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Top 10 Blogging Tips to Teach Entrepreneurs to Drive Business

Top 10 Blogging Tips to Teach Entrepreneurs to Drive Business

Hello Lovelies, 

Let’s talk about blogging tips. One of the most commonly recommended tips when you are looking at branding/ grassroots marketing/ creating an inbound lead list or really any digital marketing. While many are moving away from blogs to focus on e-mail marketing (nothing wrong with that.) it is still the top of most inbound sales funnels and is certainly a great way to create content that establishes you as an expert, allows you to build trust with potential customers (leading them to welcome you into their email inbox), and allows search engines to feed your content to potential customers based on their searches and needs. In my humble opinion, while you may not need to create content every day or even every week, you still want some killer blog posts that can constantly be re-shared and used to drive traffic, engagement, awareness of your brand, and guide people into your sales funnel. Here are 10 tips on how to blog,  if you have a blog that isn’t really driving traffic or if you are considering adding it to your arsenal. 

 

 

1. Know Your Purpose/ Know Your Audience’s Purpose

 

This goes beyond “everyone says I need to blog.” That may be why you are picking up blogging, but blogging for the sake of blogging is a futile effort in madness. You need to take some time and really think about why you want to blog. The next obvious answer is to make sales. 

Making sales is a great reason to blog. The approach you take to blogging will depend on the type of sales you are looking for. If you are new in your industry, then you may want to focus on posts that let consumers know what sets you apart from your competitors, why your products are the best for your target audience, how your product solves their problems, and of course, any PR content that is relevant (such as when you get in with a new distributor, if you host events, any volunteer work you’re doing, etc.) 

If you’ve been in business for a bit and are getting into blogging now, while any of the content that applies to a new business will also apply to you, you also want to look at how you are currently drawing your leads and content that you could use for your top of the sales funnels to help close the gap. 

For example, I provide editing services. I wrote a post about the different levels of editing. I also wrote a post about the hottest tool in the book market for self-editing, ProwritingAid. As you can see, any time I do a post around editing, I include a call to action inviting them to contact me to get a free quote. 

I know my audience. Their first pain point is how to better self-edit so that they can save on the cost of an editor. Books are expensive to produce and if you just one and done your drafts to an editor it can get very expensive very fast. Especially for a quality final pass. I also refer to a great tool for those who aren’t completely broke but still get sticker shock at the thought of a 75K word document running $1,500.  Then I offer a free 5-page quote. Those who’ve made it that far are either aware enough of how extensive the process is that $1,500 is not a big deal or have already done several passes and the quality of the work won’t warrant such a high editing cost. 

When I send that quote, I will also invite them to sign up for my newsletter for other awesome free tips on writing. Once they are in my newsletter, that gives me tons of cross-promotional opportunities. 

What if you are wanting to start a blog, but you don’t currently sell anything?  Consider your target audience and your interest in your blog. Are you wanting to become an influencer? Target a specific niche. If you want to do a book and makeup blog, target book genres that tend to have a heavy female readership. That was one of the big mistakes I made early on was reviewing all the books and genres I read, instead of keeping my audience tight. I knew I planned to write across multiple genres so I figured building multi-genre readers was a good call. Learned quickly that there are not a ton of readers like me who straddle so many different genres. Be intentional about building your audience now, and it will make it easier to leverage them later and to build out a clear sales funnel like my example above. 

 

2. Create a Detailed List of Topic Ideas 

There is nothing worse than a looming blog deadline and no topics to write about. Trust me, you can go back and look at my earlier content and go “Yeah, she was just going off script!” Some of that was testing what would target the right audiences (like when I added film and TV reviews to my lineup.) and others, I was just writing about a random item because I had not kept up with my content ideas list and Newsjacking wasn’t the easy content source it is now.  If you are struggling with topic ideas, try using Google Trends. It is such a handy tool. (it’s also great for tweaking headlines, and planning SEO, which we will get into more detail within the next sections). You can also crowdsource your existing audience. I also love putting up polls on social media to get feedback on topics. Always have 1 option be “Other- please list in comments”. This is a goldmine for content ideas. 

Consider creating content clusters to help not only with your content ideas but also with linking internally. Looking back at the earlier example of my articles on editing, not only do I link to my services, but I also link to other articles I’ve written on tangential topics (The ProWritingAid article, for example.) I do this a lot to keep a nice balance of long and short-form content and to prevent reader fatigue. I store topic ideas in my editorial calendar and then plan out my topics as needed, sometimes bumping up topics that fit trends or that I see coming up in forums often. 

Forums are another great content idea resource. If there are places where you can eavesdrop on your customers, listen to what they are saying they need/ want/ are interested in. Your topics don’t have to be exclusively tied to what you sell, as long as they appeal to your audience. (Hence why I experimented with doing film and TV reviews. Alas, I found that while a lot of readers love talking about TV, it didn’t do anything to boost my subscriber rate, build my audience, and was the lowest viewed and engaged with content I had. It was not worth my time to try to get enough tv in to add that to my reviews and I would rather spend that time reading instead!) 

You can never run out of good ideas, especially if you always make sure to do content idea planning once a month, or before you get too low on your list. 

 

3. Have Killer Headlines

Headlines are the first thing that most people will see as you share across social media. If that headline doesn’t grab the reader then they will not click and read. Headlines should be tight, tell what your topic is using power words, and identify your audience.  One of my favorite tools for creating headlines is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

Your goal should be to achieve the highest score possible while also having the title make sense for your topic. I require a score of 70 or higher for myself to achieve the best rankings possible. 

