Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Layers of World Building

I recently attended a fantastic world building workshop by Lisa Mangum. She talked about working from the outside in--or oppositely if your book is character driven. She split the world into five layers: The world of the world, the world of the country, the world of the community, and for the MC’s—or another character who’s history or community you explore--personal home: the world of family and friends, and the world of self.

The world of the world is mainly the general stuff, the magic system, time system, life forms etc… Mangum talked about the seasons in the world as well and how the communities prepare for them and like or dislike them—she made a great example about how we’d feel about winter if it lasted ten years instead of a couple months while the other seasons only provide a year of preparation time.

The world of the country explores the government(s) of the country or countries explored in the novel and their relation with other nations. Though only a little may end up in the book we should also explore the history of the country to help bring it to life.

Mangum explained that the world of the communities should show whether they’re agricultural or industrial, their size, their interaction level with nearby communities—if any, whether they’re famous for something, and the character relationship to the community. Does the character love the community? Does he want to escape from it? Is he counted as one of their own or an outsider? Why?

The world of family and friends is merely the relationships the character has within his community. Here we should explore how the family unit is set up and how our characters communicate and what the organized way of growth is—Mangum gave the examples of school and dragon bonding.

The world if self shows the places the character knows the most and how he spends his time in the community. Here we explore how the character fits into his worlds and how and where he is used to living—before we drag him out of it.

Does Conflict Mean that Someone's Mean?

by Deren Hansen

I spoke recently with a writer who was concerned that she didn't have enough conflict and was afraid she couldn't fix it because she didn't like to write about mean people. I pointed out that because they've found ways to justify their actions, even the most hardened criminals don't believe themselves to be bad people.

Worrying, however, about whether people are good or bad, nice or mean, muddies the storytelling waters and actually introduces a subtle bit of moralizing.

How so?

Some of the best writing advice I ever heard was that story and conflict arise from two simple questions:
  1. What do each of your characters want?
  2. What are they each willing to do to get it?

If you have two characters who each want the same thing (a thing that only one of them can have) and who are both willing to do a great many things to get it, you have automatic conflict.

And the beauty is that neither of them has to be mean. In fact if they're both driven by worthy motives you'll have a much better conflict than a simple good vs. bad scenario.

After all, the parents grappling in the stores for the last trendy toy are only in the melee because they want to do something nice for their kids.

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blog Spotlights: TJ Bronley & Rebecca Burton

So here's a little hint: if you're missing the posts by these two (I am), you have to go straight to the source:

Monday, June 27, 2011

I Love Him, I Love Him Not...

By Julie Daines

As a follow up to my post about a main character I hated, (click here to read it) I thought I'd tackle the subject of how to make your main character likeable.

According to the awesomeness of Martine Leavitt, in children's and YA fiction it's important to have a main character that is likeable. The best way to do this is to have your character possess at least one of the following:

- Physical Attractiveness. I can't help but think of Jacob Black here. He is selfish and interfering, but oh so popular with the girl readers. Why does he have a whole team backing him up? Because he's hot.

- Altruism. Think Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. Samwise in Lord of the Rings--isn't he everyone's favorite?

- Plans, Purpose, and Dreams. No one has more dreams than Anne in Anne of Green Gables. I also think of Keturah in Keturah and Lord Death. All she wants is a little cottage with a kind husband and a peasant baby to hold.

- Courage and a Heightened Sense of Fairplay. Does this not say Harry Potter? How about Percy Jackson?

- Attitude. I'm thinking Scarlet O'Hara. In the book I think they called it gumption, and she has it in spades. She has to in order to counter all her negative traits.

- Cleverness. What's the name of that obnoxious, rude doctor guy we all love--House? Also Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

- Who Love and are Loved. I hate to use another Twilight example, yet I can't help but think of Bella. She really doesn't have a lot going for her except that she is loved by her dad, her mom, and of course Edward and Jacob and a few other boys at school. Because so many people love her, we figure there must be a reason, and so we identify with that and love her too. Or at the very least we want to see her happy.

- Are in Jeopardy. In the Hunger Games, main character Katniss lacks a lot in personality and kindness, but since she spends all of a thousand pages in ultimate peril, we root for her.

