Category: AIW Press

What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Blanche, Muffy, Winchester, Bruiser, Tiny. Each name and nickname evoke something in us. They imply something.

Each time you choose a name for a character in your work, that name determines how you want your reader to react to the character—the image you want the character to portray.A simple name will set the tone of your work and determine how the character will act. And, when you take the time to name a character, that tells the reader the character is important to you and to your story. He has meaning, and you want your reader to remember him. If the character isn’t a vital part of your story, don’t name him—simply refer to him as what he is (waiter, lawyer, lifeguard). These words let the reader know a bit about the person but keep them from becoming too prominent.

Not only will names aid in the description of your characters, they help set the time period. For example, Beulah, while popular in the late 1800s, isn’t a common name today. As a reader coming across this name, you most likely would imagine an old woman rather than a young girl.

How can you choose the perfect name?  Every author goes about it differently, but below are a few tips that can help.

  • Use an online name generator
  • Read phone books
  • Walk though a cemetery
  • Search the Internet
  • Ask your friends

There are things you should avoid when naming characters as well.

  • Names that don’t match the time period
  • Names that sound the same or start with the same letter
  • Names that are hard to pronounce

What tools do you use to name your characters? Share them with us. We’d love to know.

 

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Allison stepped onto the patio, enjoying the coolness of the desert southwest evening. Saguaro cacti were silhouetted against the sunset, and a roadrunner darted behind an agave plant. A cactus wren perched nearby. Allison walked further into the yard and stopped to stand beneath a giant magnolia tree…

Okay, I won’t say research is evil, but it hasn’t always been my favorite thing to do. When I first began writing fiction, I didn’t want to be bothered with research. All I wanted to do was to get the story out of my head and onto the computer screen.

“Write what you know.” I heard these words repeated over and over by several seasoned writers.

So I began with something that was comfortable to me. I loosely based the setting of my first novel on my hometown. However, the subject matter required research on my part to make part of the story believable.

My second novel, currently in draft state, necessitated me spending time on the Internet, looking for information about arsonists. (Suffice to say if someone looked at my browser history, and didn’t know I was a writer, they might want to report me to the nearest law enforcement agency.)

It’s easy to slip into a comfort zone. Therefore, the “write what you know” advice only goes so far. If an author continues to use the same setting or story line, readers will quickly become bored with their work and move on. Even though we might write in the same (or similar) genre, we want to generate stories that continue to please our readers and entice new ones.

Hence the need for research. We want our fiction to be believable. So what’s wrong with my opening paragraph?

Saguaro cacti, agave plants, roadrunners, and cactus wrens all fit within the scene. However, magnolia trees do not grow in the desert southwest. A simple mistake like that can cause readers to lose interest and damage our credibility as writers. Worse yet, they could leave a bad review, and we all know too many one and two-star reviews can make or break a book.

How do we go about gathering information? Fortunately, we live in an age where we have instant access to almost anything we want to know. Google and Bing can be a writer’s best friend.

A word of caution—just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t make it true. It’s best to check several sources and/or websites. Wikipedia, while popular, isn’t always the most accurate source because anyone can post anything.

In addition to the Internet, talk with experts. Law enforcement officers, physicians and nurses, fire investigators, military personnel, etc. Most times people are willing to answer specific questions you might have. When meeting with these people, go prepared. Have a list of specific questions so as not to waste their time or yours.

Travel to locations where you want to set your stories. Look around, observe, talk with locals, get a feel of the area, and make copious notes.

I’ve come a long way in regards to conducting research since I started writing fiction. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time gathering information for a current short story than I did with both novels.

The reason? It’s a setting and a story line that is totally beyond my scope of knowledge. Hopefully, my research has paid off. On a recent vacation, while touring a former aircraft carrier turned museum, my husband was impressed that I was able to identify two types of aircraft without looking at signs. I admit that I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from doing this project.

What about you? As a writer, do you enjoy research? What are some of your favorite methods?

 

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THE RIDE OF MY LIFE—COVER REVEAL

THE RIDE OF MY LIFE—COVER REVEAL

Coming in August
THE RIDE OF MY LIFE

A look inside:

Fear of financial ruin began when I discovered the coast-to-coast bicycle tour price was $10,000. How would I afford it? The cost was all inclusive, but not suitable for my budget. After all, I was retired and lived on a fixed income.

