Angel

Videos for Inspiration & Encouragement

Keep your mind fresh. These videos will challenge you, inspire you, and maybe teach you something you didn’t already know. Share your thoughts in a comment or discuss them in the forums. Have a suggestion for a video that moved, changed, or inspired you? Let us know in the comments.



Denzel Washington, risk, courage, faith, persistence


Elizabeth Gilbert, success, rejection, fear, creativity,


Neil Gaiman, art, imagination, innovation,


Carrie Green, clarity of vision, willpower, boldness, visualization


Peter Dinklage, hardship, comfort, risk, people helping people


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, storytelling, culture, preconceptions


Ashley Stahl, inspiration, imperfection, fear, perfectionism


Jim Carrey, manifestation, success, determination, fear


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, hardship, failure, ambition, commitment


Brené Brown, Oprah, vulnerability, courage, shame


Seth Godin, Marie Forleo, creativity, productivity, inspiration


Lori Gottlieb, change, self-talk, letting go


Logan LaPlante, innovation, courage, ingenuity, nonconformity

6 Easy Before-Bed Hacks
to Improve Your Productivity

Practice these six hacks at night, and your mornings will go much more smoothly. Morning You will be grateful.

  1. Wash your dishes before you go to bed, especially the coffee pot. It’s no fun, but it’s worth it. In the morning, it’s too easy to get distracted by a dirty kitchen instead of getting straight to writing. Set yourself up for greatness.
  2. Make a 3-item to-do list for tomorrow. Only the three most important things you must do. Commit to doing these three things before you get on social media, answer email, or any other distraction-risky activities. Once you’ve completed them, your day is yours to do with as you please. Feels so good!
  3. Shut down your computer at the end of your workday. This makes it more daunting to turn it back on. After you finish work, stay off the computer.
    • Especially email! Make it a rule. Tomorrow morning is soon enough to check for the acceptance/rejection email.
    • If you have an idea, write it in a notebook by hand. Don’t be tempted to get back on the computer.
    • Remember, you haven’t stopped working on your book just because you’re offline. You’re giving your subconscious time to take the reins and your conscious mind a much-needed rest.
  4. Do easy stretches before bed. Five minutes spent doing the most basic stretches will work out all the kinks you acquired in your office chair, and you’ll sleep better. You can even do this while watching television or reading a book. (great examples)
  5. Once you’re in bed, let your mind reminisce about the story you’re writing. Hold it in your mind as you fall asleep. Your subconscious will chew on it all night long, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get dreams and/or new ideas from it! Great ideas often come in the morning, when you first wake up or are in the shower. This is thanks to your subconscious that was working hard while you slept.
  6. Pay attention to what wakes you up and take charge of defending against it. Partner snores? Invest in earplugs. Cat wakes you up to be fed? Give them extra food or use a time-release feeder. Too hot or too cold? Fan or extra blanket handy. Light wakes you up? Buy a good eye mask or darkening curtains. The quality of your sleep matters far more than the quantity, and waking up when your body is ready is critical.

    Product Recommendations

    I (Angel McCoy) personally use these products and find they work for me. Let us know in the comments if you’ve had experience with them (what’d you think?) or a similar product that you’d recommend.

    • CALM, magnesium powder. Note: be careful with magnesium because it can also loosen bowels (not always a bad thing). Start small and build as you learn your body’s tolerance for it.
    • Sleepytime Extra tea. This is my go-to if I’m experiencing insomnia. Look for a caffeine-free herbal tea with chamomile and valerian in it. The valerian is what makes it “extra.”
    • Silk Sleep Mask. I couldn’t find the exact mask I have, but this is basically it. I love that it covers my ears completely (helps reduce noise and also air blowing across my ear from the fan). It’s so soft I don’t notice it at all. It blocks the light completely.

    Further Reading

Snacking? Choose Brain Food

The snack foods you eat can help or hinder your brain’s functioning and thus affect your writing and productivity. Many studies have been done on this.*

Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider stocking up on these and prepare them in advance, so it’s easy to reach for them instead of the bag of chips that’s far too convenient and not so good for your brain.

Great snack foods that support your brain:

Fatty fish sounds like a terrible idea, but it’s not. Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, anchovies, and mackerel have Omega-3 fatty acids that your brain loves.

Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt have great benefit to digestion, and your belly has a direct connection to your brain. Foods in the “sour” category fit here also—classics such as vinegar, lemon, and lime. A sprinkle will bring any salad, fish plate, or nut mix to life!

