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Just in time for National Novel Writing Month: If you struggle to finish stories, then this is the blog post for you. Learn how to identify what's holding you back, and then get my best tips to help you finish your novel.

 Just in time for National Novel Writing Month: If you struggle to finish stories, then this is the blog post for you. Read the blog post to learn how to identify what's holding you back, and then get my best tips to help you finish your novel >>>

Are you struggling to finish your novel?

Lately, I've been getting questions from writers that sound a lot like this:

"My biggest struggle is finishing a book. I lose motivation or I can't make what I write match the vision in my head. How do I reach The End?"

There are two big issues that come into play here, and they are often to blame when you're having trouble reaching The End.

The first is your basic understanding of story structure. Trying to write a book without knowing story structure is like trying to find a hotel in a strange city without asking someone for directions (or looking at a map, or checking your phone). You're wandering around without the information you need, and sure, you might be able to find your hotel/finish your novel, but you'd be a lot better off if you just prepared for the journey (or asked for help!).

The second is your inner editor (or inner perfectionist), the voice in your head that tells you to re-write one chapter (paragraph, or line) over and over because it isn't just right. This also ties into your productivity. When your inner editor is being extra loud, it's even easier to distract yourself with answering emails, putzing online, or cleaning your keyboard with a q-tip.

Related: 9 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer

My advice? First identify your problem - whether you're struggling with your understanding of story structure or if your inner editor is to blame - then you can take action.

I've broken down my advice so that you can choose the actions that best fit your needs:

If your problem is understanding story structure (including scene structure, and character Goal, Motivation, and Conflict), start here >>>

1. Learn about story structure.

Check out my Novel Writer's Story Workbook, and be sure to read the books I recommend in the workbook for some great options to help you hone your story structure skills. The books and worksheets will help you understand the basic story elements which will give you waypoints to guide you when you're writing.

Just in time for National Novel Writing Month: If you struggle to finish stories, then this is the blog post for you. Read the blog post to learn how to identify what's holding you back, and then get my best tips to help you finish your novel >>>

2. Read critically.

Beyond reading for pleasure (which I support 100%), it's also important to become a more critical reader. Find books in your genre and outside your genre, re-read favorites and the classics. Find bestsellers and popular novels in your genre. While you're reading, ask yourself:

  • How does the author create suspense or tension?

  • What helps me connect with the characters?

  • Are there sections where I lose interest?

Once you finish the novel, you might:

  • Jot down the synopsis for the story.

  • Reflect on what worked (or didn't work).

  • Consider what you can take away from the story and use to improve your own projects.

3. Share your work (and use feedback to improve).

If we write in a bubble, then we might either a) think we're simply the best thing in the history of literature, or b) think we are beyond wretched and are wasting our time with this whole writing thing. (Hint: both of those things are likely inaccurate.) I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and exchange your work with other writers.

"Step out of your comfort zone and exchange your work with other writers." @bridgidlee on learning story structure: https://goo.gl/1lH29D

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If this is new to you, I wrote a blog post about the difference between Critique Partners and Beta Readers and a post with answers to five common questions about Critique Partners (how to find them, what to look for, etc.). By sharing your work you can get an outsider's perspective, which may help you see where you have room for growth and improvement.

If your problem is your inner editor (or inner perfectionist), then start here >>>

1. Try NaNoWriMo or find an accountability partner.

The faster you can write a first draft, the easier it is to keep your excitement for a story. If you take too long it can be easy to lose the exciting, shiny-new-story feeling, or forget why you wanted to write a book in the first place.

Anything that can help you finish your first draft FAST is a good thing, which is why challenges like NaNoWriMo or the YA Buccaneers writing bootcamps can be great. For me, once I knew how to write a book, I needed a push to help me get words on the page (any words!) so that I could scramble my way to the finish line. Although NaNoWriMo isn't for everyone, it's worth figuring out something that will work for you. 

