advice from authors

Going Over This One More Time — Nobody Has to Read Your Stuff

I’ve talked about this on my blog several times because it’s an issue for me. Others might relate, I don’t know, but I’ve gone through life with this attitude of entitlement that if I create something, PEOPLE SHOULD NOTICE IT. I’m not sure where this comes from. I often wonder if I’m pounding this into my child as she grows up — if by the fact that she’s a single child and gets so much attention for every little thing she does, if I’m somehow teaching her that her whole life (with anyone) will be that way. When obviously it won’t. Maybe everyone deals with this. I know I’m not the only author who has felt offense when close friends and family don’t read what she’s written, let alone recognize it.

The good thing is, after dwelling on this subject many times, I’m finally to a point where I’m over it. Mostly. Okay, it comes back full force sometimes. Once in awhile I’ll find myself getting all huffy and puffy with the entitlement attitude, and I have to stop and back up and give myself another talk and slap upside the head.

Since I just recently released another novel into the world, I’ve found myself slipping back into old habits and becoming bitter all over again. Life is tricky, at least for me. I find myself constantly trying to keep my pride and humility nice and healthy, but pride can easily slip into a sense of entitlement, and humility can easily slip into self-hating. When I’ve let both slip, I’m a mean, nasty human being. Just ask some of my friends who let me complain to them when I’m in this sort of foul mood. They are true friends if they still like me after that.

All I’m saying here today is that when it comes to your writing, unless you’re paying someone for a service, nobody owes you anything. I’ve learned it’s important not to make others feel obligated for anything. I humbly ask for help when I need it, like when I release a book and am unable to pay for marketing, so ask others to spread the word if they feel so inclined, but I try to make it clear these days that I don’t expect anyone to do anything for me out of obligation. My family should not feel obligated to read any of my books just because they’re related to me. My friends should not feel obligated to ready any of my books just because they’re my friends. Other published authors connected to me should not feel obligated to read my books just because they know me and we’re connected through “being published”.

I’ve found, most of all, that if someone reads something else out of obligation, they’re much more likely to harbor negative feelings toward it, no matter how good the writing is, simply because they felt obligated. Why would I want that? I don’t. I think I’d rather have a very, very small circle of readers who genuinely appreciate my writing rather than a gigantic circle of readers who feel obligated for some reason or another.

It’s nice to be admired, noticed, and appreciated. It really is, but to seek after those things is something I’m learning to back away from more and more. Those kinds of things come in time, and with hard work. They are byproducts of healthy (key word: healthy) relationships with friends and family, and let’s not forget, dedicated fans. Those healthy relationships take time and effort and a good dose of selflessness.

As JA Konrath recently said in a great post about how to Tend Your Garden: No one said it would be fair. Or easy. Or fun. No one owes you a living … and there are no guarantees.”

Harsh words, maybe? Or harshly true? All I know is that a sense of entitlement is a very bad thing when it comes to writing. Erase that, and a writer is much more likely to find lasting happiness in the tough world of writing and publishing.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing

The Day I Quit Writing

I remember the day I quit writing. It was the day I graduated college with my creative writing degree. A few weeks later I got married. My life completely changed, and in all honesty, I was so burned out from four years straight of school that I decided I was truly finished. I didn’t have any desire to write, any desire to read, any desire to do anything but move on with my life and figure other stuff out — like how to be married.

For the next five years, I wrote three mediocre poems and read one set of books (the Harry Potter series). FIVE YEARS. I really had given up. Completely. My lifelong dream of becoming a published novelist had been flushed down the toilet because the desire … it was gone. My muse? She’d packed up and left. But I did keep creating. I learned photography. I bought expensive camera equipment. I bought expensive software. I learned how to use it really well.

And get this. I was happy.

Yes, I was happy with not writing. I had a child. I had a husband. I was creating artistic things with my photography. I was fulfilled. I didn’t need writing to make me whole at that point in my life … and that was a valuable lesson, probably the most valuable lesson I will ever learn as a writer.

