Sunday, 20 July 2014

Veronica Bale's Blog is Moving

Hello, my very dear readers.

I am pleased to announce that I've decided to switch blogging platforms. I can now be found here, at

Additionally, please check out my website,, which also links to my blog.

Hope to see you there!



Friday, 13 June 2014

What does it mean to create a "real" character?

A writing tip I see often concerns character building. You hear over and over that you want real characters, characters that live and breathe. 

It's an important piece of advice. Creating a real character is vital to your story, but what exactly is a real character? What is that extra, indefinable something you, as an author, need to give your characters to make them alive to your readers? 

Think about yourself for a moment. Think about what your life story would be about, if you were to write an autobiography. Perhaps you conquered cancer. Maybe you're struggling with a divorce. Whatever it is, that main storyline of yours is important ... but it's not the whole story of you. There is so much more to you than this one large event. There are silly times in your life. There are sad times. And if you're anything like me, there are a lot of stupid and embarrassing times along the way. 

Your characters are no different. Yes, they are props in your plot, but that's not all they are. They too have silly, sad and embarrassing moments. To bring your characters to life for your readers, you need to show those moments. 

To give an example of what I mean, here is an excerpt from my novel Legend of the Mist. In it, I describe a fight scene between two opponents (one Viking, one Scottish). But rather than just have them act out a vicious fight scene, I added banter. I added arrogance and egos in a way that is typical of men (even in our modern times). And at the end I have my characters degenerate into childish fist fighting.