"Anything that can help you finish your first draft FAST is a good thing." @bridgidlee on finishing your novel: https://goo.gl/1lH29D

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As another example, when I hit a rough patch last year while writing a manuscript, I would send a chapter to a friend immediately after I finished it. She didn't read them (sheesh, at least I hope not!), but the fact that she was looking for them gave me the push I needed to stay focused and KEEP WRITING. 

2. Learn how to use the XXX.

The XXX is an essential part of my Reach-The-End toolkit, and it has nothing to do with Vin Diesel (har). It's simple (and I'm sure that some of you use this technique already), but it was revolutionary to my drafting process.

Here's how it works: When I'm drafting, if I hit something I don't know (a character's name, a piece of dialogue, a scene, a technical aspect I'm not sure about, etc.), I type in 'XXX' as a placeholder and keep moving. Your placeholder could be anything, as long as it's easy to find when you're revising.

Sometimes I'll write in "need fantastic scene about character X doing something to character Y" or "put brilliant dialogue here" or similar.

The idea is the same - instead of letting something I don't know keep me from moving on in the story, I drop a placeholder, and keep moving. 

3. Say it with me: "First drafts aren't supposed to be perfect." 

The vision of a perfect novel in your head? Do me a favor and tell it to take a back seat while you're drafting. 

"First drafts aren't supposed to be perfect." How to Finish Your Novel: https://goo.gl/1lH29D via @bridgidlee

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First drafts are like loose sketches of paintings. At first they look like a mess, but you need that first sketch to get you started. Only then can you reinforce lines, add paint, etc (I have no idea how to paint, bear with me), until one day all we see is the final masterpiece.

Push aside the picky, judgmental voice in your head. It can come back when you're revising and polishing. Drafting is the time for getting everything onto the page.

Author Jamie Freveletti said it better:

“Awful first drafts are fine—Agree with this. If you don’t finish something, you’ll never get in the game. Just quell the voice in your head that says “Are you kidding? No one is going to want to read this drivel” and keep on going. You’re going to revise and revise and then revise again anyway.”

Jamie Freveletti

All this to say: You can't fix something that's not complete, so let go of the idea of perfection and just write.


That's my advice, but I would love to hear from you. Do you have suggestions for writers who struggle to reach The End? Share in the comments below!


Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamlined writing environment. Even better, the Ulysses team is offering a free trial for writers participating in NaNoWriMo 2016, so you can try it for free! Read on for why I made the switch to Ulysses and why you might want to do the same.

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

For full disclosure: After I reached out to the team behind Ulysses to gush about their app, they offered me promotional copies so that I could fully test the app and offer you guys a more complete review. As you know, I only promote products I love, and I'm sharing with you my honest thoughts and opinions that are in no way shaped or directed by the Ulysses team.

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

What about Scrivener?

Let me start by saying that Scrivener has been my go-to writing software for the last six years.

And yet ...

During the last year I've been exporting my manuscripts more than ever, and I've struggled with the formatting in Scrivener. Also, the more writing projects I add to my quiver, the more of a pain it is to manage them in Scrivener (since each new project is a separate file).

For those reasons, I've been on the lookout for a simple, easy to use app, one that doesn't have all the functionality in the world, but does exactly what I need, and does it well. Because, honestly? I don't use anywhere near all of the options/functions in Scrivener, and I'd rather spend my free time writing, not watching tutorial videos (or wrestling with features).

And I'm not the only one. Lately I've been hearing a few things from writer friends:

It's been a while since I wrote, and now I can't remember how to do anything in Scrivener. Help!

Whenever I try to export, either the fonts don't match, or chapters are missing, or it's just a huge pain. What do I do?

Scrivener just isn't working for me ... I guess I'll go back to writing in Word. (followed by a long sigh)

Scrivener is a powerful app. It offers a multitude of options and features, which is great ... if that's what you need. But it's certainly not the best app for every writer.

How I heard about Ulysses

Although I searched online for Scrivener alternatives, I wasn't finding what I wanted. Either apps focused on being streamlined and were too streamlined (I wanted more than a glorified Word document), or they had too many whistles and bells and simply weren't a better option than Scrivener.