This article started out titled Top 10 Blogging Tips for Entrepreneurs. That only had a score of 68.  I spent about 5 minutes playing with power words and came up with Top 10 Blogging Tips to Teach Entrepreneurs to Drive Business which has a score of 85. Much better. 

Usually, I won’t figure out my killer headline until I am writing up the article. It takes so little time. But if you are coordinating for a team of writers, it may be worth your time to spend a couple of hours a month managing this so that you don’t end up with too many articles sounding the same because they used the same power words or a million top 5 lists. People love them, but they get old real quick. 

 

4. Plan your SEO 

SEO is the lifeblood of the internet, to the point where people pay sometimes thousands of dollars to professionals each month to manage their SEO strategy for their site. If you could afford that, I’m not sure you’d be here reading my articles. 

I have some fantastic resources that I use when prepping for my own articles. I will warn you, SEO is not for the faint of heart. I often spend more time on the SEO and headline for an article than I do on writing the article itself. The first step is I scan through my article and pick out keywords around the content. The first tool I use is Google Keyword planner to select keywords that are similar to the ones I pulled from my content (If you don’t use google AdWords, then you can just plug your keywords into a google search and scroll to the section that has other recommended search terms, but this is very time-consuming). Then I will use Yoast SEO premium, plugin each of those keywords and see if any new suggestions pop up. From there, I will hit up The Hoth and use the same process. 

After adding those into my Yoast, I will put them aside for helping me find the best hashtags for social media sharing. 

 

5. Write for Your Audience

The more specific and niche you can be, the better your results. I had originally planned on writing this post specifically targeting authors and using examples that directly impact an author’s needs. But I also work with a lot of SMBs (small and medium businesses) and this content is relevant to all small business owners. While it is considerably more difficult trying to target examples for all SMBs, authors included, I felt that the value you would all get from the content was worth it. But my tips would be a bit different for a larger business that had the budget to hire an SEO company or a niche business that solved a problem people don’t even know they’re having. 

via GIPHY

6. Break the Content into Easy-to-Read Segments. 

People love top 5 and top 10 lists. I’ve even seen some top 100 lists (but those are typically reserved for cornerstone content or are built by companies who are just all about link building/ affiliate marketing.) Lists are a handy tool to help break content up into easy-to-read segments. What are some other options? Well, for my book reviews, I always break the review up into sections using heading one for Genre, Synopsis, and My Take. 

It is clean, consistent for my readers, and makes it easy for them to scan and decide if they are interested in learning more about the book. 

There are lots of other options: 

  • Using different heading sizes.
  • Creating bullet points- great for list resources, especially. 
  • Inserting infographics- a great way to distill the key elements.
  • Adding images – especially if that picture can capture your thousand words. 
  • Adding video- video content is king on every platform right now. 
  • Add pull-quotes- especially if they are in bold or a different colored font. 

Anything you can do to make it easy for someone to scan the article and see if you are providing the solution they need is essential. Following the tips in Elements of Style is also very beneficial. 

 

7. Include Links to Reputable Sources

This is commonly referred to as an outbound link campaign. You will notice that in all of my content I typically have at least 3 links. My goal is to have 1 internal link to other content that you might enjoy. The other 2 (minimum, often in my long content, like this piece, there are far more than 2) are aimed at top sites for that topic. For book reviews, that would be a link to Goodreads, Amazon, D2D or Smashwords for purchasing the book, but would also include a link to the author’s website, or one of their social media pages. 

How do you determine the quality of the source? Well, that can be tricky. It’s tempting to just include those who showed up on the first page of Google, right? That doesn’t necessarily mean they are quality sites.  There are still a lot of sites practicing black hat SEO who can show up at the top of the search this week, but could get flagged next week. And anyone linking to them also gets flagged. 

A good bet is to target content by industry leaders, but sometimes those individuals are your direct competition. You don’t want to be driving business to their sites, right? 

There are some handy tools that you can use to calculate. 10 Little-Known Ways to See How Much Traffic a Website Gets
By Nicholas Tart shares some of my favorites. This also comes in handy for your bonus tip below. 

8. Create a Mix of Long and Shortform Content

You want a mix of content on your site, ideally, that builds into one another. As mentioned earlier, content clusters are a great way to do this. One of the main focuses I’ve been working on is developing more cornerstone content that utilizes my short-form content better. For example, I am working on creating “best XYZ Books” and pulling all my reviews for that genre that scored 4 stars or higher. I’m also creating some long-form lists with links to content for the other topics on my blog, including the editing examples I provided above, developing a Martech (marketing tech tools) recommendation list linking all the reviews of my favorite Martech, and how to use it for an SMB. 

You will find that creating this mix of content that feeds into one another will lead to longer times people are spending on your site. 

9. Have a Strong Call To Action

A CTA (call to action) should be included on every piece of copy you write, whether it is a blog post, a social media post, an event sign, or a video. It tells the audience what they should do. Some generic examples: 

  • Buy now
  • Leave a comment
  • Learn more
  • Join us at …
  • Don’t miss ….
  • Add to your calendar….
  • Have you read…?
  • Share your thoughts
  • Share with a friend
  • RT (retweet)
  • Like, comment, share

Of course, whenever possible you want to make your CTA as personal as possible and take advantage of the power words in the headliner list. They are fantastic for creating feelings and feelings are what sell products. Even those of us *hi* who pride ourselves on being very analytical buyers, those data points make us feel more confident in our purchase. 

 

10. Share it Everywhere

The more you can customize your content shares to fit the platform, the better it will be recieved on that platform. Keep in mind that leading with video content is a big push as more platforms embrace video content. It is worth taking a small clip from your longer video and making it work for IG stories or to follow TikTok trends and use a call to action to drive traffic back to your post. Take time to size images for each platform appropriately. I love PromoRepublic and Canva because they both make it so easy to create the right content to easily share while remaining consistent. 

