The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 16: Discussing “Author in Progress” by Writer Unboxed)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 16

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf, the Season One finale! In this episode, we cover a compilation of essays from the Writer Unboxed Community in a book called Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published.

In my companion video, which you should watch as soon as you get to the end of this article, I talk about its merits as a worthy addition to your writer’s bookshelf. Yes, I do that for all the books in this series, but I do it for this one, too, because it’s one of the few books that covers everything about the writing industry (or, at least for books) that you’d deem essential information, and does so from the voice of experts in their respective fields.

Then, when you’re done watching the video, make sure you come back here and subscribe for updates on when Season 2 will debut (and that’ll depend on demand, unfortunately, so make sure you like each video from this season to let me know you want more), then leave me a comment about which books you’d like to see me talk about for the next season, provided I have it on my bookshelf (or decide to put it on my bookshelf). Please note that I want to tailor my Season 2 focus on scene-setting and character development, with a touch of extras from other pots, as much as possible. If there’s a third and fourth season, I’ll likely steer those into publishing and marketing respectively.

And with that, thanks again for watching this season’s videos and hopefully you’ve gotten something out of it. Sorry again for the crappy video quality. One of these days, I hope to invest in a decent camera. But as a writer, I need to invest in my writing career over my YouTube interests first, so a better camera will come when the writing career shows more success than it has so far. You can help with that by supporting my work (as seen in the book cover images down the right-hand panel) and telling your friends and family about it (but only if you like what I write and you think they will, too).

Since this post will go live on December 25th (even though I’m writing it in mid-September), I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to come. Give three cheers to 2020 coming to an end! Hopefully 2021 will be a bit more merciful.

Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published

From the Writer Unboxed Community

Edited by Therese Walsh

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 342 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1440346712

·  ISBN-13: 978-1440346712

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (November 1, 2016)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

In case you forgot to check the video:

The Free Period is Coming to an End

Just wanted to make a quick e-book announcement to my readers while I’m thinking about it.

With the construction of my new website underway, I’ll be relaunching my author career soon, and with the relaunch will come a change to my e-book pricing and availability.

In short, many of my existing titles will be going into the archives, and those that remain will be getting price tags attached.

What does that mean exactly? It means that starting in 2021 (maybe on January 1st, maybe a few weeks in–I haven’t decided yet), I’ll be removing many of my books from every retailer but Smashwords, and those that remain will no longer be free.*

This means that if you wanted to get one of my older books from someplace other than Smashwords, now is the time. Likewise, if you want any of my books for free, now is the time to get them. I can no longer sustain my author career on freebies, and I can no longer support myself by attracting readers who will only read for free. Beginning in 2021, if you want to read my books, you’ll have to pay for them.

With exceptions.

*Okay, so here are the exceptions:

Shell Out, Eleven Miles from Home (original and remastered), Amusement, and Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge will still be available on every platform, while also being free to read here and on my author site. Eleven Miles from Home (and maybe Amusement) will remain free at the retailers, while the others will be priced at $0.99 to give readers the ability to “tip” me for a good read. But you’ll still be able to read them for free on both of my websites (but only there).

Gutter Child and Lightstorm will remain at all of the retailers for $2.99 and $0.99 respectively, but for how long will depend on what I do with my planned expansions for them. Once I expand them, I’ll make a new plan. Gutter Child will likely remain available even after it’s expanded (under a new title) just because it’s getting five-star reviews and I’d hate to lose them (and because the expansion will change its genre). We’ll see what happens in time.

When Cellphones Make Us Crazy is still under review. For now, it’ll remain at all the sites for its existing price, but I may remove it and rerelease it with new content later in the year. I’m pretty sure I want to expand it more.

The Fountain of Truth will remain at all of the existing sites for $0.99 until I finalize the McCray Parables expansion, in which case I’ll repackage and rerelease it for $2.99 between September and Christmas 2021. In other words, one day it’ll be available, and the next day it won’t. I can’t say for sure when this will happen. But the Smashwords edition will remain available even when it comes off the other storefronts.

Cannonball City and Superheroes Anonymous will likely stay online until I finish rebranding them. Again, I don’t know when I’ll finish this process, but you can probably continue to buy them everywhere but Amazon for at least another year. Then they’ll be archived.