Then one day as I reviewed the tour company’s website for the hundredth time, I read that they were hiring ‘SAG drivers’ for the cross-country tour. SAG stands for Supply and Gear. They offered no salary, but they gave forty percent off the actual price of the tour. I applied at once and surprisingly got the job. Probably because of my many years of cycling experience. I had hoped and prayed this would happen. It was a go. The trip now cost $6,000 instead of $10,000 and started to take shape. The fear of financial ruin, self-doubt, and anxiety were gone—at least for the moment.

Days later, after getting the job, very specific instructions arrived in the mail from the tour company. It was like Christmas morning as I opened the mail. Hands shaking, palms sweaty, I anxiously ripped open the envelope with total disregard for its contents.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into The Ride Of My Life.

Anteprima Press

What’s a Writer to Do?

What’s a Writer to Do?

blogOne criterion publishers use to determine whether they should take a risk on a writer is the ubiquitous author platform.

I know. You’re rolling your eyes and sighing. Maybe getting a little queasy feeling in your stomach.

All authors—traditionally published, self-published, or hybrid—need a platform to market their work. There are several tools you can use to establish your platform, but one of the most popular and useful is the author blog.

The problem is, so many fiction writers don’t know what to write about.

Let me give you a piece of advice before we move forward.

Authors should not blog about the craft of writing. These posts attract other writers, but the goal is to attract readers.

So, what’s a writer to do? What can they blog about, if not their craft?

Here are some suggestions:

Their Work

  • cover reveals
  • story research
  • character dossiers/interviews
  • new releases
  • tour of the setting
  • blurbs/teasers/excerpts
  • spotlight on the villain (particularly if it’s a type of creature or a mental illness)
  • any lore or legend related to the story

Their Process

  • how they conduct research
  • where they prefer to work/what their workspace is like
  • what music (or ambient sounds) they listen to when writing
  • what they eat and drink while they work
  • where they get story ideas
  • where they get character names

Their Preferences

  • what genres they like to read
  • books on their shelf (or their ereader)
  • what novels/TV shows/movies inspire them
  • biographical notes that impacted their story

Their Silly Side

  • things they enjoy or hate (think top-10 lists)
  • ways for readers to get to know them (favorite foods, games, etc.)
  • stories about their pets or their families
  • original short fiction

Their Generosity

  • book reviews of other authors’ works
  • interviews with other authors
  • other author’s new releases

So, there you have it. Twenty-five topics for fiction writers to blog about. That’s roughly half a year at one post a week, assuming you choose each of these only once. And we all know these can be mixed, matched, and repeated as necessary. Hopefully there’s enough here to get you started on expanding your author platform.

Do you rely on any blogging topics that we didn’t mention here? Please share them with us in the comments.

Staci Troilo

Cover Reveal―Undefeated

Cover Reveal―Undefeated

Coming in August
UNDEFEATED
A War Widow’s Story of Faith and Survival

A look inside:

It was a Sunday—uneventful for the most part. Earlier that day, I was at a birthday party with my eleven-year-old son, Justin, and my six-year-old daughter, Meredith. Home from the festivities, I began to make dinner. I had just started making spaghetti in the kitchen. The children were playing together upstairs. Just as the sauce began to simmer, there was a knock at the door. I thought nothing of it. I put down the spoon I had just used to stir the sauce, wiped my hands, and started down the hallway.
I pressed my eye to the peephole.

A man in a military uniform stood there.

I opened the door and immediately felt my chest tighten—a chaplain stood behind the uniformed man. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Why they were on my front porch?

 

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Undefeated.
Undefeated will be available for purchase at most major online retailers.

RozzoCasa Press

 

 

 

What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

As authors, we spend a lot of time on our manuscripts – whether they are novels, novellas, short stories, poems, or other genres. We want to get the most out of our marketing, and one of the best marketing tools for our published content is the synopsis of our work.

A well-written synopsis can really help sell your book.

