Don’t believe this lie. AMS Ads, or Amazon Marketing Services ads, are stronger than ever, and – whether we like it or not – they are here to stay.
As a matter of fact, Amazon just rolled out a brand-new, improved UI for AMS; they have added new features, and are constantly creating training material to help authors better understand the platform.
Would they do that if AMS were on the way out? Not likely.
Sure, not every book is a good fit for Amazon ads: that’s why many Amazon published authors grow bitter and blame the platform for not being able to sell a book that would not be marketable anyways.
Those who don’t read the Self-Publishing School Blog and believe that Amazon advertising is dying will gradually move away from it, making the space less crowded and much more profitable for all of us.
Here are our tips for using Amazon marketing services effectively:
However, let me assure you: those CPC prices are nowhere near what our friends in the physical product markets are paying.
Strange as it may seem, AMS is still a happy place for authors.
The key is to get more creative, thinking out of the box. Find new ways of using AMS, test and tweak, and you’ll be way ahead of the (still relatively small) competition. How?
Here are 20 ways in which you can use Amazon Marketing Services Ads for your book marketing ventures. Each tactic is coupled with a brief explanation of how to implement it in a practical way.
Enjoy the list and remember: now is the time for Amazon advertising!
#1 – Target a famous author in your genre
You’ll do this in order to try to get into his or her also-boughts. You know, the little section in this screenshot that shows you what other people who bought an item have also bought ↓
It’s no secret that ‘also-boughts’ are the main source Amazon uses when they recommend new books to readers. And if your book is in one of your competitor’s ‘also-boughts’, then there’s a good chance it will get shown, recommended and ‘pushed’ to the exact audience you’re after.
Try bidding heavily on one of your competitors as a target so that your book shows up everywhere on their book’s page and ‘steals the show’ in your reader’s eyes.
#2 – Target books published by Amazon
Amazon has various imprints through which it publishes books, the most famous being Thomas & Mercer.
Targeting authors and books by these subsidiary companies is a great idea. Amazon (and their algorithm) love when people buy their stuff, which they continuously promote left and right.
Try to get your book next to one of Amazon’s own babies, and you’ll be a happy writer indeed.
#3 – Target books that are featured on BookBub
Once a book is featured in BookBub’s daily email (aka their ‘Featured Deals’), it’s likely to get thousands of downloads and a load of traffic on all the retailers.
Which of course means more eyeballs on the said book.
By keeping an eye on the books that appear daily on BookBub’s email blast and targeting them with your Amazon ads, you’ll be the first to place your book next to the day’s hottest title, thus piggybacking on its visibility and – hopefully – sales.
#4 – Target books that have recently been turned into movies
A hot new release (just as explained in point 3) is always going to garner bigger attention, at least for a few days.
Keep an eye on new movie releases in your genre, especially big blockbuster films that have been inspired by bestselling books. Again, the trick here is to target those hot new titles so that your book shows next to them, thus collecting some love from all those hungry readers.
#5 – Use Product Display Ads to target paperbacks
Amazon’s Product Display ads give you a unique chance to specifically target paperback versions of your competitor’s titles (unlike Sponsored Product ads). The first benefit of doing this is that you’ll undoubtedly broaden the reach of your ads.
But most important perk is that you’ll also likely increase the sales of your own paperback copies.
As it were, ‘physical book lovers’ have a preference for physical books, which are more expensive and thus will likely result in higher royalties for you to pocket!
#6 – Use Product Display Amazon Ads to target audiobooks
See point 5 above, but this time use PD ads to target audiobooks!
Don’t have an audiobook version of your title? You’re definitely missing out on one of the hottest and fastest-growing trends in the indie publishing industry.
Your first in series is likely to be free on Amazon (or at least it should be). But don’t fret, pure ROI seekers!
Sure, by going a bit ‘heavier’ on Amazon ads pointing to that book, you’ll likely lose money. But you’ll make it back when readers go on to purchase book 2, 3, 4, etc. in your series. Make sure you have a good idea of how to calculate your audience’s ‘read-through rates’, and adjust your CPC bid and daily budget accordingly.
#8 – Lose money (again) to grow your email list
Be sure to display an opt-in form in the free book you’re running ads on (pro tip: also place it in the first pages of the book, so that readers don’t have to ‘wait’ until they’ve read the whole thing before parting with their email address).
This will inevitably result in more signups to your email list. Again, this isn’t stellar for pure ROI, and you might be losing money now, but in the long term, this will be super-beneficial.
#9 – Advertise Your Backlist
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (aka, don’t point all your ads and spend all your budget on one book).
Running Amazon ads for other titles in your backlist is always beneficial in keeping the books ‘sticky’ in the rankings, often also providing a load of read-throughs to the other titles in the same series (see point 7).
#10 – The Greatest Hits method
Start your ads by bidding low-ish on keywords and competing authors/book-titles.
Once you have a good idea of what is actually performing well, take those successful phrases and compile them in a ‘Greatest Hits’ ad, with higher CPC bids and daily budget.
#11 – The Amazon Ad Puzzle
Try using your own book as a target keyword, but this time to advertise your higher-priced titles or box sets.
The ‘Sponsored’ results on the latter’s book page will likely populate with all your other titles, just like the pieces of a puzzle.
If a reader lands on your one book and sees your other stuff in the Amazon ads, they might buy a higher-priced title in your collection (and go on to become an aficionado fan of yours)!
#12 – The Ad Stacker
Don’t limit yourself to Amazon Marketing Services ads. Ad ‘stacking’ is often the best way to get a gazillion eyeballs on a new release (especially if you’re aiming at hitting bestsellers’ lists when running a hard launch).
Try your hands at BookBub ads, Facebook Ads, and others. You don’t need to spend thousands on them: a small budget will be more than enough to Discover where your readers are hanging out, so that you can place your books right under their eyes.
#13 – Pre-populate with pre-orders!
Start running AMS ads well in advance, even when your book is still in the pre-order phase. If you get your targeting right, this will help add your book to the ‘also-boughts’ of other books in your genre, thus igniting the sacred ‘recommendation loop’ from Amazon.
You can do this one week to a few months in advance. The bigger your author platform is, the longer you can get away with putting your book up for pre-order before the actual publication date.
Plus, people will be exposed to your book, will pre-order it, and when the book is live, the instant truckload of downloads will shoot it into the stratosphere!
#14 – Use AMS for reviews
Spend a bit more on AMS during a free promo you have scheduled.
This might sound counterintuitive when it comes to pure ROI, but you’ll be amazed at the number of downloads you’ll get. Be sure to add a ‘call for reviews’ to the end of your book.
With their recent ‘upgrade’ of the Amazon Marketing Services platform, Amazon has given authors the chance to use their ‘Bid+’ system (an old acquaintance of those using Vendor’s Accounts).
This new feature basically lets Amazon know you’re willing to spend up to 50% more on CPC for the terms that are performing well. It’s really simple to use, as you can see in the example below so don’t be afraid to use this!
Think about it: if Amazon has given us this new tool, why not take advantage of it?
You definitely won’t go broke (the daily budget still being the highest cap on spend): rather, you’ll likely outbid all of your competitors on your most prized keywords and phrases!
#16 – Use negative keywords
As you surely know by now, hyper-relevant laser-focused targeting is the name of the game with AMS, but sometimes, this is much easier said than done.
Have an epic fantasy novel that appeals to teens, but that YA readers would absolutely hate? Don’t risk getting one-star reviews by unsatisfied vampire-hungry audiences.
Another new feature that Amazon has just implemented into their new AMS platform is the ‘negative keywords’ field.
Use it wisely to list all of the keywords you absolutely DO NOT want to associate your ads to through Amazon Marketing Services.
The sniper approach has never been easier.
#17 – Target your own book
Why on earth would you want to spend money targeting your own book? After all, it already shows up ‘organically’ in the search results for your key terms, no?
Well, not exactly.
Amazon is putting a lot of emphasis on advertising (another reason why you should use AMS ads), so it sometimes favors paid results over organic – something other platforms (e.g. Facebook) have been doing for a while now.
Crazy, right? Try punching one of your keywords in the search box and see if your book appears. It doesn’t?
Then you might want to give it a nice little push with a couple super-targeted ads.
Bonus: 3 more advanced Amazon Marketing Services tactics
If you’re really ready to make some money, you can try to tackle some of these more advanced Amazon Marketing Services methods to increase your book sales.
These might be tricky for you at first, but with enough practice, they’ll prove to be more than effective.
Use this incredibly powerful tool to advertise your physical or audio copies on relevant pages by your target authors.
As seen above (point 5), this will often result in sales of your own audios and paperbacks, yielding a lot more royalties!
#19 – Use a Vendor’s Account (part 2)
A Vendor’s Express account through Amazon Marketing Services will also let you advertise titles that you didn’t publish yourself.