Then Lauren Layne - one of my favorite contemporary romance authors - mentioned that she uses (and loves!) Ulysses App in one of her weekly emails. It was a quick mention, but since I like Lauren's style and writing advice, I thought it was worth checking out.

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

I downloaded a copy and moved my current manuscript over to Ulysses from Scrivener.

And friends, I am so glad I did!

After a few days of playing with Ulysses App, I was hooked. (I also finished my revisions: WIN!)

Let's talk about exactly why I think it's worth switching from Scrivener to Ulysses App.

Why I'm Switching from Scrivener to Ulysses App

First, Ulysses App offers a number of features I consider essential to any writing software. This includes:

  • Auto-save and Full Version History

  • Full-text and Semantic Search

  • Multiple Export and Import Options

  • Spelling and Grammar Check

For a full list of features, visit the Ulysses App website.

Ulysses offers the basics (which is why I was willing to try it in the first place), but there are three features that made me decide it was worth switching to Ulysses for good.

Top Three Reasons to Love Ulysses App

  1. Clean and streamlined interface with powerful features you need, but without unnecessary distractions.

  2. All of your projects are in one place - your blog, newsletter, manuscripts, etc. - so you can manage your entire writing LIFE without opening five million different files or apps.

  3. Easy to export manuscripts with little to no fuss (plus a dreamy preview feature so you can see what the file will look like when you export it!).

Want an alternative to Scrivener? Here's why you should consider @UlyssesApp (+ how to try it free!): https://goo.gl/jjpFZp via @bridgidlee

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Let's unpack those a little.

1. Clean and streamlined interface

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

Writers strive for deep, creative focus -- the kind that lets us disappear into our stories -- and the less happening on your screen (or in your writing app), the better. Not only does Ulysses app offer a focus mode, which only shows the page you're working on, but the entire app is simple and streamlined.

Which is great for focus, but it's also part of what makes Ulysses so easy to use. There aren't distractions or a million things to set up before you begin a project, so you can get straight to writing.

2. One library to rule them all

All of us are juggling numerous projects at one time, and whether that means multiple manuscripts, blog posts, articles, emails for your readers (I could go on and on), it can be hard to stay on top of everything when you have innumerable files in a million different places. In the past I've used a combination of apps to stay organized, including Scrivener, Evernote, and Google Docs. When I switched to Ulysses, it was an unexpected delight to be able to organize all of my projects in one place.

Take a look:

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

Left: a screenshot of the app that shows the library, a folder within the library, and a selected sheet (what Ulysses calls pages) within the folder. Right: I zoomed in on my library to show you how I've organized my various writing projects.

Not only can you use Ulysses for your manuscripts, but also for things like lists of future project ideas, or your book blurbs, or your query letters.

Think about that for a moment: You can keep everything in one place. Instead of opening a number of different apps, you just open Ulysses, and there they are!

Personally, I love anything that streamlines my work flow. It saves me time, and helps me focus more on creating (versus organizing). I had no idea this would be such a huge benefit, but it's definitely a top reason for considering switching to Ulysses.

3. Simple export

As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, I'm exporting my manuscripts more and more often now, to my CPs and Betas, to agents, and (soon!) for publication. I have spent hours trying to make my manuscripts export the way I want them to in Scrivener. It's been exhausting. And stressful! This is the top reason why I started looking for a new writing app, and Ulysses app did not disappoint.

With Ulysses app, I can export my manuscript as a number of different file types (docx, epub, pdf), and I can customize styles and fonts.

So yes, Ulysses app offers simple, easy, and functional export. But they go one step further.

Check this out:

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

You can preview your manuscript live while you're writing. Which is a fancy way of saying that you can see how your manuscript (or any text you're working on) will look when you export it. This is especially nice since all of your writing is text only, with some basic Markdown syntax you can use for headings, emphasis, lists, etc.