As I mentioned above, you want to make sure that you are using the best tools for searching hashtags. I pull the SEO words and plug them in and see if any other suggestions pop up on Instagram. Sproutsocial shares some great tips on Twitter Hashtag Research

You also do not have to limit yourself to sharing content only once. I typically share a new post across all my platforms a few times in the first month. If it is evergreen content, I will continue to share it every 90 days to 6 months, giving it an update as needed to make sure that the content is still relevant, the keywords are still strong, etc. 

I also love using social listening to share content. When I see a Twitter search asking about formatting a book, I love to direct the person asking for help to my blog post 5 Manuscript Formatting Secrets to Win a Reader’s Love

When I find a Reddit that is appropriate, I will share my posts. Keep in mind that this strategy only works if you are active in those communities and if you are careful to curate appropriately. If all you do is scan for social listening opportunities to drop your links that is spamming. Better spamming than just randomly dropping your links at the end of someone’s blog posts, but only barely. 

Do better. 

Bonus Tip- You Don’t Have to Blog Just on Your Own Site

Guest posting is a strong tool. Combining a strong inbound linking strategy (guest posting, which drives links to your site.) with a strong outbound linking strategy will help you show the search engines that your site is a key site for your type of content. How do you do this? Pick your top keywords that you are aiming to be seen as an expert on and then go find the sites that your audience is already using and pitch articles to them.  Provide a great informational article that fits that site’s needs and audience. Be sure to include at least one link in the body that goes back to your content on your own site, and then include a link to your home page in your bio.

For example, an author would find a book blogger in their genre that welcomes guest posts. If that blog also talks a lot about music, and you have a playlist that you used to write your book then you could pitch an article around that. A fantasy book blogger who also has music posts might find “Top 5 Songs on your Quest playlist” as an appealing guest post topic. Then you can list your top 5 songs with a brief explanation of the feels it gives, then say “To find more great fantasy songs, check out my playlist recs” and link to your own blog post on your site explaining why certain songs are key to your writing playlist for your series. 

You don’t have to limit your inbound linking strategy to blog posts. I love participating on podcasts and panels. Almost all of them will provide a “here’s how to find our guest” section in their content feed. Those are also great ways to build your inbound links. 

 

Heidi Angell Business Consult

On my site, author interviews and character spotlights are quite popular. I am always down to accept those. It’s surprising how many authors never include a link to their site or to their book even when they do these types of interviews. I used to spend hours hunting down appropriate content but now I refer them to this post and hope they follow best practices. If they don’t, I don’t plug it in. I just don’t have time to coddle others for a free service. 

I always recommend looking at the blog to get a sense of the format and try to copy their style while allowing your unique voice to flow through. This is common practice with native advertising. When in doubt, check their requirements page. Most have a requirements page and many even have a list of preferred topics. 

Want to pitch a guest post on my site? The rules are easy. 

Please email me  with the subject line “Guest post for An Angell’s Life” 

An Angell‘s Life has really branched out on our topic matters the last few years and we’re accepting guest posts on books, writing tips, marketing tips, recipes, keto, health and wellness, martech (Marketing tech tools), entertainment, video games, travel, DIY, business tips, tech, 3-D printing, affiliate marketing, job hunting, education, personal development and more.  As we are very varied in our interests, it is likely that we will accept a guest post, but we recommend sending us your topic idea anan outline before, just to be sure. 
 
Some topics we would not accept guest posts on would be political posts (we have our own opinions and we may choose to educate others on our opinions from time to time, but this is not a political platform.) gambling, violence, promoting hatred, questionable business practices,  Ponzi schemes or poorly cited/ referenced “education” pieces. 
 
What we request for your guest post is at least 500 words with 1 cited link from our site if possible, 2 quality outside sources if it is not an opinion piece, and no more than 2 of your own links. We need a bio for you and a picture of you for the header piece. We ask that if you provide your own images that you cite their source. 
 
Please keep in mind that we have the right to reject a guest post at any time. However, if your post is accepted it will be shared with our audience of over 22,000 across all our social media platforms multiple times. If the content is evergreen (meaning not having a special deal or deadline.) then it will be shared up to nine times in the first year and may continue to be added into the mix for years to come, depending on how well it performs. 
 
E-mail us today. 
 
Until next time, 
Keep Writing!
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NaNoWriMo Success Achieved in 5 Easy Steps

5 tips to win nano

Hello Lovelies,

NaNoWrimo. This is one of the most popular events in the writing world. It is huge, with over 312,000 participants in 2016, but only 34,678 completed their 50K word count goal and earned the badge, according to the NaNoWriMo 2016 annual report.  That’s just around 11% of participants who “won”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone who participated and got more words on the page is a winner in my mind. But wouldn’t it be cool to get that nifty little badge, and be part of that 11% who actually finished their word count goals?

Image Courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org

Uh, YASS! So, here are 5 fast and hard tips to get you well on your way to winning that shiny badge with, or without, the support of a community. Set Word Count Goals

1 Set Word Count Goals

And stick to them. Now, most NaNo support groups will tell you “Plan on 1,666 words a day. That’s all you need to meet NaNo.” And it’s true. It really is. But what if life happens? You KNOW life will happen, so if you set your word count goal for that, and you miss a day, or you fall short one day, or 4, or 6 then you get off track, and when you get off track, you get discouraged, and suddenly by day 15 you’re 15K words behind goal, and who can make that up? I know. I’ve been there.