Why would you want to do that, you say? For multi-author box sets you’re a part of, for example! This will bring more eyeballs to your stuff and… don’t forget to include an email-optin in your portion of the text!
#20 – Use a Vendor’s Account (part 3)
As seen above, why not use a Vendor’s Account to also promote a traditionally-published book you wrote before going indie? Your publisher will likely not be using AMS, so show them who the savvy author is and get some sales rolling!
Hope you enjoyed some of these tactics for Amazon Marketing Services ads. As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, don’t listen to those who want to attract you to the ‘next best thing’.
Think out of the box, test, test, and test again. And you will succeed!
This is a guest post by Brian Berni, a Self-Publishing School alumnus, now bestselling author under multiple pen-names. He blogs for writers and self-publishers at AuthorsTech and is the co-founder of BookAds, an agency that helps authors advertise their books through AMS and BookBub Ads.
Writing a novel is no easy feat! Make sure to take your time but commit to a deadline that will keep you moving toward progress every day.
This writing schedule should be realistic but difficult enough to require regular progress to achieve.
#3 – Decide your book’s distribution channel
Not every distribution channel is the same. When you’re making a book, you have to think about who is going to print this book.
Who to choose for book prints?
You may have heard that Createspace was bought out by Amazon, meaning KDP now prints your books.
Since there is really only one other major book printer for self-published authors, the big question everyone has on their mind is:
Amazon or Ingramspark?
Since you’ll already be familiar with Amazon from uploading the Kindle version of your book, it may seem like KDP paperback publishing is the easy choice.
But that’s not necessarily true, at least not yet.
At Self-Publishing School, we recommend you choose a means of making your book that best fits what you want.
There are pros and cons to using Ingramspark versus Amazon that you have to consider.
Here’s a list of what Ingramspark has to offer with their different packages for making a book:
Both Amazon and Ingramspark print your books and distribute them on Amazon. Meaning, they sell those books on Amazon without you as the middleman. They’re direct sale-to-print and they ship out from their warehouses.
That being said, they don’t offer the same perks.
For example, Ingramspark actually prints hardback copies of your book, where Amazon only prints paperback copies.
#4 – Factor in the cost of making a book
When you decide to learn how to make a book, you’re also diving into the world of business.
That’s right, making a book has a lot to do with business and we all know businesses have certain factors that can be a little confusing, including the cost of publishing a book.
So how much does it cost to publish a book?
The truth is that there are several factors that add to the cost of making a book.
time spent in the writing, marketing, and publishing phase
If you’re basing your decision strictly on revenue, then you’ll want to think about it before heading down the printing path.
Paperback can be costly to produce if you’re not sure what you’re doing, which is why we created a program to help you avoid those expensive mistakes.
Luckily with Amazon and Ingramspark, they take care of the cost upfront, but they will take a higher percentage of your revenue to make up for the printing cost.
This means you won’t make as much money off the sales of a paperback as you would with an e-book.
We’ve often seen that the most lucrative path for e-authors is the combination of a Kindle eBook and an audiobook.
If your goal is to make as much money as you can, and you have to choose between the two, then consider pursuing an audiobook over a paperback. (Although funding an audiobook can be pricey, and you are responsible for that upfront cost, so do the math!)
#5 – Determine your book’s contents
You’ve given it some thought and considered the factors above, and you’ve decided that you do want to print paperback copies of your book. Before you take the next step, it’s important to dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” by figuring out your book’s contents.
Run through our pro-developed, pre-printing checklist to make sure you’ve checked all the appropriate boxes of making a book.
Choose the size of your book
Decide on black & white or color (Note: The prices may vary)
Price your book properly (which we cover in our book launch post)
Create a rough concept for your covers
Decide whether to outsource your cover graphics and design
Write your author bio for the back or inside cover
Pick your author headshot for the back or inside cover
This is the difference with many (not all) nonfiction book formats from Chandler’s Bolt’s Published.:
If you do decide to tackle the interior formatting yourself, then there are programs that can make the process simpler. Word has downloadable templates to make the work easier.
These formats vary, depending on how many pages your book has. Make sure to experiment with multiple formats to help you decide which works best for your specific layout needs.
#7 – Upload to Amazon
Once you’ve created your printed book, the next step is to find your fulfillment house.
There are many options available. Fulfillment houses pack and ship, and provide customer service for your books. We tend to overwhelmingly recommend publishing on Amazon.
Their services are user-friendly and simple to follow.
This works the best, as you can curb the costs of printing more than the number of copies you need because of Amazon’s print-on-demand.
There are multitudes of resources out there for learning how to. make a book. Whether you want to sell your printed books, use them as pro book marketing tools, or simply admire how lovely they look gracing your bookcase, realize that with a few easy steps, you can create your own beautiful paperback version of your eBook.
Writing routines aren’t easy to come by…in fact, it’s one of the hardest parts of writing a book.
That’s right. It’s not coming up with a great book idea, it’s not forming the right words to bring that idea to life…
It’s finishing the damn book.
And that means forming a writing habit that will help you get it done despite your busy life and schedule. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help from Julie-Anne England, an author and busy mom of 4.
For many years I dreamed of being an author. I love to write and there was something about the sound of “author” that made me desperately want to call myself that.
I pictured my brand new life; holding my very own book in my hand, getting emails from people about how my book changed their life and my world opening up as a professional once I saw my name in print.
Well, all this came true and more after I published my first book.
This is how a writing habit through developing a writing routine helps you finish your book:
I’m here to tell you that it all comes down to creating a habit to make the time to actually write. You can daydream about your name in lights, write pages of goals and tasks and even design your perfect book cover but until you actually write…. you have nothing.
If I can form a writing routine while also managing allof this..
being the wife of a very busy (and very gorgeous) American man who works long hours, including weekends and evenings,
mom of three children under the age of 8 who are with me. All.The.Time. (Yes I say that fondly – mostly)
homeschooling my children
running 2, soon to be 3 blogs
training for a marathon
bringing my kids to swimming lessons
running bible study once a month
all the fun stuff that comes with running a home—cooking, cleaning, shopping
…so can you.
Trust me, I understand busy!
I say all this to say, it isn’t an excuse for never becoming an author. It all depends on how badly you want it.
And I bet you want it, right? How much? The truth is, it isn’t as hard as you think.
How to Build a Writing Routine and Stick to it
Here are my best tips for creating the habit of writing. These tips will have your very first book in your hands in a few months time (if you stick to them).
Before moving on, though, it’s important to understand WHY you’re building a writing routine.
You want to finish your draft as quickly as possible. After all, this is the single most difficult part for the large majority of writers.
Once your draft is done, it’s smooth sailing (and self-editing) from there.
But in order to build a writing habit that falls in line with getting your book done and accomplishing your writing goals, you need to know the word count you’re shooting for.
Once you have that, you can reverse engineer your writing habit to ensure you’re instilling a routine that gets your book done.
Here’s a calculator to help you figure this out:
Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.
Your book will have
*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*
This book went into depth about how much time we actually spend doing daily tasks such as working, sleeping and watching TV by analyzing people’s day using a time log.
One key takeaway is that people often underestimated how much they slept by a few hours and overestimated how much time they spent working.
When it came to writing my very first book, I realized that I needed to be very intentional with my time and how I was using it.
#2 – Create a time log
After reading 168 Hours, I took a hard look at how I could utilize what I’d learned from Laura Vanderkam.
I followed suit and created a time log of what I was doing for a couple of weeks and I realized something crucial.
I really did need a better handle on what I was doing with my time. Maybe you do too.
Start by jotting down what you are doing every day for a week in 15 minutes segments. Be honest. No one has to see this except you.
Then start looking for areas where you could create more time for creating the life you want, ie. as a writer!
We often spend a lot more time than we think on mundane tasks like this:
Scrolling through our phone in the morning
Getting ready for the day (shower, brushing teeth, etc.)
Working through meaningless/non-priority tasks
Talking to others in person, on the phone, or online
(or worse) Looking for a show to watch
These are everyday occurrences that you’re probably spending far too much time on than you think. Keeping a log will help you pinpoint where you can speed up or cut out unnecessary tasks to make more time for writing.
#3 Prioritize your time
Take a look at your life and work out any free time that you could dedicate to writing.
Yeah sure, you are really busy, but I bet that you wouldn’t miss much if you cut out that second TV show you watch every night. Or maybe spent a little less time on social media.
Your time log will probably make it very clear which areas you could adjust.
I honestly struggled to find time in my day to write. Even if there was a point that my kids were playing happily in the playroom, it was never a good writing time because with kids you get interrupted. Constantly.
Even with removing time spent on social media and watching less TV, it still didn’t allow for uninterrupted writing time. So I had to be more creative.
As seen in the example above, this app can help you solidify a writing routine by actually blocking your access to certain apps or websites in order to prevent you from going to them out of a bad habit.