In my opinion, the key to a good synopsis is to give a clear, concise description of your story. You’ll want to include your elevator pitch, why the plot or main conflict is important, and how the story ends.

A synopsis can be cold, almost clinical in its writing, and somewhat boring. That is okay. You’re not using the synopsis to hook your reader – in fact, the book blurb (which I will write about next month) is what will hook your reader. If they like the blurb, they may read an exerpt, or even your first few chapters to see if they like it. A synopsis will not be published with its book. It’s a selling point for a publisher.

There are several different ways to write a book synopsis, and in this article, I discuss the method that has worked the best for me. I have seen publishers ask from as little as 500 words to a synopsis that spans 5+ pages. Each publisher is different. It’s good to know how to write a one page synopsis, which is what I will be focusing on.

The purpose of a synopsis is to summarize the book. A well-written synopsis gives a summary of the plot, and details what is unique about the book, what will help it to sell. It should be between 500-750 words, and it should read similarly to an abstract in a research paper. The language should be neutral and as clear and succinct as possible. Writing the synopsis can be harder than writing the book itself. Having a good synopsis is only one key to marketing strategically for a published work, but it can mean the difference between a publisher accepting a manuscript, or moving on to see what someone else has to offer.

Writing synopses is tricky business. Here are the main things to include when writing a successful and enticing book synopsis:

  • The main character or characters
  • A brief description of the main characters, such as prominent traits that are germane to the story
  • Establish the main setting
  • An elevator pitch (see the link above, by Staci Troilo, about writing an elevator pitch)
  • The rising action, and why it is important – without saying it’s important
  • A sentence describing the type of journey the main characters are going to undertake
  • The ending of the book

Because a synopsis is a summary, it’s a good idea not to go heavily into detail when writing one. Here is a list of things that should not be included in a book synopsis:

  • Excessive character detail
  • Excessive setting details
  • Subplots of the story
  • Background characters
  • Plot twists

To write a good synopsis, I follow a certain formula.

1) I make sure I’ve written my elevator pitch – I always like to include it in my synopsis as a great way to introduce my main characters and the setting.

2) I ensure that all of the character names are in ALL CAPS or emboldened the first time they are mentioned. This helps for the reader to find the character(s) quickly within the synopsis.

3) I use the elevator pitch to introduce the synopsis, and elaborate slightly on my main character by giving a few of his or her traits.

4) If it’s not already in the elevator pitch, I mention the setting in as little detail as possible.

5) I explain why the character is in their current conflict, giving some depth to why the conflict should matter. Pulling from the first Harry Potter book, for example:

Harry winds up in the wizarding world, where everything is completely new to him, including his own fame. Having been raised without magic, he struggles to fit in, and slowly starts to discover how his history fits into the history of this world. Something isn’t right, though, at his new school, and Harry finds himself being drawn in to the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone. As he delves deeper into his search with his two friends, Ron and Hermione, he learns that the staff at Hogwarts is guarding the sorcerer’s stone and what makes it valuable. What he didn’t bargain for was that his own fame is inextricably linked to the man who he suspects might need the stone to stay alive. 

This description of the rising action describes Harry’s journey and gives him a reason to want to investigate the sorcerer’s stone. It tells us why his journey is important and tells us what the rising action is.

6) I re-read what I’ve summarized so far, ensuring that I’ve explained the book’s conflict and highlighted what is unique about my book. In the case of Harry Potter, what is unique would be the introduction into an entirely new world, something that would be described before the rising action.

7) I summarize the ending.

8) I ensure the formatting is correct. The margins are 1″ on all sides, the font is 12 pt – I use Times New Roman – and the spacing is no more than 1.5 between each line. I like to use 1.15, I think it looks better. All paragraphs are indented by 0.5″. My name, address, phone number, and email are in the top left corner. In the top right corner is the genre of my book and the word count. I hit return five times, then add in my title. My title is centered, in all caps, and beneath my title is the word “Synopsis”, also centered. Here are two documents you can view as examples. Synopsis Template .docx Synopsis Template PDF


This is my go to strategy for writing a solid book synopsis. What about you? Do you have a good formula for writing a book synopsis? Comment below – share your ideas.