Avocados have a beneficial type of fat plentiful in them. Combine them in a blender with yogurt, berries, greens, and nuts for an amazing smoothie. Or mush them up with hard-boiled egg yolks to make creamy deviled eggs.

Antioxidants abound in berries. They are the healthiest fruit you can eat, and a great way to add a touch of sweetness to smoothies, salads, and even tea. Try putting sliced or gently crushed berries in unsweetened iced tea and let them chill for an hour before drinking.

A staple in many writers’ diets, coffee is actually quite beneficial. It’s been shown to counter heart disease and dementia, among other things. Moderation is key, of course. (Pssst… tea is good for you too.)

We all knew this already, but it’s great to get confirmation. Dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa) is actually good for the body. Cocoa contains antioxidents called flavonoids that help to protect our cells from oxidating (decaying). Try combining dark chocolate with berries or fresh herbs and see how your brain (and belly) sing!

Hard-boiled eggs are tasty, filling, and so versatile. Slice them into a salad. Make deviled eggs. Add them to a stir-fry. Ferment them even. They keep well in the fridge, so you can make a batch at the beginning of the week then chew on them all week long.

Kale is the new lettuce. When you buy greens, the darker in color the better. Tuna or egg salad wrapped in a kale leave is amazing. Or chop it into small pieces and add it to your yogurt for a stealth boost of vitamins and minerals.

Seeds and nuts—both raw and roasted—bring more antioxidents and good fat to your body. As a snack food, they’re convenient and tasty. Salt or sprinkle with other herbs and spices to taste. Roasted almonds, well-mixed with olive oil and any spice combination you like, can be as satisfying as potato chips.

Technically, peanuts are a legume, not a nut, BUT they’re still good for you and filling in all the best ways. They sit well in a stir-fry, mixed in a smoothie, or just eat ’em out of the bowl.

Fresh herbs take your snacks to the next level, and they’re good for you. They add flavor as well as minerals and vitamins your brain needs, so don’t be shy with them. Consider adding mint to your yogurt or basil to your salad. Experiment to find out what you like.

Combining the foods in this list is magical! Try making deviled eggs with avocado and chopped mustard greens. Or perhaps your kale salad has pomegranate, basil, and pepitas (a type of roasted pumpkin seed) on it. Consider making tuna salad with avocado, egg, rosemary, and walnuts! So many flavors, so many options.

 

Further Reading


Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.

Conference List

Few events energize a writing career more than going to a writers conference or a fandom con. This year, we have a unique opportunity. Most of the conferences are virtual, which means you can attend them without having to pay for flights, restaurant meals, or hotels. Broaden your horizon each month with a virtual trip to visit a different group of your peers.

Keywords

fan: primarily for fans/readers
film: hosts a film festival
free: free to all
hybrid: both virtual and in-person
in-person: non-virtual elements
live: scheduled live online
moderated: limited attendance, must apply
on-demand: recorded videos
pitches: holds pitch sessions
scholarship: offers scholarships
specific: specific to a population/genre
trade: focused on industry pros
workshops: offers writing workshops

This is a living list and will continue to change over time. The keywords in parentheses will help you decide if the con is right for you.

April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December | >2022

Have a con you’ve attended? Click on the star rating, then tell us why it was good for you in the comments below. (REQUEST: Put the con name at the beginning of any comment about a particular one so it’s easy for others to read through them.)

Organize your convention list with a spreadsheet template for either Excel or Google Sheets.

2021

April

    • April 21-25 | The Muse & the Marketplace – Virtual
      (live, on demand, trade, workshops)
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    • April 23-25 | Pike’s Peak Writers Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • April 24-May 1 | Northern Colorado Writers Conference
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • April 24 – May 2 | Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival – Virtual
      (live, workshops)
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May

    • May 13-15 | StoryMakers
      (hybrid, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • May 14-15 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – San Diego
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • May 15-18 | Kachemak Bay Writers Workshop – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • May 20-24 | Writers Hotel Weekend – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • May 21-23 | StokerCon 2021 – Virtual, Horror Writers Association
      (film, live, on-demand, specific [horror], trade, workshops, pitches)
      Rating: 5.00/5. From 1 vote.
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    • May 28-31 | Balticon – Virtual – Baltimore
      (fan, gaming)
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    • May 30-31 | Book Con – Virtual(?)
      (trade, workshops)
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June