#4 – Decide on your perfect daily writing time
This may be as little as half an hour, but it needs to be every day (or at least 6 days a week).
This is because creating a writing habit is so important in becoming a writer.
Habits are things that almost happen on autopilot and that is exactly what you want. Cultivating a lifestyle and a habit of writing will make the writing go so much smoother than if you write here and there when you can fit it in.
Here are a few things to think about when choosing your writing time:
Will you be interrupted?
Are there too many distractions happening during that time?
Can you be in a quiet, secluded space?
Will you be in the right mindset to write during that time?
I usually had a couple of hours at night once the kids were in bed but I found that I was too tired by this time and my writing wasn’t very good.
I had to get super disciplined, so I chose to get up earlier to have uninterrupted time to write before the kids got up.
You aren’t a morning person? Yeah, me either but sometimes you have to do the hard things to see the best things come into your life. Right now, it’s just after 5am and the house is peaceful and quiet.
This is now my sacred productivity time.
#5 – Put your writing time into your daily planner
No excuses! Use an alarm if you have to and make sure you will not get interrupted. Turn your phone on airplane mode and switch off your email pop-ups.
Or use the Freedom app like I mentioned earlier.
Then show up. Every time.
If you don’t make this a priority, I can guarantee something else will take the spot. And you will find yourself a year down the track still without your book…
If you’re someone who works by an online calendar, even better! You can schedule your writing time daily and it will pop up on your computer or phone to help remind you to get some writing done like in this example:
#6 – Find accountability
The novel writing journey can be hard and lonely and there are many times where you may feel like giving up. This is when it is so important to have an accountability person ready to support you.
Your accountability buddy will be aware of your goals and will keep you on track to accomplishing your daily and weekly tasks.
This is what you can expect from an accountability buddy:
They know and understand your goals
They want to see you succeed
They aren’t afraid to be real with you and tell you when you need to get it together
They will encourage you in ways that work for you
They will meet with you regularly to check-in and help solve problems
Choose someone who you know will be supportive in your journey and who will push you when necessary. Even better if you can have someone who has written and even published a book themselves.
When I was writing my first book, my accountability buddy was amazing.
She checked up on me regularly to find out if I had accomplished what I said I would and encouraged me to keep going. She pushed me when I didn’t feel like sticking to my plan.
Don’t skip this step, it is so important! Add it to your to-do-list for today “Get accountability buddy”!
And if you’re not sure where to find an accountability partner, Self-Publishing School has a Mastermind Community filled with writers in the very same stage as you in addition to experts to help you along the way, as you can see from the example above.
#7 – Start writing!
When I first started getting up at 5am, I dreaded it. Like I said, I’m not (or actually wasn’t) a morning person.
Now I actually get excited about having a couple of hours of time all to myself. This is when I work on my goals and become the person I want to be.
Now it’s a habit and in less than 6 months I have written a book, gone through editing and formatting, launched, watched my book take #1 spot on Amazon in the self-help category AND am busy with book number two!
Your dream life really isn’t as far away as your think. When you make the decision to take control and you turn up day in and day out, that’s when the miracles will occur.
Don’t waste your life with excuses no matter how valid they might be.
Being an author is one of the best things I ever did (and I’ve been to Disneyland!). It showed me that I could do something I set my mind to. It taught me that I could overcome obstacles.
It ingrained the importance of creating a new habit and sticking to it. And now I have a legacy to leave my children.
You can do it too! You have something powerful and exciting inside you that needs to get on paper. Share your story with the world. And when you take this first step, you will never look back!
Writer’s block can stump even the best authors in the world. Finding a solution isn’t nearly as difficult as they make it out to be.
But first, let’s uncover what it really is and how writer’s block can affect you.
Writing is hard enough on its own without writer’s block crawling into your brain and snatching up the words you really need to get that chapter done.
But the thing is, we’ve all been there before.
Every writer has experienced the struggle of forcing words onto a document one by one, dragging them kicking and screaming from the corners of your mind only to be left with a single sentence…one hour later.
And with so many reasons for writer’s block to take hold – like insecurity, a lack of direction, or maybe even just a bad writing day – it can put you down and complicate the whole writing process.
Getting rid of it is not only the best thing for your book’s progress, but for writing faster and with more quality overall.
If you, much like the rest of us, have ever dealt with writer’s block, here’s how you can sever its annoying restraints for good!
What causes writer’s block?
Underlying issues like insecurity, a lack of direction with your plot, or even too many potential options for your book can cause writer’s block along with your creative “tank” being empty.
While this might sound bad, the best part about all of these is this: they’re preventable.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block by Prevention
Why do we wash our hands frequently during flu season?
That’s right. To prevent succumbing to debilitating illnesses.
And why do we get our oil changed regularly even when our vehicles are (seemingly) running well?
Right again! To prevent breaking down on the interstate and destroying our vehicles from the inside out.
That’s exactly why writer’s block is best beat by preventing the darn thing in the first place!
But how do you do that? It’s not like you can wash your brain or change its oil.
Well, not in a literal sense, you can’t. But you can try a few of these methods to keep your creative juices flowing like Niagara Falls in the springtime.
#1 – Outline Your Book
If there’s one technique that’ll prevent writer’s block the best, it’shaving an outline.
These handy tools you didn’t pay attention to creating in school are essentially roadmaps for your book. They cover what happens next and what specific information you need to include.
There are a number of ways you can create your outline; using sticky notes, writing it in bullet points, or even using one that’s attached to a writing software.
How can you not know what to write next if you already have an outline telling you exactly that?
Many of us are stuck and blocked simply because we’re not sure what we should be writing next. Your imagination is at a standstill. You may just be divided between which path your book could potentially take.
Creating a thorough outline squashes those issues so you can write fluidly, quickly, and with quality.
When you’re not focused on what to write next, you can turn your attention to the quality of your writing while pumping out those words much faster, rendering writer’s block inactive.
Use a simple method like the one this student of ours used:
The post-it note wall is one of our favorite methods of outlining here at Self-Publishing School.
It allows you to consistently have eyes on what’s happening next when you’re writing – which can prevent writer’s block.
#2 – Research Beforehand
There’s nothing worse than getting into your writing groove only to freeze because you’re not 100% certain of the facts you’re putting down. Your mind goes blank and the words stop coming.
Having all the facts makes writing a breeze, and it can also kick-start some fresh ideas and a more imaginative way of thinking.
Here are some of our tips for researching to get rid of writer’s block:
Compile a list of what you don’t know
Highlight or make note of the most important parts
Jot down why it’s causing you to have writer’s block
Make a separate document for what you find
Start researching by using .edu or .gov website (if your topics call for it)
Write down everything you needed to know
Look it over one last time to determine that it’s all you needed to research
Start writing again to beat writer’s block!
Knowing more about a subject enables you to better explain it and writer’s block will run screaming for the hills.
#3 – Form a Writing Habit to Beat Writer’s Block
How often do you write right now? One day a week? A few days a week?
The more you write, the more effortless writing becomes. It’s like running, or exercising in general—the more often you do it, the easier it gets.
Not creating a writing routine those creative muscles. It makes it harder to think in an innovative way, and so you spend hours on a single page simply trying to find a better way to phrase something that’s not even critical to your story.
Using a tracking sheet like the one above is a great way to schedule out your goals and then execute in a way that makes you WANT to write every day.
You can also schedule your writing time into your calendar to get alerts and notifications for you to stop and write. This also ensure people don’t schedule meetings with you during this time—so there’s no excused to get writer’s block in this case!
This particular sheet is from a NaNoWriMo blog post, but it serves as a writer’s block cure as well.
How do you get over writer’s block?
So you didn’t survive the preventative measures. That’s okay! We’ve all been there at one time or another and thankfully, we also managed to get through it.
Writer’s block may be fickle and frustrating, but it’s not without weaknesses.
All you have to do is find a way to break through to your true creativity and these are some of the best ways to destroy writer’s block and find the words again.
#1 – Write Anyway to Get Over Writer’s Block
I know what you’re thinking:
“But I can’t! I’m blocked!”
Most of the time, you may just be out of practice and need to find your rhythm again. Even if you’re struggling to get the words out, write them down anyway.
You may not like it and you may go back to change what you wrote later, but it’s the single best way to force writer’s block into submission.
It can’t win if you still write despite its grip on you.
So get those words down and after a little while, writer’s block will scurry back into the darkest corner of your mind and stay there. Finding your flow is sometimes all you really need.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
If you’re feeling blocked with your current story, perform a writing exercise where you just describe your day in prose – like you would writing. Make yourself the main character and craft your day like you would a story in order to gain that momentum again.
#2 – Read
Nothing can get your mind in a creative state more than reading. Picking up a book – any kind of book – and spending 30 minutes reading can spark your imagination and light a fire under you to get back to writing.