[In the ring,] Garrett had unsheathed the sword from his back and now held it skilfully at the ready. He and Einarr circled one another like two cats, each assessing the other’s weaknesses.
“Are you going to begin?” Einarr prodded.
“What makes ye think I havena already?” Garrett clipped in return.
An amused smile tugged at Einarr’s lips. “Clever sveinn.”
Norah gasped. “There is no call for him to be so insulting.”
“Insult?” questioned Torsten. Then he laughed as he realized the error of her interpretation. “No, no. Sveinn is Norse for boy.”
“Oh,” she chuckled with chagrin, and peered up at him from under her lashes. The simple, intimate look was almost his undoing. His heart began to pound so loudly he worried the entire circle of men would hear.
The first clash of steel upon steel crashed over them, and they both looked to see that Einarr had made the first strike.
Which Garrett easily deflected.
“Well done,” Einarr commended. “But what if I come at you like this?”
With blinding speed, he whirled around, swinging his sword down and then up in a wide arc—a trapping move. Any unsuspecting opponent would have stepped forward to slice at Einarr’s exposed back only to have his own gut sliced open before he got the chance.
Alarm bounded through Torsten. Einarr was serious: he would kill the young man without hesitating.
But Garrett was no unsuspecting opponent. Einarr’s trap failed to entice him. Instead, he stepped back, away from Einarr, which left him a clear path to meet the upward blow and halt it with his blade.
“An impressive move, Viking. More for show than for impact, though, is it no’? I should think something like this is more effective.”
Garrett made a lunge of his own, catching Einarr off guard for a fraction of a second. Surprise was evident in the Viking’s hardened face.
It was not enough, though. He regrouped, his sword ricocheting off of Garrett’s, repelling his strike.
That Garrett had found a moment of weakness made Einarr angry. There was no more talk, no further taunting or teasing. He swung at Garrett with force, lunging and thrusting in earnest, putting the full power of his bodily mass behind each strike. But Garrett proved himself a match. Each of Einarr’s strikes met either air or Garret’s blade, his every move anticipated. And each evasive move of Garrett’s was met with another crushing strike from Einarr.
“Now you are learning the way of the Viking,” Einarr growled between blows.
“Now ye are learning the way of the Celt,” Garrett spat back.
As the battle progressed, Norah’s terror took on a tinge of curiosity. Observing them, she leaned towards Torsten. “Perhaps I dinna understand battle tactics well enough, but it looks to me like there’s no difference between the Viking and the Celt ways.”
“You’re right, there’s not,” Torsten said mildly. “Their fierce words are nothing more than a pissing match—excuse my crudeness, fifla.”
It was not long before Einarr grew frustrated by his lack of victory. His strikes became more daring, more careless. Garrett, on the other hand, remained calculating, waiting for his opponent to make a misstep.
His patience was rewarded. Einarr lunged, and Garrett side-stepped him, releasing a swing that knocked Einarr’s sword from his hand. Letting out a wild cry, Einarr rolled to the ground.
But as Garrett moved to make his final strike, Einarr wrapped his hand around a large rock at the outskirts of the ring and flung it at his opponent with stunning accuracy. The rock hit Garrett in the temple, opening up a large gash in the flesh.
Both Norah and Torsten were on their feet, each of them ready to throw themselves between the two men. Garrett staggered backwards, wiping away the blood which trickled into his eye and down his cheek.
“Ye bloody cheat!” he hollered, his face crimson with rage.
All traces of his calculating obliterated, he leapt for the larger, stronger Viking, landing a fist in the side of Einarr’s head.
Within seconds, both men were on the ground, locked in a violent embrace. Their arms swung wildly; their fists pummelled each other with sheer hate. Despite Einarr’s advantage of size, Garrett held his ground surprisingly well. Raucous cheers erupted from both sides of the ring as the two men fought bitterly by hand, their abandoned weapons completely forgotten to the animal urge to inflict raw pain.
“Torsten, stop them, please,” Norah begged, gripping his hand tighter.
Even in the midst of such madness her touch had a hold on him. It was with effort that he pulled his fingers from her grasp.
“Enough, both of you,” he shouted, rushing to pull the two brawling men apart. But as he bent to wrench Einarr off Garrett, a solid Norse elbow was flung high, crushing the bridge of Torsten’s nose with a sickening crunch. His eyes welled, and blinding pain wrapped his skull. He swore long and eloquently in Norse, falling to the trampled dirt ground which soaked up the blood pouring from his nose.
The sight of him hurt threw Norah into an unprecedented fury. Her fear smothered by the ferocity of her anger, she plunged into the fray, tugging at Einarr’s arm, at Garrett’s leg, at the collar of Torsten’s tunic to pull him out from under the two men wrestling furiously on top of him.
“That’s enough, the both of ye,” she cried.
Now that a maid was in the ring, a number of men from each side jumped in to break the fight apart. One of the Gallachs pulled Norah to safety, though she squirmed against his grip. Recovering, Torsten stood, blood still flowing from his nose, over his lip and down his tunic.
“Get yer bloody hands off me,” Garrett spat at the large Viking who held him by the elbows, dragging him backwards.
“Ja, get your bloody hands off him. I’ve not finished with him yet,” Einarr hollered, himself straining against the three Fara men which held him back with considerable effort.
“Dinna provoke him, Sir Einarr,” Norah snapped.
“You mind your tongue, bikkja, or I’ll mind it for you,” he barked.
The vile insult snapped the line which held Torsten’s temper in check. “You goat buggering drinker of sheep’s piss,” he hurled in Norse, and landed a solid fist in Einarr’s mouth, splitting his lip open and evoking another wave of cheers.
Marching to the dead centre of the ring, Norah lifted her chin. Taking a deep breath, she bellowed at the top of her lungs, “Ye stop now, the lot of ye!”

The entire ring stilled, for the voice which carried on the wind echoed with inherent authority. The Norse, the Gallachs, even Garrett and Einarr quieted. They glanced uneasily at one another, none of them quite sure what it was about the command that made them stop, yet none of them daring to question it.

By adding these extra elements, these extra pieces that didn't necessarily serve the fight and its outcome, I made Garrett and Einarr, and Torsten even, real. To be entirely honest, I wasn't even going to add this fight scene at all. There were other ways to have Einarr and Garrett hash it out with each other. But this fight scene gave me the perfect opportunity to show their human sides, their imperfect sides. Their real sides.

How did I do this? I had fun with it. I let my mind wander through the scene without much of a thought to where it was going to end up. I can promise, I didn't intend to have Garrett and Einarr pummel each other like that, it just kind of happened. And I let it happen. And it turned out great.

When you're writing your characters, don't focus so much on what they're supposed to be doing in the scene. Instead, let your creativity wander. Let your characters have conversations, and silly moments. Moments where they do daft and embarrassing things. 

Maybe your main character gets caught belting out a tune while showering. Maybe your heroine spills soup on her dress. Don't stop yourself from writing these parts - and don't edit them out. They are what make your characters real.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Adventures in Platform Building - Exercise #1:

I hear this from my husband far too often: "Ugh ... you're one of those people, always on Twitter. You're turning into your father!"