When my daughter was eight months old, we moved into a new place, and I realized that I had been in a bit of a rut the past few years. My photography didn’t seem “special” anymore. It wasn’t fulfilling me in the ways I needed. I started to look backwards at a time I had shoved far, far away — college, high school, days when the only thing that made me feel alive was writing. Since photography wasn’t fulfilling me anymore, I wondered if that old dream of mine might give me what I need …

I pulled up an old manuscript, one I’d shoved so far into the dark that I thought it could never possibly resurface. It was 30,000 words. It was the most horrible piece of fiction ever. A friend of mine read it and told me it had potential. It was like riding a bike all over again. It was painful and I fell over countless times, but eventually that desire to write came back full force. Like a freaking freight train barreling into my life. My poor husband. He’d never known me as a writer. He had no idea who this Crazy Obsessed Person was living in his house. She never slept. She kept talking about stories and girls being kidnapped. She made him read poorly written prose. My poor husband.

A friend of mine has been asking herself lately why she writes. She wonders why she tortures herself like this? My comment to her was to quit writing and find out, not that she should do that, of course, but it’s what I had to do. I quit. Completely. AND I WAS STILL HAPPY … (at that point in my life). But then I got to a point in my life where that happiness was waning. Right now I need to write, whether nobody reads my books when I put them out there or a lot of people read them when I put them out there. It doesn’t matter. I will share regardless of outcome. And I might get to a point in my life that I don’t need writing anymore. I have no idea. I can’t predict the future. But for now, writing fulfills me in ways no other creative endeavor can. The important thing to remember is that writing is not what makes me who I am. Who I am is what makes my writing.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Writing Process

Failure Can Make You Bulletproof

A good online friend of mine recently shared a TED talk with me. It’s a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I admire greatly because I’ve shared another talk of hers from a few years back that I continue to listen to several times a year. This new talk — Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating (see video below) — is even more meaningful to me than Elizabeth’s first. In light of some of my recent publishing failures, none of which I can tactfully talk about here in public, I desperately needed to hear the truth she tells.

I’ve often forgotten how to get back “home”, as Elizabeth calls it. She makes it clear that your “home” has to be that thing you love more than yourself.

That thing for me? Writing. More than anything else, writing transcends me in every way possible. When I go to that creative place, I am able to see myself and ultimately step beyond myself … and share that experience with others. Without writing to explore everything I am and believe in, I would be a very, very, very lost and lonely soul.

Failure has the ability to make you bulletproof. Despite hitting what I consider darn near close to rock bottom … and knowing I can hit it again even harder in the future … I’m still fiercely devoted to my writing, probably more now than I have ever been. And I’m not going to stop. I may fail in many ways, but never at writing. So how could I possibly quit and not consider that the biggest failure of all?

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

click here for video if it does not appear

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive

IWSG March 2014 — My Last Post

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge As I have shifted my feelings for where I belong in the publishing world, and consequently what I want out of my writing, this blog and the way I use social media has shifted as well. Simply put, the kind of author I am is one who needs a lot more privacy than I’ve been allowing myself. More than anything, I’d rather be writing. It truly is the best way I can share myself.

This may be my last post for IWSG, but it is not the last post here on my blog. I’ll continue to post here, but my posts will be more project-centered, focusing more on my writing projects for those truly interested. Thanks to everyone who has supported me while I’ve blogged with IWSG!

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG February 2014 — Are We in an Age of Writing for Other Writers?

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge

It was the late 90’s when I started writing my first novel. It was an era of adult novels, when John Grisham was having his heyday and there was no such as thing as a Young Adult section in the library or bookstore. It was also an era of isolation because I didn’t even know what an email address was, let alone the internet.

But most of all, I didn’t know a single other writer doing what I was doing — writing novels.