It’ll also motivate and inspire you to work harder to reach your goal of publishing a book.
When you’re holding someone else’s hard work in your hands, it’s proof your dream can come true. It’s justifying everything you’ve worked so hard for.
You can also research books about writing in order to learn more about the craft. This can often help with insecurity so you feel ready to write again.
Here are our top recommendations for book about writing to beat writer’s block:
It’s not always easy to coerce yourself into going for a run or even doing a few sit-ups at home when you just settled into your comfy couch to write, but if writer’s block is preventing you from actually getting any productive wordsmithing done, it could make a huge difference.
You can simply do some jumping jacks or take a quick walk around the block. Stimulating your creativity physically might just beat writer’s block for you!
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Get off your butt and do a few jumping jacks! Spend at least 3 minutes doing some sort of exercise, or even go for a full 30-60 minute workout before coming back to writing.
#4 – Take a Walk or a Drive
Mindless tasks help your brain get out of a funk because it frees it from focusing on your daily tasks, the insecurity you may feel about writer’s block, and even the pressure of finishing your book.
The more you can let your mind go, the more creative it becomes. Plus, a change of scenery never hurts the creative process.
Always looking at the same place or even sitting in the same spot to write can be an issue. It’s hard to come up with new ideas and think creatively when you never have anything new fueling your imagination.
Taking a walk or going for a short drive can help you recharge so you can kick that writer’s block to the curb and get back to writing again.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Put on those shoes and hit the pavement. Take 10 minutes and observe your surroundings. Pick one thing you see outside and throughout the duration of your walk, craft a story in your mind focusing on that object.
#5 – Talk it Out
Are you struggling with something specific? Sometimes the confines of your own mind isn’t the best place to work through your writer’s block.
You may be the type of person who needs to verbalize your concerns in order to work through them. And that means you need to get up and actually speak to someone (or even yourself!) about what you’re struggling with.
Writer’s block feeds on uncertainty.The more you question what you’re doing, the worse it’ll get.
By talking through it out loud, you’ll have a new perspective. This will often offer fresh solutions that’ll make you eager to get back to that keyboard.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Try to get your critique partner on the phone or active via messenger. Tell them what’s going on and even ask if they want to take a look at where you left off to bounce ideas off each other.
#6 – Find Inspiration
There are a lot of ways you can go about getting inspired again. While inspiration isn’t necessarily required to write, it certainly helps your drive and imagination.
These are a few ways to get rid of writer’s block if you feel lost:
Inspiration is specific to each person. Meaning, it may take a few attempts before finding the method that works best for you.
As an example, whenever I feel stuck or blocked when writing, I open my Pinterest board dedicated to my book and often find this helps.
Here’s an example of what a board for your book may look like in order for you to beat writer’s block.
A Pinterest board like this really just serves to bring your book to reality. When you see what it could look like in the minds of others, it helps you get back on the writing train.
Anything that rouses your excitement to write again tramples that pesky writer’s block.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Get on Pinterest or just Google and look up images that are reminiscent of your book, theme, or story. Compile a folder or board of these and notice the details that make them related to your book.
#7 – Put Your Phone Away!
Are you really experiencing writer’s block or is that “block” in the shape of your phone?
A lot of us love to use the excuse of “writer’s block” in order to justify spending far too much time perusing our social feeds.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to catch up with friends and stay in the know, sometimes it can drag you away from achieving the goal of writing your book.
What you need may not be a cure for writer’s block at all, but something completely different: self-control.
There are even apps for this now! Going to your phone every now and then can be a bad habit, but apps like Freedom help you stay on track.
Freedom works by blocking your ability to access different websites or apps on your phone. This is what it looks like when you attempt to go online or open an app that you have disabled through Freedom:
If you struggle tofocus on the task of writing and you somehow always find your phone open to a mind-sucking app, it’s a good idea to switch your phone to silent and shove it aside for the remainder of your writing time.
This alone might be enough to get rid of what’s really blocking your stream of words.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Put your phone in a completely different room and on silent. This will stop you from opening your phone just to scroll and will block any other messages from distracting you until you’re done writing.
#8 – Reread Your Writing
As mentioned above, getting into a rhythm is essential for keeping writer’s block at bay. When you suddenly can’t come up with the right words to describe what’s going on in your mind, it could be because you’ve lost momentum.
Taking some time to reread your previous writing can help by putting you in the same frame of mind you were in the last time you had to stop writing.
This will catapult your brain back into the right place so you can make progress and write easily again.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Head back to the beginning of your current chapter (or the beginning of the previous one if you’re just starting a new one) and just read. Allow your mind to get lost in your own words. You can go further back to read if needed.
#9 – Stop Comparing Your Writing
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Theodore Roosevelt knew as much and we’d wager to bet it also steals any progress you could be making.
The more you worry about how your writing compares to someone else’s (who usually has much more experience than you), the harder it will be to write anything.
That’s where writer’s block comes from in this instance.
You’ll find fault with every word and every sentence even though your work is fantastic the way it is.
Remember that nobody can write the story you are. Your voice and perspective are what makes your book unique in the first place. Changing this will only pull you further away fromyour identity as a writer.
And most importantly, comparing your writing to someone else’s isn’t productive or helpful for anyone.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Write down 10 things you love about your writing. Get specific and mention why you love your dialogue or why your theme is so unique and special. Recognize your own strengths and then say them out loud to yourself.
#10 – Think of the Big Picture
Writing and publishing a book can be a long, hard process. Sure, the first week is exciting and you want to write all the words but that motivation probably won’t last through the entire process because it is work, after all.
You’ll have rough days – including moments when writer’s block takes hold. What’ll get you through them the easiest is taking a step back and thinking about the big picture.
Ask yourself some of these questions to get rid of writer’s block:
Pushing yourself to view your writing in terms of the end goal will not only motivate you to get started and put some words down, but it’ll also help remind you of your true purpose for telling this story.
Writer’s Block Action Step:
Write down the answers to the questions above in detail. Then read them out loud to yourself, really hear your own purpose for this book and that can often unclog your writer brain.
How Long Does Writer’s Block Last?
Writer’s block lasts as long as you allow it to, which can often be days or even weeks if you don’t act on it and try these preventative and curing methods.
Ultimately, the longer you put off dealing with the underlying causes of writer’s block, the longer it will last.
Face your writer’s block head-on in order to get rid of it for good and get back to creating something that will resonate with people from all over.
Writing without editing is like building a house without walls.
If you don’t think so, then you’re probably not someone who’s serious about writing – and writing well.
Not only does editing your own writing help you improve as a writer, but it’s also necessary to turn your very first thoughts of the story or book into something that actually represents how it looks inside your mind.
You know how it is.
Sometimes your writing just doesn’t do the story or book in your head justice.
Using the Hemingway App editor is a perfect way to get as close as possible to bringing your true vision to life.
The Hemingway App is an editor that highlights and corrects grammar, fluency, and sentence structure in order to help your writing read and look better.
If you’re new to the world of writing software, you may not be aware of what’s available for you.
The Hemingway App is just one of many resources out there designed to not only improve your writing as you have it but also teach you how to write better and produce tighter, neater prose in your books.
NOTE: If you want to be able to download and save what the Hemingway editor is correcting (or what you correct within the editor) download the Hemingway App for your desktop in order to do so.
STEP #2 – Paste your writing into the app editor directly from the writing software you’re using to complete your manuscript, like in the example from my own work below.
STEP #3 – Determine whether or not to take the advice highlighted in the various colors.
This can be the hardest part of using the Hemingway editor. You can’t take every suggestion because then you may lose your own writing voice.
Knowing what each color means in the editor will help you decide what advice to take, and what to leave for stylistic purposes.
Here’s what each color represents in the Hemingway app editor:
Light Blue –
Light blue highlights in the Hemingway editor represent weak words (typically adverbs) that this app believes could be made stronger.
Green highlights in the Hemingway Editor indicate passive voice—which is not as strong as active voice.
When the Hemingway Editor highlights something in purple, it’s telling you that what’s written is a little too complex and it would be easier to read if you altered it or shortened the word.
Yellow highlights are indicative of complex sentences or common writing errors. This means you are better off shortening or splitting up this sentence in order to make it easier to read.
If your text gets highlighted in red, it means this text is very difficult to read. Think of red as the more severe version of a yellow highlight—it’s usually best not to ignore this suggestion entirely.
The key with using the Hemingway editor is to understand that these are only suggestions. It’s up to you to determine what advice you want to take in order to make your writing stronger.
Remember, this is just an automated app—it cannot replicate your voice or style.
Hemingway App Benefits
Before we get into the real review, let’s touch on the benefits of the Hemingway App in order to help you understand exactly what this writing program has to offer.