The Computer Nerd will stay online at all the existing retailers, but it will be given a subtitle, 2015 Edition, to classify its difference from the Rebooted Edition coming soon. Its paperback edition will also remain for now. I may eventually archive it if it proves too confusing for buyers when the updated edition is released, but I’d rather test this than simply assume this behavior.

Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection will remain online for now, only because it has a paperback edition, but it will be recognized as an archived book, no longer to receive updates.

When Cellphones Go Crazy, The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, Cards in the Cloak, and The Fallen Footwear will all be archived in early 2021. This means they’ll be deleted from every storefront but Smashwords, and they’ll cost $0.99 to read there. But I’ll likely keep them free on my author site (well, the short stories, not Cards in the Cloak).

Also remember that The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky is getting turned into a novel, so it’ll be back soon. Likewise, Cards in the Cloak is getting an expansion and new title, Norman Jensen Cheats Death, so it’ll also be back soon.

The Fallen Footwear will be rewritten as a novel eventually, but I don’t know when. It’ll be archived for now regardless.

When Cellphones Go Crazy is going to the archives and staying there. It’s already been expanded and repackaged as When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, so there’s no reason to keep it out in the open.

I believe that covers everything for now. Hopefully you got whichever books you want, or will before the New Year.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and here’s the cover for my NaNoWriMo 2020 story, if you’re interested:

Cover Image: Pixabay

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 15: Discussing “How Not to Write a Novel” by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 15

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. In today’s episode, I’m not going to waste your time with filler, fluff, or foolery (an alliterate abbreviation of the more commonly practiced tomfoolery). Instead, I’m going to link you right to today’s video, not because I’m lazy or have better things to do, but because I think this is the most important book on How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman that you can possibly have on your bookshelf, and if you don’t have this book on your bookshelf, then hopefully you have it on your desk or in your magazine rack. Just have it somewhere close to your computer because you’ll want to refer to it often, especially when you need a good laugh.

Yep, I said it. Good laugh. You’ve been warned. Now watch the video. And don’t forget to like, subscribe, and do all the things that YouTubers tell you to do.

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 272 pages

·  ISBN-13: 978-0061357954

·  ISBN-10: 0061357952

·  Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 3.2.2008 Edition (April 1, 2008)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

In case you forgot to check the video:

My Author Website Devlog #1

I’ve been using this free WordPress.com blog as my online author site for years. As you can imagine, the conversion toward book sales hasn’t been great. But now I’m finally making a move to improve my online presence and build a better book shop. This video highlights my progress from Black Friday (when all I had was hosting and a newsletter) to mid-December (what I show in the video).

It’s definitely got room to grow and improve. Some of my ideas may not work. Other, more efficient ideas may come along during future development sessions. Time will tell. But this is the beginning. This is what it looks like behind the scenes at my new author site as of today.

Here are my resources if you like what I’m doing and want to do something similar:

WordPress (free)

Divi Theme Builder ($82/yr or $249/lifetime)

Note that Divi requires WordPress to work, and WordPress requires hosting to work. I’m using Hostinger as my hosting service. It’s cheap and mostly reliable.

Look around YouTube for Divi affiliates. Some of them can get you 20% off the market price. Or better yet, subscribe to Elegant Themes’s newsletter to get notices on upcoming sales.

Divi alone is good, but its extensions and layouts make it better. I will likely add Divi Plus, Divi Responsive Help, Divi MadMenu, and Divi Overlays to the first edition of my website. Eventually, I’d also like to add Divi Toolbox, Divi Mega Pro, Divi Essential, Divi Carousel Module, Divi Sumo (not on Elegant Themes site), and Divi Ribbon Module once everything is up and running and I can see better how it performs. With the exception of Divi Sumo, all of these extensions are on Elegant Themes’s Divi Marketplace, but many of them have cheaper alternatives on their developers’ websites.

So, that’s what I have so far. Tell me in the comments below if you have any website development advice or want to share your experience with these or other themes like Elementor.

I hope to open my new site in early 2021, but you can become one of the first to enter by signing up for my newsletter and looking for my announcement. (You also get free stuff for signing up, if you’re in to that kind of thing.)

Thanks for watching the video.

MasterWriter Review

Do you ever sit down to write and think, “I’m off to a bad start”? Well, I’m having one of those moments right now. But never fear, for MasterWriter is here!

