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Thirteen Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a writing mood recently, which is great from my point of view. Today, I wrote “the end” on my current work in progress. Since my mind is in the groove, I thought I’d give some advice to aspiring authors.

1. Sit down and write every day. Make writing into a good habit.

2. Join a writing group, either a chapter or an online community for support.

3. Read and read widely. Analyze books that work for you and those that don’t. Use them as a learning tool.

4. Make a point to learn about websites and social media.

5. Enter writing competitions to help yourself improve and also to give yourself a writing deadline.

6. Research markets, agents and editors to familiarize yourself with what publishers and agents are looking for. This will help you narrow down who to submit your book to. If you’re thinking about self-publishing learn as much as you can about the process.

7. Keep a record of how much you can comfortably write each day. Knowledge of your possible output will help you once you’re published and facing deadlines.

8. Take online classes and attend conferences to learn as much as you can. I’ve been published for a while now, and I’m still learning!

9. When it comes to actual plotting, try all the different methods. Plotting, pansting and in between until you find a method that works for you.

10. There is no right or wrong way to write a book. There is only your way.

11. Find a critique partner/s to help critique your work and critique other writers’ work. This is a learning process too.

12. Once you’ve completed and polished your book send it off to your chosen publisher or agent. While you’re waiting, start work on your next book. If you’re self-publishing, complete the publishing process and start work on the next book.

13. Celebrate each success because writing is a difficult business and plain hard work.

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list?

Author Photos: Yes or No?

I always enjoy the Novelist Inc. blog, and the most recent post is one by Pati Nagle about Five Should Haves on a Website. It’s a great post and well worth reading.

One of the things Pati mentions is an author photo on the home page of a website. She says readers feel more connected if they can see a photo of you, and this might lead to them remembering your name when they’re browsing for books in a store.

I don’t have a photo on my home page because I wanted to focus on my books. I might post photos on my blog and I have my picture in the photo section, but for me, a website should be about the books. Yes, I agree, a website needs a personality, but I don’t believe I need my face to be part of that personality.

In the past, I’ve heard of agents and publishers rejecting older authors because their faces/age/sex isn’t marketable. I don’t know if this is an urban legend or not, but it’s a sad fact of life that models and most people who feature in ads to sell products are young and glamorous. Does this extend to authors? I don’t know.

I wondered what everyone else thought. Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer, merely opinions. What do you think? Author photos – yes or no? Does knowing what an author looks like affect your buying decision?

Characteristics of a Good Website

Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has an interesting blog post about websites. He ran several author websites through WebsiteGrader to see how their websites performed.

I scored an 84, which shows room for improvement. I lost marks for too many images. Mr Hyatt’s post is very interesting and concludes that a slick website doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic.

This test made me think about the characteristics of a good website. I did a little online research and came up with the following list:

1. Good keywords – these are words that describe your site and what you do. For example I’m a romance author.

2. A simple design – nothing too complicated. Keep your page simple and on topic.

3. Easy naviagtion – don’t confuse your visitors. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

4. Fresh content – update on a regular basis and give your readers something new to look at. Give them a reason to come back. Keep the content short and organize it.

5. The Wow factor – make your page different and original. Make it stand out from the crowd.

6. Optimized – make your website search-engine friendly by using page titles and meta tags.

How did you do with the test? Do you have author websites you return to time and time again? What keeps you going back?