But you don’t have to be. Sit down and look at your calendar and plan accordingly. The first year I did NaNo I was in my senior year of college with final papers due and exams in the first week of December, had two kids not even in school yet, and I was working a full-time job. I managed to finish 50K words no problem. No, I am not Superwoman. But I am a super planner. I knew that I wouldn’t have time for three days around each paper due date. I knew that I wouldn’t get a lot of writing done over Thanksgiving break. I knew that I couldn’t commit to 1,666 words a day. But I did know that I could carve out specific blocks of writing time each week. And I did. And I figured out the number of words I needed for each of those days, and that’s what I shot for.

Things aren’t any easier this year, as I have joined the executive team at OWS and we are in the thick of planning 2018, have several huge marketing events we are planning in November/ December, I have a blog, and 9 books that I need to promote on my own time, am planning on a long road trip the week of Thanksgiving, and the list goes on.. (See, I am a neurotic planner. Some would say it’s my most redeeming feature. My kids would disagree!)

I know that I have 22 days that I can carve out writing time. For a couple of those, I will spend 6 hours stuck in a car, tap, tap, tapping away. I have carved out 180 hours of writing time in that busy schedule. (Hint, I cheated and suckered my boys into doing NaNo with me this year, so I was able to schedule some of that “writing time” as “family time” and do some write ins. The hubs is even chipping in to do the music and food. Win/win/win!) With 180 hours, that means that I need to average 278 words an hour. I set up my NaNo time in my calendar, and based on how much time I have allotted to each of those days, I set my word count goal for that day.

2 Plan Ahead

I didn’t get to do this as much as I wanted this year. But I am also working on a sequel story, so I should be ok. However, when it comes to NaNo, the achievers plan out their storyline, character traits, etc all way before. I know, I am in several writing groups and all of October there were posts about NaNo. See, the rule of NaNo is that you have to write 50K words during that month. But there is no rule against pre-planning. So do as much pre-planning as you can. Even if you are a “pantser” and don’t like doing all of that, but letting the story just “come to you” at least give yourself the beginning and end to work with, and maybe 2 or 3 pit stops along the way. Pantsing is fun, but it won’t get your story where it needs to be in 1 month.

And don’t just plan ahead with your story-line. Plan ahead with your writing. You set those times, stick to them, even if you hit your word count goal for the day. Keep writing. Because let’s be real, it is a heck of a lot easier at the beginning of NaNo than it is at the end. You can and will be able to write a lot more the first week than you will the last week. For NaNo 2015, my word count goal was 2K words a day.  The first several writing sessions I actually wrote 4-5K words a day. I let that flow and energy run. I was way ahead by week 3. But life, as it does, threw some unexpected curveballs my way. Extended family decided to come for Thanksgiving, seriously cutting into my scheduled writing time. I lost 4 of my planned writing days to that. But it didn’t matter, because I wrote ahead I still managed to finish NaNo with more than my 50K word count.

3 Put It Off

No, not the writing. Lol. nice try! But anything that slows down your word count. Need a new character that you didn’t think of in your pre-planning? Worried about details that you need for a scene to make it come alive? Need to know exactly how parkour works for a chase scene you are writing? Any other time, I would go and do the research on the fly as I am writing the scene. I am a linear writer and researcher. But not during NaNo. Don’t do that to yourself, or you will lose precious writing time.

Instead, use a couple of neat tricks to get around this. When you don’t know a character’s name, just call them something generic. I go with JD (John/Jane Doe.) Lol. Something quick, short, and easy to find and replace after Nano when you sit down to do the fleshing out and editing of your amazing work. But what if you have more than one character? JD2, JD3. It’s really pretty easy.

Hit a spot that needs research? Make a note. I like doing NaNo in Google docs because I can just real quick highlight the section and add a comment “Research Parkour.” boom, keep writing.

Have an area that you know you will need to flesh out? Do the same.

But, what if it is an IMPORTANT part of the plot. Surely, then you need to stop and do the research, right? Well… this is one of those where you need to weigh where you are in your word count goals, and how much time you have to do the research. Don’t let it get you lost down the rabbit hole that is the internet and put you behind. If it is integral, but you are behind schedule, move on to a different scene. (Or, you can choose to work through the tangle and risk missing your word count goals, because at the end of the day even if you don’t win the badge, you are on your way to an awesome story, and whether you hit the 50K word goal or not, you still have more words down than when you started.)  

4 Never End at “The End”

This is actually a tip that I use even when I’m not doing the mad dash that is NaNo. Writing sprints are a common recommendation for authors who struggle with the whole “butt in chair” problem. They are great with a group, as Jo Michaels recommends in her article “Writing Sprints: What and How”, or you can do them on your own using your phone timer.  The one thing that no one talks about with a writing sprint is that you should aim not to end a scene at the end of the sprint. Same with any of your writing sessions. I never quit writing at the end of a scene or at the end of a chapter.

I know, this is counter-intuitive, but as I am one of very few writers I know who never struggles with staring blankly at the screen for what feels like forever trying to decide what to write next, perhaps it’s worth heeding this advice.

Here’s why. As satisfying as it is to finish that scene and put your pen down (or close your laptop, in my case) and walk away, when you sit down next to write, where do you start? You have to reboot your brain along with your laptop. You have to look over your notes (if you’re a plotter) and figure out what scene needs to happen next. That all takes sooo much time. But if you are in the heat of the moment, writing the scene, the story is flowing. The juices are there. You’re already warmed up. You finish the scene and you have a pretty good idea where it’s going next. Get that next scene started, push it out there. Give yourself at least enough that when you read the paragraph before you write next time, it will fast-boot your creative juices and as you finish reading it you just know what needs to come next.

Seriously, never have I ever sat down to write on a work in progress and not been sure what to write next. This works.