#1 – It’s very simple to use
The Hemingway editor is not a difficult editing tool to use. In fact, it’s as easy as copying and pasting – because that’s literally all you have to do.
Just copy the writing you have and drop it into the editor. Then, BOOM, your work has been edited.
Technically, your work has been commented on, and it’s up to you to make the necessary edits suggested by the editor.
As far as ease of use, the Hemingway app is perfect.
#2 – It creates better-sounding writing
A lot of what makes the Hemingway app unique is that its purpose is to help your writing read more fluidly.
One of the main issues with many people’s writing is that it often sounds choppy.
The smoothness of writing is a coveted skill not many possess naturally and therefore, the Hemingway app editor makes it easy to see where your flow is falling short.
Once you know what to watch out for and what habits you tend to fall into, you can correct them going forward and have smoother, easier-to-read prose.
#3 – Anyone can use it
If you have the ability to write, copy, and paste, you can use the Hemingway app editor.
Because this editor works by giving you suggestions within your writing, you’ll have to be able to read and decipher what each piece of advice means as well.
But as long as you can copy and paste your work as well as understand the tips the app is giving you, you can use this.
#4 – It’s cheap or free
Although you can purchase a desktop version of the Hemingway app editor, it’s also completely free to use on their website.
You can just go to Hemingwayapp.com and paste your writing in the space where their writing is.
The results and editing tips immediately populate – all for free.
#5 – You get better the more you use it
As I’ve mentioned above, this is a great app to use whenever you want to check your writing for major grammatical and spelling errors, but you can also use this as a learning tool.
Whenever you input copy for the app to edit, make note of results that pop up time and time again. This will show you where your weakest points are and it also allows you to gauge how much you’re improving whenever you use it.
Hemingway App Editor Review
Let’s get into the real stuff – whether or not the Hemingway App is really worth all the hype.
Take a look at the video below to understand how it works and your different options when it comes to using the Hemingway editor.
Ease of use: 5/5
This editing app is the easiest I’ve seen to use. It’s literally as simple as copy and pasting, as I mentioned above.
The best part about this editor, though, is that its simplicity allows you to use it often and quickly.
Even if you want to just check over an urgent email before sending it, you can do so within a minute.
The Hemingway app functions just as you’d expect. As far as whether or not the editor does as advertised, it does – but only to a certain extent, which I’ll touch on in the next point.
The app does actually highlight and pinpoint the different areas you can improve on, as well as telling you what reading level your writing is at and how many words it is, as seen below.
It’s easy to want to listen to every little thing an editor like this says. After all, it’s factual and that means my writing will be better because of it, right?
That’s not always the case.
One of the downsides of this editing software is that it doesn’t take style and writer voice into account when editing.
This app basically works to correct the most basic common writing problems. However, if you have a very distinct style or a writing voice that strays from “normal” writing guidelines, this editor won’t be able to detect that and edit accordingly.
Therefore, it’s not as reliable for fiction writers because the voices used in writing tend to differ.
Overall, the Hemingway App editor is a great way to make your writing stronger very quickly. However, keep in mind that this should not be used as an editor for every piece of writing you do.
If you’re someone who wants to use it in order to see which areas you need help with, that’s great.
But you will still need to hire an editor even after using this if you want the best quality writing.
Why are adverbs bad in the Hemingway App?
Adverbs are considered bad in writing because they’re weak and can often be replaced with a stronger, more accurate word to reflect the same idea.
I’m sure you’ve heard the famous quote by Stephen King about adverbs.
“The path to hell is paved with adverbs.”
If you want your writing to be impactful, you have to use strong verbs instead of adverbs in order to get the point across.
She ran quickly to grab her backpack before leaving for school.
She sprinted to grab her backpack before leaving for school.
These two sentences say the same thing, but the second is stronger due using a better, more fitting verb instead of an adverb.
How does this involve the Hemingway App editor?
The editor is designed to find little mistakes like this in order to help you write with more clarity and intrigue.
You won’t have to worry about missing these mistakes when self-editing because the app will point them out for you.
Not only do you need to know HOW to use powerful verbs, but having a strong verbs list at your disposal is invaluable. We’ll cover both for you.
I used to think writing a book was easy.
And in all honesty, writing has never been the most difficult thing in the world for me but when it comes to writing stories and crafting my writing in a way that compels others and pulls them in deeply, it’s been an uphill battle – before I discovered using strong verbs along with interesting and cool words to use, that is.
She walked into the room, her cape trailing after her.
She charged into the room, her cape billowing after her.
She strutted into the room, her cape flowing after her.
Each of these sentences is extremely similar in what they tell you; a girl with a cape entered a room.
But changing the verbs from “walked” to “charged” to “strutted” alters the way in which she entered.
It tells you the how.
And knowing how an action takes place sets up far more than just the image for the reader. It tells them the mood the character’s in, increases suspense in some cases, and even creates anticipation for what’s to follow.
#2 – More impactful emotions
The goal of your book (and any book, really) is to make your reader feel something. You want to stir emotions in them.
That’s why they read books. That, and they want to be transported to a different world, which strong verbs are also used for.
But one of the main reasons to use strong verbs in writing is to create a more emotional impact.
When you want to create a strong reaction in your reader, no matter what type of reaction that is, you need to use strong verbs.
Here’s an example of creating more anxiety or anticipation in your readers:
My heart was beating so fast I could hear it.
My heart crashed against my ribs, echoing in my head.
Which sentence gives you a clearer picture of the anxiety that must be felt?
The second, right.
Because replacing “was beating fast” with “crashed against my ribs,” shows you just how hard my heart felt. And that’s the difference between a weak verb and a strong one.
It forces you to think more about the visual you’re trying to show the reader instead of just telling them what happened.
Because showing creates a stronger emotional connection between the reader and your book, replacing weak verbs with more powerful ones will hook your readers.
For those of you who struggle with showing and not telling, focusing on using better verbs will help tremendously.
#4 – They reduce weak adverbs
When you’re writing, you may have a tendency to write sentences like, “I gripped the steering wheel firmly.” While this doesn’t look like a terrible sentence, it also doesn’t convey a very strong visual.
Whenever you have an adverb, you should replace it with a stronger verb. That’s all an adverb is. It gives your weak verb a boost but it doesn’t actually make your sentence any stronger.
Instead, replace “gripped firmly” with a powerful verb like “clenched” or “squeezed.”
“I clenched the steering wheel” is a much stronger sentence that gives a clearer visual.
Go through your writing and pick out some adverbs to replace. Your writing will be better because of it.
#5 – They make for more concise writing
Have you ever picked up a book that looked decent enough and even had an awesome title only to start reading and be turned off by how wordy and jumbled it is?
Strong verbs prevent this.
When you replace weak verbs and adverbs with a single stronger verb, you get rid of the excess writing that can make reading harder.
Because you’re using one word to create a strong visual, you won’t have to write more trying to describe how it looks to you. That strong verb does the job for you.
This also allows for easier, more fluid writing and reading.
Strong action verbs for better writing
I won’t lie. One of the most frustrating things to read is a book that lacks strong verbs in scenes that are meant to be full of action.
You’ll find this most often in fiction, but nonfiction books can be just as (if not more!) guilty of this. When you have a story that should leave the reader’s heart pounding but it doesn’t even raise their eyebrows, you have to do some digging to improve.
Here’s a list of strong action verbs to improve your writing:
Stick with us through this post and you’ll learn exactly how to accomplish character development in a way that will make readers think about your characters as if they were real people.
Once you nail all of these, you’ll be writing strong characters in no time.
Get Your Character Development Sheet
Sometimes it’s worth it to have a character development sheet to keep track of your characters. Not only will you be able to keep track, but you can zoom out and better see if you’re creating two character archetypes who are too much alike.
Are you ready to get started right now? Download your free character development sheet to keep track of each character you write.
What is Character Development?
Character development is the process and execution of creating a fully rounded, complex, and lifelike character within your fictional writing with the purpose of making readers invested in them and their life or journey.
Think of character development like the paper of your book. Without it, you simply don’t have a book at all—you just have a mess of ink smeared between two cover.
But before we get into the extensive details, I’m going to cover what constitutes a well-developed character as well as the different types of character development you may consider.
What is a Well Developed Character?
A well-developed character needs a full backstory, personality traits reflective of it, realistic actions and emotions, along with being highly relatable to the average reader and as complex as a real person.
If you can’t imagine your characters as a real-life person, they’re not quite complex enough to be well developed. The key with character development is crafting your characters to feel as if they’re people you know who just live far away.
Get comfortable with thinking of them as real and you almost always will have a well-developed character.
Types of Character Development
When it comes to learning how to write characters – and write them well – you have to understand which type of character you’re dealing with.
These are the different types of characters to write:
Don’t be alarmed if you think this is a lot of different types of characters. After all, we all have people in our real lives who would fill these character “types” and that’s why it’s important for your book to include them.
Without them, you can’t go through with character development and expect a captivating cast.
But let’s help you understand what each type of character brings to the story.
With this information, you can better understand which character development to focus on with each of the fictional people you create.
12 Actionable Character Development Tips
Now that you know which type of character you’re focusing on here when writing your book, let’s dive deeper into the character development methods you can use and exercises to help you get it right.
#1 – Create a background for each character
Our realities are shaped by where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go.
That being said, the one with the most influence on our lives is where we’ve been – our past.
The same is likely true for your character. Based on what their life was like prior to the start of your novel, they’ll have different interests, quirks, fears, and more.
Fill out a character development sheet so you can understand your characters as full-fleshed people instead of just two-dimensional beings you created. Cover these main ideas when crafting your character’s background:
– Their childhood (good, bad, poverty-stricken, spoiled, etc.) – Their parents (divorced, never married, one missing, both missing) – Their friendships – Their hobbies and interests as a kid versus now – Their motivations for feeling the way they do about any given situation – Their personality type and how it affects their actions – These are some basic elements you should understand about your character in order to shape their personality, opinions, and actions that appropriately fit their background.
#2 – Know your characters’ strengths and weaknesses
One of the biggest means of influence over your characters will be their strengths or weaknesses.
We, as humans, constantly face our strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis, even in the smallest of forms.
What your characters are good at and what they’re not great at will affect how they perceive different events, what actions they choose to take, and can affect their overall character arc (which we’ll touch on later).
If your character’s strength is talking to strangers and gaining their trust, this might be an asset for them throughout their journey. However, if that is your character’s weakness and they’re forced to do so, it can cause conflict for them.
These strengths and weaknesses will shape your character arc and the plot as a whole, so know them well before writing.
Character Development Exercise
Create a list of 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses for your characters. Make sure these play into the plot in order to cause conflict and gain sympathy from readers who can relate.
#3 – Create nervous ticks or habits
If you’ve paid attention to humans for long enough, you’re aware that we all have certain habits we don’t even realize we’re doing when we’re nervous.
Me? I pick at the skin around my nails. It’s a pain (literally) and I never notice I’m doing it until later.
This can be a key characteristic that will make your characters feel more real and help make them more relatable to your readers, which will make them want to give you those 5-star reviews.
Character Development Exercise
Make a small list for each of your characters. Write down 2 odd habits for each of them and decide which is their go-to (the one they do without even thinking about it) and which is made worse through nerves or anxiety.
#4 – No character can be perfect
It can be really hard to write your favorite fictional person as having flaws. After all, we want people to love them, right?
But a “perfect” character is not lovable – they’re hateable because it’s not realistic.
The more you try to make your character “flawless,” the less readers can relate and therefore, they’ll like them less. You have to build flaws into your character just like we all have drawbacks in real like.
Character Development Exercise
List 3 major flaws your character has that can actually become problems within your plot. Think about any bad habits they have, situations they dislike, or even personality traits that aren’t seen as “good” in order to craft these flaws in a realistic fashion.
#5 – All characters need realistic motives
No matter which character they or what they want in your story, they need to have a real and valid reason for feeling this way.
Take He Who Shall Not Be Named from Harry Potter for example.
Voldemort (woops!) wants to kill Harry. That much we should all know – even if you’ve never read or seen the movies. But if he was just trying to kill Harry Potter for the sake of murdering a child, it wouldn’t’ make sense.
Yes, he’s evil, but he also has a valid reason for wanting him dead, right?
He has to kill Harry Potter because he’s the only person who was able to defeat him before – and because the prophecy says so.
If your characters – no matter how minor they are – don’t have a motive that makes sense, readers will be pulled out of the story and end up questioning what’s happening, and not in a good way.
This is largely how plot holes arise so in order to avoid them, stick to this character development method.
Character Development Exercise
When coming up with your antagonist’s motives, list at least 2 ways in which they’re valid. For Voldemort, it would be the fact that Harry can kill him and that he wants to rule the wizarding world. Your bad character has to have at least 2 strong reasons for opposing your protagonist and they should make sense given their history.
#6 – Give each character a unique feature
This is particularly for those of you writing Game of Thrones-esque novels with a large number of characters, but it’s important for others as well.
When writing a book, you want your readers to easily visualize and differentiate the cast. You want each character to stand out as individuals.
A perfect way to do this is to give each person an identifiable feature.
For example, let’s use Harry Potter again because you probably know what the main characters look like.
Harry has glasses. Hermione has buck teeth (up until she has them shortened a bit too much – and this is only in the books for those of you about to argue), and Ron has flaming red hair.
These are very distinct features that can help you picture them as wildly different characters.
Now, you don’t have to give each and every character some crazy hair color or style, but try not to have your entire cast look the same.
If you have a main character with brown wavy hair, have the next with blonde curly hair, etc.
Keep in mind that siblings can certainly look similar!
Character Development Exercise
Create a spreadsheet or other document that lists all your characters and document their features. If you have two characters who spend a lot of time together in your book and you see they look similar, alter their appearance until they’re differentiable.
Take my own spreadsheet for my work in progress below as an example.
#7 – Develop a wide variety of personality types
Meaning, don’t create all of your characters to be the “dark and sarcastic” type or the “tough guy” type.
You have to have a wide variety of personalities – just like in the real world.
You can even back up their personality with real-life psychology. As an example, I have two characters who both have a tragic background.
However, they don’t process that trauma in the same way. One character takes on a very withdrawn approach while the other hides his pain with humor. This gives them very different personalities despite having similar histories.
Character Development Exercise
Reference your character’s backstories and do a little research into possible coping mechanisms and how that can affect their personality. Develop it from there in order to have realistic personalities that differ.
#8 – Match your character’s history with the effects of it
This is when some research will come into play, which should be required anyway. Looking into some psychological effects of trauma can help you accurately and realistically dive into character development.
Now, not all characters go through trauma, but there are other big life events that can shape how they behave.
If you have a character whose parents were very strict growing up, they may be a bit of a rebel and lack the decision making abilities others have – mostly because they never learned how since their parents made those choices for them.
Character Development Exercise
Since you know your character’s backstory, do a little research into how those specific struggles or realities can shape a person’s psyche in order to accurately and realistically craft their behavior.
#9 – Make secondary characters foil types
This is largely to help with personality contract within your novel. Most of the time, this will happen naturally if you’re giving each character a unique personality but it’s great to keep in mind anyway.
If you have secondary characters (characters who get a decent amount of page time but are not main characters), craft their personality types to show the opposite of the main characters’.
Why? Because you want to firstly create more diversity and secondly, create some non-plot-specific conflict.
Character Development Exercise
Pinpoint your secondary characters and development them in a way that makes them clash or oppose your main characters in certain ways. Think about what could annoy your main character the most and give your secondary characters some of those habits or personality traits.
#10 – Give each character a distinct voice
We all speak differently and that means your characters should too. Depending on where they’re from, they could have different accents, slang, and even phrases they tend to use regularly.
Think of a friend of yours for a minute. What are some specific phrases they use a lot?
It’s likely you were able to think of something in just a few seconds because it’s so unique to them and something they say a lot.
Your characters should be developed in the same way.
If you write two characters from very different areas of the world and they have the same style of speaking, your audience will be pulled out of the story because it’s not realistic. Their voices have to be consistent and not the same.
Character Development Exercise
These tips can ensure your characters speak differently: – Choose a slang word each character likes to use – Use different wording for the same meaning like “apologies” versus “I’m sorry” or “my bad” – Use unique sentence structures to give each character a unique speaking rhythm – Make sure your more educated characters speak like it and your less educated use simpler words and phrases – Create phrases similar to “knee-high to a grasshopper” with unique meanings for your characters’ specific regions – Read their dialogue out loud in the voice you image they have and make changes if necessary – The point of giving your characters unique voices is to ensure your readers imagine them as real people instead of two-dimensional beings living in paper.
#11 – Create a diverse cast in every way
I’ll be honest, there is a very real problem in literature when it comes to diversity.
Your book should be just as diverse as the real world.
If you don’t have characters with varying skin, hair, or eye colors along with varying body types, disabilities, and even mental illnesses, your characters are not diverse enough.
You do not have to write a book about these things in order for you to include them in your novel.
For example, one of my main characters has high levels of anxiety. His storyline does not revolve around this mental illness, but it is there, seen, and can affect his plot.
Character Development Exercise
Look through your characters and their appearances as well as their personalities. If there isn’t clear diversity amongst them, create it. You want to make sure you are allowing diverse readers to feel included, heard, and represented.
#12 – Avoid stereotypes
This is really a “do not do” tip versus a “must do” tip. The reason for this is because so many writers feel as though they need a “side character” (or even a main character) but is too lazy to do the real work.