Why text-only is a good thing:

The greatest benefit of writing in text-only (in my opinion) is that it provides consistent results when you export your documents. Instead of using a WYSIWYG editor (think: your text editor with little buttons you can use to select and bold, italicize, or add links to text), you use Markdown, which helps you avoid having one paragraph in sans-serif 10pt font and every other paragraph in serif 12pt font. (Anyone else have that happen ALL the time? So frustrating!)

Markdown is very simple to use and the folks behind Ulysses made it even easier. You don't have to know any Markdown syntax to use it. Just highlight the text you want to style, then select the style you want from a drop down menu. Easy!

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>

In Scrivener, you have to worry about all of those styles you add through the editor and how they'll work with (or, more likely, work against) your final styles. So in my opinion? Text-only FTW.

Writers! Read about why @bridgidlee switched from Scrivener to @UlyssesApp (& how to get a free trial): https://goo.gl/jjpFZp

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So why wouldn't I use Ulysses?

Now that I've gushed about what I love about Ulysses, I want to point out the downsides to using Ulysses (especially for those switching from Scrivener).

Learning curve

Although I found it simple and intuitive to use, you will need to learn how to use it. The Ulysses App team has a great intro video on their NaNoWriMo free trial page that will get you up and writing your new manuscript in 10 minutes or less. Right now they're also offering a free introductory email course. You can sign up for the email course on their website.

Simplicity

Ulysses App is simple and streamlined -- something I consider a benefit -- but if you love all of Scrivener's features, then you may not love losing them. At this point in my writing, I've found that I do much of my plotting and story planning by hand (with notecards, in a notebook, on paper etc.). In the past, I would have hated to leave Scrivener's "cork board," but now I would far rather use Ulysses because certain features are far more relevant and important to me (ex: library hub for all of my projects and simple exporting).

Only for Apple devices

Right now, Ulysses App is only available for download to Mac computers OR to Apple devices.


Try Ulysses App FREE!

Now that you have the pros and cons of Ulysses App, I would like to invite you to try it yourself. In honor of National Novel Writing Month, the team behind Ulysses App is offering a free trial to writers. You can download Ulysses App and use it for FREE until December 7th, 2016. How great is that?!

Just click the image below to learn more (or click here).

 Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamline writing environment & you can try it for free during NaNoWriMo! Read the post to learn why I'll be switching to this app (and why you might want to do the same!) >>>


I'd love to hear from you: Is there writing software you use and love? Do you think you'll check out Ulysses App? Hop in the comments below to share!

Help spread the word: Share the tweet below & help spread the word about the Ulysses App free trial!

Meet @UlyssesApp for writers & learn how you can try it for FREE during #NaNoWriMo: https://goo.gl/jjpFZp via @bridgidlee

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Nailing your character's voice can sound like a nebulous and impossible task. Today, we'll look at examples of novels where the voice truly shines, and you'll get concrete steps you can use to improve your own writing voice.

 Improve your writing voice! Check out examples from novels and use my tips for nailing your writing voice. Read the full post on my blog >>>

This post includes affiliate links (marked with an asterisk). When you use the link to make a purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will only share affiliate links if I have used and recommend the product or service. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks for your support!

Have you ever had a critique partner say your "voice" just didn't cut it for them?

Or perhaps you've seen agents seeking writers with "a distinctive voice" (and you had no idea what that meant).

If so, then this is the blog post for you, my friend!

Let's start with the basics.

What is writing voice?

Writing voice is the personal flavor or flair you add to your stories. Have you noticed that although a number of books might have the same premise, once you read those books they seem vastly different? Sure, some of that is because the details in the plot differ, but a lot of it is because 1) the writer's voice is unique, and 2) their characters' voices are also unique.

Writing voice is the personal flavor or flair you add to your stories.

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For characters to truly jump off the page and into the imagination, their voices need to be believable and consistent. An elderly man wouldn't react the same way a first grader would, right? No! In real life, they would look different, have unique speaking patterns, and react differently based on experience and perspective. And since the more we can reflect the real world in our stories, the more powerful they will be; which means we need to make sure our fictional characters illustrate unique voices too.

Take a look at these two different characters written by Sabaa Tahir:

Keenan moves toward me until he's standing uncomfortably close. He smells of lemon and wind and something smoky, like cedar. He takes me in from head to toe, and the look would be shameless if it wasn't for the slight puzzlement in his face, like he's seeing something he doesn't quite understand. His eyes are a dark secret, black or brown or blue -- I can't tell. It feels as if they can see right through me to my weak, cowardly soul. I cross my arms and look away, embarrassed of my tattered shift, of the dirt, the cuts, the damage.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir*

"I owe you, Veturius." Her eyes soften, and the steely, Blackcliff-trained part of me shakes its head. She can't turn into a girl on me now. "Cain told me everything you did for me, from the second Marcus attacked. And I want you to know--"

"You'd have done the same." I cut her off gruffly, satisfied by the stiffening of her body, the ice in her eyes. Better ice than warmth. Better strength than weakness.

Unspoken things have arisen between Helene and me, things that have to do with how I feel when I see her bare skin and her awkwardness when I tell her I worry for her. After so many years of straightforward friendship, I don't know what these things mean. But I do know that now's not the time to think about them. Not if we want to survive ...

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir*

How would you describe the voice in these two examples?

For the first, I would say: thoughtful, timid, poetic.

For the second, I would say: strong, focused, sharp.

You can tell the author is a fantastic writer, but beyond that she has made two main characters in one book have very distinctive voices.

Here's another example I love, from Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda:

I take a sip of my beer, and it's -- I mean, it's just astonishingly disgusting. I don't think I was expecting it to taste like ice cream, but holy ****ing hell. People lie and get fake IDs and sneak into bars, and for this? I honestly think I'd rather make out with Beiber. The dog. Or Justin.

Anyway, it really makes you worry about all the hype surrounding sex.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli*

Note how different the writing style is between the two different authors. But it goes beyond how the writers write (i.e. word choice, point-of-view, sentence structure), the voices are hugely different.

I would describe this voice as: irreverent, young, humorous.

All of the above are examples of excellent writing, all are from characters around the same age (in their teens), and yet each carries the author's voice and their own distinctive voice - which is what makes these stories shine.

For a non-YA example, let's look at the RITA award-winning romance novel Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles:

First, meet the heroine ...

If she were caught--caught doing what she'd promised to give up--what would the cost be? Too high. Oh, but the need. The need itched across her skin, jerked her fingers toward her phone.

Outside a stacked-stone Welsh church in Flintshire, Katy Tolson snugged her pashmina scarf tighter against the pine-scented October breeze whipping through their tour group and across the rocky terrain. Ruining our bachelorette vacation, my butt.

Maybe just a quickie?

Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles*

And now the hero ...

Sir Robert Beucol kept a steady hand on the lady's back and steered his destrier up the outer bailey steps, his horse's iron shoes ringing against the stone. He nodded gruffly to a sentry and clattered across the drawbridge over the natural ravine, through the gate, and into the bailey, the lady was thankfully quiet. For lady she was, despite wearing strange hose and an oddly shaped cloak. [...]

God keep him, remembering the feel of those soft curves pushed against him shot lusty thoughts through his body and stiffened his privy counselor. Heavenly, she smelled, like the lushest fruit. Obviously one of the wealthier colonists. He halted any further conjecture and allowed cool determination to cleanse away any flicker of desire. He could ill afford such a dalliance.

Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles*

Once you get over the term "privy counselor" (haaaa), note just how different the two voices are - it's something the author did such a fantastic job with in this book. The heroine is a modern-day gal, addicted to planning (and her phone), who gets transported back to the time of knights like Sir Robert. The two voices are brilliant, just spot on (granted, I've never met a Welsh knight, but the character sounded amazing).

As writers, that's our goal: to make the character sound like the real thing so that our readers are pulled into the story and not distracted by a flat or (worse) non-believable voice.

Now that we know what our goal is, let's talk about how we can make it happen.

How to Improve Your Writing voice

Do your research

1. Read. Then read some more.

Read widely in your genre. Know how authors handle similar characters. Find out which books are bestsellers, and think deeply about what makes the voice stand out in those stories.

The first step to improve your writing voice: Read widely in your genre.

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2. Know your genre.

Although you can break rules and toe the lines of what's commonly accepted, it's always a good idea to know what the rules are for your genre before stepping outside of those rules. So before you begin writing your first-person Middle Grade novel about a pre-teen trying out for the school play, make sure you know what the expectations are for your genre (What language and subject matter are acceptable? How are touchy topics approached?).

3. Listen.

Listen to how people like your character talk (or write). Do they have certain habits or mannerisms? What do they value? Where do they like to spend time (and with whom)?

To do this, find non-creepy ways to listen to your target audience. I have a writer friend who sits at her mall's food court and listens in on teen conversations. Another swears by watching television shows popular with her ideal readers. You could also find Instagram accounts similar to your main character, or blogs with a similar audience.

This is a little more difficult with children, but you can volunteer to babysit for a friend or sibling. Or help out with your local elementary school's tutoring or reading program. In other words: get creative! (But again, please don't be creepy.)

Know your characters

In real life, we could describe someone to another person by sharing their physical traits, personality quirks, or speech patterns. I encourage you to do the same for your fictional characters.

Go beyond what the physical characteristics, and jot down details to help bring them to life:

  • What do they say when they're angry?

  • How do they get from one place to another (run? walk slowly? skip? drive a mini-van?)?

  • What do they like to do in their free time?

  • How would their best friend describe them?

  • How would a non-friend describe them?

  • What is their most valued object?

  • How do they react when hurt? Afraid? Sad?

Use details like this to get to know your character before you start writing, and you'll be less tripped up by getting their "voice" down while you're writing.

Practice

After reading (and reading some more) in your genre, the best thing you can do is write (and write some more).

Try short stories or flash fiction to stretch your writing muscles, and focus on prompts that will push you to write new voices.

Try these to start:

Write the same scene from each character's perspective.

  • A mother trying to talk to her daughter about drugs.

  • A first kiss between fifth graders.

  • A 30-something career woman is heading on a vacation, and she's leaving her very-loved dog behind.

  • An ex-soldier is going back to school, and his first class is taught by an ex-girlfriend.

  • A rich teen boy has to take the bus for the first time and meets a girl from a poor neighborhood.

As always, feedback from other writers can help you spot where you need to improve.

Bonus! Advice from Angela Quarles

When I first shared this blog post, Angela Quarles reached out to me on Twitter with some insight into her writing process. She said, "This is the first blog post to use my writing to illustrate craft and--no lie--it feels good to have someone [recognize] the hard work I put into their individual voices. For the final pass w/that in mind, I did Katy and Robert separately [...] in revisions when I worked on polishing their voices, I edited each of her POVs all the way thru, and then his."

For those who are interested, Angela shared the full process (for another novel, but same POV/voice challenge) in a post on her blog:

My current novel has two Points of View (POV), and boy are they completely different. One is the quirky, slightly dorky heroine from modern-day America, and the other is a sweet, hunky hero from 1834. (It’s a time-travel romance). As you can imagine, their voices are completely different in tone and syntax. I thought I’d share my method of making damn sure they didn’t sound alike, not because I think this is THE WAY to do it, or that it is in any way groundbreaking, but just in case it might work for another.

Read Angela's full post

P.S. Want to thank Angela for sharing her amazing insight AND see the results of her POV process? Buy MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL!*


That's my advice, but I would love to hear from you! How do you work on improving your writing voice? Have a favorite technique or tool to share? I would love to hear it! Hop in the comments below & let's chat!

Pssst: I'm also working on a resource to help writers with pre-writing exercises like character sketches. If you want to be notified when it launches, be sure to sign up for my mailing list (and you'll also get access to all my other free resources for writers).

Thanks for reading!


Welcome to the first episode of Book Magic! In this interview series I'll be sharing interviews with writers, authors, and industry experts about the craft and business of writing and selling books. (Who's excited? This girl!)