I bristle at that comment every time I hear it. There is a big difference between my dad and me. For one, my father is always on Facebook. That's not Twitter, dear hubby! But second, my dad is a 67 year old retiree, and the family generally admits that Facebook is a good thing because it keeps him out of the pub. Whereas I, indie author, am struggling to build a platform and a voice.

So yes, I'm always on Twitter. There is a reason I'm always on Twitter.

But even I have to admit that platform building, for me at least, has come at a price. I realized this when I spent most of my son's basketball game last night on Twitter for mobile. It was then that I decided I had to find a smarter way of building my all-important platform.

Enter Nat Russo's Platform Building blog series. I came across this on ... yep, you guessed it: Twitter. With my hubby's lamentations ringing in my ears, I spent some time reading up on what Mr. Russo had to say. 

Well hot dog, he's got a bunch of pretty good suggestions, and I'd be a fool not to implement them. I'll let you know how I do over the course of ... however long it takes me to implement them. But for now, here's the first step:

I've seen this before on Twitter, where authors post stats on who followed and who unfollowed them each week. Personally, this has always rankled my feathers. I'd always gone into the Twittersphere with the mindset that if people unfollow me, it's because I'm not sharing something they find valuable. And that's alright. Likewise, I follow people who provide information I find valuable, so if I unfollow, or don't follow, I hope that they don't take it personally. I don't need to see who these people are. It's not a popularity contest, after all.

I've changed my tune a bit. Because I didn't want to be peppering my Twitter account with these stats, I avoided signing up with sites like and I didn't know that you don't have to choose to post those stats.

Neither did I know that these Twitter tracking sites are pretty useful. I discovered that I was following 31 people who weren't following me back. No big deal on the surface, except that for many of them, I'm not sure why I was following them in the first place. Perhaps I clicked "Follow" in haste and en masse when I first started my account. I don't know.

Another thing I discovered was that I wasn't following most of my followers. Eeek ... whaaa?! Smack me over the head, I thought I was! Most of my followers are like-minded individuals, involved on some level in the publishing and writing industry. I'm darn well interested in what they have to say.

So that was my first step accomplished today. Via, I've followed back all of my followers because, well heck, they're all interesting, valuable people. I've sloughed off some of the accounts that I was following which weren't adding anything to my sphere of interest. No offence intended to any of them, this was simply a non-personal executive decision.

And finally, I whitelisted a few accounts I was following. Whitelisting, apparently, is for those followers who aren't following you, but who you never want to unfollow. For me, these are:

Ross McCall & Barry Pepper - fantastic actors (and cute as all getup)

Neil Oliver & Andy Robertshaw - historians, love their documentaries
Giles Coren & Sue Perkins - love their Supersizers and The Good Life series (and like Messrs McCall and Pepper, these two are both cute as all getup, too)

Mr. Nat Russo suggests that by following those who follow you back, you build up valuable relationships. I certainly hope so, because that's why I'm on Twitter. I'm excited to see the results. I'll keep you posted with how I get on with this little field-testing experiment. My fingers are crossed!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Noble Deception Has Arrived

I am super, I mean SUPER(califragilistic...) thrilled to announce that A Noble Deception has been released and is now available on Amazon.

Here are what readers are saying:

Recommended Read 5 Stars!!!

Veronica Bale has written another beautiful story of love, honor and courage. Her style of writing engrosses you and sweeps you away to another time. You will fall in love not just with the main characters but with all the other characters as well. Lachlan does not want a wife, and Moira does not want a husband, but they must marry for Kildrummond to stay with their clan. They agree to marry on the understanding that they will have the marriage annulled, will they both get what they want? Its a Noble Deception. I have read all of Veronica's Bale books and have to say that this is my favorite, if you haven't read her books, you are missing out.....

I was given the opportunity to down load the book for free, on June 9th, but I just couldn't wait. Again well done 5 stars for this great author

This book is one of the top ten novels of this genre that I've read this year

Another great book from Veronica Bale. A Noble Deception kept me reading from start to finish. I like how the book was based on true historical events, and it finished with a great HEA. I've read other books by this author, and A Noble Deception did not disappoint. I am happy to highly recommend novels by Veronica Bale.

To celebrate the release of A Noble Deception, my book will be free on Amazon from June 9th through to June 13th. Don't miss your chance to pick up your copy.

Cheers, and happy reading,

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Increase Your Twitter Following by Sharing Peer Posts

So you’re a self-published author, and you want to get noticed. How do you do that? How do you spread the word that you’ve got a book, and that people are going to want to read it?

An Author Platform Is a Necessity

One of the most important things an author can have is a platform, an audience that’s listening. And one of the most effective - and certainly one of the most popular - platforms is Twitter. Another is to host an author blog, and conveniently, these two platforms go hand in hand. You write a blog post, then take to Twitter to share what you’ve written. Hopefully, if people like what you’re sharing, they’ll follow you on Twitter so that they get updates about your blog.

Makes sense … except for one rather inconvenient drawback: where in the heck are you supposed to find the time to blog regularly? You’re an author. That means you need to spend your time authoring your books. And without blog posts to share on Twitter, how are you supposed to gain a following?

I Tweet, Therefore I Share

Twitter is all about sharing. You can favourite and retweet things you see and like to whoever is out there paying attention. And you can also tweet links to other people’s articles and blog posts that you’ve read and found informative (or funny, or interesting, or whatever) directly. Just shorten the link and add a caption.

Sharing helpful posts that are not yours is a great way to increase your activity on Twitter, and to gain followers - and before you raise a cry of protest, no, this is not cheating. What you are doing is providing your followers, and other Twitter users who happen to notice your tweet, with valuable information. And if you’re providing valuable information, people are going to want to follow you to get valuable information regularly.

A note, though, if you are going to take this route make sure you do two things:

1. It’s imperative that you use hashtags. Hashtags are how people find your tweets. By properly hashtagging your tweets, you increase the chance of being found, and followed.

2. CREDIT the author of what you are sharing by adding their twitter handle, as well as the twitter handle of the host site (if the author is a contributor to a third-party site). It's just good manners.

Supplement Your Tweeting Efforts

You don’t have all the time in the world to blog. You are busy writing your book. If you want to build that all-important platform, try supplementing your tweeting efforts by sharing the great work of your fellow bloggers and writers.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Writing Tip: Avoid the "Long-Ass" Sentence

One of the tips that literary agents and writing gurus tend to repeat is keep your sentences short and snappy. Or, as editor Cate Baum says in her blog post Eight Most Common Editing Errors In Self-Published Books, break up those “long-ass sentences.”

We’re writers. We love words; it goes with the trade. Not only do we love words, but we love to arrange words, too. And rearrange them. And turn those words into sentences and even paragraphs worthy of literary worship.

Unfortunately, the result is often the classic, run-on sentence.

The danger of the long-ass sentence

Everyone knows that run-on sentences are a big no-no. At least theoretically. Yet so many novice writers do it. Comma after comma separates thoughts and ideas which should be effectively ended with periods and semicolons.

Apart from being grammatically incorrect, long-ass sentences are also hard on your readers. It means they need to work in order to read your story. And making them work at reading is counterproductive to what you want for them: to escape into your story and actually live it.

Here is an example of a run-on-sentence from a fiction novel that has actually been published:

I look back toward my brother, waiting for the popping [of Pop Rocks] to stop in my mouth so I could give him some attitude about the shitty look on his face when my world suddenly stopped turning, it stuttered for a few seconds, then restarted, erratically matching the rhythm of the candy exploding inside me but when I swallowed, the explosions didn’t stop, they went down into my chest and on into my stomach, settling uncomfortably down low in my belly, for some reason the sensation was causing my brain to cease its connection to my mouth, leaving me devoid of speech.

Hard to read, huh?

Now, compare that to my edited version, with much shorter sentences:

I was about to give my brother attitude for the shitty look he had on his face, when my world suddenly stopped turning. It stuttered for a few seconds, then restarted. My heart thumped erratically, matching the rhythm of the candy exploding inside my mouth. But when I swallowed, the explosions didn’t stop. They went down into my chest and settled uncomfortably low in my belly. For some reason the sensation was causing my brain to cease its connection to my mouth. I was left utterly devoid of speech.

KISS: Keep It Short And Snappy

The key to writing fiction that pulls people into your story is to write sentences that move. Whether your literary sensibility likes it or not, short, snappy sentences move. Each thought should be separated by a period or a semicolon, not a comma.

By writing paragraphs that are composed of five or six succinct, individual sentences, you won’t be asking your reader to work at reading. And when they don’t have to work, it’s easier for them to enjoy your story.

That is, after all, why you write. Isn’t it?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Why your romance novel does not need a villain

The days of the flat, dimensionless villain are over. Readers expect more from their stories than the classic good-vs-evil that characterized fairytales of old – think Disney in the 50s.