Except that MasterWriter doesn’t exactly help me start.

Erm…

Okay, well, what does it do then?

It’s actually more brilliant than that, even though an app that helps you start a project is just as cool as anything that helps you improve a project. But helping you improve is precisely what MasterWriter does.

Think of it as stripping out all the grammar from Grammarly or ProWritingAid, leaving behind just the thesaurus. And think of it as stripping out everything from Scrivener but the name generator and manuscript page (and stripping out the actual name generation but keeping the name list). And if you reduce Google down to the search term “rhymes with Google,” then you begin to understand what MasterWriter is about.

It’s an all-purpose vocabulary tool that can turn your average writing into interesting writing. For example, if I write the line “I like pigeons” and think “like” is too simple of an idea, then I could use MasterWriter to find a better word. But because I could just as easily use a thesaurus, or Google, I might decide that using MasterWriter for this task at all might be overkill.

And it very well may be…

But is it though?

Well, here’s a simple Google search for “like”:

Google search for the word “like” (part 1).

And here’s what “People Also Ask” about it:

Google search for the word “like” (part 2).

You’ll see that Google gives me a few decent options. And I could probably use at least one of these options to replace my above example. But does it give me enough? More importantly, does it give me all options?

Here’s the same query in MasterWriter (under the synonyms tab):

Synonym for “like” in MasterWriter.

Now here’s the same query in MasterWriter’s word families, “primary” selection:

Word families (primary) selection for “like” in MasterWriter.

And finally, here it is under word families, “extended” selection:

Word families (extended) selection for “like” in MasterWriter.

So, as we can see, by looking up “like” in MasterWriter’s extended word family, I can change my boring sentence “I like pigeons” into the far more interesting “I drink in pigeons.”

And…okay, maybe that’s too much. How about:

“I flip for pigeons.”

Yeah, I like that better.

What about you?

So, that’s what MasterWriter is about. It’s not a traditional writing app (although it does give you the ability to write your selection inside the program), but it is an app perfect for perfectionists who have to get their words just right.

And it also includes sections for rhymes, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other word types for poets and songwriters (and regular writers for those who like those speech types), as well as names of historical figures, places, famous cartoon characters, you name it, all with an integration to look them up on Wikipedia from directly within the app.

Which means it can still feed you ideas when you’re drawing up short of them.

So, the question becomes whether it’s worth the money because there is a cost. For monthly subscriptions, you’ll spend $9.99 a month. For annual, $99.99 a year. And for two years, $149.99. But if you sign up to their newsletter, or check back during major sales holidays like Black Friday, you’re likely to get a steep discount of up to 50% off (which is why I’m paying just $7.99 a month for my subscription). But is it worth even the $74.99 you’d pay for a biannual subscription during Black Friday?

This is where I’d issue the standard review response: “It depends.”

I’ve had my eye on MasterWriter for years. Because this is the year I’ve decided to up my game in every category from craft to marketing, I decided to add it to my list, even though I’m way over my budget. I’ve been writing for years, and I’m at a point where I want to elevate my resources.

And this is definitely an elevation.

But is it worth the subscription fee? Honestly, if not for the extended word families, I’d say no. Most of what MasterWriter offers, I can easily get in a Google search. For free.

But the extended word families feature changes the game. If you look at the screenshots, you’ll find examples that aren’t easy to come by anywhere else. Is it possible to find a list like the one in the screenshot somewhere other than in MasterWriter. Maybe. But the thing I know for certain is that MasterWriter has that list. So now I have that list.

If you’re a new writer, I’d say learn your craft first. And keep reading. You can improve your vocabulary just by reading books. But the point of MasterWriter is not just to improve your vocabulary but to also access the words or phrases on the tip of your tongue more quickly, and if you want to elevate your vocabulary and save time (because you can sound like a genius on the fly), then MasterWriter is definitely for you. If you can afford it. It’s not cheap. Not really.

And if you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it. Wait until you can. You don’t need it today. Someday, maybe. But today, not necessarily. I held off for three years, and now that I have it, I’m sure I could’ve held off for three more.

It does have a pretty sweet audio stream—

Manuscript and sound file view in MasterWriter.

Oh, never mind. It’s just a place to record your thoughts or import your sound files off your hard drive. If Audacity isn’t good enough…

I guess they can’t all be like Frost Writer.

