Blog hiatus

Posted on January 4 2017 in writing & reading

Hello!

In 2017 I will be taking an extended blogging hiatus to travel and focus on my writing projects. The best way to hear updates from me is to sign up for my email list. That’s where I’ll share writing news and any new resources for writers. Over 2,000 writers are a part of my list, and I would love it if you joined us! Sign up here and I’ll give you access to my entire library of FREE resources for writers.

Thank you so much for reading my blog!

~Bridgid


What a year! I've compiled the 10 most popular of my blog posts for writers in 2016. The popularity is based on number of page views (and not all of these were posted in 2016). Enjoy!

I've compiled the 10 most popular of my blog posts for writers in 2016. The popularity is based on number of page views (and not all of these were posted in 2016). Check out the list on my blog >>>

This was officially my blog’s biggest year with nearly 150k page views. Thank you so much for reading my posts! I use questions from my email subscribers to create new content, so be sure to join my list if you’d like to chime in on future posts.

10. Should Writers Blog?

Do you need to start a blog? Read this post for thoughts on thoughts about blogging for writers.

9. Make a Novel Cover for Your NaNoWriMo Project in Canva

I love making covers for my NaNoWriMo projects! Check out this quick Canva tutorial I made to show you how to create your own.

8. How to Make a Blog Post Image Template in Canva

Another great tutorial! In this post, I show you how to create blog post image templates (a huge time saver).

7. 5 Tricks for Getting Into the Writing Zone

Learning how to focus can be hard. I’ve compiled my tips for getting rid of distractions so that you can write.

6. 10 Weaknesses to Look for When Revising Your Manuscript

Revising is a HUGE task and can be overwhelming. Use this list to guide your next (or first!) round of revisions.

5. How to Write Faster First Drafts

My best tips for writing first drafts FAST.

4. 50 Blog Post Ideas for Writers

An epic compilation of blog post ideas for writers - a great starting point if you’re not sure what to blog about!

3. Plot Your Novel for NaNoWriMo

In this post, I share few of my favorite plotting resources.

2. How to Write a Novel in a Month

Everyone wants to write a novel in a month, here are my tips for making it happen.

1. 9 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer

This is the ultimate guide to streamlining your work space (mental and physical) so that you can focus on writing. I still use this list as a reference!


That’s it! Did your favorite post make the list? If not, share it in the comments below!


Today I'll share my thoughts on whether or not you need an agent, plus researching agents, finishing your book, and sending query letters.

 Do you need to have a literary agent? If so, when and how do you find the *right* literary agent? Read the blog post to learn more! >>>

Please note: I am not currently represented by a literary agent, and what follows are my opinions. You should absolutely seek out information from writers, authors, agents, and editors before making your decision to seek literary representation.

Let’s tackle this in two parts.

Do I need an agent?

My honest answer is that it depends on your publishing path. Not sure what your options are? Start by reading Jane Friedman’s article and PDF on the Key Book Publishing Paths.

Now, I can’t tell you which publishing path is the best option for you - you’ll need to figure that out for yourself - but what I can say is this: join the online writing community and learn as much as you can about all facets of the publishing world. Read books on publishing, attend conferences and workshops, talk to people (writers, authors, editors, agents). All publishing options have pros and cons, challenges and benefits - you don’t even have to choose between self-publishing or traditional publishing (there are plenty of hybrid authors finding success now too) - but you’ll only find the best path for you by fully understanding your options.

Then, once you’ve decided which path is for you, you can decide whether or not you need a literary agent to help you achieve your goals. Here’s an article from Writer’s Digest about what a literary agent does and does not do. Plus a great excerpt from Jane Friedman’s blog post about getting published:

In today’s market, probably 80 percent of books that the New York publishing houses acquire are sold to them by agents. Agents are experts in the publishing industry. They have inside contacts with specific editors and know better than writers what editor or publisher would be most likely to buy a particular work.

Perhaps most important, agents negotiate the best deal for you, ensure you are paid accurately and fairly, and run interference when necessary between you and the publisher. The best agents are career advisers and managers.

Traditionally, agents get paid only when they sell your work, and receive a 15% commission on everything you get paid (your advance and royalties). Avoid agents who charge fees.

So … do you need an agent?

It depends on what you’re selling. If you want to be published by one of the major New York houses (e.g., Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, etc), probably.

If you’re writing for a niche market (e.g., vintage automobiles), or have an academic or literary work, then you might not need one. Agents are motivated to represent clients based on the size of the advance they think they can get. If your project doesn’t command a sizable advance (at least 5 figures), then you may not be worth an agent’s time, and you’ll have to sell the project on your own.

Jane Friedman: How to Get Your Book Published

Hopefully the above will help you make a better decision. Truly: there’s no right or wrong here, just options that may be better suited toward your writing and publishing career. Make sure to take your time and avoid rushing into anything. When in doubt, speak with your community of writer friends and find a second opinion.

When should I start looking for an agent?

You can start researching agents as soon as possible, but before you query your first agent, you must finish your book (more on that in a moment).

Do your homework: Research Literary Agents

There are a lot of agents out there, and not all of them will be a great fit for your books or for your career goals. Do your research, be choosy, and you’ll avoid rejections based on simply not being a match (as in: avoid querying a lit agent who reps only nonfiction when you’re writing dystopian YA), and it might help you avoid signing with the wrong agent.

Find a way to keep track of your agent research. What worked best for me was to create a spreadsheet (I used Google Drive) to keep track of agents I discovered through social media, interviews, workshops, the acknowledgments sections of my favorite books, and recommendations from friends. I kept track of the agent’s name, agency, a link to the relevant blog post/website/tweet, and then a note about why they stood out to me. I could have started far earlier than I did, and I regretted it - so I’d recommend starting now if you haven’t already!

Look for literary agents who will be the best fit for your writing career (not just one project): https://goo.gl/o58SGw via @bridgidlee tweet that

While researching agents, look for those who would be the best fit for your writing career (as in: not just interested in your current story, but agents who will support the full gamut of what you hope to achieve during your career). Consider more than just whether or not they are great on Twitter, or that they like the same books you do - not all agents are active online, and it doesn’t make them less awesome at their job. Use tools like the Agent Spotlight blog and Publisher’s Marketplace to find out who the agents represent and the deals they’ve made.

Next up: Write your query letter

When you’re ready, you’ll need a query letter. But before sending a single query letter, make sure your book is complete, and make sure it’s the best, most polished version possible.

Before sending a single query letter, make sure your book is complete (and as polished as possible!): https://goo.gl/o58SGw via @bridgidlee tweet that

So. First, finish your book. Revise. Revise some more. Share it with your critique partners and beta readers. Only when you think your book is 100% ready should you consider querying your first agent.

Why?

If an agent rejects you, you’ll have to wait until your next project (and often after some time has passed) before querying them again. Also, what if they request pages and you’re not ready? It’s a waste of their time, and may reflect poorly on you. Do you really want to mess with your chances of getting an agent to consider you?

So before you start querying, get your critique partners to help you polish your query, perhaps even your synopsis and first three chapters (many agents request these too). There are online contests geared toward helping writers polish their query letters and book openings - take advantage of these.

Once your query letter is ready to go, use your handy spreadsheet to choose the agents you’ll query. Make sure they are still open to queries, and triple-check their submission guidelines.

I used QueryTracker to keep track of the queries I sent, and also another spreadsheet which made it easy for me to get an idea of outstanding queries and rejections (fun!).


I hope this helps those of you who aren’t sure whether or not they want (or need) an agent. If it did help you, please consider sharing it!

Do you need a literary agent? Plus, when and how to start looking: https://goo.gl/o58SGw via @bridgidlee tweet that


Are you an agented writer with advice for those without an agent? Anything you’d add to the above?

Or, are you an un-agented writer with more questions about this topic?

Hop in the comments, I would love to hear from you. :)

Photo credit: Wonderlass


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 tweet that

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 tweet that

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 tweet that

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 tweet that

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 tweet that

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 tweet that