Villains Add Depth To Your Story

Villains Add Depth To Your Story

All good stories have conflict. Something to keep you interested. What provides conflict? A well written villain. Someone who makes you root for the hero.

As you write your novel, if you simply concentrate on your hero/heroine, you are leaving out what makes your story great. Conflict. Something or someone for the good guy to defeat. A well written villainous plot will give your hero depth and keep your reader interested. Without a good villainess what would the heroine have to do?

Before you start writing consider what the villain will be doing. He must have a reason for his actions. He cannot be bad because you want him to be bad. Give him a reason. Something the reader can identify with. Make him easy to hate. Better yet, make him someone the reader sympathizes with. Someone the reader will pull for. Inherently, villains are not all bad. Each of them believes in what they are doing and has a reason for doing it And they each have some redeemable quality. A well written villain will give meaning and focus to the hero providing direction for him to grow as a person.

As a writer, how can you know what your hero is doing if you don’t know what your villain is doing. You cannot have one without the other. Make your villain multi-dimensional. Create some logical reason why he does what he does, then give him some redeeming quality that your reader can relate to or identify with. Characters are more believable if they appear to be real. Even good people have some bad in them. Villains and heroes both have strengths and weaknesses. If you create a perfect character with no flaws your story will be flat, unbelievable, and one dimensional.

Your villain will have backstory just like your hero. What made your villain what he is today? Now, weave that backstory into your novel and show where your villain has crossed that imaginary line. The point where he no long thinks about what he will do, but acts on it. This is the point where the stakes are at their highest. Create that tension the reader craves and keep the villain’s agenda clear.

A villain doesn’t necessarily need to be evil. Perhaps a series of events puts him in a position he doesn’t want to be in and now is forced to do something he doesn’t want. Heroes and villains have strong convictions that are in opposition to each other.

Great stories have memorable villains/villainesses.
Without Voldermort what purpose would Harry Potter have?
And one of my favorites—The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

Are you a fan of the hero or do you root for the villain? Do you have a favorite villain/villainess? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Critique Groups

Critique Groups

Critique groups. Critique partners. For many writers, the idea of joining such a group or linking with another writer is scary. New writers, in particular, may be hesitant about sharing their work. Some might be afraid of what other members will say or think. Still, others may feel inferior to more seasoned writers in the group.

In my opinion, if you want to become a published writer, joining a critique group or having a critique partner is necessary.

I’ve been a part of a critique group for several years and can say my group is invaluable. We have experienced writers and beginning writers. We write in different genres. But we all have one thing in common—we are writers. People who want to want to improve their craft and, if not already, become published writers.

Here are three of the many reasons for joining a critique group:

A critique group provides helpful feedback. As writers, we are “too close” to our work. We know what we want to say, but will our readers understand? When you allow others to read and critique your writing, they can offer suggestions such as, “I believe if you worded it this way…” or “That sentence was a bump to me, it distracted from the main story…”

A critique group offers encouragement. Remember that critique groups are composed of writers. Like you, they love to write and have a deep appreciation for the craft. They want to encourage you, and they want and need encouragement.

I recall when I was working on my first novel. At that time, I hadn’t written a lot of fiction, and the draft needed a lot of work. And yes, there were times when I didn’t want to share it with anyone. The comments and encouragement I received encouraged me to keep going.

Now that I have more experience, I enjoy offering feedback and encouragement to newer writers.

In a critique group, you form bonds and friendships. The people in your group will be with you through thick and thin. Yes, some may come and go, but over time, a core group will form. Together, you celebrate successes and sympathize over rejections. The bonds of friendship are priceless.

I believe smaller groups are best. Too many members equal too many opinions. I think a group of 3-5 people is best. Some choose to have a single critique partner rather than join a group.

Are you part of a critique group or have a critique partner? Please share your experience in the comments.

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Revisions and Elevator Pitches

Revisions and Elevator Pitches

Booksie AnswerDear Booksie,

I’ve been working really hard on my dystopian space opera/fairy tale mashup novel. It’s got all the cool elements of the genres I mixed, and it starts with a really neat description of a dark and stormy night. It took me three whole weeks to write these 200,000 words. I think it’s just about ready to be sent to the publisher. What’s my next step?