I wrote in complete and utter bliss. I look back on that time with wonder and awe because not only was I writing whatever I wanted how I wanted, but I was never once told that I was doing something wrong by another writer. If I felt that at any point, it was only because I was comparing my unpublished novel to published novels.

All of this changed, of course, when I entered the realm of college and became a creative writing major. I was suddenly surrounded by writers, professors, and even published authors. I felt pressure. I felt lower than low. I stopped writing novels and focused on only poetry and short stories instead. My ego was crushed probably a thousand times. But it was all good! I grew as a writer.

Now, in an era where just putting my big toe into the waters of social networking and blogging, I am surrounded even more by opinions, advice, and ways to compare my work. It seems everywhere I turn — online and offline — I am surrounded by other writers. Sometimes it feels like EVERYBODY WRITES, and if they don’t, a large portion of them seem to want to write. I’m not even sure why I get unnerved by this, but maybe it’s because I feel heavily influenced on so many sides now. For a long time, I’ve often felt I am writing, selling, marketing, and getting feedback from only one group: other writers. I know it’s not entirely true, of course, but sometimes it feels that way.

In all honesty, especially when I’m feeling insecure, I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a great thing. After all, writers are readers too, and if more people are reading, that’s a good thing right? It’s also good to interact with other writers and make those incredible connections. I do know nobody can tell a story exactly the way I tell it, but I’m not sure if the rest of the world sees it that way, especially when there are so many books and it’s getting harder and harder to be seen, let alone read. I guess that’s my true insecurity right there — I’m afraid of getting lost in the grand shuffle of the ever-growing realm of writers. Are you?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

A Letter to An Author Friend on Her Debut

Dear Sara B. Larson,

I really loved your debut novel, DEFY! I’m excited  you’ve stepped into the world of the Published Author — a world I’m sure you’ve noticed by now is quite different for everyone. Like your main character, Alexa, who pretends to be a male warrior, I’ve found that I’ve also felt nobody understands me and never will, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to hide forever.

Today  I’m going to step away from my hiding and boldly dispel two things about being a published author — at least, things I’ve dealt with and seen many other authors deal with. You may or may not find yourself in my shoes at some point, or maybe you’ve already experienced some of these things. Whatever the case may be, I hope this dream you have reached continues to shine around the edges, no matter what!  

Jealousy

I think most authors get extremely envious of each other and don’t admit it. It’s not the nicest thing ever to talk about in public. But, I’ve found that if I admit my jealousy and face it, I’m a lot more likely to get over it quickly and move on with my life. I’ll admit I’m jealous of your success, Sara. You have an amazing, friendly agent who came to your launch! You are with a pretty sweet publisher, and you are tall and popular and pretty. Oh, I could go on.

The truth of it all is, however, that jealousy often means I want what someone else has, even though it might not be the best thing for me. The truth of it is that jealousy is an opportunity to turn myself around and face the reasons why I’m jealous and what I am overlooking in my own life. Opportunity is never a bad thing. So even though I’m jealous of you, that jealousy has helped me see myself better, and also strengthen my excitement and happiness for your success.

Other People’s Opinions, Namely Reviews

Published authors tell you not to read reviews, but 99% of the authors out there have read them at one point or another. Some of them continue to do so. I used to preach the “don’t read reviews” rule, but lately I’ve begun to see that at least when a new book of mine goes out there into the world, it’s actually quite helpful to know the feedback it’s getting — good and bad, even if it hurts. In the end, I have to admit that it has made me a better writer. If I lived in a sugar-coated world of five-star reviews (or completely unaware of responses on my work), I’m pretty sure I’d lose something important.

So I hope you don’t beat yourself up if you’ve read a few reviews, even if they sting. 

There are many great authors out there who can give better advice than me, but I hope you don’t think of any of this as advice — just me bravely stepping forward to share some of the things I’ve been afraid to admit publicly before. And I owe this to Alexa’s bravery in DEFY. Thank you, Sara, for being brave enough to chase your dreams. 

Standing With You In Publishing Land,

Michelle D. Argyle

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Sara B. Larson can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books. Although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes during naptime and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. Find more about Sara and her debut DEFY on her blog.

“DEFY by Sara Larson is an amazing, fantastic book. It has everything you’d want: intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended.” ­– James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing

IWSG January 2014 — The Problem With the Advice, “Never Give Up”

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI’ve been to a lot of book launches and signings in the past few years. Almost all of the authors who have spoken at these events have said one thing — Never give up! Their message is usually one of comfort and peace to the audience, which is bound to contain hopeful authors wishing they will one day be up there launching their own published book. They go home, their hearts filled with hope and a little bit of jealousy and a lot of motivation to just keep going. They think, If I keep going — if I never give up — I will get that. I will get exactly what I’m working for.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works. At least, my little pessimistic brain and experiences have summed it all up as such. Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience — and sometimes nothing more.

If you  work hard enough, it’s not going to guarantee you an agent or a big publishing deal or a best seller. It’s not going to guarantee you a lot of money and happiness. Hell, it’s not even going to guarantee you an equal amount of what you put in. Especially if that’s the reason you’re never going to give up.

I’ve watched some of my author friends work their fingers to the bone, certain that if they hit the right formula with marketing or self publishing, or tried hard enough, they’d be a best seller — never to become a best seller with that book, or the next books after it. I’ve watched some friends query for years and years and years, finally get an agent, never sell a book with that agent, and then finally leave that agent only to start over again at the bitter beginning. Never giving up.

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Me and Sara B. Larson at her launch for her debut DEFY. Sara never gave up.

And I’ve watched myself start out on almost every endeavor, absolutely certain that this is the one project that will get me exactly what I want — and discover that the only tiny point of “major commercial success” I’ve found so far was on the book that I didn’t do anything for, the one I had very little faith in, the one I just gave to my publisher on a whim because it was sitting there. So I foolishly decide that if I have little faith in anything and repeat that process, maybe I’ll get lucky and see that kind of success again. Yeah, right.

The truth is, life isn’t fair. And it’s incessantly unpredictable. Hard work sometimes gets you nothing but experience and bloody knuckles and a whole lot of frustration. Some authors never sell more than a few copies of their books a month. Ever. No matter how hard they work at it, and it’s not because their writing sucks or they aren’t trying hard enough. They’re often the ones who never stop trying. Some authors don’t hardly try at all and they hit all the jackpots one after the other, making it look easy. And some authors work their butts off and do finally get exactly what they want. For a minute.

But most of us? Most of us are the ones who follow that advice and never give up and find one small success for every ten, twenty, thirty failures — and then forget about those small successes because they seem so freaking far apart. They lose their luster and brilliance, like so many gold coins gathered in a dark, dusty bag at the bottom of our pocket. I imagine that over the course of time, however, that we sometimes dump out those coins and realize that we have gained something, and it’s worth more than we realized. I imagine that no matter the outcome of our “not quitting”, the experience we gain is far greater than those pieces of gold. I imagine our friends’ pieces of gold often look brighter than our own, especially when compared to one another. I imagine, however, that it’s not the actual pieces of gold that sparkle, but the glasses we’re wearing that determine their brightness. And I imagine, going one step further, that it’s the “never giving up” that gives us better glasses to see with.

So the problem with the advice to “never give up” is that I think it so often implies that you’ll get exactly what you want if you follow it. But that’s almost always never true. What you do get is often a quite different version than what you imagined, filled with disappointment, but also satisfaction and some sweet, sweet happiness — usually enough to motivate you to tell others never to give up either.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