5 Don’t Give Up

Nothing worth doing is ever easy. This is my mantra for life.

Developing the Never Give Up mentality will carry you well in every facet of life. NaNo, like a lot of things, always sounds like it will be fun, exciting, glamorous. But when we get into the thick of it. (I’m looking at you, week three of NaNo) it is far from glamorous. It is a hot zombifying mess of self-doubt, lack of sleep, story detours, and fear of failure. If you let yourself, it is so easy to quit.

But don’t give up. So what if you still have 30K words to go, and there’s no way you can make it? Well, if you quit now you will end with only 20K words and a sense of failure. If you push through the desire to quit, even if you only manage 20K more words and you miss NaNo by 10K, you are still 40K words towards your finished novel.

Yes, you may think that this story is crap, it is unsalvageable, why even keep trying. That’s just the lack of sleep talking. You might be looking at a lot of editing and re-writes at the end of NaNo, but don’t start that now. Keep pushing through to that word count. It will be worth it. I promise. Worry about the re-writes in January after a well-deserved break.

Sure, you are so sick of your characters fighting with your inspiration at every turn. We all get that. It’s like living in a very small box with a whole bunch of people for a month. Even the ones you loved at the beginning, might make you want to kill them. Hey, if that makes you feel better, go ahead, kill a few. I swear, I bet George RR Martin kills a lot of characters during NaNo. Again, after that well-deserved break, during re-writes, you might decide that they deserve to live. Worry about that later.

Keep fighting through the muck and the yuck. It will definitely be worth it.

And if you need a little extra support (Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) come join Author Anonymous We will be doing a lot of great NaNo support groups throughout the month, including word sprints, write-ins, and complaining about how exhausted we are. Misery always loves company. But we will also be building incredible bonds going through the trenches of NaNo together. It is totally worth it.

Until Next Time,

Keep Writing!

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How to Hook Your Audience

How to Hook Your Audience

Hello Lovely Authors,

Writing copy such as author bios, hooks, blurbs, synopses, and queries seem to be every author’s bane. Why is it that writing fiction seems easy but writing copy seems so difficult? Partly because we go into them trying to figure out how to squish our 60K + novel or 20 years experience into a couple hundred words. But that’s not really what we’re doing and that’s why many of us struggle. What you are doing with these little bits is selling your book. ARGH, the tricky marketing trap! Before you get all stressed out, go grab a cup of tea (or for those who need something stronger, I’ll allow it.) take several deep breaths, and go on a gentle journey with me of how to write a hook that will sell your book without being too salesy.

Ready?

It All Starts With a Hook

What’s this? You might hear it called an elevator pitch, an attention grabber, an intro, teaser, tag line, or several other terms, but at the end of the day it is a one-liner that grabs people’s attention and makes them want to learn more. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Now, the WORST hooks ever will compare your work to big popular titles. DO NOT do this.

Firstly, by doing this you are setting unrealistic expectations. Do you really think that your story is Jane Austen meets Zombies? Unless you wrote, Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, I doubt this is accurate. And that inaccuracy, that tying into other’s expectations from big popular icons, can make them take a more critical eye to your work and turn their nose up from what is a decent story, but didn’t live up to their over-hyped expectations. Leave the overhyping to the publishers.

But you can use the same formulas to create your own hook.

 The Mashup

The mashup is a beloved format of movie studios and book marketers. The formula goes like this: XXX meets YYY. But they use it to compare to other works. We want to avoid this. So how do we do it? Here are some great examples: 

Good girl meets a bad zombie… or 10.- The Survivalist Bible by Heidi Angell

Between life and death lies an epic war, a relentless manhunt through two worlds…and an unforgettable love story. –AFTERLIFE by Marcus Sakey

Firstborns rule society. Secondborns are the property of the government. Thirdborns are not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.-Secondborn By Amy A Bartol

This style plays on the anachronistic relationship between two or three elements in your story. “But, Heidi, I don’t have that in my story?!”

That’s ok. Don’t panic. Take a sip, take a breath.

There are several different ways you can do your hook.

Ask a Question:

It is exactly as simple as it sounds. Ask a question that will draw the reader in. This is particularly popular in YA and mysteries.

Is there such thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist’s favorite food is honey. – The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

What would you do if you spotted a man following a young woman, but no-one else could see him?- The Secret of Spellshadow Manor by Bella Forres

Focus on what makes the story unique, not what makes it like someone else’s story. Make the question thought-provoking.

 Make a Bold Statement

Using keywords to create a bold statement about your book is a power move that is very popular in fantasy and science fiction, or epic stories.

A broken city, a missing young man, and a lawyer searching for truth when nobody else cares.-Little Boy Lost by J. D. Trafford 

Whatever that theme is that sets you apart from the millions of other stories being written in your genre, use that.

Need some inspiration? Go visit the best sellers in your genre on Amazon. Get the feel and the flavor of what’s working for your genre. Every single one of the examples I listed came from bestseller titles. Every single one was the first line in the synopsis.

Now, after you write your hook, (or a couple, for A/B testing) get some feedback. Go to author groups like Authors Anon on Facebook and ask what people think. After a bit of feedback and tweaking as needed, take it to your social media peeps and ask “Would you read this book?” or “What book do you think this is?”  Now share your hook. Hint: if you hear crickets, head back to the drawing board. People don’t like to tell you when something is bad (except the trolls, but if these are your friends, they won’t).

If you get feedback like “This sounds like such and such famous book” and it fits with your story style, you know you’ve got a winner. If you get feedback like “OOH, sign me up!” you hit the lottery. Run with it!

Once you have your hook, you can write your synopsis and your query letter, and you are all set to submit to traditional publishers.