    • June TBD | Alice Munro Festival – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • June 6-12 | Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Workshop Series – Virtual
      (moderated, live, scholarships, trade, workshops)
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    • June 12 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – Florida
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • June 17-20 (in-person) & June 24-26 (online) | New York Pitch Conference
      (trade, pitches)
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    • June 18-20 | 4th Street Fantasy Convention – Virtual – Minneapolis
      (fan)
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    • June 21-26 | Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • June 27 – July 31 | New York State Summer Writers Institute – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • June 28 – July 10 | Thrillerfest – Virtual
      (live, pitches, specific [thriller], trade, workshops)
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July

    • July 9-10 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – Colorado
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • July 9-11 | Imaginarium Convention – Louisville, KY
      (film, hybrid, trade, workshops)
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    • July 14-18 | Southampton Writers Conference – Virtual, see site for application deadlines
      (live, moderated, trade, workshops)
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    • July 15-17 | 10-Minute Novelist Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • July 19-24 | Port Townsend Writers Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • July 22-25 | Writer’s Digest Convention – New York, NY
      (in-person(?), pitches, trade, workshops)
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    • July 28-31 | Midwest Writers Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops, on-demand for a limited time)
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August

    • August 1-6 | Napa Valley Writers Conference – Napa, CA
      (in-person, moderated, trade, workshops)
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    • August 5-7 | Mendocino Coast Writers Conference – Virtual, registration closes 6/30/21
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • August 7 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – Tennessee
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • August 8-21 | Bread Loaf Workshop Series – Virtual
      (live, moderated, scholarships, trade, workshops)
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    • August 19-22 | Killer Nashville
      (in-person, specific [mystery/thriller/crime], trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • August 26-29 | Orlando Reads Books
      (in-person, fan)
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September

    • September 10-11 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – Washington, D.C.
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • September 15-19 | Pacific Northwest Writers Conference – Virtual
      (live, pitches, trade, workshops)
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    • September 17-19 | Agents & Editors Conference – Austin, TX
      (in-person, trade, workshops)
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October

    • October 1-3 | Write on the Sound Workshop – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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    • October 7-9 | Horror Conclave – Las Vegas
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 8-9 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – San Francisco
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 9-10 | Kansas Authors Club Convention – Virtual
      (hybrid, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 15-17 | Emerald City Writers Workshop – Virtual
      (live, pitches, scholarships, specific [romance], trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 18-24 | Vancouver Writers Fest – Vancouver, BC
      (fan)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 22-24 | Surrey International Writers Conference – Surrey, Canada
      (in-person, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • October 22-24 | La Jolla Writers Conference – La Jolla, CA
      (trade, workshops)
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    • October 23-24 | Self-Publishing Advice Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
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November

    • November TBD | Romance Writers of America Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • November 8-14 | Kauai Writers Conference – Kauai, Hawaii
      (in-person, pitches, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • November 13 | Writer Day Workshop – Virtual – North Carolina
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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December

    • December 15-19 | DisConIII / WorldCon / World Science Fiction Convention / Hugo Awards
      (in-person, fan, specific [science fiction/fantasy], some trade)
      No votes yet.
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2022

February 2022

    • February 17-20 | San Francisco Writers Conference 2022
      (in-person, trade, workshops)
      Rating: 5.00/5. From 1 vote.
      Please wait...

 


    • February TBD| Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference – Virtual
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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March 2022

    • March TBD | Sleuthfest Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America
      (specific [mystery], pitches, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • March TBD | Atlanta Writing Workshop
      (pitches, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • March TBD | Bay to Ocean Writers Conference
      (trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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    • March TBD | Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference – Virtual(?)
      (trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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April 2022

    • April TBD | Las Vegas Writers Conference 2022
      (trade, workshops, pitches)
      No votes yet.
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    • April TBD | Nebraska Writers Guild Conference – Virtual(?)
      (trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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June 2022

    • June TBD | Odyssey Fiction Writers’ Workshop, applications due in April,
      (moderated, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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September 2022

    • September 1-5 | ChiCon8 / WorldCon / World Science Fiction Convention / Hugo Awards
      (live, trade, workshops)
      No votes yet.
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Online Study List

One of the most exciting truths about being a writer—and maybe about everything—is that you can never perfect your craft. As a writer, maintaining a “beginner’s mind” is critical to keeping your creativity and your work fresh. Your understanding of wordsmithing will continue to evolve right up to the very last word you ever put to paper.

Not only deeper insight into wordcraft, but technologies, new and old, may appear on your radar to make your work more efficient; and even the industry itself continues to evolve in surprising ways as evidenced by the rise of ebooks in the last decade or so.

KEYWORDS
free: free to all
indie: for indie authors
live: scheduled live classes
on-demand: recorded videos
scholarship: offers scholarships
specific: specific to a system
varied: offerings change

Online Course/Seminar List

Have a course you’ve taken? Click on the star rating then tell us why it was good for you in the comments below. Put the course name at the beginning of the comment so it’s easy for others to read through them. Note any we failed to list, especially if you recommend it.

  • So You Want to be a Horror Writer?, Sephera Giron
    (live, on-demand, Udemy)
    No votes yet.
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  • Highlights Foundation Workshops
    (live, on-demand, varied)
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  • Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Cat Rambo, et al.
    (live, on-demand, varied, scholarship)
    No votes yet.
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  • Save the Cat Novel-Writing Course, Jessica Brody
    (on-demand, specific)
    No votes yet.
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  • Self-Publishing Formula, Mark Dawson, et al.
    (indie, on-demand)
    No votes yet.
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  • Scribophile Academy
    (on-demand)
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  • ProWritingAid Online Lectures for Writers
    (on-demand, free)
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For more workshop options, check out the Conference List.

Youtube Videos

If you watch one, rate it. I’ll shuffle the most popular to the top.

Marketing 101 for Writers

Rating: 5.00/5. From 1 vote.
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Financial Planning for Writers from StokerCon2021

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Concepts of Horror – Writing Tips

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Writing in the Dark from theCreativePenn podcast

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Creative Writing Advice from Stephen King
on The Write Channel with Nicola Monaghan

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How to Write a Horror Novel with Joe Hill

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10 Screenplay Writing Tips from Stephen King

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On Writing Dark Fiction from Lenn Woolston

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Writing a Horror Protagonist from Daniel Stamm

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How to Write Faster and Never Get Writer’s Block
Michaelbrent Collings on theCreativePenn podcast

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How to Make Your Story 100% More Scary on MidnightXCross

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5 Tips for Writing Dark Fantasy

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10 Best Tips for Writing a Horror Book

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How to Write Dark Fantasy Jenna Moreci
on the RebelAuthor podcast

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8 Horror Writing Tips

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How to Be Successful Writing Horror
Iain Rob Wright on theCreativePenn podcast

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The Perfect Horror Protagonist
on the Extra Credits podcast

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Writing Horror and Making a Living with Your Writing
Michaelbrent Collings on theCreativePenn podcast

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Writing Dark Fiction Alan Baxter
on theCreativePenn podcast

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How to Add Suspense to Your Writing from Danyal Fryer

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How to Write Horror – 5 Quick Tips
from Richard Fairgray on the Holiday House vidcast

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How to Make Your Writing Suspenseful
Victoria Smith on TED-Ed

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10 Best Tropes in Paranormal Fiction
on Writing with Jenna Moreci vidcast

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Writing Dark Fantasy with T. Frohock on Fictitious vidcast

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5 Tips for Writing Scary Stories
from the By the Dying Fire vidcast

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Writing Tips from Stephen King
on Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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Finding Ideas for Horror Stories from Brandon McNulty

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What is the Difference Between GrimDark and Fantasy?

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Why Reading and Writing Dark Fiction Can Be Healing
with J Thorn on theCreativePenn podcast

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GrimDark Reader’s Guide

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How to Write Paranormal Characters
on writers2writers vidcast

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How to Write a Supernatural Novel
on Jason Arnopp’s Terrifying House Of Obsession

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How to Write Effective Horror at ReedsyBlog vidcast

Rating: 5.00/5. From 1 vote.
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Take Pee/Stretch Breaks

Sitting is the new smoking. Or so the proverbial “they” are saying. The truth is that extended periods of sitting are bad for your health, especially in the long-term.

One very simple way to offset the damage is to incorporate a moment of stretching into your routine.

Why?

According to several of the sources I found (listed at the bottom), not to mention my own anecdotal experience, sitting can increase your chances of:

  • blood clots
  • neurological pinching or damage
  • shortened leg muscles
  • high blood pressure
  • poor digestion
  • leg cramps
  • shallow breathing (lower oxygen levels)
  • lower back pain
  • tight muscles in the hips
  • and more.

How?