So there you have it. Good luck in being liked!

Blog Spotlights: Anji Sandage

Anji ended up being our "Go-To" girl for our Facebook page. She's gotten that page up and running and keeps it going with interesting information. Check out her blog for info on healthy living, raising kids, and whatever else she has on her agenda!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Do a Virtual Author/Book Tour?

Many authors are still unsure how effective a virtual blog tour can be. I have been asked many times, before I started offering the World of Ink Author/Book Tours, if blog tours are really an effective way to market a new book. My answer is YES, but not if you are looking to only increase sales of your book. I say this because no marketing strategy you put into place or pay a publicist to do can guarantee book sales. If they do…run away fast!

With that said, there is a reason to have a blog tour as part of your marketing plan. One very big reason is that they are 70% more effective in drawing traffic to your book and the sites it is being offered on for sale. Second, 98% of readers will tell you they use the internet to do their research in seeking out a book on any given topic. Just from those numbers alone you can see the importance in having online visibility. 

Now you can create your online presence through a website, blog and social networks, but a blog tour goes beyond this. It creates “BUZZ”, back links (which put your book higher in the search engines) and reviews. You can also use blog tours to help grow your author platform. And who wouldn’t want to do this? 

By growing your online presence, you not only create buzz about your work you also show you’re an expert in your field by doing guest posts. You also let your readers get to know you better through interviews. There are some many “win-wins” in a blog tour to even name. Yes, the goal is to, hopefully, sell books, but what you really are doing (and is more important for your overall career as an author) is building a fanbase; people who will recognize your name and want to buy your next book or series of books. And I don’t think I need to tell you the value in that!

Now, I know you’re wondering, “Okay, so do I put a blog tour together myself or do I hire someone to do it for me?” That all depends on our marketing budget. You can put your own blog tour together, but the thing you need to ask yourself is, “Are the people I know who are willing to host me going to really reach my readership?” In most cases, you know other writers who have blogs and their blog following in most cases are other writers. Okay, that isn’t all bad and I still suggest you put your own blog tour together with your writing buddies, however, you should still seek out tour companies that can help you reach your readership. I mean isn’t that the whole point of the blog tour…to build your fanbase, create buzz and hopefully sell some books, too?

If you hire a publicist to help promote your book, ask them about the blog tour they will be doing for you. I hate to say it, but I get a lot of PR companies who contact me and very rarely do I see a lot of buzz from the blog tours they create. Some do a good job, but others are only okay because they look for high traffic blogs only and not at the blog following. This is all very important when doing a blog tour. Some blogs may not have a lot of followers, but the followers they do have…is whom you need to reach because they are your target readership.

I have worked with a few companies who offer this service before and after I started offering mine. I will list only two who I truly believe in. There are others out there and I suggest you contact the authors who have used them, but the two I’m going to list other than my own deal with children’s authors and know how to read your readership.

Pump Up Your Books, who I have used before. They are hard working and really know what they are doing. (

Author Showcase is another one that only focuses on children’s books and is good about creating buzz. (   

World of Ink Virtual Author/Book Tour ( I also get the buzz and word out to your target readership. I have a bit of an advantage because of my online Ezine, Stories for Children Magazine. I already have a fanbase I can network to when doing a tour and I know a lot of book review and mommy bloggers. All this helps when doing a blog tour.

The thing to remember is a blog tours can be fun, but they are a lot of hard work, not only for the blog coordinator or hosts, but for YOU the author as well. You don’t get to just sit back and let the blog tour host do it all. If you want your tour to be successful, you need to help promote. You will also be filling out interview questions, writing guest posts/articles and sending books out for review. You’ll need to visit each blog stop during your tour to say, “Thank you” to the host and answer any questions followers may have. 

If you offer a giveaway, you’ll need to make sure the information for the contest is correct and keep track of who is entered (some blog hosts will do this, but not all). You will also need to follow up on each tour stop (unless you hired someone, they should be doing this as part of their service) to make sure each host has all the information they need for their hosting date. 

The beauty of a virtual author/book tour is your book will be appearing all over the Internet without you ever leaving your home.