Stay tuned for those articles next.

Have any questions on how to write a hook? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Writing!

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Top 10 Character Tropes and How to Twist Them

Top 10 Character Tropes and How to Twist Them

Hello Lovely Writers,

There are literally thousands of character tropes in the literary world. Some are good, so good that they border on cliche. Others are offensive to certain groups because they rely heavily on stereotypes. But why do we use tropes in the first place? For the same reason that stereotypes hold a place, tropes allow us to “cheat” a bit in character-building. Like Barbie, our tropes give us a construct that we can then develop more of the character’s personality around saving us a lot of work in explaining and justifying our character’s choices. What are some of these tropes?

10 Popular Tropes:

  • The Girl Next Door– We all love the girl next door because she feels real and relatable. She is simple and easy, and always reliable. Usually she is pretty in an accessible kind of way, or the “I didn’t realize how pretty she really is” girl.   Some great examples of The Girl Next Door would be Ginny from the Harry Potter Series, Jane from Pride and Prejudice, Jamie from A Walk to Remember, and my favorite Kira from Fire’s Love by Alex E. Carey.
  • The Stuck up Cheerleader/ Mean Girl– This is the antithesis of the Girl Next Door Trope. She is mean, snotty, judgemental, and needs to be the center of everything. Usually in a female MC storyline, she is the antagonist. Examples would be Jessica from Twilight, Caroline from Vampire Diaries, Nellie Olson from Little House on the Prairie,
  • The Dark and Brooding Bad Boy- This takes many forms depending on the genre. In Sci-fi and fantasy, he is often an anti-hero, in drama he is the troubled kid with a heart of gold, in YA he is the bad boy crush. Whichever format you are viewing, he is usually described as scary/ trouble/ mischief and ends up saving the day, acting against the image he portrays. Some examples would be Pony Boy from The Outsiders, Jace from Mortal Instruments, Nicco from The Percy Jackson Series, Snape from Harry Potter, and my favorite, The Hunter from The Last Bucellari series.
  • The Clever One/ Misunderstood trope- This can be male or female. The Clever one usually ends up being a character who struggles with interacting with others, isn’t generally liked by the people in the story, but ends up saving everyone in the end. Classic examples would be Sherlock Holmes, Hermione from Harry Potter, Annabeth from Percy Jackson series, Iron Man, and my favorite, Erender from The Song and the Pendant.
  • The Jock– This tends to be the male version of the Mean Girl, though often not displayed as intentionally mean in the way that the mean girl is. This guy is usually physically dominant, but intellectually not as swift. He’s often seen as the leader, though often not liked for that role. He is portrayed as a cut above the others, whether he intends that or not. Perfect examples in literature would be Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, Jason from The Lost Heroes series, Cedric Diggory from Harry Potter, Bonzo Madrid from Ender’s Game, and my favorite, Connor from The Winter Smith Series.
  • The Tinkerer- Though this can be male or female, it is typically a male. The Tinkerer tends to be good with their hands, building things to problem solve, and often doesn’t relate well to the group. They tend to be the outsiders, or on the fringe of society. Classic examples would be Leo from The Lost Heroes series, The twins from Harry Potter, Dr. Jekyll from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and my favorite Tip from The Journey of the Marked.
  • The Damsel in Distress- You would think that this trope would only apply to Fantasy or historical fiction, but even sci-fi and contemporary fiction have their share of this trope. The damsel isn’t always helpless, but she is ALWAYS in need of help. Though she can often be portrayed as a strong character, she is often the catalyst that brings the other characters together. And she is always female. Classic examples, Piper from The Lost Heroes series, every Disney princess ever, Bella from Twilight, even Katniss from Hunger Games, but my favorite would have to be Justice from A Raven’s touch.
  • The Hero- This is the Male version of the Damsel in Distress. He is the male protagonist thrust into a situation in which he must save. In this role, he draws others to him to aid in salvation. Usually, this character is imbued with special talents/ gifts/ or a birthright that puts him in the “Chosen One” trope, but sometimes he is just the one who steps up when a situation goes bad. This is very very rarely a female character. Classic examples, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mocking Bird, and my favorite, Jon Snow of Game of Thrones.
  • The Wise One- This trope is different from the clever one, in that it is rarely the one who does the saving, and almost never the actual hero. But they provide wisdom and advice that guides the MC to the right choices. Classic examples would be Gandolf of The Lord of the Rings, Dumbledor in Harry Potter, Haymitch from The Hunger Games, and Glenda from The Wizard of Oz.
  • The Villain- This one comes in many mini-tropes, but I was running out of room for the top ten, and no story can be complete without an antagonist/ villain. Generally, the villain is a twist on the hero, a dark version of the good guy. Some have no redeeming qualities, and others are more complex. Some serve only the purpose of giving the hero something to struggle against, whereas others serve as a warning that the ends don’t justify the means.
Ponyboy from Outsiders, Hermione from Herry Potter, Leo from Lost Story, and Glenda from Wizard of Oz are just some popular character tropes.

How to Twist The Trope

Now, what’s really fun with tropes is to take a traditional trope and turn it on its head, or throw in an unexpected twist to that trope. Some classic examples of this practice are when Hermione, the clever girl, suddenly takes on The Girl Next Door role and goes through her “pretty girl” transformation. Or when Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde and takes on the Villain role. In The Hunter’s Saga, I take the stuck up cheerleader, Bianca, and use her natural leadership skills to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to save their town from monsters. There are tons of fun ways to twist these roles. What are your favorite to trope twists? Let us know in the comments below!