  • Start today. If you’re young, great! If you’re not so young anymore, even better! It’s never too soon or too late to get in touch with your body and stretch.
  • Make it a habit. Stretch every time you go to the bathroom. Stretch on the toilet even. That’s a place you visit regularly, and your body is great at reminding you. If you still forget, add a little reminder to yourself on a sticky over the toilet-paper dispenser.
  • Think of it as a gift to yourself. If you take regular stretch breaks, you’ll sit comfortably longer, focus better, write more, and stress less.
  • Really listen to your body. Your body will tell you what areas you need to stretch. Sore shoulder? Sore wrists? Hip seizing? Ankles swollen? Your body is talking to you. Pain is a cry for help.
  • Do what feels good! Do the stretches that work for your body. Those are the ones you need. This isn’t a competition. Over time, you’ll notice you feel more flexible. The effects are cumulative.
  • Don’t overdo it. Sixty seconds of stretching, done several times a day, will produce noticeable results after just a few days.
  • Relax. Stretching doesn’t have to involve force. Just bend, reach, and let your own body weight do the work.
  • Get your head lower than your heart. If you can, bend at the waist and reach for your toes, do downward-facing dog (a yoga pose), or lie on the bed with your head hanging off the edge. When you’re sitting, blood has an uphill battle to get to your head with the vital oxygen it’s carrying.
  • Get your heart lower than your legs. If you can, lie on your back with your feet up on the wall or on the arm of the couch. While you were sitting, all that blood that was having such a hard time getting to your head was pooling in your feet and legs. This pose will help release it and get it flowing more freely.
  • Try yoga. If you’re interested, I recommend Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube. Adrienne has short (15-30 minute), easy yoga routines for all body types and proficiency levels. If the word “yoga” scares you, don’t let it. This yoga is literally for everyone!

Further Reading


Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.

Use Fiverr for Odd Jobs

There’s never enough time in a day to do all the things we want to do. We can get help for cheap, however. Fiverr.com is a website where freelancers offer to do odd jobs for a one-time fee.

Why?

  • Free up your time and eliminate stress.
  • Pass on the tasks you dislike or don’t do well.
  • The professionals on Fiverr may have suggestions for the job that you didn’t consider, thus raising the quality bar.

Sample Fiverr Freelancers a Dark Fiction Writer Might Hire

How?

  • Go to Fiverr.com and “Join.” It’s free to join. Fiverr takes a commission on any work you actually hire someone to do.
  • Fill out all the information they request once you’re sure you want to use it. They are secure and well-established. You can use Paypal or input a credit card.
  • Browse the freelancers and find one that does what you need. See the tips below for how to pick a good freelancer.
  • Fiverr holds your payment in escrow while your freelancer does the job.
  • The freelancer alerts you when the job is done, and you approve the payment.

Choosing a Freelancer

Be somewhat discriminating when you choose your freelancer.

  • Start by mousing over the menu bar at the top of the page. You’ll get dropdowns of all the types of freelancers you can hire. Look for the type that best suits your need.
  • Look under the heading “Business” for the most useful freelancers. This is where you’ll find virtual assistants, for example.
  • In the list, pay attention to the number and quality of reviews a freelancer has received.
  • Click on the freelancer to go to their profile. On the profile, look for the following clues:
    • How many likes/hearts do they have?
    • Do they have any orders in their queue? A lot could mean they’re overwhelmed. A few is okay. If they have any here, make sure you get an estimate on how long they think your job will take when you contact them.
    • Make sure their description of what they do matches what you need. Query if in doubt.
    • Notice the levels of service near the top/right. Basic, Standard, and Premium. Look at each of them. This will give you a better idea of how much they charge. Your project may require more than just Basic-level service.
    • Look at the general level of their English. They don’t need to be fluent, but they do need to have the ability to communicate in English. Many freelancers live in countries other than the United States. This is not a problem unless they don’t speak English well.
    • Scroll down the page to see reviews and to learn more about how this freelancer does business.
    • Remember, once you’ve decided on a freelancer, don’t book them (“Continue” button). Message them (“Contact Seller” button).

Tips & Best Practices

  • You have the option to give a tip once a job is completed. Don’t feel obligated. It’s not required, but it is a nice thing to do.
  • Write a review of the freelancer’s work. Bad reviews can damage a freelancer’s rating on the site, so it’s in their best interest to give you excellent service. Good reviews boost their rating and help their credibility.
  • It’s important that you contact the freelancer before booking, explain your job, and ask if they’re interested. Let them send you a job proposal so you get an accurate quote for the work. If you don’t like the quote, reject the job.
  • Once you find a great freelancer, you can use them again and begin to build a relationship of trust with them. They’ll learn more about your jobs, and you won’t have to micromanage them.
  • You’re the boss, and this is a business relationship. Be professional, communicate your needs clearly, give feedback in a professional manner, and be grateful for a job well done.


Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.

Identify Your Reader Persona

Something to think about: What kind of person likes your books? What are they interested in? If you’ve never thought about these things, then your promotions won’t be as effective.

Your products have a “Reader Persona.” Intuitively, you know what it is, but maybe you haven’t owned it yet.

Why?

  • Write more effective promotional content, including your book descriptions and cover copy, with the right audience in mind.
  • Actively find the places where they hang out (both online and in the real world) and reach them directly with your promotions.
  • Hone your fiction by making your books even more targeted to your ideal audience.
  • Tighten the focus on your niche and achieve greater sales when you hit the bullseye. It’s the difference between using a laser and using a shotgun to reach potential readers. The laser will be far more effective and cost-efficient.
  • Prove to agents and publishers that you know your profession and your intended audience.

Consider These Questions

The following questions narrow down your reader persona. Answer them to the best of your ability. It’s okay if you can’t answer all of them. There are no right or wrong answers. This isn’t about hard data. It’s based on your observations of who you want to reach and of who you think your books are attracting.

  • What age group is most likely to buy your books? Break these into ranges, such as 13-17, 18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55, etc. You can set your own ranges.
  • What gender identities? The spectrum is diverse, but your books may appeal more to one subset.
  • What education level? High school? Bachelor’s? Master’s? Doctorate?
  • What religious affiliation? Christian? Jewish? Atheist?
  • What interests? Coffee, recipes, LGBTQ, alcohol, cats, serial killers, monsters, true love, cosplay, history?
  • How tech-savvy? Science nerd, computer geek, can’t figure out the TV remote, imagined technology rules?
  • What sensibilities? No violence, happily-ever-after, gore is good, expects humor, technical accuracy?

The answers to these questions may seem obvious to you. They should. They grow out of your writing style, your plots, your characters, and your personal interests. In many ways, your reader mirrors you. Acknowledge that and double down.

The best example of a niche that does this well is the Cozy Mystery niche. They know their audience and keep their books within the boundaries of what their readers expect and like.

Know your reader persona. Give them a name, if that helps, and write for them. They’ll reward you with love and loyalty.


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Use Email Templates

Many email providers let you create and save email templates for those emails you send over and over again.

Why?

  • It saves time!
  • They are excellent for query letters and interview requests, for example. Whenever you find yourself writing the same email over and over, consider creating a template.
  • You can always customize it before you send it.
  • It raises the professionalism of your emails by reducing the number of typos and other mistakes that sneak into them. Eliminate the need to re-read and edit every time.
  • You don’t have to “rethink” what you’ll say every time. This lowers the risk that you’ll leave out a critical or clever element by mistake.

Gmail

To set up templates in Gmail, you have to first turn them on, then create and save one. Then, you can use it as often as you need.

  • Gmail has done an excellent job with their template instructions, so I’m not going to repeat all that here. Plus, if they change, Google will keep it updated.

Outlook

Microsoft also does an excellent job of explaining how to create an Outlook email template and how to use an Outlook email template.

Tips & Best Practices

  • You will always have the opportunity to edit your email before you send it, so don’t be afraid that it just goes. It doesn’t.
  • You can save templates to create modular content and add more than one to your email (in Gmail / untested in Outlook——comment below if you know this is also possible in Outlook?). You could have a template for each of the following or whatever you can imagine:
    • Salutation
    • Body-ThankYou
    • Body-NoThankYou
    • Body-Yes
    • Body-InterviewQuery
    • Body-AgentQuery
    • Body-ArtistQuery
    • Body-PublisherQuery
    • Body-MyBio
    • Body-MyContactInformation
    • Body-ShortStorySubmissionIntro
    • Signature-Friend
    • Signature-Pro
    • Signature-Thanks
  • Name your template well so you can recognize it immediately as the one you need.
  • You can edit your template at any time and update it whenever your information changes.
  • If you don’t use Gmail or Outlook, do a search on your email provider’s site for “Email Templates” to find out whether they offer them or not.
  • I like to use capital letters to call out where I might want to insert a word. For example: “Dear NAME”. This makes it less likely that I will leave the placeholder in when I send it.
  • You can automate sending a template using Filters.


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Interview an Expert

Looking for content for your blog or social media platform? Interview an expert. This increases your credibility and reach as well as that of your interviewee. Win-win.

Who?

  • Another author in your genre
  • A technical expert on a topic relative to your books
  • Someone who does the same job your main character does
  • An expert in the craft of writing and publishing (such as your publisher, editor, audiobook narrator, or someone like JoAnna Penn)

How

  • Identify someone that your ideal readers would find interesting. See our article titled “Identify Your Reader Persona” for more on this.
  • Contact them via email and ask, politely and professionally, if they’d be willing to do an interview. Introduce yourself, explain why you’ve chosen them, and include the medium (email, Zoom, etc.). Even if they say no, you’ve made a new contact.
  • Do the interview itself via email.
    • You can send your questions and the interviewee can answer at their leisure.
    • You and the interviewee get a chance to edit it before it goes live.
    • This is especially helpful if the topic is technical.
  • Do the interview via Zoom or Skype.
    • On Zoom, you can live stream or record it for later posting (or both).
    • Do email them the questions you plan to ask in advance. No ambushing of your interviewee.

Tips & Best Practices

  • It does not have to be long. One question? Two? Ten? It’s up to you.
  • If you choose to go longer, remember that you can break it up into parts and feed it out to your audience in multiple posts. Even more content!
  • If you’re shy/introverted, start with someone you know. With practice, it will get easier.
  • Email is more professional than a Facebook message, if you have access to an email address. If not, a social media message is your second option. Be sure to check LinkedIn, where you may find better contact information.
  • Ask in advance whether the interviewee has any topics they’d like to cover. Maybe they have a new book out that they want to promote.
  • Ask your interviewee for a bio, web link, and a photo that you can use.
  • Be respectful of and grateful for your interviewee’s time. They are busy people.
  • Let the interviewee know where you’ll be posting it, and send them the link(s) once it’s posted. They will share it too!
  • Use the same questions for multiple guests. Depending on your topic, this may or may not work, but it will save time.
  • Post it everywhere you have a presence: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads, Amazon, etc.
  • Friend/like your interviewee everywhere so that now you’re linked through social media.
  • Use email templates so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time. See our article “Use Email Templates” for more on this.


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Review Another Author’s Work

Looking for tactics to get your name known? To increase your credibility with readers? Review other authors’ books. Presumably, you are already reading books in your genre, so leverage that to help get your reputation up.

When you review a book, you’re not just doing the author a favor, you’re reaching readers.

Where?

  • Bookbub.com is a site for readers.
    • Create an account, add a profile, add your own books to your profile, then search for and review the books you’ve read.
    • Readers visit this site for ideas on what to read next. They follow genres and authors, and they can view your profile (and thus your books).
    • Your review of another author’s book puts your name in front of them with the “author” label.
    • You can follow other authors to be alerted when they put out a new book.
    • You can offer deals on your books (if you’re self-published or if your publisher is on board) for Bookbub members. They send out newsletters to all their subscribers.
  • Goodreads.com is also a site for readers.
    • Similar to Bookbub in how it works, but it seems to be the top spot for readers to go who are looking for their next read.
    • Your author profile on Goodreads will rank high on Google if anyone is searching for you.
    • You add your books, and readers can follow you, review your books, or add you to a “To be read” list.
    • When you review the books you’ve read on Goodreads, a lot of people see you.
    • You can set up a blog on Goodreads to reach your readers.
  • Amazon.com or Audible.com
    • Amazon.com (Kindle, paperback, etc.) and Audible.com (Amazon’s audiobook arm) are search engines. Many people go there to search for their next book.
    • Readers do read the reviews.
    • On both these sites, you can click on the reviewer’s name to see what else they recommended.
    • You achieve a reviewer rank the more you review, so if you read a lot, you can earn credibility.
  • On your own social media
    • Post your review on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever you hang out online.
    • Link to your profile on any of the above sites to get people going there and seeing your books.
    • You have more freedom to discuss your own books/writing career in the context of the one you’re reviewing on these sites.
  • All of the above!
    • The greatest thing about reviewing is that you can write it once and post it on multiple sites. Thus, you multiply your reach and economize your time.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Let the author whose book you’re reviewing know that you did. Send them a link or use an @link in Facebook or Twitter to make sure they see it. If you alert them via email, use an email template to save time. See our article “Use Email Templates” for more on this.
  • If you have nothing good to say, say nothing. You’re not just a reader, you’re this author’s peer; so even if you hated the book, don’t slam it. Just don’t review it. Review only books you liked at least enough to give it 3 stars out of 5. Consider them more like recommendations than reviews. This is for your own protection. Stephen King can afford it. You? Maybe not so much.
  • Don’t lie. If you didn’t like the book, don’t say you did. If you didn’t read the book, don’t review it.
  • Keep it helpful. Think about what a reader would want to know. Is it slow in the beginning, but picks up and is worth the read? Is it funny? Is it sexy? How sexy?
  • No spoilers! Although hinting that something really cool happens is awesome.
  • Mention at least 3 things you liked about the book. Even if your review is only three sentences long, each sentence should call out one thing you liked (a character, descriptions, plot, dialogue, an interesting hook, etc.).
  • Mention more things you liked than things you didn’t like. It’s okay to be somewhat critical, just don’t overburden the review with negativity.
  • Don’t try to be overly erudite. Most readers won’t connect with that. Just say it like it is in regular man-on-the-street terms. [Caveat: Of course, erudition may be perfectly appropriate for a non-fiction book or classic literature.]
  • Make sure your profile, wherever you’re reviewing, is kept up to date. All the sites listed above give you a profile that you can customize.
  • It doesn’t matter how long ago you read it. You can still review it.
  • If time is tight, consider paying someone to “polish” your reviews for you and post them. (A great odd job for your teenager!) You tell them how many stars to give it and offer a few adjectives to describe how you felt about the book, then the other person puts the review together for you and handles posting it. See our article entitled “Use Fiverr for Odd Jobs” for more on how to do this.


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Image Editing 101

Images are your #1 resource for promoting your work. Here’s a little introductory tutorial to images.

Digital images are nothing more than a collection of colored pixels (tiny squares) all arranged to create the illusion of an image. This is why we measure images in pixels rather than inches. An image that is 800 x 1600 is 800 pixels wide and 1600 pixels tall. A pixel is a fairly standard unit of measure — more or less.

The image file contains all the information about where specific pixels go and how big they should be. It’s quite magical.

PNGs, JPGs, and GIFs, Oh my!

There are three primary types of image files that you need to know about. Each type has its own special properties. You can choose the type for your image in most graphic programs just by selecting a different file extension from the drop-down when you “Save As”. The program will do the translation for you.

  • JPG or JPEG.
    • Tend to be smaller and load faster than other types.
    • You cannot make them bigger than they already are without losing clarity. You can make them smaller without worry, though this too has its limits.
    • They turn transparent areas into white areas automatically. They do not do transparency.
  • PNG
    • Tend to be bigger and load slower than other types.
    • Resize better than JPGs, but even they have their limits and will get “pixelated” if you push them.
    • They retain transparency. If you have transparency in your image, then you want to save-as with the .PNG file extension.
  • GIF
    • Only used for animated images, usually ones that loop (start over and repeat automatically)
    • These require some artistic savvy or a special program to create.
    • Tend to be bigger and load slower than other types.
    • If you have an image with animations, then you will probably save it as a GIF, if not an actual movie file.

Resizing Images

At the most basic, you won’t ever have to do more than resize your images.

  • You can find programs that will let you resize your images.
    • If you’ve never used an art program before, start here. Adobe offers a free online app called Photoshop Express that is easy to use and gives you many options for resizing, customizing, and cropping your image. It’s fantastic for beginners.
    • Gimp is free and a very popular one, especially among game designers. It has many of the features that you will find in a more advanced program like Adobe Photoshop.
    • Windows comes with a free program called “Paint.” Simply open your start window and search for “Paint.” It’s basic, but it works great for simple tasks.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Ask your publisher for a “high resolution” copy of any cover image they make for your book. They won’t mind providing you with one. Ask for it in PNG or JPG format.
  • Immediately make a copy of the original and set the original aside in a folder so you always have it. Once an image has been edited and saved, you can’t revert it. Remember, you can always make an image smaller, but you can’t always make it bigger without losing resolution.
  • Mouse over your image in the file folder, wait a moment, and a box will pop up with information on the type, dimensions (in pixels, width x height), and size (in kilobytes or megabytes [FYI, there are 1000 kilobytes in a megabyte.).
  • If your image is more than 800 pixels wide, then you will probably want to resize it. Most places won’t need an image that big, and you’ll be saving them time if you resize it for them.
  • If the image they gave you is the entire cover, front and back, you’ll want to create a version that is only the front. To do this, use one of the programs above to crop the image and save-as to a different file.
  • I usually make 4 copies of the front cover, one at 800 pixels wide, one at 600 pixels wide, one at 400 pixels wide, and one at 200 pixels wide. If you have those on hand, then you can ask what size the publisher or website needs from you. NOTE: in any graphic program, you can set it so the height adjusts in proportion to whatever you set the width. No math required.
  • Use one of these online sites to create polished, professional promotional images for your book. They’re easy to use and intuitive.


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