Anyway, tell me what you think in the comments below. You can also check out my video demonstration on my YouTube page below.

My video review for MasterWriter.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

And if you want new updates regarding all of my platforms delivered to your mailbox (articles, videos, and books), then be sure to also subscribe to my newsletter.

And don’t forget that my official author site will be opening soon. Bookmark it today and check it out tomorrow (or as soon as it’s open) so you can be the first to see it. Thanks for reading and come back for the next one.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 14: Discussing “The Story Grid” by Shawn Coyne)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 14

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. Piggybacking off of Robert McKee’s Story from a couple of weeks ago, this week we enter into a discussion about a reference book that credits Story as its primary source of information (in a roundabout way, I guess), Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know.

What is The Story Grid? It’s Shawn Coyne’s (a former New York editor) instruction manual to future editors on how to preserve the craft of editing in an age when editors know less and less of what they’re supposed to do to help authors write better books.

Find out more about it in my video, and learn why I think it’s the most valuable post-writing book you can put on your shelf, assuming you’re serious about writing good books (including nonfiction).

The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know

Shawn Coyne

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 344 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1936891352

·  ISBN-13: 978-1936891351

·  Publisher: Black Irish Entertainment LLC (April 28, 2015)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

In case you forgot to check the video:

The Chill Writer: Using Frost Writer and Virtual Cottage

Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the bells and whistles that Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or other countless writing apps throw at your feet? Do you wish there was a writing app out there that could strip away the distractions and just put you in the mood for writing? Do you wish that such an app was available to you for free?

Well, there is.

Last week, thanks to an article by the Reedsy blog listing eleven apps and programs for writers, I discovered my new favorite writing mood app, Frost Writer. And now it can be your favorite, too.

What is it, exactly?

Well, it’s a website that can store your writing in the cloud. All you do is show up, pick your theme, select a music track if you want background ambience, then get to writing. There’s even an option to save your work as a text file to your Downloads page if you want to transfer your work to another app for formatting once you’re finished or want to start a new project in the same theme.

Image of Frost Writer 3.0's "Room" Theme, with a sample writing.
Screenshot of Frost Writer 3.0, using the “Room” theme.

It’s really as simple as that.

But what it can’t do is store your entire project in any meaningful way, or retain formatting of any kind, at least not as recently as version 3.0. Therefore, my advice is do your distraction-free scene or section writing in Frost, save to your drive (via text file) once you’re done with your current session, then open your note in MS Word or whatever formatting/editing tool you use for revision and storage, make your quick edits to retain your style and/or emphases (italics, bold, etc.) while you’re thinking about them, then go back to Frost, delete the session, and start over again with the next scene or idea.

Or, maybe just copy/paste your Frost writing to your MS Word document or whatever you use for formatting, since saving to a text file will also eliminate your paragraphs, which you probably won’t want to do. You could save to the text file as a backup or if you’re using Frost only to write your tweets before sending them.

It may not be the most efficient way to manage your work, but it’s a darn good way to make sure the work gets done. The music that comes packaged with Frost Writer will get you in the mood every time. Even if you write in your app of choice but leave Frost’s soundtrack on in the background, you can still get in the mood. However, the advantage of writing inside of Frost is you get to use its specialized thematic backgrounds to keep you in the mood. Are you writing a historical novel and need to write directly on the vellum page? Then Frost Writer’s “Vintage” theme is your choice. Or are you crafting your romantic scene and you’re about as romantic as a tree stump? Then select the “Love” theme and discover your attractive side with the pastel shades and romantic comedy score that makes you forget just how bad you are at romance.

I mean, if it works for me…

There’s even an RPG theme called “Room” that gives you a study room background and your choice of four individual or combined sound effects: coffeehouse background, grandfather clock, thunderstorm, and fireplace. Pick one, or pick them all. The choice is yours.

But Frost Writer isn’t the only free app available to those of you who want to write or study in the mood. There’s also a program called Virtual Cottage that you can find on the gaming sites Steam and Itch.io.*

Image of Virtual Cottage, showing how to set up the timer and intended session.
Screenshot of Virtual Cottage, at the project planning stage.