Collected Writerly Wisdom of 2013 and How Each One Changed My Life

A long time ago in a year far, far away (2013 to be exact), I started out filled with hope and wonder and enthusiasm. I was going to complete three novels and blow my publisher away with how much I’d grown. I’m glad to say that I did grow … but it certainly wasn’t the experience I’d imagined it would be. It was better and worse at the same time. It was … well, it was life, and that’s a pretty grand thing. I made some new friends, sadly allowed some old friends to fade into the background, lost a publisher, gained my own publishing company, learned a heck of a lot about self-reliance and confidence, and I can honestly say that this comic FINALLY made me feel like I was doing the right thing. I also discovered why Facebook and other social networks make me miserable 90% of the time, and why 2014 is probably going to be the year of me retreating even more into a smaller technological and social bubble than I already have (but I’m okay with that). A friend of mine beautifully pointed out the kind of people we should all strive to be, while I also found the perfect, straightforward guide to understanding The Introverted. And yes, I am proudly part of The Introverted.

As for writing … ah, writing. The beautiful world where you can give yourself writer’s block and basically make yourself a miserable mess, the world where a writer brilliantly describes what REALLY happens after you’re published, and also points out that One Big Realization we all should have remembered to begin with, and a world where it’s painfully essential to remember the absolute, true power of story for all of us. And you know, it REALLY IS OKAY TO SUCK AT WRITING, but most importantly, you must realize that doing what you love doesn’t mean you don’t work your ass off.

So, what the heck ARE average book sales? It’s probably not what you think. Also, sticking to your own uniqueness is vitally important if you want to feel truly successful. But one of the hardest things I learned this year is the danger of needing everyone to like you because, let’s face it, that has always been an issue for me. Since the day I was born. It’s something, that with the help of my lovely friend who wrote that post, I’m slowly learning how to eliminate.

Although 2013 wasn’t the first year I’ve been a published writer, I still learned that almost every published book is something not entirely immune to the seven stages of publishing grief (it happens to everyone who didn’t land in Magical Unicorn Publishing Land). Outside of publishing … dealing with the actual writing, here’s a piece of writing advice that saves me every time. Here’s the key to understanding why your books may be misunderstood, and why you’re doing it wrong if …

This is the best traditional vs. indie article I’ve ever read, and this is the best definition of writerly success I’ve ever read.

But probably the best thing I discovered in 2013 was Kristine Katherine Rusch’s blog. Okay, yes, she writes super long posts, but they are long for a reason, and they’re worth reading every single time. She’s so awesome that as soon as I have a little bit of extra money, I’ll be donating to her blog. Two of the most inspiring blog posts I read of hers this past year are highlighted below.

Like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Robert B. Parker and oh so many others, I want to die with my boots on, facedown on my keyboard if possible, in the middle of a sentence. Which brings me back to this blog. I write from the perspective of a career writer, someone who started as a teenager and plan to finish when my heart stops pumping. I write about survival—long-term survival—in a business that discourages longevity. That’s my point, that’s always my point, in all of these blogs. ~ From Career Writers, Kristine Katherine Rusch
But most professional writers smile a little when they think about NaNoWriMo. Because we’re writing all the time. And improving our craft. And when our books don’t sell well, we wonder if we might be at fault—if we told a flawed story or if we chose a difficult subject matter. If we self-publish, we worry that we might have a bad cover (and we fix it). But mostly, we shrug off the unsuccessful novels and move on to the next novel. Because we’re not artists. We’re professionals. Most people don’t expect a gold star for showing up at their day job every day. They just expect a paycheck. The same with professional writers. Just because we wrote 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean we get a gold star or a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, it doesn’t even mean we get a paycheck. It means that we better get ready to write another book next month. Because that’s what we do. We write. Join the ranks of professional writers. Stop treating writing like an event, and make it a part of your daily life ~ From Reality Check, Kristine Katherine Rusch.