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Top Five Writing Tips by Jan Domagala

Top Five Writing Tips

Hello Lovelies,

we have a guest post today by Jan Domagala, who is celebrating the release of Blackstar Gambit, a Col Sec Thriller. Genre: Science fiction thrilling adventure Synopsis:  The Blackstar Gambit, book 7 in the thrilling Col Sec series will see Kurt Stryder and Zara Hardy face their most challenging threat to date as they are faced with choices that place millions of lives in the balance. From one side of the galaxy to the other they race to find the truth behind an ancient cult that has spawned an evil so deadly it threatens to destroy the entire Confederation starting with planet Earth. Kurt and Zara learn that the good guys don’t always win and that bad things do happen as they stand by helplessly to watch the Blackstar Gambit play out.

Without further ado, let’s turn the time over to Jan!

I was born in Staffordshire to a working-class family, my father worked down the local mines whilst my mother worked in one of the local Pottery manufacturing factories. At school, I discovered the joys of reading. I was a big fan of sci fi books but I would read almost anything I could get my hands on. My mother took me to join the local library as soon as I could read and from that day on, if it had words on it, I’d read it. In the early 70’s there wasn’t much choice where I worked so I ended up in an apprenticeship in screen printing for the ceramic industry. I’m still in the same trade after a forty -year career but my passion is and has always been writing. After several abortive attempts, I started the Col Sec series around seven years ago, it’s an action adventure series set in the twenty fifth century.
Today, I would like to share the Top Five Writing Tips I’ve discovered.​​ 

1. Set a schedule of when to write

There is a train of thought that says that if you pick a time of day to sit down and write it will become a daily routine as common as your morning coffee.There is another thought that says what if you’re not inspired to write at that particular time? Do you write anyway and risk churning out rubbish or wait until you’re truly inspired? In my experience there is no ‘best time’ to write. I can feel inspired at the oddest of times and quite often when I’m away from my laptop. So waiting until I’m inspired doesn’t work for me. On the odd occasions, if I sit to write and nothing comes, I will read instead.The process is different for every writer. You just have to find a method that works for you and once you do, it’s easier to adhere to, it becomes natural.


2. Write; quite simply write what you want

If you have picked a subject, whether it be fiction or not, just write it. Don’t worry about editing or changing stuff mid-flow because that’s the quickest way to stifle your creativity. Let the words tumble out onto the page, you can sort them out into a proper order once you’ve finished and the re-writes and editing begins.

3. Social Media

Don’t be afraid to use this in all its myriad forms. I find this increasingly difficult to comprehend how a platform like Twitter can be of any use for writers. I also authors that swear by it.Each platform has its own merits but the one thing that a lot of writers misunderstand about them is, they are not best used to sell their books, but to connect with readers. The clue is in the name, social. You have to use it to let your readers know that you are a real person, and are approachable. Once that has been achieved then you’ll increase your sales.

4. Marketing is Essential

Marketing is essential to any writer whether they are self-published or are being handled by a publishing house. In the case of the latter and you are published by the big 5, it’s not so much of a worry as the publishing house should have a plan ready to put into action and a team in place to execute it. Whereas, if you are self-publishing it’s something you have to consider very carefully. If you have no experience in this field I suggest you do one of two things; either do the research where you can gain the knowledge required to put a plan into place, or employ someone who has these skills already.

5. Write the Book You Want to Read

If you decide to write a book then write the book you would want to read. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to write for a particular market, that way you will stifle your creativity. Write the book you would read yourself, it may be in a whole new genre, or a cross genre piece that covers many topics, whatever you chose throw yourself into it, body and soul. It won’t be easy but the rewards are beyond your imagination.
There you have it, these are my top five tips writing tips.  I hope they help and I wish anyone who is just starting out on a writing career, the best of luck.​​Want to learn more about Blackstar Gambit?

Until next time, 

Keep Reading!

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A Rose by Any Other Name- Why Character Names Matter

A Rose by Any Other Name- Why Character Names Matter
This post was updated 1/11/2022

Shakespeare was wrong, names are important. So when creating your characters for fiction work, it is important to give them character names that suit their personality. Unless, of course, you are trying to be ironic. Like naming a big, hulking, girl Grace. Either way, this is an important step to developing your character and should not be taken lightly.​​

I always have a hard time with character names. I want to name my characters something original and creative. I loathe generic names like Bob, Joe, Jeff, James and Tommy. But you cannot have all of your characters have super-original names. It is emotionally taxing as an author to find so many original and creative names. Keep in mind that strange names can also lead to confusion for your audience. For example, in the Harry Potter series, I had Hermione pronounced in my head Her-meee-on. Boy, was I frustrated when she demonstrated the pronunciation in the book as Her-my-oh-neee!

Another example is my main character for Elements of a Broken Mind. Her name is Clear Angell. I had to re-write her introduction because several of my testers were confused as to why I had capitalized clear. And I may have to change the last name because most people don’t realize it is pronounced Angel. Curses!!

Can you imagine how hard it was naming my children? That is how hard it should be for you to name your characters. Your characters are your creation and in a sense your children. You want them to have original names that will stick with the reader long after the book is over. (Laura Croft, anyone?)

Naming Tips

A RoseHow do you go about picking a name? You have your lists, right? Now, go bookmark one of those online baby name sites (my favorites are  Baby Center and Babynames) and look through the names and their definitions. Find one you like that suits your character. If you already have a name picked out, check it in the registry. Sounds easy, right? Hahahahaha!!! I am working on a Zombie story and have changed my main character’s name ten times. I can’t get past the name part.

The name is probably the first introduction of your character and before you get a chance for the audience to 

get to know them, they will be automatically imbued with certain characteristics that your readers will associate with that name. Some of those you cannot predict because they are based on personal experience. But some of them will be almost universal standards based on the meanings of the names.