Which means they create a stereotype of a specific type of person that can oftentimes be harmful without the author even knowing.
A great way to ensure you never have offensive stereotyped characters is to use a sensitivity reader or make sure you have a diverse group of beta readers who can speak on behalf of the characters you’ve developed.
What is a Character Arc?
A character arc is used to describe the inner and even outer journey, which can be physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise that a character experiences throughout the duration of the story or plot.
You thought you were done learning about character development, didn’t you?
You’re not! In addition to crafting well-rounded characters, you also have to think about including arcs for them.
How to Create a Character Arc
At the very least, your protagonist, or main character, requires an arc for their storyline and journey to be captivating and satisfying for readers.
As an example, I’m going to use Harry Potter from that series simply because it’s widely known and his character arc even within the first novel is distinct.
Harry Potter starts the novel as an 11-year-old kid suffering from emotionally abusive relatives who care for him due to his parents passing away.
But by the end of the movie, Harry has discovered he’s a wizard, learned of his prominence in the wizarding world, and even taken on Voldemort himself (well, sort of).
This character arc is distinct in that his mental and emotional journey from start to finish is wildly different. Harry Potter is not the same at the end as he was in the beginning – and this remains true throughout each book in the series.
When your character comes out at the end of the book as a transformed person in certain senses, it’s a character arc.
Above is an example of what a character arc looks like on paper and how you can utilize plot elements in order to further your character’s development.
Character development questions
If you’re looking for a way to further develop your characters in order to create lifelike and realistic personalities, we have a way to help.
Here are 50 character development questions to ask:
What is their full name?
Why did their parents choose that name?
What are their parents like?
Do they have siblings?
What are their siblings like?
Were they bullied by their siblings?
What order are they in their family (first born, middle, etc.)?
What do they look like (full appearance)?
Do they have any quirks or nervous habits?
What do they do when they get mad?
What do they do when they’re happy?
Do they have close friends?
What are their friends like?
What’s their worst habit?
What’s their best habit?
What’s their biggest weakness?
What’s their biggest strength?
What is something they want to improve upon?
What’s something they excel in?
Did they go to school or an equivalent?
What were they like in school?
Do they like to learn?
Are they a rebel?
Are they an obliger (people-pleaser)?
Are they internally motivated?
Do they look to others for help in times of stress?
What is their stress response?
Do they think logically or emotionally to make decisions?
Are they able to make decisions clearly when emotional?
What are their beliefs on religion?
Do they have a strong moral compass?
What do they value most in life (money, happiness, etc.?)
What is something that would trigger irrational behavior?
Are they introverted or extroverted?
Are they a troublemaker or do they play by the rules?
What’s something that fulfills them?
Do they know their life’s purpose?
Who’s someone causing emotional struggles in their life?
Who do they go to when they’re upset?
What type of weather do they enjoy most?
What are their sleeping habits like?
What are their eating habits like?
What’s something they could change about their world if they could?
Are they someone who speaks up for themselves?
Are they a passive person?
What are they like at their very worst?
What are they like at their very best?
What do they envision their life to be 10 years from now?
What do they want for their life when they’re old and gray?
What does the “perfect” life look like in their eyes?
Now, developing your character will be easier than ever!
With the world turning to the online and computer space, having a reliable way of ensuring your grammar is nearly perfect each time is essential.
Nobody wants a troll using their grammar as a weapon online.
No matter if you’re a blogger, aspiring to be a successful author, or just want an app to take care of the technical aspects of writing across many platforms (including email – thank goodness!), Grammarly might be the answer for you.
But before we get into the Grammarly review, let’s take a look at what this software actually is.
Grammarly is an app or extension for your browser that checks your grammar, spelling, plagiarism, and more in real-time on a number of different platforms, including Microsoft Word, WordPress, Facebook, and more.
This grammar app is actually coined as being your “Free Grammar Assistant.”
Sounds nice, right?
But there are certainly limitations – as with any writing software like this. Let’s take a look at a full Grammarly review of its features, the pros and cons, and the price point for premium and business upgrades.
Grammarly Review: The Features with Each Version
As someone who has used Grammarly’s free program for a few years while building a freelance writing business, I can confidently say that if you’re not using it, that’s a mistake.
But there may be features you need that aren’t available with the free or even premium versions.
Here’s a table covering each Grammarly feature and which plans cover it.
Grammar and spelling checks
Checks punctuations grammar, context, and sentence structure
Genre-specific writing style checks
Plagiarism detector (checks over 16 billions web pages)
How Much Does Grammarly Cost?
As you know by now, Grammarly isn’t just free – and for a good reason.
With as many helpful features as it offers in addition to what you get for free, paying a pretty penny is totally worth it if you’re someone who needs more of those advanced capabilities.
Here’s how much Grammarly costs for each version:
$29.95 / month
$59.95 (breaks down to $19.98 / month)
$139.95 (breaks down to $11.66 / month)
Grammarly Review with Pros and Cons
As with anything, there are some pros and cons that come along with Grammarly.
Let’s dive into this Grammarly review and discuss each in detail and what you can expect if you choose to use it for all your writerly needs.
There are many reasons Grammarly has exploded its growth in recent years. These are a few of many pros this writing software has to offer.
Instead of writing everything out and then clicking the “check spelling and grammar” button, you’ll know right when you make a mistake that you have, in fact, made an error.
You might be wondering why this is so great when you can just check it after you’re done.
Have you ever forgotten to hit that button when you spent a ton of time drafting something very important? Because I have.
And let me tell you, if I could see the errors as they happen, I can change them right away, resulting in a cleaner final result.
Plus, it’s all automatic. You don’t have to click a button for Grammarly to do its job.
#2 – Highly accurate
This grammar software doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. Occasionally, it can misunderstand what you’re trying to say or put a comma where you don’t necessarily need or want one, but overall, it has a high rate of accuracy.
And when you’re checking grammar, accuracy is always best. Just be aware of why it’s asking you to change something and only accept if it’s correct.
#3 – Easy to understand explanations
Grammarly doesn’t just tell you when something is wrong. While that would totally be okay, this program goes a step further with explanations so you can understand in order to learn and improve.
By a simple explanation like the one featured above, you won’t even need Grammarly as much in the future.
#4 – Customization
Even if you’re using the free version of Grammarly, it’s pretty customizable given its limitation in features.
You’re able to select your preferred language, turn it off on certain websites, as well as add new words you use often to the dictionary.
This is perfect if you have any words you use regularly that aren’t necessarily “real” words, like brand names, slang, or abbreviations. There’s no need to fix each of these errors if you just click “add to dictionary” when Grammarly marks it as incorrect the first time.
Just hover over the word and click “Add to Dictionary” in the pop-up box, as you can see below:
#5 – Very simple to use
You don’t have to be a computer whiz in order to figure out this piece of software.
Essentially, all you have to do is install the plugin or browser extension and you’re good to go!
Much like Microsoft Word and Google Doc’s spellcheck, Grammarly will underline incorrect words or grammar and show you what to replace it with and why if you simply hover over it.
This is perfect for those of you who need a bit of help in the grammar department but aren’t thrilled with the idea of a more complex piece of writing software.
It can’t all be perfect, right? While there are some amazing features within Grammarly, there are certain aspects that could be improved.
#1 – It doesn’t work on everything
Most popularly, Grammarly doesn’t function on Google Docs, which can be a real bummer for those of you who use this writing software all the time.
But, they are currently beta testing Grammarly with Google Docs so you might not have to wait long before this feature is available for good!
Just take a look at the notification I received on my Grammarly Chrome extension when I was crafting this very blog post in Google Docs:
It seems as though Grammarly is certainly breaking out and extending their services to more and more platforms – which is great if you use many for work, hobbies, or a combination of the two.
#2 – Its free version is very limited
As you can see from the table above, the free version of Grammarly is very limited. It really only has one function, and that’s to correct your spelling and grammar.
While this might seem like a major con to some, it’s perfectly acceptable to others.
Personally, I don’t need much more than just the free features.
Going for Grammarly Premium is certainly more useful for those looking to transform their writing for the better or those who need a bit more than just grammar help.
There’s a huge gap between the free version and the premium option that could be closed a little by offering more free features.
If you’re curious which writing software is best for you and if Grammarly is even a good fit, take this short, 2-minute quiz below to find out!
Want to find the best writing software for you?
Take this quick, 2-minute quiz to find out which will help you the most!
Parts of a book make up the entirety of the book, including the title, introduction, body, conclusion, and back cover.
In order to write a book book in full, you need to have all the moving parts to make it not only good but also effective.
Without essential pieces, your book will appear unprofessional and worse: you’ll lose the credibility and authority writing a book is so useful for.
Parts of a Book You Need for Success
It’s not enough to just write and self-publish a book by throwing it up on Amazon or any other publishing site.