Mostly, with the help of all I’ve shared in links today, 2013 was a time I reflected on what I really want and how I’m going to get it. I realized one very important thing: Writing a novel is not a goal. A writing career is not a goal. Writing is more of a system if it’s going to work in the long run. As long as I’m treating what I do professionally, seriously, and happily, it works. Books are not events. They should be part of a system, and sticking through the thick and thin, the ups and downs, over the long haul, is what matters most. I’m a pretty dang lucky person to be able to write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. That’s the big awesomeness 2013 brought me. It’s more valuable than gold.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the links above. I certainly didn’t choose them lightly! Happy 2014, everyone!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Best Posts for Writers, Think Positive, Writing Process
How To Work With A Cover Designer

How To Work With A Cover Designer

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Today I’m excited to welcome my good friend Natalie Whipple here to the blog to talk about working with a cover designer for her upcoming novel, Relax, I’m a Ninja. Since Natalie has worked with traditional publishers in the past — and this new novel is one she will be independently publishing — this was her first experience working on a cover for one of her novels one-on-one with a designer.

Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations or magical powers like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption. 

She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, pho, and bulgogi.

She is the author of TRANSPARENT, BLINDSIDED (January 2, 2014) and HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW (coming April 15, 2014). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

I’m so proud to show off Michelle’s amazing design for the cover of RELAX, I’M A NINJA (designed under the name Melissa Williams Cover Design). She really captured what I was hoping to in a cover for this book—it’s bold yet simple, cool with a hint of intrigue. So with the revealing of this cover, I thought advice about working with a cover designer would be the perfect fit for a guest post on Michelle’s blog today.

1. Learn About Your Market—Accept Your Market

Your book may be a little different than a certain genre or market, but you still need to learn about the market closest to your novel and what it responds to. If you are writing romance, look at the covers, find the similarities. These are not bad things! This is what an audience takes as a cue. They see a certain type of cover and think, “Oh, this is a insert-this-genre-here book.”

You might think that sucks, but that’s how it is. Books DO suffer when they are packaged wrong, and traditional publishers even redo covers that don’t get a good response. So know your market, embrace it, seek a cover that belongs in that market.

2. Decide What Your Cover Needs To DO, Not What You Want It To Look Like

Covers are marketing tools, first and foremost. When working with a designer, it’s more important to convey what you need your cover to DO versus what you want it to look like. Does it need to appeal to boys? Does it need to hit the YA market but stand out from the other YA Paranormals? Does it need to be gender neutral? These are things your designer wants to know and accomplish for you.

Looks come second, and they need to comply with the doing part. If it gets in the way of what your cover needs to do, then you have to edit just like a novel.

3. Collaborate With Your Designer, Don’t Be A Boss

Designers know stuff. They do what they do because they took classes and have experience. Hopefully they have experience in cover design specifically. It is wise to approach cover design, therefore, as a team effort. Not a “You will create what I exactly picture in my head or I will not be happy and it must be this way or it’s wrong.”

Creative collaboration can create some of the most amazing work out there, while stifling a designer can create … less than amazing. Of course you need to be happy with your cover, but it’s a give and take.

4. Let Your Designer Design

I’ve heard a lot of designers say they do their best work when they are given a lot of leeway to just do their job. Remember that designers are creative sorts as well, and just like writers it can be hard to be inspired with someone breathing down your neck. When they are doing their job, it’s important to be respectful of their ability and needs. Just your basic “be professional.”

5. Learn About Design So You Can Give Informed Opinions

If you really want to collaborate with a designer, you might need to learn the lingo a little. Not that you have to get super educated and take classes and get a degree, but if you offer criticism it would be ideal to verbalize it in a way a designer can understand clearly. A lot of times they have to translate what a writer is saying into design terms, and sometimes that’s hard and they miss the mark.

But if you can say there needs to be more leading or perhaps the kerning on that word should be decreased. If you can talk about san serif fonts versus scripts, if you can identify the photo needs more contrast or deeper saturation … that helps.

And those are my tips for working with a cover designer. It can be such a pleasure, and I hope if you’re thinking of self-pubbing a novel that you find a designer who’s right for you. Magic happens then.

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A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did. When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer’s identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined.