A while ago I wrote a post called Love Your Villain. In it, I talked about the need for creating a villain that your readers care about on some level. This is what makes the savvy reader of today care about your novel as a whole, about your characters and what will happen to them.

It’s true, some stories simply require villains. What would Titanic be without Cal Hockley? Or Harry Potter without Vold—whoops, I mean, He Who Must Not Be Named?

But if you’re in the outlining stage of your novel, and you’re struggling with how to fit in a villain that you can add depth and character to, try omitting the villain entirely. You don’t need him. Or her. Believe it or not, your story can get from start to finish without that classic hate-their-guts antagonist.

Creating conflict without a “villain”

If you don’t have a set, identifiable villain, you might ask, then how do you create that conflict that makes a novel—especially a romance novel—a page-turner?

Well, here are three suggestions:

1. Struggle against societal expectations

Think Pride and Prejudice. There is no real villain keeping Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy apart. It’s Mr. Darcy’s societal standing, really, that is the source of conflict here. It is everyone in Mr. Darcy’s upper-crust sphere, and the expectations they’ve put on Mr. Darcy his whole life, that is keeping them apart. Throw in a bit of stubbornness on both sides, and an insipid mother, and you’ve got a great, villainless story.

Try having your hero and heroine come from two different classes. Perhaps he’s a tavern owner and she a debutante. Perhaps she’s a London pickpocket and he’s head of Scotland Yard. With society against your protagonist lovers, you don’t need to introduce a villain to keep them apart.

2. Struggle against external conflict

Ah, external conflict. The bread and butter of historical romances. Who needs a classic villain when you’ve got the Wars of Scottish Independence to keep your lovers apart? Or maybe your hero and heroine are fighting for their love in the upheaval of Revolutionary France.

Many authors try to introduce a classic villain into historical circumstances when one isn’t necessary. Let the history create the conflict. Or if not history, then write your romance around external events that are beyond your protagonists’ control.

3. Struggle against internal conflict

If you don’t have historical or societal pressures to work with, try introducing internal conflict. For example, your hero might not think he’s not good enough for his lady love because of his poor upbringing. If you want a real example, then consider the first book and a half of the Twilight series, where Edward is struggling against his love for Bella because of his … er … nasty little habit of sucking things dry.

A word of caution, though, on internal conflict. You have to be smart about it. There is a fine line between great internal conflict, and stupidity. Your readers won’t thank you for a masochist protagonist, who constantly sabotages his or her own happiness because they’ve got all kinds of ridiculous hold-ups.

We all love a good villain. Keyword here is good villain. Don’t feel you need to introduce one just because. If you can’t write a villain that readers can at least identify with on some level, or at some point in your story, you’d probably be better to downsize your cast by one evil dude or dudette. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Quantity vs. Quality Conundrum

This morning, as I was scrolling Twitter looking for tips, tricks and things I can re-tweet, I came across a link to a blog post about the problem with quantity-driven writing.

As an author of romantic fiction, this is something I—along with my legion of fellow scribblers—struggle with. You need to stay relevant; you need readers to keep finding more new stuff from you. So you’re under constant pressure to keep writing, keep publishing, keep developing storylines.

But heaven help you if you start pushing out crap!

It’s a hard balance to maintain, and many authors, even traditionally published authors, can’t keep up the pace. In Goodreads I came across one review for a book I’d recently read which stated, “I don’t bother with anything that [author name omitted] has written post 1999.”

My own mother warned me off reading a certain well-known romance author because her newer books were nothing but insufferable, second-rate rehashes of her previous successes (my mom’s words, not mine).

What’s a writer to do?

If world-renowned New York Times-ers can’t manage that balance over the long haul … what hope do I have?

Or, in a less self-pitying tone, how do I stay fresh and deliver quality content, and how do I balance that with getting it out fast?

… I don’t have any answers. I’m sorry if you’ve read this far thinking I was going to divulge the secret.

Writing for the long-haul

I’ve made no secret of it before: I have no pity for writers who are out solely to make money. Of course earning a living off your writing is important, but if you’re not in it for the long-haul, if writing is not your true vocation, then I’m not talking about you in this post.

For me, my books are important. What readers think of my books are important. I care deeply about pleasing. So it’s with the long-haul in mind that I ask the following question:

Readers, what is important to you?

What do you make of this need to push out books with a high degree of frequency, and what does that mean for the kinds of stories you want to read? Do you know and love an author that delivers quality stories with consistency? Do you lament an author who has perhaps let his or her standards slide in the constant push for quantity and relevance?

I’d love to hear from you. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Don't Beat Yourself Up ... But for Pete's Sake, Get a Move On!

I spent an hour and a half vacuuming my unfinished basement last night. Even as I was doing it, my brain was telling me, "Vero, this is probably the most useless chore you've ever spent time on." But of course, the most useless things suddenly become important when you just don't want to write.

It's a shame, too, because it was the quietest hour and a half I've had all week. It would have been the perfect time to pull out my laptop, brew a nice peppermint tea and sit down to tap out another chapter of my work-in-progress (A Noble Deception, by the way, coming soon ... shameless plug).

The (Un)Glamorous Writing Life

Writing is a tough gig ... as any writer will tell you. It takes a heck of a lot of mental energy to summon the voices in your head and translate them to paper (or word processor or whatever your medium of choice is). And when you just don't have it in you to write, it's almost impossible to force yourself to sit down and do so.

Unlike other nine-to-fives, writers have no down time. Any down time is prime writing time. Because of this, most writers live in a constant state of guilt: I have no energy to write; I should be writing; I just can't do it; I should be doing it.

And so on and so on. 

Make no mistake: the writing life is NOT glamorous. You spend half your time drilling your fingers into your keyboard, and the other half of your time berating yourself because you can't seem to park your rear in front of your computer and force yourself to write.

The Writer's Conundrum

There seems to be two recurring tips for writers on the issue of discipline. The first is that you need to sit down and write every day. Even if you don't feel like it, get your bum in your seat and start writing. Search #writingtips on Twitter and, guaranteed, you'll find that piece of advice about a million times.

The second common writing tip is ... don't beat yourself up if you don't write every day.

??? Well which one is it? 

The Art of Compromising

Okay, so I'm sure that this has probably been proposed before, and it wasn't me who came up with the idea. But I like to think that since I arrived at this conclusion on my own, that's got to count for something.

The key is to know when you write best. Identify the time of the day when you are most productive, and then exploit it. For me, I write best in the morning. And I have a favourite diner around the corner from my house where I love to go for a spot of coffee and a good, old-fashioned fry up. What better time is there to write? I grab my laptop and I type away over my bacon and eggs and I get quite a lot done. 

If you can do that, the next step is to identify when you don't write well. I don't write well in the evening. I know this. Coronation Street's on ... nuff said. So when I don't write at the times that I know I don't write well, I try not to beat myself up about it. I'm wasting prime writing time, sure, but I did take advantage of more prime writing time in the morning.

Give Yourself A Break ... But Try to Push Yourself ... But Don't Beat Yourself Up ...

Being a writer is hard, and we writers tend to make it harder on ourselves by being the toughest critics of our own work and writing habits. Yes, we need to push ourselves. Yes we need to give ourselves a break. But we need to set ourselves up for success by recognizing when the right times to push and the right times to relax are. 

That said, it's 7:30pm, and I'm now sitting down to an episode of "The Supersizers" with Giles Coren and Sue Perkins. My half finished novel can wait. Moira MacInnes and Lachlan Ramsay, I'll see you tomorrow morning over a plate of peameal and scrambled.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Managing Twitter Stress with a Posting Schedule

Twitter is a tough business. You have to be posting constantly if you want to attract new followers and - more importantly - keep the followers you've gained. And what you're posting has to be valuable to your followers. They need a reason to keep following you, after all.

It's only fair. But it's also labour-intensive. And if you're like me, an author-blogger trying to build your name and your platform, your blog content is probably taking a back seat to your in-progress manuscript ... or worse, you're neglecting your manuscript in order to produce content for your blog.

Talk about your double-edged sword.

The Beauty of Twitter

One of the great things about Twitter is that you don't need to produce your own content to share great content with your followers. Twitter is saturated with writers - great writers with great insight on everything to do with writing and blogging and marketing and what have you.

By sharing other bloggers' posts, you not only provide valuable content to your own followers, you help market your fellow writers and extend their reach.

It's a beautifully digital twist on the classic symbiotic relationship.

But once again, if you're like me, time is an issue. You have to spend time looking for valuable content to share. You've got to get yourself organized with the author's Twitter handle, a Bitly link (or an Owly link, or whatever), and an understanding of the content you're sharing.

Something that's meant to save time is still pretty labour-intensive.

Enter the Posting Schedule

I got the idea for a posting schedule from an acquaintance whose job is social media in a corporate environment. With this brilliant little tool, she organizes her Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest posts a month in advance.

Admittedly, as a writer, I don't quite need the same degree of organization to my Twitter activity. So I adapted the posting schedule to my own purpose.

Here's How

  • When you have time, search Twitter for interesting posts that you feel your followers might find valuable
  • Create a shortened link right away and record it in a spreadsheet 
  • Record the title of the post, the author's Twitter handle, and the website's Twitter handle if the author has written a guest post
  • Keep a column where you can record the date of when you made the post

Keep all these things in a running spreadsheet for later use - when you are strapped for time but want to send out a tweet or two to keep yourself active on Twitter. 

It's kind of like the glycemic index, isn't it? You compile a list of three or four valuable posts at a time, as time permits, and hold onto them for sustained release.

Here is what my current posting schedule looks like:

And here's a helpful hint: if you use different computers at different times of the day (perhaps you're at work, or using a tablet when you're away from your personal computer), create your spreadsheet through Google Docs. You can then access and work on your posting schedule whenever - you are not limited by access to only one computer. If you have wifi, you can work.

Sharing other writers' content is just one of the many ways you can be a valuable contributor in the Twittersphere. To keep control of the stress of having to find things to tweet, organize yourself by using a posting schedule.

I've been doing it for a while now, and it's been working great for me.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Struggling with My Niche ... What IS My Niche?

If you're an indie author, you've got to blog.

At least, that's what I've been told by, like, just about every "how to" blog post I've seen. Blogging increases your following. Blogging makes you more visible.

... It's also a major time-suckage.

Whether it is, or is not, necessary, I've gotten myself into it, and I'll be damned if I'm going to give up on it now (persistence ... it's one of my more unattractive qualities).

What Should I Blog About?

Lately I've fallen into a trap: I've spent several posts on writing tips. Why have I done this? Peer pressure, I guess. I've seen all those blog posts out there that say "five tips for ..." and "how to ..." and I thought, that's what people want to read.

But ... is that really what I want to blog about?

Don't get me wrong, as an author, I've learned a few things about creating a manuscript. I know a trick or two about how to craft a gripping plot. I even know what makes a good character.

But I'm not just about the craft of writing. And I don't pretend to be an expert on it.

So Again ... What Should I Blog About?

I've come to a realization: I'm a writer.

I'm a writer. And as a writer, I spend a lot of time brooding. Thinking. Musing. I outline stories in my head for the fun of it. I scope out character flaws while I'm on the treadmill. In short, I'm a deep, deep thinker.

Yes, I know a bit about the craft of writing. Sure, I can write "how to" posts and then send them out on twitter with the hashtag #writingtips. And every now and then I'll want to share some of the knowledge I've gleaned in the past ... well, X number of years.

But that's not the limit of my interests. And that doesn't have to be the niche I plunk myself into as a blogger.

My niche, I've decided, is the author-blogger, and I've only just been able to define what that means to me. It means that I've got to trust the voices in my head. Heck, they've never led me wrong in my books. It's time I let them have free reign on my blog posts.

Have I been musing over the merits of a clean-cut hero versus a rough-and-tumble one? Did I watch a movie that has influenced my latest project? What did I think of the latest book I've read?

The Author's Blog - Not Just A How-To

Writing endless how-to blog posts seems to be a popular thing to do. And if I wanted to, I could probably continue to follow the herd.

But I'm a writer. I'm about challenging myself. And finding things to blog about other than "five secrets to a great plot" or "how to write a loveable lead" is a challenge. It's also kind of scary, because it means I have to put myself out there. It means I have to expose my flaws, my self-doubts and my sometimes-lack-of-expertise.

Then again, writing and publishing my first novel was kind of scary. I had to do all those things then, too.

And you know? Somehow I came out better for it. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

(Not So) Secondary Characters

In life, we meet countless people who are secondary characters to our life story: our neighbours; our colleagues; the servers at our favourite coffee shop. These people don't exist solely to serve our life stories. They are their own entities. They have their own back stories, their own personalities, and their own actions, reactions, thoughts and feelings.

But our novels aren't real life, and often the importance of secondary characters are overlooked in the author's pursuit of the plot. They exist because they have to: you can't have your hero and heroine falling in love in the empty Scottish Highlands, after all. 

When we're plodding along, committing our brilliant little stories to paper (or word processor), we often focus too much on the main characters and not enough on the secondary characters. 

To the detriment of our finished books.

Why are Secondary Characters Important?

Main characters are the meat of your story. They are what everyone can't wait to dig into; they are what everyone congratulates the chef on. But you can't have a balanced dinner without the veg, starch, and cheesecake for dessert. 

Secondary characters are like your side dishes. Boiled potatoes, steamed carrots and undressed lettuce are pretty forgettable. But scalloped potatoes with cheese, maple-glazed carrots and caesar salad with bacon, on the other hand ... well, you get my point.

(My apologies to the vegetarians reading this post, as an aside.)

Secondary characters need to be fleshed out. They need to have their own, individual voices, their own flaws and quirks, and their own back stories. They are what give your story vibrancy. And, more importantly, they help bring your hero and heroine to life, too. They are the catalysts that propel the actions, thoughts and feelings of your main characters.

Spoiler Alert ...

Take, for example, my Highland Loyalties series. Would anyone have cared about Ruth's violent and untimely death if she'd been only a stock character? An un-opinionated, impersonal maid who cleans out Lady Jane's chamber pot every morning would have earned very few tears when she's wrongly hanged for treason.

Or Tearlach (that's Scots for Charles, by the way). Would anyone have cared whether or not he survived the final battle with Baron D'Aubrey's men if he weren't the loyal, fatherly figure to Robbie MacGillivray, but instead was just the stand-in character that represented the Dunloch steward?

Secondary Characters Matter

As with real people, your secondary characters should be living, breathing entities. Memorable secondary characters are what make your readers care about the story as a whole. Spend time introducing them to your readers, spend time developing them into the multi-faceted gems they are. They deserve to be as much a part of your novel as your hero and heroine do.

And, if you serialize your novels, they can in turn become main characters themselves. Bonus!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Head-Hopping - Why the Dual POV is a Powerful Tool

Have you ever heard of the term head-hopping? Lately, a lot of the blog posts I seem to be reading warn against head-hopping. They claim that using a dual point-of-view (or a triple, or even a multiple point-of-view) can ruin a story if it’s not done right.

I admit that dual points-of-view need to be done correctly. If you head-hop, you need to make sure your reader understands a) that the hop has taken place and b) whose head they’ve hopped into.

That aside, though, head-hopping can be an effective tool. Especially for romance novels, where emotion is a significant aspect of the plot.

So then, what does head-hopping do that makes it such an effective tool?

1. It keeps the narrative fresh

How many times have you read a book where you’ve been in the heroine’s head from start to finish? Doesn’t that get a bit boring after a while?

If you’re writing in the first person, then there’s no help for this; everything needs to be filtered through your main character since it’s s/he who is telling the story.

But if you’re writing from a third-person-omniscient perspective, you don’t have to stay in one character’s thoughts. You can explore different situations, give them different twists, and tell them with a different voice by seeing them through a shifting lens.

2. It encourages sympathy for a character

Take a quick peek at Amazon’s reviews, and chances are you’ll find at least one where the reader lamented that they didn’t like a character, or they just couldn’t sympathize with them. Head-hopping helps you get past this roadblock.

Take these two different perspectives on the same situation:

Lady Cora glared at the handsome Lord John who her father had just told her she must marry. Must marry? It was not fair! Why must she simply submit to her father’s will? Anger flared inside her, and fresh tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. She held them in, determined that she would not cry.

And ...

Lord John waited for Lady Cora to say something. She glared at him with all the defiance of her wilful nature. But underneath it he saw the turmoil she fought hard to suppress. A tender sorrow blossomed in his breast as her eyes glistened with fresh tears which the lady refused to shed.

Both scenarios are meant to inspire sympathy for our Lady Cora. But with the first one, if it’s not handled carefully, she can end up looking like a spoiled brat (you might almost expect her to stomp her foot and threaten to hold her breath). With the second one, we see the reaction her suffering inspires in Lord John, and we are more likely to agree with his sympathy for her.

Dual (or multiple) points-of-view are the most effective way to keep your story interesting and multi-faceted. It is a more engaging, and a more malleable option for driving home the emotions you want to evoke in your readers.

It’s a powerful tool. Don’t shy away from it.