You have to get the parts of your book right if you want it to sell more, get those 5-star reviews, and place you as an authority figure in your field.
Here’s how to do that.
#1 – Title Page
For obvious reasons, your title is important…
But that’s not all that’s important to your book. The title page is also necessary and without it, your book will be missing something crucial.
Your title page serves as a means of not only declaring your title clearly, but also ensuring your name, subtitle, endorsement, and any other crucial information is present for your readers to view clearly.
Here’s an example of a great title page and what you can use to replicate your own:
As you can see, the title page is really just the main title, any subtitle you may have, and the author’s name as the bottom.
Other than this being an industry standard for books, it helps to keep everything clear without the obstruction of any title images.
#2 – Copyright
Your book needs to be copyrighted. Unless you’re okay with others stealing its content and reaping the rewards for themselves, that is.
A table of contents is a list of a book’s chapters or sections with the heading name and often the page number if there are no links inside.
Here’s an example of this part of a book:
#4 – Dedication
This is the part of a book that most of us write long before the actual book is finished…we just tend to jot it down in our minds instead of on paper.
Your book dedication is like your acceptance speech when given an award. Except your book is the award and therefore, you get to write this “speech” and place it where everyone can read it before even starting the book.
This dedicated often comes after the title page and before the table of contents.
It’s a short few sentences thanking whomever helped you get to the point of writing the book or just people you want to acknowledge as thanks.
This is an example what a dedication of your book may look like from our own Student Success Strategist Pedro Mattos’s debut novel I Wish Everyone Was an Immigrant:
#5 – Foreword
If you’re looking to increase your credibility, get a book endorsement by someone who knows you and your story well, then a foreword is what you want.
What is a foreword?
A foreword is an introduction to a book written by someone other than the author that lends credibility to the author’s status to write the book.
Think of a foreword as a sort of endorsement of the book. The person who writes it is usually an author themselves, though they can also just be a person of authority in the same or similar field.
Above is an example of a foreword from The Go-Giver by Bob Burg.
Forewords typically come after the table of contents and before the introduction or first chapter of the book.
#6 – Prologue
Fiction is where prologues live. Oftentimes, stories may need additional context before the actual story begins in order for the reader to make sense of it and elements within the book itself.
What is a prologue?
A prologue is a short chapter that usually takes place before the main story begins as a means of granting understanding to the reader. It’s also used to increase intrigue and captivate readers.
Not all books require prologues and in fact, if you can write your novel without it, that’s actually preferred as many readers skip the prologue altogether.
Below is an example of a prologue from the very popular Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
#7 – Epilogue
Not all book series get happily-ever-after endings. When your book series ends but you want a way to let the readers know what’s in store for the characters’ futures, an epilogue is a strong way to do that.
What is an epilogue?
An epilogue is a short chapter that comes after the last chapter of a book as a way to tie the story together in a conclusion.
Essentially, the epilogue is the answer to the question, “what happens to them next?” This serves as a more satisfying way to let readers know that characters live “happily ever after.”
Sometimes the ending of the story isn’t satisfying enough for readers.
That part of their story may end, but if your readers want a more in-depth look at their life “after” the story, that’s when an epilogue would come into play to tie everything together.
#8 – Epigraph
Epigraphs aren’t necessarily important, nor are they required. Oftentimes, these short snippets serve as a way to let readers know what lesson or subject will be covered in the chapter.
What is an epigraph?
An epigraph is a short question, quote, or even a poem at the beginning of a chapter meant to indicate the chapter’s theme or focus. This often ties the current work to predecessors with similar ideas and learnings.
For example, below is an epigraph from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
#9 – Book introduction
Most nonfiction books include an introduction to the book—a chapter before your first chapter as a means to introduce yourself and your credibility or author on the subject matter to your readers.
Your book introduction is extremely important for showing your readers why they should read the book and how you’re the person to help them with whatever problem your book solves.
One of the best ways to do this is to first establish the pain points your book helps to solve, and then make it clear how you, someone they don’t know, can help with this issue.
This usually involves some of your own backstory, but keep it specific to the problem at hand. Your readers don’t need an entire rundown of your personal history.
#10 – Inciting incident
If you’re writing fiction, you may have come across the term “inciting incident” before.
What is an inciting incident?
This is an early part of a book that’s the point of no return for your characters. The inciting incident is what kicks your plot into full drive.
Here are a couple examples of inciting incidents:
Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Tobias enters the Tournament and gets accepted in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci
Bella moves to Forks, where she meets Edward in biology class in Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Bran gets pushed off the wall in Winterfell when he catches Jaime and Cersei Lannister together in Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
These are all points in the novel that the characters cannot come back from. In this instance, their lives are changed forever, which drive the plot forward.
#11 – Sections of a book
This will mostly pertain to nonfiction authors, we we’ll cover the fiction equivalent in the next section.
Some nonfiction books are written with different parts. These are usually separated into 3 parts that make up a greater whole in the book.
For example, in the book I’m currently writing, I break it up into 3 separate sections. Each part has its own focus and theme but they all work with one another to achieve a greater purpose.
Here’s an example of how the sections of my book work:
Part 1 – This part focuses on how your childhood impacts your adult behaviors
Part 2 – This part aims to show readers how to move past their childhood and get control of their “now”
Part 3 – This section moves beyond getting control and focuses on how readers can work toward building the future they both want and deserve despite their childhood traumas
Each part of this book has a main focus and theme but when utilized together, they form a solution to a larger problem.
#12 – Act structure
In fiction, instead of creating separate sections like in the example above, you may split your work into different acts.
Most commonly used is the three act structure.
Although this isn’t required of novels, it’s still quite popular to write a book with this structure, as it forms a cohesive order of events that’s proven to be intriguing to readers.
A popular example of this 3 act structure is in Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, featured below.
#13 – First slap
If you’re familiar with our lingo around how to write a novel, or you’re a student already, you may have heard of the first and second slap.
These are pivotal points in your character’s journey that further the plot and often make their efforts more difficult.
The first slap is often the biggest setback for your character following the inciting incident.
Here are some examples of what a “first slap” is in popular stories:
Katniss entering the hunger games after trials and tests
Bella finding out Edward is a vampire in Twilight
Tobias’s first challenge in the tournament in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci
All of these have one thing in common: they make the lives harder for the characters.
#14 – Second slap
Like the first slap, the second slap is a pivotal point in the novel where your character faces a downfall, most often after having a win or two under their belt since the first slap.
The second slap needs to be placed shortly after your readers have gained hope in your character’s ability to succeed in whatever their goal is.
The idea behind this is to hook your readers again and let them know that it is not all smooth sailing for your characters throughout the rest of the book.
Oftentimes, the second slap is worse than the first, where 90% of your character’s hope in succeeding is lost and therefore, your readers will lose hope too. This makes them root for your character even more, increasing the amount they care for your character.
#15 – Climax
We all know the climax of the book is the most important part. It’s where your character faces the biggest obstacle in achieving their goal in the book.
Here are a few examples of climaxes in popular books:
Whenever Harry Potter comes face-to-face with Voldemort in the books
Katniss and Peeta are up against one more foe before “winning” the games in the first book
Bella gets taken by James and Edward has to fight to save her
The climax is the last challenge before the ending, or resolution, of your book. It is the point of the highest tension and it’s where your character faces the worst odds—worse than the first and second slaps.
#16 – Acknowledgements
We all have people in our lives to acknowledge for our success in writing a book.
Much like the dedication, the acknowledgements are meant to recognize impactful people in our lives. These, unlike the dedication, typically come at the end of the book and can be written in longer, paragraph form as a pose to a short sentence for each.
#17 – Author bio
Not all books contain an author bio in it, specifically fiction (unless it’s a hardback copy).
Nonfiction, however, is a type where the author bio can be at the bottom of the back page of your book, beneath the back cover synopsis.
Here’s an example of an author bio for Omer Dylan Redden’s Life Doc.
Your author bio doesn’t have to be very long. Keep it short and simple while still showing your readers your credibility in what your book covers.
#18 – Coming soon / Read more
This part of a book might not matter to you unless you have a book series or multiple books to your name.
The coming soon and read more pages are used to help your readers purchase and read more of your books.
This section of a book often comes at the very end, after your epilogue and acknowledgments. It’s a single page with the cover images of your other book/s, their titles, and links for your ebook copy.
This not only makes it easier for your readers to buy the next book, but it’s also a great way to sell more books overall.
#19 – Back cover or synopsis of a book
I saved the best (and most important) for last. The back cover, also known as the synopsis of your book, is by far the most critical for getting people to buy.
Without a good synopsis to hook readers and buy them into your book, you won’t sell.
These are crucial for both fiction and nonfiction.
With your fiction synopsis, you want to create intrigue and show your readers that they’ll get a good story. The trick is doing this with a few short paragraphs.