As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

Relax, I’m a Ninja is slated to release June 3, 2014. Find out more about Relax, I’m a Ninja and Natalie Whipple on her blog at betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com. You can also find her on Twitter @nataliewhipple.

Add Relax, I’m a Ninja to your Goodreads shelf.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Guest Posts, Self-Publishing

Five Reasons Not to Do NaNoWriMo — If You’re on the Fence

National Novel Writing Month is a highly anticipated event every November. Hundreds of thousands of people join in, and let me tell you, it seems to take the world by storm! I did NaNoWriMo way, way, way back in 2008. I wrote Monarch, and it was later published by Rhemalda Publishing in 2011. I just recently republished it on my own. NaNo was a good experience for me while I was doing it, but not so great afterward — which explains why I’ve never done it again. About 85% of my writer acquaintances and friends are participating in NaNo this year, making me question yet again why I’m not doing it. But, if you know me at all, you know I usually shy away from doing what everyone else is doing, so that’s one reason right there. Some better reasoning might be needed, though, eh? That’s why I’ve made a list for all those even questioning if they want to do NaNo or not.

1. If you don’t work well under pressure.

If you normally don’t work well under pressure, chances are that NaNo is not for you. I only work well under pressure when I’m getting paid at the end of the project (and no, possible publication doesn’t count), so that’s why Monarch didn’t work out so well when I wrote it in one month and then had to rewrite it completely from scratch later because it totally sucked. Basically, what NaNo gave me was a ridiculously in-depth outline. If you do work well under pressure and NaNo doesn’t stress you out, heck, you have nothing to lose. Do it!

2. If important family members aren’t going to understand or support you — resulting in resentment on both ends.

I’ve heard on more than one occasion fights and resentment breaking out because of NaNo, especially if a writer does it every single year and things like Thanksgiving, family gatherings, etc. are either completely ignored or shoddily attended or planned by you. If you’re putting your writing above things that should be taking priority, that’s probably a good reason to do NaNo some other month where there’s no big holiday, or simply refrain altogether and write at a pace that doesn’t force you to make decisions between word count and visiting family you haven’t seen for a long time. If your family and friends support you all the way, go for it!

3. If you’re a seasoned writer already.

Back in 2008 I had a huge problem with word count, so NaNo was good for me in that way because Monarch was only my third novel and I needed to learn how to write 50,000 words in a month. These days, though, if I’m seriously drafting, 50,000 words in a month is something I do over and over and over. It’s not a huge hurdle for me anymore, so NaNo seems like a totally pointless thing for me to do. I could do it, sure, but knowing I have to get 50k in a month — making it feel like a competition of sorts — will completely and utterly kill my creativity and ultimately my productivity. I just don’t find that fun like many authors do. If you’re a new writer, NaNo can do wonders, so you might want to try it.

4. If you haven’t done the pre-work.

Yeah, I’m guilty of this one. I jumped into NaNo with NO planning on Monarch at all. No research. No mulling over or marinating the story for a few months. Nothing. I just jumped in and went for it. That’s why I ended up with one of the worst first drafts I’ve ever written. I don’t think this is the best way to write — at least for me and anyone who values good, solid research and planning before beginning a draft. If you have done all your pre-work, or you like the pure discovery method, maybe NaNo would be a great idea.

5. If you don’t need a kick in the pants to start and finish a novel.

Let’s face it. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes. But I feel like a lot of seasoned writers don’t actually need NaNo as a motivation to write. If you do need a kick in the pants, maybe NaNo is exactly what you need to finally get that novel written.

The bottom line is that some writers do NaNo just for fun, and sometimes to relax from other more stressful projects. Some writers do it because they haven’t been able to finish a novel yet. Some writers do it because writing 50k in a month is a breeze and they actually set a higher goal of 100k or something. Take your time in figuring out if NaNo will work with your style and personality. If you love it, awesome! If not, you can join me in my lonely little boat while I watch and cheer from afar. Woot!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Writing Process