Learn more about self-publishing and traditional publishing from YA and Romance hybrid author Elizabeth Briggs. This week only: Enter to win copies of her YA and Romance books! Click through for details >>>

The first interview is with hybrid author Elizabeth Briggs, who self-published her NA/Adult Romance series, Chasing the Dream, and whose traditionally published YA Sci-fi title, FUTURE SHOCK, just released. In the interview Liz talks about:

  • Her writing and editing process.

  • Why she chose to self-publish.

  • Tools and resources she uses for writing and productivity.

  • How she juggles writing (amazing!) books with marketing.

I absolutely love Liz's Chasing the Dream series (I've talked about her books here, here, and here), and getting to ask her questions about writing and publishing was ridiculously fun AND rewarding. She has such fantastic advice and insight to share; whether you're considering self-publishing or a hybrid approach, or if you simply want to learn from a prolific author, then you'll love this interview!

Before you start watching, I have a couple of goodies in store for you ...

Enter to win a copy of FUTURE SHOCK

In celebration of the first video (and also because I want you to experience Liz's awesomness), I'm giving away a copy of FUTURE SHOCK to one lucky reader! Click the image below and you'll be taken to the Rafflecopter form for this giveaway. Earn entries by helping us spread the word!

Learn more about self-publishing and traditional publishing from YA and Romance hybrid author Elizabeth Briggs. This week only: Enter to win copies of her YA and Romance books! Click through for details >>>

Enter to win books 1-3 in the Chasing the Dream series

This week ONLY: Sign up to be notified when future Book Magic videos go live, and you'll also be entered to win the Chasing the Dreams box set (Kindle versions of books 1-3).

By signing up, you'll get some seriously terrific side benefits like:

  • Behind-the-scenes goodies and exclusive content (example: I'll send you links to books & resources Liz mentions in her interview).

  • The chance to shape the future of Book Magic interviews.

  • Monthly updates from me with special announcements and news about free courses like these.

Pretty great, no?

Click the image below to sign up!

Learn more about self-publishing and traditional publishing from YA and Romance hybrid author Elizabeth Briggs. This week only: Enter to win copies of her YA and Romance books! Click through for details >>>

Watch the interview

Enough chatting, I bet you're ready to learn from Liz! Click the video below to watch the interview!

Thank you so much for watching! Remember: Visit Liz's site to get a free copy of her book, MORE THAN EXES.

Learn more about self-publishing and traditional publishing from YA and Romance hybrid author Elizabeth Briggs. This week only: Enter to win copies of her YA and Romance books! Click through for details >>>


Have questions for Liz, or feedback for future Book Magic interviews? Leave a comment below.

I love comments almost as much as I love books. ;)


Critique Partners are an amazing asset to a writer at any stage, but they're the source of a lot of questions: Where do you find CPs? How do you find the right CP? Today I've put together the answers to the most common questions below. Take a look!

Critique Partners are an amazing asset to a writer at any stage, and I often hear writers asking about where to find CPs, how to find the *right* CP, or how to make the most of CP relationships. I've put together the answers to the most common questions below. Click through to read it >>>

5 Common Questions about Critique Partners

Last week I shared a blog post about the difference between Critique Partners (CPs) and Beta Readers. Today, I want to answer some common questions I hear about finding CPs and making the most of CP relationships.

Ready? Let's go.

1. Where do you find Critique Partners?

There are a number of CP match-ups online, and Twitter is always a great option. You might find them in your local writing group, in online writing groups, or on Facebook. In short: everywhere!

In case you're overwhelmed, here are five critique partner match ups to get you started:

  1. CP of Awesome Match-Up on the YA Buccaneers

  2. Pub Crawl Critique Partner Connection

  3. Swoon Reads Critique Partner Matchmaking

  4. How about we CP Tumblr

  5. Ladies Who Critique

2. How do you find the right CP?

Finding the right CP can be challenging. You may need to try out different CPs before you find the best one for your story. You might also find that certain CPs are great for one story, but not as well suited for your other stories. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and with a CP, you're looking for another writer who is strongest in the areas you need the most help.

