What is this Patreon you speak of?

Until recently, I had not heard of the fundraising app known as Patreon and, when I did, I brushed it off as another Go Fund Me application where friends and family might throw a few dollars your way before the repeated posting gets annoying and they hide the content forever.

Then I noticed a Patreon posted by a writer I adore. Her work is edgy and fun and new. I clicked. I learned. I loved. Now I support her through a tiny monthly pledge that comes automatically out of my PayPal account. In return, I get access to her words of wisdom (which, as a new author, is invaluable), snippets of her works in progress, and access to short stories that she doesn’t release anywhere else.

What's Your Story

When I researched this relatively new application, I found it is actually a new twist on an old concept of artists and writers seeking out wealthy patrons for support. The difference is that today’s artists and writers are not looking for a single rich patron. Instead, they are seeking many everyday lovers of the arts to support what they love in a way that benefits everyone involved.

Since beginning my research, I have seen this tool used for the publication of online magazines, for music tracks and narration, for sketches and stories and workshops in various stages of completion. Some charge by post. Some charge by month. Some have one cost. Others have tier pricing. Some even have rewards. The one I follow currently offers increasing rewards as you increase in amount of support. Rewards may include a poem a week, writing prompts, tips for querying, ability to name a future character, or feedback on the first ten pages of a work in progress (WIP).

One of the things I really like about Patreon is your ability to keep it running for as long as your followers want your content and you can produce that content. This also seems to be the most draining part of the application. Your followers will demand getting what they pay for. That means you must produce: weekly, monthly, yearly, continuously. Those that succeed do so by following a very strict calendar of posts. They have rewards they can consistently provide.

The benefits of the hard work that goes into maintaining a Patreon site are loyal followers who you know appreciate your particular skill and style and income. I spoke to several authors who use this tool. Most indicated an income stream of between 100 and 300 dollars per month. This may not seem like a lot but, as one new author said, “For those who are struggling to get a career off the ground, this is a bill or two that wouldn’t otherwise get paid,” and you cannot even imagine what that means to those of us determined to make this writing thing work.”

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One author indicated earnings in excess of 500 dollars per month, but according to her that is after many hours of nurturing and massaging the content and the needs of the followers. “It is a marketing strategy. You have to treat it as part of your job.”

Another author indicated earnings of less than 100 dollars a month. “I decided early on,” she told me, “that I just couldn’t write fast enough to build this platform in a money-making way. Instead, I keep going to give back to other writers. Whatever I make each month, I divvy-up between Patreon creators I support.” What a great idea!

There is one thing that everyone I talked to agreed upon: You have to have a tough skin to maintain an account such as this. You will lose followers as their finances change. You will often feel like you are pouring hours of work into a void. It may take months or years to establish a site that actually makes enough to pay a bill.

Self-promotion is tedious.

The bottom line for most of us utilizing social media is community and connection. After much research, I believe Patreon is a great way to foster that while giving back to those we aspire to be ourselves someday.

Do you have a Patreon account? Tell me about it below. I would love to check out your content.

Writing Tips That Have Served Me Well

writingjourneyIn December, my first novel will hit the selves. That both excites and terrifies me. It also gives me pause. It has been a journey like the journey of most aspiring authors. I started full of ideas and passion. It got hard. I got stuck. I stopped. I got a renewed sense of determination. I started again. I felt as if what I was writing was shit. I stopped. I got a renewed sense of determination. I started again. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

When I finally started a writing regime, it was because I surrounded myself with other writers who struggled every day along-side of me. From this phenomenal group of authors in various stages of success, I learned more than I could ever relate to you in a short blog. However, there was advice given along the way that will fit nicely into this tiny space.

Here, I offer you 10 tidbits of advice from those who came before:

  1. Read outside of your comfort zone. This does not mean that you should stop reading romance if you write romance. It means instead that you should also read fantasy and thrillers and whatever else you can get your hands on. Reading outside of your comfort zone allows you to pay more attention to structure and word placement and flow.
  2. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet during your writing times. You can create settings that will keep your social media sites unavailable during particular hours. You can go to a coffee shop and NOT ask for the WiFi password. You can even write the old fashioned way with pen and paper and leave your computer in another room. Once your brain learns the new habit, it will let go and let you write.
  3. When you are working through a scene or a chapter or your final rough draft, print it out, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read it out loud. Make notes in the margins. Cross through what doesn’t work and read it aloud again. Reading out loud stops your eyes from skipping over words and punctuation. This is a trick I use with my beginning students during peer review. It works wonders.
  4. Stay away from exclamation points except in the rarest of instances. They are the lazy way to show your reader she should be excited. K. M. Weiland talks about when it is okay to use the exclamation point. Check out her site before you add another one to your page.
  5. Find a space where you feel comfortable to write. Some people prefer a quiet office at home. Others, like me, prefer a local coffee shop where there are other people typing and laughing. Regardless of where you find your space, protect it (even from people you love).
  6. Always have a way to capture your thoughts when they are occuring. Carry a notebook. Use a phone app such as S-Note. Keep a Notes Cube in your bathroom and another one next to your bed. I have one friend who even has a dry erase board in her shower. Snippets of brilliance typically come when we are doing mindless chores. If you do not capture them, they will be gone. I use mine when I am stuck with a character or scene. Going through the little squares of paper always amazes me. There is always so much I forgot.
  7.  Cut words to make your work stronger. It took me a minute to fully accept this one, but it works to help speed pacing and dialogue. If you are unsure of words that might need to go, start with “really” and “very.” These are useless modifiers. Instead, look for stronger verbs to convey meaning. Other words I have been dinged on include had, that, literally, totally, and just. You likely have a set all your own. If you do not know how to search and find these pesky words, Diana Urban shows you (and gives 43 words of her own that should be cut from your draft).
  8. Don’t panic. Well, you will panic. It will happen when you are sitting alone looking at the awful paragraph you just typed and when you cannot figure out how to get a character from where he is to where he needs to be. It will happen when you realize you do not know enough about landing a punch to write a fight scene and when you think of anyone in the world reading your work. When it happens, take a walk. Do jumping jacks. Go get a cup of coffee. Pet the dog. Start laundry. When you finish, sit back down and force yourself to write. My dad used to say, “The only way to the other side is through.” Now I know what he meant, and he was right.
  9. Learn the rules of good writing. Join writing groups in person and/or online. Read “Writing Tools 50 Strategies for Every Writer,” by Roy Peter Clark. Go back to my first tip. This time, read to see what parts you skip over. Look for similar writing in your own draft. Take a grammar class. Punctuation does matter. Take a writing class that focuses on what you love to write. Learn the language of the fiction author.
  10. Build your platform. This is one of the hardest pieces of advice I received. I am a total introvert. It isn’t that I don’t like people. I do. They just drain me, and I have to work very hard to figure out what to say to not end up standing in awkward silence. In today’s world of social media, it is possible to fall into the “just click like” trap. You think you are communicating. You aren’t. You have to take time to comment in a meaningful way to others. Learn how to use social media platforms. You don’t have to use them all. Maybe you are a Tweeter. Or perhaps you prefer the visuals on Instagram or the freedom of blogging. One (or all) is fine. Many writers have email lists. I haven’t done this yet, I will admit, but it is on my list. Head on over to the blog of Jeff Goin for some great tips on lists. I have it saved for later. The key is to post regularly (once a day, once a week, once a month, whatever, but post) and respond to others often.

I would love to hear your ideas and tips. Aspiring authors are everywhere. We all want the same thing: to have others like what we write. Let’s help one another get there.

Close your eyes to see

Editing sucks.

There. I said it.

Except it doesn’t have to, or at least I don’t think it does.

I am not saying that it doesn’t stink when your editor or beta reader says something like, “Good premise, but I can’t connect to the character” or “I like where you were going, but the scene fell flat” or even, “Grammatical errors make this section unreadable.”

What I am saying is that there are things that you can do in your own editing before you send your work to a content, copy, and/or line editor to make the comments fewer and the sting lesser.

One place that I have realised I can improve when I begin the editing process is in the area of an overall scene. Sometimes I am so into the story, and I know the story so well, that I zoom past a scene leaving it lacking in movement.

A scene has to employ the senses. A scene needs body language.

Read one of your own scenes.

Is your character clenching their fists, making notes in a notebook, removing their glasses and rubbing the bridge of their nose?

We do not just stand or sit and talk. Did a character bring coffee? Maybe she is stirring in a spoon of sugar that is long dissolved.

What does your character’s voice sound like? Intonation? Pitch? Tone?

Don’t just use the three commonly used senses – Sight, touch, and hearing – but expand your reach and go for taste and smell, as well. Is your character outside? Can he smell a freshly cut lawn (which tells us it is likely not winter and the weather is warm and sunny)? What does it smell like to him? Why?

Details are important. They are what gives your reader a more intimate glimpse into the psyche of your character. It is what begins to layer the complexities of your character.

As you reread your scene, look for conflicting emotions, spontaneous actions and reactions, and flaws.

Is your character three dimensional on the page?

I read about a character who was house hunting with her wife. The author never said she was freakishly tall, but she did describe the bend in her shoulders as she ducked under each door frame, and her wife did tell us that one of her favorite parts of being married to her wife was that she never had to use a ladder to retrieve the china that they kept on the highest shelf in the pantry.

Finally, after you read your scene, close your eyes.

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Check to see if you can see what your character is feeling from their movements and reactions. Have you painted a picture that you can see? If you cannot close your eyes and see, your reader will not be able to either. Rewrite the scene the way it is playing in your mind while your eyes are closed. Your character needs to feel/react/act so the reader can experience the moments with them.

15 great NaNoWriMo prep sites

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Every August students return to my community college world. Students make me think of English classes. English classes make me think of writing. Writing makes me think of 50,000 words in 30 days.

Nanowrimo is the acronym for the yearly event known as National Novel Writing Month, a month where writers of all ages and abilities come together to not only write 50,000 words, but to meet other writers intent on doing the same. Since its inception in July of 1999, this event has steadily grown from 21 participants to over 400,000 in 2017.

Each year, many writers join NaNoWriMo for the first time. Their reasons vary, but their desire is the same as it is for those returning to write again and again: To motivate and be motivated by those who love to write. So how can you set yourself up for success?

  1. Start prepping now, and
  2. Check out these 15 pages for clues and suggestions for proper preparation

Learn how NaNoWriMo works

How to prepare for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo forums

A 10-year veteran talks tips and tricks for success

Are you a planner or a panster?

How to outline for NaNoWriMo

More outlining tips for the plotters out there

Characters and themes cheatsheet

A short video talking about books for NaNo prep

Learn about “Storyist” and how the tool can help you plan for NaNoWriMo

Four week success plan for an October prep

NaNoWriMo truth or dare

13 prompts to trigger character building

Three rules for successful world building

Four tips for surviving a writing marathon

I would love to hear about other prep sites you have used. Drop me a comment below.

Write What You Know

Most of us have heard this advice and thought, “But what I know is boring,” or “What I know has already been written.”

Here’s the thing.

“Write what you know” is not about me writing a story about a woman who got pregnant at 17, married at 18, had some more kids, and divorced before she was 21 (though it might make for a damn good story).

“Write what you know” really should be “Write what emotion you know.”

What's Your Story

When I got pregnant at 17, I was scared. Not the “I just watched a scary movie and now I need the lights on” scared, but the deep in your bones, life-changing, all alone scared that doesn’t go away no matter how many lights we leave on. I now know that scared intimately. I can apply that scared to my characters in high stake situations.

That type of scared is the scared that I apply to Katia Billings, a twenty-something emergency worker who finds remains of a woman in a dune on Buxton Beach. An EMS worker finding a body isn’t where my knowledge of this kind of scared comes in. It is when she realizes the body is that of her ex-girlfriend’s mother, a woman who has treated her like a second daughter, that I pull from that knowledge of deep in your bones, life changing, all alone scared that I felt when I was 17.

My challenge to you is to allow yourself to remember and feel the hard emotions. What character have you created who can be brought more to life by applying that emotion? Put him or her in a situation and put the emotion in his or her gut. What happens next will determine the story you write.

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