You also need to pay attention to your setting when naming a character. For example, if one of the characters from Pride and Prejudice had been named Tiffany or Lana that would have been weird! It would have caused a mental bump for the readers. They might not have realized why it was awkward or uncomfortable for them, but they would know that it broke the spell that was being weaved by the author. When you look up the name on your baby name site, they will have an origin listing. The origins of a name will aid in your determination of whether it is appropriate for your character, setting, and plot.

Character names need to work together, defining their relationships with one another. For example, twins often have names that sound similar, like Jen and Julie. To do this with two friends in your story may indicate a deeper bond than just friends.

Despite its lack of commonality in reality, we like couples’ names to flow together. Having two very incongruous names, like Toby and Graciella, for your main characters may be awkward if they are to have a romantic interest in one another. But having names that are too similar, like Jeff and Jen, may be banal. It is important to make sure that the names work together, like Romeo and Juliet! (But please do not decide to go with Rome and Julie, unless you are doing a modern re-take of Romeo and Juliet… even then… maybe not!)

Do not neglect this very important aspect of your writing. Make sure you get the right name for your character so that people will care to remember them! What are some great character names you have come up with? Worst character names ever? Share in the comments below!

Until next time, 

Keep Writing!

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3 Common Reasons Writers Admit Feeling Driven to Write

3 Common Reasons Writers Admit Feeling Driven to Write

This post was updated on Aug 19th, 2021

Hello Lovelies,

I would just like to say, that this is by no means a comprehensive explanation for every writer motivation out there, as we are all unique and creative individuals. However, why we write tends to be a common discussion among many of the writers I know. There are a lot of people who write, but not all people who write are writers. That being said, I wanted to take a moment to discuss three common reasons writers admit feeling driven to write because I personally am tired of the stereotypes of introverts curled up in cabins in the woods or tortured souls. (Or nutjobs who torture others. We only do that in our books, people!) 

Johny Depp as a crazed writer in Secret Window Courtesy of IMDB https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363988/mediaviewer/rm2511299072/

So, after nearly 15 years in the writing community, here are the most common reasons I have seen for writer motivation: 

Mode of Expression

I think for most writers, words are an innate mode of expression.  When we think of stories, often, the words are what drive us. We who write love the words and the ability to shape feelings and thoughts in such a manner that others can relate.  While often people think that writers are able to do this because they feel more/differently than other people. If we felt more than other people felt, then they could not relate to our writing. But our ability to express those feelings that others feel, but are not able to express themselves, is what makes us unique and is what makes people read what we write. Even though they might not express themselves the way we do, they can relate to our expression and that is what makes it real for them. Now, for many words may be the first step in their mode of expression, but they may not be the main way that their work is displayed. For many, those words will go on to become video content, webtoons, movies, games, or something else combining a visual element. While those people are writers, they are also something else. Storytellers

The Need to be Storytellers

Another reason we write is to share stories. Most writers don’t write because they desire fame, fortune, and notoriety. Most of us write to tell stories. We want to enrich the world with new ideas and concepts. We feel a passion for our stories or perspectives and we want to show others that, much in the way that new parents show off their kids. We create through a labor of love for the material and the characters and we want the world to meet our characters and feel the same way we do. 

Whether our medium is a blog, a vlog, short stories, novels, nonfiction, graphic novels, webtoons, spoken word, shorts, television, films, theater, speeches, courses- so many mediums that all require the passion of storytelling and often start with the written word. We want to tell a story that creates all the feels.  It is much like having a child. The pain and labor that goes into creating it, the passion to share this beautiful thing you made, the dreams of how this beautiful thing will change your life and the lives of all it touches, the hopes for what it will become. 

I think this is why many writers have a hard time with negative reviews. I mean, how would you feel if someone called your kid ugly? And our works are like our children. We spend so much time and energy making them, expecting little monetary reward in the end. (Sounds like parenting to me!!) And it is just as fulfilling as parenting too as any writer who is a parent can attest.

Sad Book Momma
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Other Common Reasons

Sure, there are those who go into writing because they hear it’s easy. But they don’t last long. Because even for those who love it, it is not easy. It is frustratingly, beautifully, chaotically messy, and complex with brief moments of brilliance where everything just comes together. But it is not easy. 

There are those who are told they have to publish- researchers, some colleges require staff to regularly publish, entrepreneurs, speakers, coaches all are told that publishing a book is the way to drive audiences to support their true passion. But unless they are a writer inside this is viewed as a daunting task to keep their true mode of expression intact. 

There are those seeking the fastest path to Fame and Fortune. After a few books when they don’t feel like the next Hot Ticket, they move on to the next “fast path”. 

Some just have one all-encompassing story they feel compelled to tell and once that is done they never feel the need to write again. There’s nothing wrong with that. We have some amazing one-hit wonders in the writing realm. 

Because We Must

I can honestly say, and I think most writers would agree, that even if I knew my writing would never be published and I would never get paid, I could never stop writing. Sure, it is nice to receive some compensation for what I have done, but it is so much more rewarding to see someone smile or tell me that they love my character, or that they were not expecting that wild twist. I don’t write for the paycheck, I write to relate to others. Although I will (probably) never have a lot of money from writing, I will be far richer for the difference I have made in others lives. Unfortunately, some feel that because of that attitude that so many in the arts community in general have, we can be paid less. We shouldn’t be paid less simply because we’re compelled to do it. But that is why My Blood, Sweat and Tears are No Longer Free

That is why we write.

Do you have a different perspective? Did I miss a common trend for why writers write?

Feel free to share in the comments below.

Until next time, 

Keep Writing!