Virtual Cottage is not like Frost Writer. There’s no writing involved here. It’s strictly a background program that sets a timer and plays music while you study, read, do the laundry, or whatever you’re doing that you’d normally find boring or otherwise unappealing. Once the timer expires, it plays a sound effect, telling you it’s time to stop (provided you check the box, which I forgot to do for the screenshot).

The nice thing about Virtual Cottage is that you set the parameters and make yourself accountable to them. Do you want to read for 20 minutes? Then say so on the project page, adjust your timer, and hit “Start.” Don’t stop until the timer rings. Do you want to study during a rainstorm? Then select the atmosphere button and listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops as you hit the books. Do you want 90 minutes of uninterrupted chill music (or is it 15—I can’t remember now) while you organize your filing cabinet? Then click the music note and submerge yourself into that sweet coffeehouse vibe.

And you can do it all for free.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what you really want in a productivity app?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used these apps and how they’ve helped you improve your productivity.

Oh, and if you want to see these in action, I’ve featured them in this week’s video review. Check it out.

As always, like and subscribe below. And if you want to stay up-to-date with all of my latest articles, videos, books, and so on, please join my new newsletter, available now. And don’t forget that my official author site will be live to the public soon.

Thanks for reading.

*To run games and apps on Steam, you need to first download and install the Steam App. Consult the header on its store page for more information on how to do that.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 13: Discussing “Just Write” by James Scott Bell)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 13

Are you sick of writing? Do you ever wish your novels, essays, letters to Grandma would ever just write themselves? Do you often rise in the morning, look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you ever started this lame writer’s journey? If so, then maybe this week’s book, Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life by James Scott Bell, is the right book for you.

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, remind yourself why you write, why you love it, and why you’d rather be doing that than pulling weeds. Check out my video on today’s writing reference and why you should give it a look, even if you’ve already done so.

Remember kids, even when you hate doing it, just write. Similarly, like and subscribe to all of this stuff I’m posting. It tells me you want more, even if deep down I know you wish I’d used a better camera. I ain’t rich, okay? This is what I got. It’s either a nice camera or a stocked writer’s bookshelf. Can’t have both!

Unless you buy my books. Then I can have both.

Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life

James Scott Bell

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 256 pages

·  ISBN-10: 159963970X

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599639703

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (May 26, 2016)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

In case you forgot to check the video:

My New Website is Coming Soon

As the title suggests, my new official author website is under construction and coming soon.

But before I unleash it to the public later this month or in early January, I wanted to give readers of this blog an opportunity to join my newsletter for updates and special offers, including…

You guessed it…

FREE E-BOOKS!!!

Okay, let’s try that again, but without the all-caps:

Free electronic books by me.

Nah, let’s go with the first one:

FREE E-BOOKS!!!

Yep, much better.

So, joining my newsletter is simple. First you click on this link. Then you fill in your first name and email on the landing page. Then you check the GDPR consent box. Then you click the big button below it to subscribe. Then you check your email for your welcome message.

If you don’t see it, then check your junk mail. If you find my welcome email inside, then put me on your approved messages list. Tell those garbagebots to leave me out of their business!

Inside, you’ll get some information about me, which you’ll probably ignore, and links and coupon codes to the books I’m offering for free, which you’ll probably TL;DR directly to. From there, you’ll follow the instructions. Then you’ll get your books (The Computer Nerd and A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One: Cannonball City, if you must know)!

But…

Early subscribers who join during the construction phase will also get The Computer Nerd: Rebooted Edition free once it’s released. This version will replace the original (what you get right now) as the beginning of a new series. This will not be offered to later subscribers (the ones who wait until after my new website opens), so it’s worth it to join now instead of waiting for the grand opening.

Remember, good things come to those who jump ahead in line!

But, whether you join now or later, all subscribers will get an exclusive novella that can’t be bought in electronic form (maybe paperback if it’s long enough), as soon as I finish writing it, so even if you miss the early bird special, you can still take part in the regular bird special.

Finally, if you’re a fan of this site, don’t worry. I’ll still be writing content for it. The difference between this site and my new author site is that the new site will be better looking and focus almost entirely on my author career. This site will focus less on my books and more on everything else. In other words, you should subscribe to or bookmark both sites.

So, with that, I hope you’ll join the fun train (that reference will make more since when you click on the newsletter).

And enjoy your new books!

Cover Image: Pixabay