You may need to try out different CPs before you find the best one for your story.

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Things to consider:

  • What genre do they read and write? A writer who isn't familiar with your genre may not give the most helpful feedback.

  • What style of writing do they like? A writer who loves lyrical storytelling may not like your short and snappy dialogue-heavy manuscript.

  • Are they nice? Maybe you like tough love, or maybe you cry at the drop of a hat (raises hand) -- whichever you prefer, look for CPs who fit what you want. For example, you can check out their Twitter feed to get a feel for their personality.

3. Okay, I have a CP. Now what?

Once you've found a CP, start by sharing a snippet of your work, and request that they do the same. Perhaps exchange your query letter, first five pages, or first three chapters. Request specific feedback, and get a feel for their style of critiquing. There's a chance you won't like their style (or they won't like yours), and it's better to find out sooner rather than later to avoid wasting their time.

Related: Before You Hit Send: Prepping Your Manuscript for CPs

4. What should I ask my CP to look for?

As I mentioned in my post on how to revise be specific about the feedback you want when you share your work with a CP.

Be specific about the feedback you want when you share your work with a CP.

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Questions you might ask after an early draft:

  • Is this story worth writing? Do you want to read more?

  • Were there points in the story where you grew bored or lost interest?

  • What did you like best about the story?

Questions you might ask after later drafts:

  • Is my character's development believable?

  • How is the romantic tension?

  • Is this scene confusing?

  • Any gaping plot holes or problems I need to address?

The list goes on! It depends on where you are in the writing process (think of the spectrum as first draft -----> ready for querying or publication), and you'll find that certain CPs specialize in giving certain types of feedback. For example, one CP might be great at quick turn around and big picture feedback, whereas another CP might need more time, but will be able to give you a more detailed critique.

5. How can I be a good CP?

There are a few simple things you can do to make sure the friends you critique for are happy customers:

1. Be honest about your availability and your interest.

First, try to be honest about how long it will take you to read and critique your CP's manuscript. If it's taking you longer than expected, let them know. If you need more time, be honest. You can save your CP a lot of unnecessary stress simply by being up front with them.

Second, if a friend asks you to read their erotic vampire political thriller and you absolutely HATE those (or you're completely unfamiliar with the genre), then don't offer to read for them. (Perhaps skip the part about hating their genre, though.) Let them know you're not the right reader for this story, and be honest about which genres you would be willing to read.

2. Ask for their expectations and try to meet them.

Request expectations from your CP and before you start reading make sure you know what kind of feedback they want. Do this and you'll avoid sending them your line-by-line edit when what they really wanted was to know if the romance worked.

3. Be a gracious reader.

When someone asks you to read their manuscript, they are placing a lot of trust in you. Treat their manuscript--and their feelings--like you would your own. Find ways to be constructive and avoid being negative or overly enthusiastic about their faults or mistakes (i.e. "That's the WORST character arc EVER!!!! OMGGGG.").

Before sending your feedback, double-check it. Are you kind and gracious? Do you offer encouragement? Have you met their requests? Is your feedback constructive?

Remember: being a CP for a writer is beneficial to you too. Not only will your CPs return the favor and help you write better books, but by reading and critiquing your work will improve. #WIN

Related: How to Rock the Critique Partner Relationship


I hope you found my tips about Critique Partners helpful! If you liked this post, I would love it if you shared it on Twitter. You can use the tweet below, just click to tweet!

Want to know where to find CPs & how to make the most of CP relationships? Read this:

tweet that

I would love to hear from you in the comments below: Do you have tips for writers looking for CPs? Or questions about being a good CP?


Pssst: You also might like the Novel Plot Test Worksheet I made. My email friends get to download it for FREE! Click the image below to sign up and I'll email you a copy today.

Want to make sure your novel idea passes the test? I created a Novel Plot Test worksheet to help you find out. Click through for your copy ----->


Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo