Author: Krista Lane

Advantages of Writing Prompts

Advantages of Writing Prompts

We have been getting writing prompts since we were small children. Schools start us early, with fill-in-the-blank stories, and gradually step us up from there. The next steps include writing our own stories with blanks for others to fill in, or prompts meant to inspire creativity with no word limit or page length, or creative prompts that ask us to write a story in a certain amount of words. Even our writing homework assignments are a form of writing prompts, giving us specific topics or questions to answer.

Writing is important. As aspiring authors or well-established authors, we’ve already decided it is more important to our livelihood than it is to others. We have stories to tell.

Authors are constantly honing their craft. In any field of expertise in life, the only way to improve is to practice, and keep up with the changes that occur within the field. As an author, you have to write regularly to get better, and there are a lot of different options for that.

One of the best available options an author can use is a writing prompt. A quick google search for ‘writing prompt’ will produce hundreds of free prompts. These can be narrowed down even further – there are writing prompts for every genre, trope, and aspect of writing one could think of. This is an invaluable tool for an author.

1. Writing prompts give us the ability to practice our writing.
As I mentioned above, the only way to get better is to write continuously. And while any kind of writing is a step in the right direction, focused writing is a better tool to help us improve. While you work on your current manuscript, improving your writing isn’t the foremost focus. It’s good to take small breaks to focus on areas where we may be weak. Prompts are a good way to bring our weaker skills up to snuff.

2. Prompts can be focused on a specific type of writing. 
When searching for writing prompts, simply adding the type of prompt you want can narrow down your focus. Say you’re a romance novelist, and you have trouble with horror writing. Search for suspense or horror writing prompts, and get to work. It helps to shift your mindset into writing a different genre, and can make you stronger as a writer. Who knows, it could come in handy when you least expect it!

3. They are easy to use and free online. 
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Using a prompt is great for writing, sure, but it’s easy on the budget. No one wants to pay for something unless it’s necessary, and writers typically don’t have that many nickels to rub together. This is a great way help yourself as an author and save up for the costs that really matter when it’s time to publish.

4. A good prompt can spark an idea for a new manuscript. 
Writing prompts are great resources all around, but one of the most invaluable things they can give us are new ideas. Sometimes, little gems are hidden away in our minds, and writing prompts can unlock them simply by giving our creative juices a stir. They get us to write, and force us to expand our scope. You never know what you’ll find when you start writing.

Something as simple as a writing prompt can gives us rich and complex ideas and practice, helping us to learn and grow as authors. If you’re lucky enough to be part of a critique group, as well, have them look over your practice writing sometimes. Critique groups, blog posts, and other writing groups giving feedback on practice writing pieces tells us how far we have come and how far we still need to go. For more information on critique groups, see Joan Hall’s post: Critique Groups.

The Importance of the Book Cover

The Importance of the Book Cover

You walk up to the bookstore. Chances are, before you even enter, you’ve seen them in the window. Bright colors, shades of grey, pastels, neutrals. Maybe they’ve got pictures on them, sometimes just words. Thousands of them sit on display in the window and throughout the store. They lure us in as readers, and make us think as writers.

Book covers.

Love Set in Stone
Novel: Paranormal Romance

As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of our words and making sure they’re placed just so in our manuscripts. A lot of our blood, sweat and tears is put into these works before some of us even put any thought into what we will wrap them in.

It brings to mind the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

That is, however, exactly what people do. Many readers who are in a book store are drawn in by the cover of a book. The design, the colors, the font – any of those things can be appealing to someone.

There are several things that go into cover designing that catch a reader’s attention, but here are my top three:

  1. Title and byline font
    Most people will recognize the font used on a Harry Potter book cover, or a Twilight book cover – that’s because these fonts were unique, and popped, drawing the eye of the reader.
  2. Colors
    The colors used in the cover of a book are important. Not only is the right color scheme eye-catching, but it can tell a reader subconsciously the overall tone of a book. Books for children are typically bright-colored, and have happy, educational themes, whereas a book about a murder or mystery might be in dark tones, like black with blood red accents.
  3. Representation of the book’s content
    The cover of a book, in combination with its title, should accurately portray a general idea of what the book will be about. For example, the cover of a romance novel might have a couple intimately depicted, while a children’s book might have animals or shapes on the front.

There are many websites available for an author who wants to design their own book cover to find graphics. Most of these sites are not free, but look more professional than something done in Photo Shop if you’re not experienced in graphic designing. Personally, I prefer to outsource my book cover designs, because I have no experience in graphic designing. It all depends on your comfort level.

When submitting to a publishing company, many publishers look for the same things in the cover I mentioned above. If you haven’t created a cover for your book, or outsourced already, it doesn’t hurt to check with prospective publishing companies to see if they have graphic designers they work with regularly.

Hopefully, these things help when you’re considering whether or not to design your own book cover, or outsource. Ultimately, though, I hope it helps you understand how to determine if the book cover will help to market your book properly. For more submission tips, browse through the AIW Press blog.

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.

Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

So last week we talked about ways to get a first draft into fighting shape as a manuscript. This week, we’re going to cover the last five tips about turning that manuscript into something worth submitting. Any manuscript in its final phase has been edited so many times the writer may want to pull their hair out. But it’s those steps that give the manuscript its extra edge, and its those little steps listed below that really round out the editing process leading up to submission.

6. Layout. 

This is where we want to make sure our draft is in order. Some people naturally write in order, from beginning to middle to end, and that’s fine. But not all of us do. Going back and ensuring the story is in the correct order seems like common sense, but it’s also incredibly important. And who knows? Perhaps the order of events can be rearranged to make the story better.

7. Cohesiveness. 

More active reading! Actively reading to make sure all of the plot points make sense is a crucial tip. Does the main plot resolve itself in the end? Do the side plots tie into the main plot, and also have a resolution? Think about what is most annoying about a book that doesn’t fit together properly, then make sure your book doesn’t have the same qualities. Fix any issues and move along to the next drafts.

8. A catchy first page. 

Something important to remember is that the first page is make or break. As authors, we only have so much space on the first page, and that page has to grab a reader’s attention. A good first page is invaluable, so readers and the person evaluating the manuscript for the publishing company wants to keep reading.

9. Grab a beta reader or three. Or four. 

It’s important that our eyes aren’t the only eyes reading our stories. After a few drafts, when the manuscript has been cleaned up and fleshed out, send it to trustworthy people. Make sure they’re a mixture of different types of people, from readers to writers, but ultimately, I can’t stress enough that it’s important these people are trustworthy. We want them to tell us the truth about their thoughts so we can make changes where it’s necessary. We also want to make sure they won’t steal our work or leak it somewhere. Take Stephanie Meyer’s trouble with her manuscript “Midnight Sun” – this is a great example of what could go wrong if we pick the wrong beta readers.

10. Edit and edit some more.

Lastly, after our notes and the notes of the beta readers have been compiled, it’s time to make that final draft. It may take one or two drafts, but that’s all right. Once that whole process is through – and it’s a lot of work – we deserve a pat on the back. Now, it’s time to submit the manuscript, and hopefully, without butterflies. Good luck authors!

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

We all get them. The butterflies that populate our stomachs before submitting a manuscript to a publishing company. The process is nerve-wracking enough without second guessing our submissions. It all starts with the first draft. The brainstorming, stream-of-consciousness, and outlines have all been converted into an organized draft that resembles a manuscript. Now what? With these ten tips, authors can feel more confident about turning their first draft into a full manuscript by using a solid editing process, and quell those butterflies.

1. Research

All good stories have some kind of research. Whether the story is set in a brand new world crafted from scratch, or in the world as we know it, research will help bring the world of a story to life. Writing about magic? Research other stories and see how they made it work and why. Writing about politics? Research different political systems and parties to make the story come to life. Even in fantasy, details grounded in realism can really help readers relate to the world and feel like they are part of it.

2. Supporting details.

Like doing research, supporting details go a long way to not only flesh out a story, but to draw the reader in. There is a fine line between telling instead of showing, but that’s why the editing process takes more than one draft.

3. Make notes. 

One of the things I personally prefer is to make notes rather than delete. Some things that I think were a good idea in one edit turn out to be a bad idea for the story over all. Not all things have to be changed, and that’s the key to a good edit. Take notes while actively reading, and making edits based on those notes. Save them, and save each draft separately so no work or writing is lost, because we never know what could be recycled!

