say, it has been an exciting time post-party as I have watched my numbers grow...it is a slow climb, but I am getting to connect with some amazing people, and not just share about my venture across social media, but learn about other writers, mom bloggers, and all kinds of people as I connect! My Facebook Event was a great tool to get the party started...and I feel like the party just keeps going as I explore the worlds of writing and motherhood!

What tools do you use to strengthen your online presence?

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at www.facebook.com/dicken.angie, her personal blog at angiedicken.blogspot.com and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken
Pinterest: pinterest.com/agdicken

Friday, June 19, 2015

Freebie Friday!

Hey Alley Pals...

We're having quite the bummer summer with nonstop rainy days and a revolving door of sickness here at the Simpson homestead. I don't know how the weather is treating you in your slice of the ozone but since it's been nothing but rainy here I'm declaring it's a great day to curl up with a good book.

So here are just a few freebies you might want to check out on Amazon today! Happy, healthy Friday to you and yours!


The Art of Falling by Julie Jarnagin 

Swept Away by Mary Connealy

The Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

Be My Love by Lucy Kevin
Enjoy <3

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Making Your Title Sexy

The title got your attention, didn't it?

I have included for illustration's sake a photo of Justin Timberlake only because he did, of course, bring sexy back. 

Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nora-oravecz/justin-timberlake-always-pretend-that-you-are-a-beginner_b_7158780.html

Today is all about--you guessed it! Creating titles that catch your readers' attention. Titling your manuscript can be so difficult, because you have to sum up the sentiment and all the layers of your book into a short little phrase. Some people will tell you not to spend too much time on your title because a publishing house will change it anyway, but I would disagree with that, because you need a good title to catch the attention of a publishing house or agent in the first place. Not to mention, wouldn't you rather have the chance to title it yourself, picking something that's consistent with your book's overall vibe? So here are some things to keep in mind when working on your titles that should increase your chances of getting to keep the original title when the book does sell.

  • Your title is your first opportunity for marketing. So make it good.
  • Use a consistent tone as what you use in the book. Have you read My Life As A Doormat by Rene Gutteridge? It's pretty much one of the best books of all time, and the tone throughout is as funny as the title sounds. What about A Grownup Kind of Pretty by Jocelyn Jackson? I rented this one from the library but couldn't get into it enough to finish. That said, I love the title and think it showcases Jocelyn's lyrical writing style so well.
  • Create a hook that catches attention and makes us what to find out what this story's all about.
  • Add layers of depth to the title's implications. Another one of my favorite books of all time is Miss Invisible by Laura Jensen Walker. At the beginning of the story, two main things drive the character: she is indeed a "miss" and it not exactly thrilled about that fact, and she prefers, at all costs, to remain invisible.
  • Keep it relatively short.
  • Create a title that will only become more interesting after someone has read the story. Examples of this are Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, andWhere the Wild Things Are.
  • Keep the target audience in mind. 

A good title, like a good cover, can set you apart from other books as readers who may be unfamiliar with your writing browse through the bookshelves. In my opinion, it's one of the most important ways to catch the attention of readers. I know I've picked up many books based off their titles alone. Haven't you?

What are some of your favorite titles and why?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.