Cordially,

Thrilled to be Finished

 

Dear Thrilled,

Ah, the excitement of completing a novel. All writers feel that heady rush. And that first time? Well, you’ll never feel quite like that again. Congratulations.

Now for the tough-love portion of my reply. Grab a box of tissues…

You’re nowhere close to ready to submit. Sorry. I don’t have to read your draft. I know. Don’t send it to anyone. Heck, don’t show it to anyone. It’s not ready to meet the world yet. You’ve got a lot, and I do mean a lot, of revising to do.

Revisions

  • First, consider your genre. (In your case, your “interesting” mashup of genres.) Have you followed the necessary tropes for that genre? It’s okay to break the rules, but not for the sake of innovation. Only break the rules when you completely understand them and have a great reason to do so.
  • Next, go on Amazon and look up bestsellers similar to yours. Check their word or page count. If you’re too low, you’ll probably need to add description. If you’re too high (and believe me, 200,000 words is way too high), you’ll need to cut.
  • Remember the phrase, “Kill your darlings.” said by just about every author you’ve ever read? Do that. And do it again. And again. And again. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it belongs in your novel. If it doesn’t define character or advance plot, kill it.
  • Read each scene by itself. Does it start with a hook and end making you want to turn the page? Does it serve one specific purpose (either being an action or a reaction)? If not, fix the issues.
  • Consider the work as a whole. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it answer all the questions you implied you would answer? If not, clean up the problems.
  • Read it again for grammar, punctuation, typos, etc. Fix all those issues, too. Then go back and do it all again. (Joan Hall recently wrote a post on proofreading. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.)

Okay. By this time, you’ve been through your novel several times. Are you now ready to send it to a publisher?

No.

Now you need to share these pages with your critique group and/or beta readers. Take their comments into consideration. And revise again.

When you’re confident you’ve done your very best and there’s nothing more you can do, it’s time to submit to a publisher. To do that, you need an elevator pitch and a synopsis.

The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a quick description of the crux of your novel. It’s called that because you’re to picture yourself in an elevator with an agent, editor, or publisher. You have only three floors to wow them. What do you say? (Think ten seconds, or fifty words.)

If you can answer five questions and put those answers together into a brief paragraph, you’ve got an elevator pitch. Try this:

  • Character (or characters, if you have two POV characters). This is more than a name. This is the identity plus a key descriptor for the character.
  • Situation. This is the problem the character is facing and why action is necessary.
  • Objective. What is your character’s goal? What is the one thing they wish to accomplish? (This should be an answer to the problem faced above.)
  • Opponent. This is where the antagonist is mentioned. Try to avoid “evil for the sake of evil” and show the unique and compelling details of this foe.
  • Disaster. This is the climax of the novel. Not the resolution of the novel. The climax. The black moment. The point in the story where it all hits the fan. (Note: your pitch should not reveal the resolution to the problem. If it did, there would be no reason for anyone to read the story.)

Okay. If you can answer these with vibrant words and string them together into one to three sentences, you’ll have a solid pitch.

Here’s (what should be) a well-known example. (I’m using the better-known film rather than the book.):

  • Character—Dorothy Gale, a sweet farm girl from Kansas
  • Situation—She’s stranded in Oz and can’t get back.
  • Objective—She wants to see the wizard so he can send her home.
  • Opponent—The Wicked Witch of the West, who wants to kill Dorothy for the murder of her sister and the theft of the powerful ruby slippers.
  • Disaster—Dorothy must defeat the witch and bring proof to the wizard or he will not help her.

Here’s the first draft, where I’m not worried about word choice or word count:

A Kansas cyclone sweeps sweet, innocent Dorothy Gale over the rainbow to the wonderful land of Oz, where she is blamed for the death of a wicked witch. Stranded, she sets off to find a powerful wizard to send her home. His payment for his services is the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is determined to kill Dorothy for dropping a house on her sister. With the help of three new friends, Dorothy sets off to face her greatest enemy—but only one will survive.

Not bad. Eighty-nine words. Now it’s time to tighten.

Here’s the second draft, where word choice becomes more important and word count matters:

Swept over the rainbow by a Kansas cyclone, young Dorothy Gale finds herself stranded in the wonderful land of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West blames her for killing her sister and stealing her magic slippers, so she determines to kill Dorothy and take the magic for herself. Dorothy and her new friends seek a powerful wizard’s assistance, but his payment is the death of the wicked witch. When Dorothy faces her greatest enemy, only one will survive.

Better. The sentences are tighter, and we’re down to seventy-nine words. But there’s still room for improvement.

Third draft:

Swept over the rainbow by a cyclone, Dorothy Gale gets stranded in Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West blames her for killing her sister and stealing her magic slippers, and she threatens Dorothy’s life. To avoid danger and get back home, Dorothy seeks the help of a powerful wizard, whose payment is the death of the wicked witch. When the battle commences, only one will survive.

Okay. Down to sixty-seven words. One more revision should get us to fifty or less.

Final Draft:

A cyclone sweeps Dorothy Gale over the rainbow to Oz. Stranded, she seeks help from a powerful wizard. He won’t send her home until she kills the Wicked Witch of the West, who has been terrorizing Dorothy for killing her sister. Who will survive their epic battle?

Goal achieved at forty-seven words. I could continue tweaking to really make it shine (and I would suggest that), but we don’t have all day. Please note—the pitch is written in third person, present tense. No matter the POV or tense of your novel, always write your pitch (and your synopsis) in third person, present tense.

Now that you’ve got your pitch, what are you going to do with it? You don’t send it to agents or publishers.

Well, for starters, memorize it. People will always ask what your book is about. This is the answer.

Booksie QuestionWhy’d I tell you to write this now, before your synopsis, when it doesn’t get sent to anyone? Because having a fifty-word description of your book will help you maintain focus as you work on your novel synopsis. You need a suscinct statement regarding what your story is all about.

Learning how to craft a synopsis is a long and detailed process. It’s probably best if we tackle that the next time. Actually, I believe author K. E. Lane wants to discuss it, so keep your eyes out for that one, coming soon.

Until next time…

Booksie

PS—Send Booksie your publishing and writing questions. He’ll sort through them and post his answers.

Staci Troilo

Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 2

Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 2

Last week we discussed a few tips to help you create a good manuscript.
This week we have more tips to keep you going.

Keep it Simple
Long words, complicated sentences, and off the cuff tags only distract the reader. Don’t force your audience to stop to look up words you’ve written. If you continue to do this, your readers will lose interest, stop reading, and most likely will not pick up another of your works. Your audience wants to be entertained, not feel like they are in school.

Read Your Work Aloud
I cannot stress this enough—reading aloud enables you to check the cadence of your work. If you stumble over the sentence, your readers will as well. If rhyming poetry is what you write, this will enable you to check the rhyme of the poem.

Show Don’t Tell
This is a big one. The one everyone tells you about. What your critique partners will point out.
Often we glaze over how important it is to show something rather than tell the readers and not give them anything to imagine.
Don’t tell us it’s raining hard. Show us instead. The rain pelted off the window and bounced off the sidewalk. It came down so hard and fast, water flooded the streets.

Beta Readers
If you ask for Beta Readers, listen to their advice. If they all have a problem with a sentence or a scene, then you need to change it. Often they will have ideas or suggestions that will make your piece better. Remember, as Staci pointed out, you can have a critique partner that isn’t a writer. Often a reader will notice things a writer will miss. I use a reader as one of my beta readers and as a critique partner.

Don’t Panic
Several times while working on my current WIP, I worried it was utter crap. I stared at the screen and saw nothing good—only additions to my word count.
If you’re like me, don’t panic. Not everything you write will make the final cut. Take a deep breath, save what you have done, and step away. Take a moment to get a drink and compose yourself. Then go back and pick up where you left off. Remember, you will eliminate the unnecessary “crap” in the editing process.

 

All authors experience writing distractions, need help, and go through periods of self-doubt. This is not uncommon. The key is to find a way to get past what distracts you and keeps you from crafting your masterpiece.

What tips do you use to stay focused and make your work the best it can possibly be. Share with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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