4. Active reading.

Once the first draft is complete, the research is done, and the right kind of supporting details have been added, go back and read the book. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read actively instead of critically. There will be several edits based on your active reading during the overall editing process. Actively read for glaring plot holes, and cohesion. Edit to fix those. Then go back and read again, maybe searching for details that are out of place or no longer belong. Maybe cut a scene that worked in the first draft, but upon a second or third reading, just doesn’t fit into the next draft. Don’t forget to save those scenes, though, they might still be useful! Active reading helps to get us through the multiple draft process with a focus that enables us to read our work without criticizing our voice as an author.

5. Trimming.

While actively reading, it helps to read for things that just don’t need to be there. This is the excess fat that is trimmed from the story. Maybe there was a whole scene about a food fight in that draft. It may be fun to write, but if it doesn’t further the plot or add depth to the story, it doesn’t belong. Trim it out, but save it as a separate file. It may come in handy down the road.

Well authors, that’s it for this week. Hopefully, these tips will get the wheels greased and help to refine the beginning of the editing process. Tune in next week for the next five tips!

First Draft or Stream of Consciousness?

First Draft or Stream of Consciousness?

It may be the first time you’re tackling a writing project or the thousandth time, but you’re not alone. We are all guilty of it at some point. “Stream of consciousness” writing. We sit down and start writing whatever comes to our minds first.

For a lot of authors, this is a great way to brainstorm or to get the beginnings of a scene or character outline mapped out. But for many who are just starting out, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the stream of consciousness writing that kick starts our creative juices and the “crappy first draft” (as many writers like to call their first cohesive draft of a project—if not an even more colorful name) that is the framework for a work-in-progress (WIP).

Identifying Stream of Consciousness Writing

One of the quickest ways to tell if your current WIP is in its first draft phase is to take a step back and read it. If it reads like a diary entry, going off on tangents and with ideas headed in all different directions, then your work-in-progress is actually just stream of consciousness writing. Many new authors mistake this as a first draft because it’s the first time they are getting their ideas down on paper. Unfortunately, writing is a little more complicated than that, and it requires a bit more leg work in its beginning stages.

Using Stream of Consciousness to Your Advantage

Something important to keep in mind, especially if you are a first time writer, is that stream of consciousness writing isn’t bad. It can be very useful, especially when you’re just trying to get words out onto the page. Any writer will tell you that some days, that’s a struggle! Some days, just writing a short, fifty-word exercise seems like a monumental achievement. And let’s face it, writer’s block is a real problem. Getting words down on the page can give you that small victory you need to keep plowing forward in your writing goals.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your stream of consciousness writing is not where your editing process should stop. While getting the words onto the page is important, it is still just the first step to envisioning your ideas. The first draft should always have some kind of structure and timeline to it, with a real framework to build off of. If you don’t have that, you’re still stuck in the stream.

Turning Stream of Consciousness into a First Draft

Experienced authors will tell you that even their first drafts have first drafts, and they aren’t joking. In order to reach the coveted “drafting” stage of writing, an author will go back over their brainstorming, research, and outlines with a fine-tooth comb looking for like concepts, timelines, and cohesion. Those stream of consciousness ideas that went off on random tangents or maybe that stemmed new concepts are reordered and organized into paragraphs and chapters that follow an ordered and structured chain of events. They become the framework for the first draft of a story.

Whether you’ve been writing for twenty years or twenty seconds, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting your ideas from your head into tangible words on the page. Keep in mind that while this is exciting, those words still have a long way to go before they are ready for the final edits.

Always remember to keep writing, keep editing, and keep reading. Eventually, you will become a pro at converting your stream of consciousness into a completed work in progress.

Author Spotlight – A look into the authors at AIW Press: Karen Malena

Author Spotlight – A look into the authors at AIW Press: Karen Malena

Here at AIW Press, we value our authors. They dedicate a lot of time and effort to tell their stories, and we want to show appreciation for all their hard work. This week will start our “Author Spotlight”, a segment where we interview one of the authors that have published with us, giving our readers and aspiring authors a look into the process behind creating the narratives we have come to love.

This week, we will feature Karen Malena. She is the author of “Love Finds A Way”, the second book of the Ligonier Romance Series. In her spotlight, Karen tells us a little about this book, as well as some of her past work and future project ideas. We’d like to thank Karen for the insight she’s given us, and we hope our readers enjoy her interview as much as we did!


What gave you the idea for your current work?

gram-and-piggyWith my mother developing Alzheimer’s type dementia in the last few years, I’ve watched my father treat her as if she’s still the young beauty he once courted and fell in love with. It came to me that golden years love is every bit as romantic and important to talk about. We may all learn a thing or two from our elderly.

So one night, while staying at a lovely, historic bed and breakfast in the town of Ligonier, a story began to come to me. What if I took the town that my husband and I loved so much and had an older couple actually meet in their later years? That is how the story came to me of Harry and Rose.


You mentioned this story takes place in Ligonier. What makes this setting so special?

This town is such a respite for me and my husband. We live in the busy, crazy town of Monroeville, and our weekend getaways to Ligonier are such peace-filled times for us. It is a clean town, quaint and friendly. We’ve made quite a few friends there now.


What has been your favorite part of this story?

I enjoy writing dysfunctional characters and redeemable characters. Harry has a son, Tim, he is estranged from, who carries a ton of his own baggage, and Rose actually has a terrible secret from her youth that she still carries as a huge burden. Therefore, my favorite parts are always characters who have some sort of issue going on; something that can help a reader perhaps who may be going through something similar.


If you could be any character in the book, which one would you be?

I’d have to say Tim once again, is my favorite. I would like to step into his shoes and see what makes him the type of man he’s become. What is it about the relationship with his father that pushed him away? What caused him to seek the bottle to solve his problems? However Tim also has a huge heart that he wears on his sleeve, and he would do anything for another. His relationship with God has never faltered no matter how low he has sunk.


I understand you are planning two sequels. Would you tell us a little about them?

The townsfolk of Ligonier asked if I would write one story for each of the four seasons. So I believe the next story will take place in summer, and then the last will of course be a Christmas novel. I will be introducing new characters in each book, but I will continue the story of McKenna and Tim and Harry and Rose. Each book will have a secret or something a little mysterious that one of the characters will find out about themselves or another.


What are you working on now?

I am presently taking the beginning of a novel I began a few years ago that was written in the first person, and am changing it to my third Ligonier novel and also into third person. It’s quite the challenge.


What other ideas would you revisit, and/or would you work on in the future?

I have so many ideas and so little time. I would love to delve back into the world of Piggy the cat, and also to explore where my sci-fi dystopian Sound of Silence might take me. I’d love to possibly work on a prequel to that book, or at the behest of another author, explore the world of a really great character from that book, Gil Santiago.


What’s your story? How did you get into writing?

Because of serious issues in my childhood, a mother who was hospitalized for mental illness, I found myself with a huge imagination and a love of reading. Because of these things, I began to write out little tales where I could escape into make believe worlds I created. I have a love of books so strong that I re-read my favorite books many, many times, and also re-read favorite pages over and over again too. Words and stories are such a big part of who I am.


What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Follow your heart and dreams. Write daily, and write even when it’s not on paper. Think about your story while you drive, or walk. And take notes whenever possible. Be creative and confident.


You can connect with Karen through these websites, and her work can be found there as well!

A Spooky Collection of Chilling Tales – AIW Press’s Newest Release

A Spooky Collection of Chilling Tales – AIW Press’s Newest Release

13923863_10208961428626674_1133397099200214872_oAIW Press is excited to announce the release of it’s newest anthology. Ten talented authors have come together in a spooky, suspenseful, and even terrifying combination of stories that are perfect for your horror film and ghost story lovers.

Set in various different places and in some instances different time periods, you will feel like you are sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories – but these aren’t your average vampire tales! Be prepared to read about things that go bump in the night in Macabre Sanctuary, just in time for Halloween!

Thrills. Chills. Shadows and superstitions. Things that go bump in the night. Macabre Sanctuary boasts suspenseful fiction designed to elicit goosebumps and raise heartrates.

Learn the lore of a haunted island.

Grapple with the undead while robbing graves Halloween night.

Endure a hazing ritual unlike any other.

Deal with a demon at an All Souls’ Day celebration.

See what happens when you court death in the wild.

Battle zombies and cannibals in a quest to stay alive.

Travel back in time to witness the birth of true evil.

Fear prophetic nightmares made manifest.

Come to terms with new ethereal realities.

Befriend a feline to extend earthly life.

This collection from ten talented authors offers ghosts and demons, spirits and zombies, cannibals and killers… even a ferocious animal. Historical and contemporary tales of violence and fright keep readers on the edges of their seats. There’s something for everyone who loves spine-tingling, bone-chilling, blood-curdling stories.

%d bloggers like this: