company book club

How To Run A Company Book Club (And Why Every Company Should Have One)

You saw the book on the shelf at the bookstore, or maybe you bought it online late one night, and couldn’t wait for it to arrive.

It finally gets to your house and you read the first and second page. Maybe you even get through the first chapter.

But then you get busy with work. The book becomes a coaster for your third coffee.

The topic you’d been so excited about is soon forgotten as the book collects coffee stains and becomes more clutter on your desk.

What if we told you there was a way to grow your work culture and read a book at the same time?

Sound crazy? Actually, it’s very doable.

Books create history, and history creates culture. When it comes to work culture, it’s easy to bypass the importance of books. However, here at Self-Publishing School, we believe in the power of writing books and reading books. 

Sitting down to read a book can seem a little intimidating to some people. But with a little guidance, purposeful reading can bring you and your company great results.

Starting a book club is the first step in this process.

There are four core steps to creating a successful book club:

  1. What Are The Benefits Of A Company Book Club?
  2. How To Choose The Right Book
  3. How To Run The Book Club Itself
  4. Book Club Ground Rules

How to Run a Company Book Club Successfully

Not only will reading a book help you learn about new topics, but it will also widen your interaction with coworkers and deepen your relationships.

That’s why we want to share not only why every company should have a book club, but the practicalities that will make a book club possible for you.

#1 – What are the benefits of a book club?

Not only are book clubs a key part of building culture, but depending on the book list you choose from, conversations will result around topics that are meaningful to you and those you work with.

At Self-Publishing School, we usually host a book club once a month or every other month. This results in roughly 6-12 clubs throughout the year and has greatly impacted our company culture.

The purpose of a company book club is to develop and train employees to be better employees, leaders, and people. Let’s break that down.

Better Employees:

When employees are spread out over different tasks and each person has a different job scorecard, it’s easy for a team to feel disjointed.

But the definition of a team is one of unity and collaboration.

When a team comes together to read a book, the result is a central focus on the same topic. No matter what part of the company individual team members work in, their mindset shifts to the same general theme. This ups team morale and ultimately, team productivity.

The benefits of having every member of a team focused on the same topic is transformational, and something we’ve seen at Self-Publishing School.

Better Leaders:

It’s said that influential people read quite a bit, and this statement has been proven true through the success stories of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders.

The same can be true for your company.

The more widely read your team, the more likely they are to step up in leadership. Regardless of whether you choose a book on leadership, personalities, or another topic timely to your team’s needs, the result will be the same: the more educated your team is, the more they will step up in different situations of leadership.

Every business desires leaders, and the secret is, every business can grow leaders. Maybe your business is a startup or a younger company. That’s ok. It doesn’t always take leadership seminars to grow leaders.

Simply gathering your team around a book with a needed theme can grow your employees from followers to leaders.

When leaders are in the details of a company, the company flourishes.

Self-Publishing School Virtual Company Book Club

Better People:

In today’s world of social media, self-care, and me-time culture, it’s easy to become self-obsessed without trying.

Reading about other people and other topics, universal themes, and the thoughts of leaders around the globe greatly impacts the actions of individuals.

The world is so much bigger than the company you or I work at, or even the company we may run. There are people outside the walls of our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces that can bring meaning into our lives.

You don’t need to fly your team overseas to learn from world-renowned leaders.

Simply purchase several copies of a book they’ve written. Some white pages with black ink can go a long way in influencing company culture.

When we read we open our minds. When our mind is open we become more aware of others. And when we are aware of those around us we become better people.

Alright…

We’ve talked about three results of a book club, but how do you actually choose a book? If you’re going to devote company time and the time of your team into the reading and discussion of a book, it’s important to choose the right one.

#2 – How To Choose The Right Book

Here at Self-Publishing School, we usually spend about an hour a week on our book clubs (not counting reading time). At the end of the year, combining reading, meeting time, and time spent scheduling it all out, that’s a good chunk of time.

Some might say, “That time could be spent investing in the company.”

True. But from experience we would argue investing time in a book club is investing time in your company.

Good companies are run by good employees, good leaders, and good people. All these factors result from well-run book clubs.

So back to our original question – how do you pick a book?

Not every team will benefit the same from every book. Choosing a book to fit your company’s current needs is key to making the most out of your book club training time.

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself when choosing a book for book club:

  • What’s the key message I want my team to understand?
  • What area do we most need help with as an organization?
  • What’s a must-read for your team and team goals?
  • What’s an area your team has been struggling in?
  • What particular interests does your team have?
  • How can you encourage your team/how might you be encouraged through a particular book?
  • Do you know of any authors who can do a Q&A at the end of book club like we do for

Once you pinpoint an area of improvement/focus for the team, search for some book club picks or reading lists online.

A simple way to do this to pick the top three most relevant books from a book club recommendation list or reading list. Determine the most relevant book for your team, then use it as the material for your current book club.

We’ve read topics from leadership books to sales and marketing books.

Currently, we’re working through The Five Love Languages. This has not only helped our company grow in teaching us how we can best work together, but also brought the focus back to the spouses of our team members.

company book club book

This has grown team relationships as well as their relationships with their spouses, which all contributes to a better team member.

As a company, we love growing our team, but when we can also help our teammates’ personal lives, it’s a win-win.

You know why to have a book club and how to choose a book…

#3 – How To Run The Company Book Club Itself

While we may not read as much as previous generations, reading is still very important, not to mention it comes with the benefits mentioned earlier.

When running a book club, using shorter books help.

What you don’t want are stressed out team members trying to complete a marathon read before the deadline.

What you do want it as low pressure a schedule as possible.

When it comes to the meeting itself, it’s helpful to lay ground rules and then break the meeting down into three parts.

#4 – Book Club Ground Rules

Be sure to create a reading schedule and meeting dates. You can do this in batches where you create all the due dates at one time. You can schedule book club meetings over the course of a calendar month, and meet weekly for 45-60 minutes.

Here at Self-Publishing School, we use Asana to structure not only our company book club meetings, but all our meetings.

You’ll see tips for the following book club meeting structure:

company book club schedule

Ask team members to prepare ahead of time by thoroughly reading the chapters and taking notes for reference during the meeting.

To cut down on spoilers, ask book club members not to read ahead of the assigned readings.

As far as running the meetings smoothly, assign a meeting leader for each meeting. Be clear that the purpose of the leader is to facilitate discussion by asking questions, keeping everyone on time, and guiding the conversation. Allow the meeting leader to rotate each week.

If you’re wondering how to effectively choose the next team leader, simply ask the current team leader at the end of the meeting to pick the leader for the next week.

This can be done in “popcorn” fashion.

If necessary, divide book club participants into groups. Try to mix groups with people from different departments and people who don’t often communicate with each other.

This will not only bring the company together but also potentially forge new working relationships and potentially even friendships.

Now that the ground rules are laid, let’s talk about the three aspects of an effective book club meeting.

Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 1: Stories From Out in the Wild – 10 minutes

We like to call this part “stories from out in the wild.”

This is a time designated for team members to share how their real-life reminded them of what they’re learning from the book. Be sure the meeting is open flow and open dialogue. You want this to feel different from other team meetings, more relaxed, and very open for discussion.

The examples/stories should consist of how you’ve seen what you’re learning play out in your work and life over the last week. They are intended to be conversation starters.

During the week feel free to jot down any funny or impactful stories or application of the book playing out in your life.

Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 2: Lessons Learned/Topics For Discussion – 30 minutes

This part can be defined as simply asking what stood out to the team as individuals.

Here are some questions to prompt the book club discussion:

  • What paragraphs did they connect with?
  • What resonated?
  • What point/points stuck out to them?
  • What were the biggest takeaways?
  • What did you learn?
  • What would you like to talk about with the team?

Again, keep this open for discussion and input from all team members. Remember that this doesn’t have to be done in order or turn-by-turn, either.

If someone has something to add, just speak up!

Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 3: Takeaway/Application – 15 minutes

Ask the team based on the week’s reading, what their next steps are.

This doesn’t need to be too stringent, as you don’t want this to become another task to check off the to-do list! Include only one or two things you plan to personally put into action from your learning in the book/the meeting itself.

Bonus Step:

As a bonus, we’ve brought in different authors to do a short, thirty-minute Q&A. This helps our team connect on multiple levels because they’re already excited about the topic.

Experiencing a live Q&A with the author brings that excitement full circle.

You can check out another one of these we did here:

book club q&a

Book Club Meeting Agenda Final Checks

Here is a reminder of the few points to keep in mind when launching your first book club:

  • Choose the right book for the book club based on your team’s needs
  • Schedule all meetings in advance (this can be done in “batches”)
  • Pick first meeting leader in advance
  • Open discussion with real-life examples from team members

Remember that book you bought online late one night (or thought about buying) but never actually read?  

You just purchased several copies of that book.

Together you and your work team read through the first and second page. During your first meeting, you even have a discussion about the entire first chapter.

Work gets busy but the book your team is reading becomes a central, unifying theme for the company’s busy season.

The topic you’d been so excited about begins to influence your work culture. You even met someone who works in a completely different department and you have plans for next Friday. This coworker will likely become a friend.  

Your company’s work culture is growing, and so are you.  

Sound crazy? Actually, it’s very doable.

author advantage live

5 Easy Ways to Get the Most Out of Author Advantage Live

Chandler Bolt and the rest of the Self Publishing School team are excited to meet you at Author Advantage Live AGAIN this fall! And this year, 2020, we’re going VIRTUAL!

COVID-19 has shaken the in-person gathering world, and that means we had to adjust. Instead of simply canceling the event, we decided to go VIRTUAL with this 3-day experience.

All the same information, from the comfort of your HOME!

We had a ridiculous amount of fun with everyone who came last September, so we’re doing it again. Except this time it’ll be bigger, better, and we’ll have even more for you to learn!

If you’re ready to join us, we’ve got your ticket waiting!

Click right here to get your Author Advantage Live Virtual Experience 2020 ticket!

#1 – LET TIME WORK FOR YOU AT AUTHOR ADVANTAGE LIVE.

[Here’s how] Most people get caught up the One Day Attitude. “One day soon I’ll finish my book” or “One day soon I’ll launch my business to $10,000 a month.” Having a time constraint for a goal is one of the best ways to ensure it gets done. Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Time is on your side right now.

Action Step: Commit to one goal from now until we meet you at Author Advantage Live.

Use the form below to send in your goal so we can best hold you accountable & celebrate your success at the event.

Self Publishing School Student

“I plan to get through my 2nd draft and have it professionally edited.”

Brittany Thomas

VIP & Launch Your Book Accelerator Student

Self Publishing School Student

“Publish my second book & finish my course content. “

Mike Acker
VIP & Course Building for Authors Student

You are more likely to accomplish a goal if you write it down. You are also more likely to complete your goal if you have someone holding you accountable. Let’s do both!

#2 – GET THE DISTRACTIONS OUT OF THE WAY.

[Here’s how] You have the opportunity to make a lot of progress during the event.

Most will get more out of 30 minutes at the live event than they would for weeks on their own.

In some ways, the amount of focus you will have at Author Advantage Live is equivalent to 30 minutes a day for 6 months.

Action Step: Tell people ahead of time that you will be “off the grid.”

Let your friends and family know that during the dates of September 20-22nd (or September 18-22nd if you’re coming to the Launch Your Book or Launch Your Course Accelerator) that you’ll be focused on your book(s) and your business.

For those that matter most, set a check in time at night so they know when to expect you and you won’t have to task switch throughout the day from your phone to the conference.

Use every moment you can to implement and connect with other authors and experts that will help you move forward. The more you can stay immersed during the weekend, the better you’ll set yourself up for success after the event for years to come.


#3 – UTILIZE THE BRILLIANT EXPERTS ONSITE AT AUTHOR ADVANTAGE LIVE.

[Here’s how] Often we get in our own pattern of how to do things, that we forget there are people who have already solved and conquered the problems we are facing. One of the questions we ask frequently at Self Publishing School is, “who do we already know that has solved this problem?” in order to avoid wasting time and money.

The more you are aware of your challenges the faster you can get real action steps from real experts in person.

Action Step: Create a list of the biggest challenge(s) you are facing as an author or a business builder.

At the event there will be numerous opportunities to get direct feedback from others who have already solved the challenges you are facing.

(Especially if your challenge is something massive, like I don’t like doing sales and marketing for my book.) Start your list now … so when you have the opportunity you will get the feedback you need.

#4 – BUILD UP YOUR NETWORK.

Yes, ESPECIALLY if you don’t love networking 😉

[Here’s how] A woman I spoke with last week was very excited about the event, but was freezing up by the idea of making connections with other people at Author Advantage Live. We always say, “Extroverts love live events, but introverts need them.” Building up a community of other authors and impactors is crucial to continue to challenge you to elevate to the next level.

Action Step: Show up physically & mentally. Instead of dreading the thought of networking, simply focus on being present.

Bonus: Get a head start. Mark yourself as “Going” on the Author Advantage Facebook Event & post that you are looking forward to meeting everyone (even if you’re terrified).

Author Advantage Live is structured in a way where you don’t have to be a good networker and you don’t have to be an extrovert to get a lot out of it. Simply showing up and being present, you will leave with real connection and real people to support you on your journey.

You deserve support. Be ready to show up and you will experience it.

#5 – CREATE LIFELONG ACCOUNTABILITY.

[Here’s how] Having your Accountability Buddy to hold you accountability is one thing, but it’s also powerful to bring someone from your inner circle.

Action Step: Bring a friend to Author Advantage Live.

When we go after our dreams, sometimes the people around us don’t understand. Or even if they understand, sometimes we find ourselves having to explain things over and over again.

Having your life accountability partner at Author Advantage Live will build instant accountability and make this life journey as an author, impactor or business builder so much more enjoyable.

Good family options: Spouse/Significant Other, Child or Parent Great friend options: Best Friend or someone you see daily
Great business options: Business Partner or Personal Assistant

Haven’t got your ticket to Author Advantage Live yet?

Join us this September!

Click here to get your Author Advantage Live 2020 Ticket!

Buy now before the price goes up and get ready to have your life drastically change as an author, impactor & business builder.

Can’t wait to meet you in Austin, Texas!

book endorsements

5 Simple Steps to Snag Book Endorsements from a Marketing MBA

Growing you book sales isn’t easy. In fact, you’re probably doing it incorrectly already.

This post will show you how to market your book for growth.

But if you want to know all the ins-and-outs of self-publishing a book, including how to write, market, and publish your book within 90 days…we highly recommend watching your free training first.

Here’s how to get book endorsements:

  1. Find the right influencers
  2. Deliver value first
  3. Prepare to ask
  4. Ask for the book endorsement!
  5. Follow up

SELL MORE COPIES CONSISTENTLY

How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn’t Working and How to Fix it in 3 Easy Steps!

How to get book endorsements

Endorsements are a very powerful form of social proof and trust-builder for potential readers of your book.

Endorsements alone might not make your book a bestseller, but they’ll give you an advantage over other books that don’t have them.

I was able to leverage my endorsement by a top influencer to promote my book on social platforms, on my website, and even on webinars and speaking engagements.

Where do endorsements go in a book?

You could place endorsements or “blurbs” on the back cover of your book, the praise sheet, or even the front cover, as you can see from my endorsement example below.

book blurb location on page

But, how do you get top influencers to support your book? Here are five simple steps to get endorsements for your book.

You can also add book endorsements to the back cover of your book, like this example from The Politically Homeless Christian by Aaron Schafer where he features author Matthew Emmorey and another endorser, Anne Cody.

book endorsement back cover example

#1 – Find the right influencers for your book endorsement

The most powerful endorsements are those given by people who are well-known in your field.

To select the right influencers, find out who your ideal readers admire. Post the question on targeted social media groups or ask them directly.

Also, ask yourself what top influencers you follow and respect. Add their names to the list.

Focus on quality over quantity, but if you don’t have enough names, search for bestselling books similar to yours and check out who endorsed them.

It’s important that the influencers have a style and values similar to yours. That way, your ideal reader will be likely to be attracted to them and be familiar with their work.

How do you figure out the style and values of potential endorsers? Start by visiting the “About Me” page on their website and pay attention to their branding and message.

Then, visit their pages on social and focus on the style of their posts and the content they share. You’ll get a good idea of whether the person’s values and style might be a good match for you or not.

#2 – Deliver value first

Because it’s much easier to get a yes from someone who has already received value from you, it’s important that you start planning your request for endorsements in advance.

For blurbs by top influencers, you might need to start the outreach process several months ahead of the publication of your book.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, there’s always a way for you to bring value to the influencers and start a relationship with them.

Something as simple as sending them a handwritten note about how much their message means to you, posting a video review of their book on Amazon, or recommending them on LinkedIn will help you stand out.

Here are other examples of powerful ways to stand out:

  • becoming an active member on the influencers’ social media groups
  • attending one of their conferences
  • joining one of their paid programs

You should do this because you truly enjoy their message and not just because you’re seeking endorsements. Your true intentions will come through in your communications and behaviors.

Avoid going straight to the ask without having taken the time to deliver value first.

#3 – Prepare to ask for a book blurb

Before you reach out to potential endorsers, do everything you can to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.

Prepare well in advance so you can find the best opportunities to ask for the endorsement, and give yourself enough time to get through gatekeepers.

book endorsements example

For example, if the influencer will be speaking at an event in your town, you could grab a ticket and introduce yourself.

However, local events aren’t your only choice. One of my friends was interested in building a relationship with an influencer who would be speaking three thousand miles away. But that didn’t stop her.

By following the influencer on Instagram, she learned that this person loved brownies and would be attending the event with her husband.

My friend ordered a dozen brownies to be delivered to the event with a customized note that read, “Best wishes during your presentation. Hope you and your husband enjoy these treats!”

That was the start of their friendship.

How long is a book blurb?

As part of your preparation, write a sample endorsement for each influencer. Blurbs usually hover around 50 words (never more than 100). If you know their work well, you will be able to create blurbs that closely match their writing voice.

#4 – Ask for the endorsement

It might feel nerve-wracking to ask, but never wrong. If you’re hesitant, it might be too soon in the relationship, especially when it comes to top influencers.

If you ask too soon, they will either ignore you or reject your proposal.

Rushing might mean that you’ll have to start the process all over again and find someone else to endorse your book.

Never send a mass request to a group of influencers. You’ll waste your time, and hurt your chances of ever building a relationship with them. Customization is key.

Send the influencers a copy of your book along with a well-crafted message asking for the endorsement.

Ideally, you’ll send them a physical copy. It doesn’t have to be the final version, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be a printed PDF.

That said, you must ensure that whatever you send to the influencer is professionally packaged.

If sending a physical version of your book is not possible, you can send them the PDF or ebook, but you’ll have to ask in a way that stands out. You could achieve this by customizing your message in a unique way, creating a video specifically designed for them, or preceding your email with a handwritten note.

Think outside the box! A video card or a note written on a balloon would be clever ways to stand out, too.

Be succinct. Remember that time is a high-price commodity for influencers (for everyone!) so you don’t want to make it a chore to understand what you’re asking.

Start by expressing why you feel they’re the right person to endorse the book and why you respect them so much. Be sure to mention that you’re eager to make your readers aware of their work.

Next, specify the length of the blurb you’re seeking as well as by when you need it done.  

When should I ask for a book blurb?

Don’t make your deadline too far in the future so that it’s put in the back burner, but don’t make it so soon that the influencer will immediately say no. I personally chose 3-4 weeks to collect the blurbs.

Be prepared to negotiate an extended due date, and allow for extra time in your planning.

When you share the blurb that you wrote, explain that you’re just trying to make things easy for them.

Express how much you appreciate their time and attention, and close with the promise to follow up in a week or two.

When should I ask for a book blurb?

#5 – Follow Up for Book Endorsements

If you don’t hear back from the influencers, it’s easy to assume they’re not interested in writing the endorsement and be tempted to give up. However, it’s important to realize that they might have not received your message yet. 

Emails go to spam folders. Gatekeepers delete emails and toss out mail. You never know!

When you follow up, try a different way to reach the person. If you used email first, follow up with a handwritten note or a message on social media.

If you find out the name of the influencers’ gatekeepers, reach out to them directly. Build a relationship with them as well, and you will have a great chance of success.

My rule of thumb is to follow up three times. If you don’t hear from them, it might be time to move on.

As you can see, with a well-written manuscript, proper planning, and a great dose of authenticity, it’s possible for you to get endorsements from top influencers in your field.

The most important step is to take action.

how to get book endorsements

It’s easy to be sidelined by fear of rejection, but if you think about it, the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no. If you’re confident in the quality of your book, you have nothing to fear.

Take the first step today to gain powerful social proof and make your book a success!

paassive voice

Passive Voice: What Is Passive Voice & How to Improve It with Examples

Passive voice has its purposes. It really does. In fact, it can be the politically correct way to phrase something.

Imagine…

The setting: a public school library

The players: a librarian (OK, I’m the librarian) and 15 first graders

The scene: The librarian is reading aloud nonfiction books about sharks.

The question: “Why do sharks _______________?” (some intriguing behavior too complex or gory for me to explain or possibly even understand)

The passive voice answer that keeps me employed in a public school: “That’s the way they were made.”

The active voice answer that I would tell my grandchildren: “God made them that way.”

Make a Full-Time Passive Income
From Book Sales

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Taught by a Bestselling Author with YEARS of experience doing JUST THIS! Learn the most recent fiction marketing tactics, Amazon algorithm deep-dive, with case studies, & more.

Here’s what you’ll learn about passive voice:

  1. What is passive voice?
  2. How much passive voice can you use?
  3. How to choose to use passive or active voice
  4. Active voice examples
  5. How to vary your sentence variety
  6. How to find your percent of passive voice

What is passive voice?

Passive voice is when you write a sentence in which the subject receives an action. For example, “The ant was helped by the human.” is passive voice because the subject (ant) receives an action (help). The active voice of this sentence is, “The human helped the ant.”

Typically, passive voice is seen as weak when writing a book and in most cases, this is true. However, passive voice can serve its own purpose in writing.

One instance to use passive voice intentionally is when you don’t know (or care) WHO created the action.

It was so long ago, so obscure, so common, or so…something that the point is not on the subject performing an action; the focus is on the result.

Most of the time, though, active voice is the way to go. It’s more direct (less wordy) and commands more interest. You use strong verbs in active voice, so the entire sentence is (usually) stronger.

Active voice sentences are easier to understand.

what is passive voice

How much passive voice can you use?

The English language has melded far too many linguistic influences to have any absolute rules.

Therefore, the frequency of using passive voice versus active voice is a judgment call on how you would like to balance out your active and passive sentences, particularly when you can actually use passive voice intentionally as a literary device.

The key is to understand the difference between the two.

How to Choose Between Using Passive Voice or Active Voice

In general, active voice is preferred. Below is an explanation that I used with English students.

Active voice shows direct ACTION; passive voice is more ho-hum and wordy with unnecessary prepositional phrases.

The passive verb usually needs helping verbs.  Sometimes it even sounds stilted.

Active voice has movers and shakers; passive voice is like being a couch potato. Do you want to be the one DOING the action or be passive? Be an active leader, not a follower! Start with the main subject and go from there.

Passive Voice Examples:

ACTIVE:  I love reading.

PASSIVE:  Reading is loved by me.

ACTIVE:  AC/DC Thunder won the game easily.

PASSIVE:  The game was won easily by AC/DC Thunder.

With students, the focus is on active voice; with a professional writer like yourself, you will most likely have a blend of both active and passive sentences, but active should still far outweigh passive.

Active VS Passive Voice with Examples

From Billboard’s “The Biggest Hits of All: The Hot 100’s All-Time Top 100 Songs” I selected songs that used active voice in their titles. (WHO selected them? I selected them. That’s another easy example of active voice.)

Here are song titles along with a rewrite in passive voice:

  • “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” * Rock ‘N Roll Is Loved by Me
  • “I Gotta Feeling” * A Feeling Was Gotten by Me
  • “You Light Up My Life” * My Life Was Lit Up by You”
  • “We Found Love” * Love Was Found by Us
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand” * Your Hand Is What I Want to Hold
  • “Another One Bites the Dust” * The Dust Was Bitten by Another One
  • “I Will Always Love You” * You Will Always Be Loved by Me
  • “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” * It Was Heard Through the Grapevine by Me

Sentences with the understood subject (you) have an imperative active voice which is much more authoritative than passive tense:

  • (You)” Un-Break My Heart” * My Heart Should Be Unbroken by You
  • (You) “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” * A Yellow Ribbon Should Be Tied Round the Ole Oak Tree by You
  • (You) “Let the Sunshine In” * The Sunshine Should Be Let In by You
  • (You) “Play That Funky Music” * That Funky Music Should Be Played by You

Conversely, this next song title has a passive voice that works: “That’s What Friends Are For” (better than Friends Are for That).

With the rewrites changing active voice to passive, did you discern a pattern where many of them ended with a prepositional phrase containing the person doing the action?

Think of gossip.

People want to know who is doing what! (They really did that? You’re kidding!) Put the subject right at the beginning so everyone knows whom you’re talking (writing) about and what they did!

How to Vary Your Sentence Variety Using Passive Voice and Active Voice

If you have the same subject over and over and if the object is more of the point anyway, passive voice allows for sentence variety.

Furthermore, if it doesn’t matter who did the action because the result is the point, passive voice works.

what is passive voice

The chairs in the old high school library were refinished and moved to the new library weeks before the tables were moved. Temporary chairs were in the high school library.

I needed the tables from the old elementary library to sort the genre boxes, so students had chairs, but no tables for a while. The elementary students enjoyed sitting at the “invisible” tables and joked how they didn’t have to push in their chairs when they left.

After class, a first grader told his teacher very sincerely, “The tables really are invisible!”

I smile whenever I think of his endearing comment.

Passive voice rationale: It didn’t matter who had refinished and moved the chairs or who had put temporary chairs in the high school library. I hadn’t done those things, and those details would not have added to the book.

Nonetheless, I had completed the genrefication project (where the library was totally reorganized by book genres). I didn’t want to start almost every sentence with “I + action verb + direct object.” It would sound awkward to repeatedly start sentences with “I did this, I did that, I, I, I….”

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Passive Voice Checker & How to Determine Your Percent of Passive Voice

Beyond the basic spelling and grammar check (which can be helpful with tools like Grammarly or even Hemingway Editor) is Word’s readability feature.

It tells you various details about your writing, including the percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Reading Ease, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

For example, the segment about the chairs and the invisible tables scored an 8.8 Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level, which means it was written at a reading level where an 8th grader in the 8th month of school should be able to comprehend the text.

Many teen and adult fiction books are written at 4th – 6th-grade reading levels (based on Accelerated Reader scoring) because the writing flows at those levels for recreational reading compared to reading to learn new information. Newspapers may rank more at a 10th-grade reading level, depending on the complexity of the information.

If you are using Word and would like to know your percentage of passive sentences and readability scores, here’s what you do:

  1. Go to Review at the top of Word.
  2. Select Spelling & Grammar from the top left.
  3. Select Options… from the pop-up.
  4. Select Settings… at the bottom of the next pop up (next to Writing style:)
  5. Then scroll down until you see Passive Voice and check the box
  6. Select “OK” and you’ll now be able to check your passive voice in Word
passive voice checker

In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t), this article was written at a 6.7 reading level with 6% sentences being passive.

Now check some of your writing and see if you agree with your results.

By the way, I just took my own advice here and checked my children’s picture book, The Flower Fairies Meet the Talking Rainbow Rocks. It contains 4% passive sentences (acceptable to me) but has a 4.1 reading level, which is higher than I would have guessed and higher than I had planned for a picture book.

My book’s science-related terms increased the reading level. Word’s readability tool actively helps with various writing considerations beyond passive voice. You may use it purely for passive voice, but it will tell you even more.

Active writing is lively writing. It is aggressive in the most positive sense. It burrows in there and zooms straight to the point.

Stay active with your writing, and stay active in your writing.

self publishing realities

10 Surprising Realities of Self-Publishing Your Books

I know it seems easy.

You’re probably thinking that self-publishing a book successfully is nothing more than uploading a document to the web and hitting an all-powerful “PUBLISH” button.

You’re far from the truth…

In all honesty, self-publishing is certainly a process. There’s a reason big-name publishing houses have been around for so long; they take care of a lot of the work.

You do all the creative thinking while they do the other heavy lifting. Additionally you give up opportunity to price your book which also puts limits on earnings. Luckily, you’ll be pleased to learn how much you can make self-publishing.

But that also means they get a (very) big cut of your earning. Your hard-earned income. But all of that’s already been discussed with self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

Instead, we’ll talk about what you can actually expect when you decide to put yourself first and commit to self-publishing.

And believe me, I know it’s a hard choice to make.

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Here’s what you’ll learn about the realities of self-publishing:

  1. You’ll become tech-savvy
  2. You’ll bring in more income
  3. You’ll learn about yourself
  4. You’ll make connections
  5. You build instant credibility
  6. You’ll have more opportunities
  7. Your business with grow
  8. You’ll want to write another book
  9. You’ll generate new ideas
  10. You’ll develop a writing routine

Taking that leap can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. Let us do some decluttering of your mind by cluing you in on some of the unexpected realities of self-publishing your book!

#1 – You’ll become a tech-savvy self-publishing whiz

A lot of technical coordination needs to happen in order to self-publish your book.

You’ll have to:

https://youtu.be/5Z9emRqJNYE

There is more but I think you get the idea.

Self-publishing involves a number of different technical capabilities you probably don’t know of before starting the process.

And because you’ll be responsible for the entirety of your publishing journey, you’ll learn a lot about all of the different platforms you’ll need to make it happen – which is made a lot easier with a program that shows you exactly what you need to do, when to do it, and how to get it done.

#2 – A lot more income

You probably think of self-published authors as the “starving artist” type, forever playing catch-up with bills and life in general.

In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, check out this book profit calculator to determine just how much money you can make depending on how you price your book, the royalty rate, and how many book sales you acquire.

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That fact is, self-publishing gets a really bad reputation for bankrupting those who pursue its path. And sure, some people may have spent a lot of time and money on their book only for it to tank.

But those people often decide to go it completely alone instead of using a program or guideline of sorts to ensure they succeed.

If you do work hard and pursue self-publishing by learning from those who have done it before, you can actually expect some cushy additional income.

Why is that, you ask?

Because you don’t have to fork over a chunk of your earnings to a publisher. Because you are the publisher.

https://youtu.be/-k1hkmpVSBY

#3 – You’ll learn a lot about yourself

This is especially true if you’re writing non-fiction but it’s just as meaningful for fiction authors as well.

Writing a book starts with a lot of your own experiences, values, and meaningful content to you. That means you get to do some digging into your psyche to uncover the very core of who you are. And if you’re writing a memoir, be prepared for a lot of this.

That’s a bit deep, but I really want you to understand just how much you can learn about yourself from self-publishing a book.

And it’s not even all about the writing itself, either.

Self-publishing takes a lot of drive, ambition, and a very determined individual.

It’s a challenge and whenever we enter into challenging times in our lives, we learn more about ourselves than ever before.

Self-publishing a book is the same.

Through your writing, editing, rewriting, marketing, and self-publishing journey, you can figure out more of who you are and what you want out of life.

And that alone is worth it.

#4 – You’ll make amazing connections

Networking isn’t really something many people think of when they consider self-publishing, but it’s a crucial part of your author branding.

In fact, most people assume self-published authors are shut-ins who spend all their time shrouded in thick blankets with a steaming mug of spiked coffee between their hands.

But when you have to market and ask others for advice or even if you become a member of a powerful self-publishing group, you meet all kinds of people.

And knowing talented, hardworking individuals will only help you reach your goals faster.

The point is, self-publishing helps you build those connections you might not otherwise get. After all, self-published authors stick together.

what to expect self publishing

#5 – You build almost-instant credibility

The crazy thing about self-publishing is how much other’s view of you changes.

Before, you may have just been a blogger with a business that just wouldn’t take off. After you have a book available, others will see you as an authority figure in your field.

They will feel more comfortable paying for your products or services simply because you wrote a book.

It might seem a little silly because your knowledge base is the same, but when a potential customer can purchase your book, they instantly see you as someone with expert knowledge and this increases the likelihood that they’ll buy from you.

Even if you’re not a business owner, self-publishing a book will still give you a boost in the eyes of strangers and even people you know well.

#6 – Opportunities will come knocking

We like to refer to self-publishing a book as opening the door to Narnia. Once you go through with the process, you will throw yourself into an entirely new world where opportunities basically fall into your lap.

By this I mean that you might be contacted for speaking gigs, bring in more high-value clients, get requests for interviews, and more.

Because publishing a book places you as an authority figure and heightens your credibility, more people will want to hear what you have to say on the subject.

This could lead you down new roads, offer new business ventures (like this entire company!), and change your entire life – just because you decided to take action and self-publish a book.

self publishing chandler bolt

#7 – Your business will flourish

This is the amazing thing about self-publishing a book. When your credibility sky-rockets, so will your business.

In fact, most aspects of your life will flourish but a book will directly aid your business (and even your side-hustle!).

Take our alumnus Ashley Emma, for example. After the launch of her book, her business generated $24,000 specifically from her book Fearless Author.

So if your business is struggling and you need a new way to bring in sales, writing and self-publishing a book is a fantastic method to do so.

#8 – You’ll want to write another book ASAP

The process of self-publishing can be a long and arduous one – and you’ll still want to publish another book as soon as you can.

Why? Because of everything you gain from it.

Many of our students love what having a self-published book offers so much that they dive into the program again in order to write another one.

In fact, one of our alumni (and now one of our Coaches!), Lise Cartwright, has self-published 26 books simply because of the opportunities she’s gained through doing so.

One of the (arguably) best opportunities granted was becoming part of the Self-Publishing School team behind the scenes by teaching and helping other students find the same success she did.

Bottom line: you might become addicted to writing books.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOLM_tJgsFs&t=7s

#9 – You’ll generate tons of new ideas

Writing a book forces you into a quicksand-like imaginative headspace. The more you write, the more you understand what else you can be writing, such as a book series or maybe other genres. And you end up in a pit of creativity that releases your mind and allows you to think outside the box.

You practically get sucked into creative thinking.

Meaning, you’ll come up with so many new ideas for other books, blog posts, or even business ventures.

Think of your creativity like a muscle and self-publishing as the gym. Each time you sit down to further your self-publishing progress, the more creative you will become.

#10 – You’ll become a routine-writer

Before you learn the real process of self-publishing a book, you probably only ever wrote when you were inspired.

And that’s not always useful.

You’ve always had this book idea and would spend bursts of time typing out so much content…

only to lose that inspiration the next day…and the next…and the next, until you basically forget all about it.

When you actually self-publish a book, you learn that becoming an author isn’t just about writing when you want to but writing anyway.

The best part about this?

You write faster, become better, and can publish much sooner than if you waited around for inspiration to find you.

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story structures

Story Structure: 3 Main Templates for Structuring an Unforgettable Story

Your story structure does matter.

Get this right, and your readers will definitely see the difference. If your book doesn’t have a cohesive structure…they may not be back for more.

The THREE MAIN TYPES of story structures we’ll cover are:

  1. Three Act Structure
  2. Hero’s Journey
  3. The 5 Milestones

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What is story structure?

It’s how the events are laid out with an emphasis on each part furthering the story in an intriguing and cohesive structure.

Structure, suffice it to say, is IMPORTANT. Why?

The structure makes all the difference in creating a compelling narrative structure.

Basic story structure helps you keep track of all the events, characters, character development and story elements.

Keeping track of story elements makes writing a lot easier. Think of it like following a recipe. Stick to the plan, and you’ll avoid a disaster writing a novel or non-fiction book.

These elements also help readers make an emotional attachment. They start to feel anxious if an element they are expecting hasn’t yet occurred, or never occurs.

Depending on the book genre, manipulating these expectations is a part of the style.

Why focus on the structure of a story?

Story structure serves as a map to guide you, the characters, and the reader to an eventual, and hopefully rewarding, destination. It also supports your narrative structure to keep readers engaged.

That’s why we always recommend outlining your book using these methods for planning your novel or non-fiction book.

https://youtu.be/kieAfi3hLEY

Story Structure: 3 Templates for Getting it Right

There’s three main types of story structure options to help you plan your book.

Story Structure #1

The 3 act play or three act structure…It’s the most basic of story structures, very popular in Hollywood-style films.

Many world-famous novels use this structure, including:

  • Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The three act structure uses five elements which includes the acts, various scenes, and two key transitions, aka “pinches.”

Here is the three-act structure broken down:

  • Act 1: Setup– We’re introduced to the main players as well as the main conflict. We understand the voice, tone, and direction of the story.
    • Pinch 1 – This is when the initial conflict arises (sometimes known as the inciting incident).
  • Act 2: Confrontation– Now we’re faced with difficult (seemingly impossible) odds to overcome.
    • Pinch 2 – The conflicts addressed in Act 2 come to a head, and decisions need to be made. This is often the moment where all hope is lost for your protagonist.
  • Act 3: Resolution– Everything boils down to this act. All of the conflict, main plot points, subplots, and challenges arise and the climax kicks off, shortly followed by the resolution of the story.

Act 1

The Setup: Introduces the main character with some mild character development and sets up the conflict.

Here’s an example: Romeo and Juliet uses a 5-act structure in the play, while the films use a three act structure.

Pinch 1 occurs at the end of the first act, introducing the conflict of the young couples’ love for each other. 

Act 2

The Confrontation: in Romeo and Juliet appears in the second act as the stakes for the lovers is spelled out. They marry in secret and that forms the end of the major plot points, the star-crossed lovers are not just passingly at odds with their society.

Within the three act structure, this is a single plot point. We get that they love each other, and that love means marriage.

Then, the middle act is the apprehension of their actions bringing about unintended, but not unforeseeable consequences.

Act 2 ends shortly after a complication that brings the elements to a head.

Act 3

The Resolution: Act 3 then begins with the fallout. With Romeo headed to banishment, Juliet seeks a drastic plan to keep him around. She fakes her death to bring out the true feelings of the interested parties. And you know how this tragedy ends.

https://youtu.be/VfXysUtnhGc

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Story Structure #2

The Hero’s Journey: When the good guys and bad guys are less black and white, the Hero’s Journey is another proven model that works.

The journey typically consists of 12 steps. It’s the backbone of traditional storytelling.

novel structure

Here are the 12 steps of the HERO’S JOURNEY:

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusing the Call
  4. Meeting a Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach the Innermost Circle
  8. The Ordeal
  9. Seizing the Talisman
  10. The Road Ahead
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

These steps explain, in detail, the trajectory of the story while leaving room to put in differing characters and pursuits of different ideals, compared to the main character.

We’ll use Lord of the Rings as an example of this story structure. While the entire story follows the structure multiple times, we’ll stick to Frodo’s arc.

Step 1 – The Ordinary World:

The Lord of the Rings story begins, rather appropriately, in the most banal land in Middle Earth. The Shire is a pure ordinary world where nothing too much happens, and everyone lives without any idea that better or worse things exist outside its borders.

Step 2 – The Call to Adventure:

It comes when Gandalf shows up in search of the One Ring.

He tells Frodo a quest needs to be taken up but doesn’t give the full details.

Step 3 – Refusing the Call:

This is about seeing what has to be done and deciding there has to be someone else.

Frodo accepts part of the responsibility, without understanding the rest.

Step 4 – Meeting a Mentor:

Though Gandalf served as a Mentor in The Hobbit, Aragorn (as Strider) is the Mentor here, who brings the four hobbits together.

The Mentor often brings insight, training, or purpose to a hero.

Step 5 – Crossing the Threshold:

Reflects the hero facing a challenge and realizing they can make a difference.

Frodo faces the barrow wraiths and rescues his friends. Later he survives the orc attack in Moria. Both thresholds show the power of gifts he received from Biblo but also hint at how friendship will play a role in his other tests.

Step 6 – Tests, Allies, and Enemies:

This is a larger middle section of the Hero’s Journey which winds through other elements.

This step might not necessarily be a solid, definable moment, but rather something that has been happening throughout the story until this point.

Step 7 – Approach the Innermost Circle:

is a great danger, if not the greatest danger, a hero faces.

This moment in your story should be high tension (Frodo attempts to leaves the group), with consequences that impact the overall plot points.

Step 8 – The Ordeal:

The Ordeal is what takes place inside the Innermost Circle.

In the wastes of Mordor, Frodo must hold out against the weight of the One Ring. It is a prolonged Ordeal but well within the idea of the step.

Step 9 – Seizing the Talisman:

Seizing the Talisman is about gaining an object of power that will turn the tide for the hero.

For Frodo, the specifics of the talisman are in his pity on Gollum. But this can come in other forms for your main character and other players in your story.

Step 10 – The Road Ahead:

The Road Ahead takes the hero from the talisman to a final conflict.

In this case, Frodo is betrayed by Gollum and nearly killed by Shelob, saved only by the friendship with Samwise.

The consequences of Seizing the Talisman are usually a downward turn, comparable with Pinch 2 from the three act structure.

Step 11 – Resurrection:

Resurrection often involves a person, or entity returning after being thought dead.

Gandalf becomes the white, Luke comes back with a mechanical hand, Frodo fails to discard the ring and has to be attacked by Gollum.

Frodo’s resurrection is being saved at the last moment by his previous good decisions, often a resurrection succeeds because of past decisions by a hero and rarely the actions they take in that moment.

Step 12 – Return with the Elixir:

Finally, the hero must return taking everything they have learned and accomplished back to the Ordinary World they once inhabited.

This is often the last chapter, showing your main character returning to their life or beginning to create their new life.

Story Structure #3

structure of a story

The 5 Milestones: This structure focuses on five plot points, usually one or two scenes each, that create the scaffold of the story. These Milestones have to go in order, but the space between them can be adjusted quite a lot.

Here are the 5 MILESTONES for this story structure:

  1. Setup
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. 1st Slap
  4. 2nd Slap
  5. Climax

We’ll use the Hunger Games to rundown this structure.

story structure milestones

Milestone 1

The Setup: The story begins explaining the reasons for the districts, why the Games exist, and introduces Katniss as the protagonist.

We know, rather quickly, that the world is dystopian and unfair, and we know the main character has the skills to make an impact.

Milestone 2

The Inciting Incident: It’s the kickoff to the main plot and conflict in your novel.

In this case, Katniss’ own sister is chosen to take part in the Games. A task she is not ready for and will likely not survive.

That specific moment is the inciting incident because it leads to Katniss’s next decision. She volunteers to be the tribute.

This sets the rest of the plot in motion while also anchoring the reader to the motives of the hero.

Milestone 3

The 1st Slap: sets the stakes and introduces the larger plot.

The 1st Slap is usually external, a factor within the world that must be overcome.

The opening of the Games sets the stakes and shows the danger Katniss will face. 

The 1st Slap also makes good on the promise of adventure by putting the hero into the middle of a peril that they must escape. There is no turning back, only moving forward.

Milestone 4

The 2nd Slap: This takes us into the 2nd Slap. Here, we see things get worse, but we see the hope on the horizon.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss works out a plan to fake a relationship with Peta to get support from the outside; a means of survival.

It’s a huge risk, but it offers hope. She must take the chance. Things go badly, of course, and the hope teeters her on ruin.

Milestone 5

The Climax: All of this creates the landscape for the final Milestone: The Climax.

With the Games coming down to just Peta or Katniss, we go back to the events of the Inciting Incident and loop that motivation into how the hero wins.

Frodo helped Gollum, who saves him in return (not out of good intent, but it gets us there). Katniss has a need to protect others, all her actions follow that desire.

She sees a way to save Peta by threatening herself. This kind of character-driven resolution makes for a rewarding story and makes it easy to weave the details of your final victory throughout.

Your readers stay looped into the triumph because they root for the character because they like them, not because the plot says that they win.

The secret to making a story kickass is to make it come from within. A good reader can smell a set up a mile away. A good reader also loves to see a Milestone achieved.

Conclusion

There you have it, three different types of story structures to get a story from ‘In the Beginning’ to ‘The End’ that will keep you focused and organized. The reader will know what you’re doing, following along through the peaks and valleys, the twists and turns, confident that your roadmap will lead somewhere promising.

Fully Customizable Story Structure Templates  Download your FREE story structures templates and formulate your story based  on proven bestselling tactics readers LOVE!  YES! GET THE STRUCTURES!

romance novels

10 Best Romance Novels That Have Gone Underappreciated

There are many romance novels out there. Some better than others, granted, but what makes some the best of the best?

What gives them that je ne sais quoi factor we’re all craving, some of us even trying to emulate when writing a novel ourselves?

I could go about this list in many different ways, but I’ve decided not to make this one a common, boring, cliché list. No.

This is not that kind of list; this will give you the best romance novels in different categories and the reasons why you’ll fall in love with them!

Here are the 11 best romance novels:

  1. Slammed by Colleen Hoover
  2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  3. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
  5. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
  6. Dance Until Dawn by Berni Stevens
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  10. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
  11. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Side note: you’ll need a big box of tissues for most of these, so be sure to grab one before you dive in!

Best Romance Books Per Category

The answer is for pulling novels from specific categories is simple: there are far too many amazing books out there to choose from and if you’re mapping out a list of the best, you’re going to miss a few important ones.

Categorizing them makes sense because you’ll be able to decide for yourself which type of book you’d enjoy more.

Consequently, you’ll find the best one in each category here. Once you finish it, you’ll be able to say if you enjoy that theme or not. And if not, you’re ready to jump into one of the other picks.

11 Best Romance Novels

If you’re looking for a quick read for a weekend or want to learn in order to write your own book, this list can give you some inspiration.

https://youtu.be/rjjYhQTRIqQ

#1 – Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Category: Poetry, specifically slam poetry

Romance Novel Summary: Layken, an 18-year-older student meets her new neighbour, Will. Will is 21. They have an instant connection based on their similar likes, which gives Layken hope for happier days.

Once their connection is deep within you and you love them, there’s a revelation that shocks them and us, and they can’t be together. The problem is, they really want to.

Why You’ll Love It: If you’re not reading it because you love slam poetry, don’t worry. You’ll love slam poetry once you’re finshed! You may even want to try your hand at writing poetry afterward.

I had heard a few poems before but with this book, I became totally obsessed with slam poetry. It takes the novel to a higher level and forces us readers to connect with it a lot more. It becomes personal.

It’s also easy to identify ourselves with this story because it discusses topics that we’ve all had to face, including death and grief. Colleen is a brilliant writer and she just knows how to pull your strings.

Quote: “Question everything. Your love, your religion, your passion. If you don’t have questions, you’ll never find answers.”

#2 – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Category: Young Adult Romance

Romance Novel Summary: You’ll meet Cath Avery, who has a total opposite twin sister, Wren. When they both start college, Wren tells Cath she doesn’t want to be her roommate and they should live their college experience separately.

Then, one day, between her awkwardness and fan-fiction stories, she meets Levi. And then everything changes. Slowly. But it changes.

Why You’ll Love It:This is not only a young adult romance, not only about love. It’s also about making decisions at a young age and growth. The story is beautifully structured, and you won’t be able to put it down before you finish it.

Besides having a really solid love story, you’ll also have a good laugh when diving into Rowell’s world.

Quote: “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”

#3 – The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Category: Greatest Love Story

Romance Novel Summary:This is the story of Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson. It is set in North Carolina after the Second World War. Noah thinks of Allie, a girl he had met 14 years prior. And one day, she shows up in his town.

Nicholas Sparks is the master of twists and turns in love stories and this one does not disappoint. This is a book of surprises that will test Noah and Allie’s love until the end.

Why You’ll Love It:I mean, do I really need an explanation here? Everyone knows Nicholas Sparks and that his books are amazing and will leave you in tears!

If you’ve watched the movie, read the book. If you haven’t watched the movie, read the book! It’ll break your heart in the most beautiful possible way.

Quote: “Every great love starts with a great story…”

#4 – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Category: Modern Romance

Romance Novel Summary:Lucy Hutton is a nice, sweet girl; Joshua Templeman is her opposite: cold and grumpy. They meet when the publishing houses they work at merge. It’s hate at first sight.

But everything changes with a kiss…

Why You’ll Love It:Two opposites attract… isn’t it just brilliant when you have a love/hate relationship in one of your books?

Because this is a modern romance, the storyline is also modern, which is the reason why many, many people love this novel. It’s easy to relate with it and Lucy is like the next-door neighbor, you just adore her.

And with this title, how you could NOT want to read it?

Quote: “It’s a corporate truth universally acknowledged that workers would rather eat rat skeletons than participate in group activities.”

#5 – The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Category: Loss and Grief

Romance Novel Summary:Lucy is a senior in college at Columbia University when she meets Gabe, also a college senior. They meet on an ill-fated day that will shape their lives and the lives of those around them forever.

They meet throughout the years but there’s always something in between them, there’s always something preventing them from being together.

And in the end, Lucy has a very important decision to make. What will she decide to do?

Why You’ll Love It:If you’ve read and love PS: I Love You by Cecelia Ahern, this book should be next on your list.

I think it’s beautiful the way Santopolo deals with loss and grief, which are two themes so close and tangled with the subject of love.

Even though they can be difficult to approach, the message is important and not every romance needs a stereotypical happily ever after.

Quote: “Maybe it’s the act of opening yourself up, letting someone else in—or maybe it’s the act of caring so deeply about another person that it expands your heart.”

#6 – Dance Until Dawn by Berni Stevens

Category: Fantasy Romance

Romance Novel Summary:This is the first book in a series called “Immortals of London”. Ellie Wakefield has been saved from death by William Austen, a 300-year-old vampire.

Ellie has to learn about this new world and together they face unexpected challenges.

Why You’ll Love It:

Who doesn’t love a good-ol’ vampire story? Add to that a little old banter, and there you have it, the perfect novel!

Fantasy and romance are just like peanut butter and jelly; there’s no reason why they should go together, but they do, formidably.

This book is full of mystery and Stevens has written it in a way that you just crave for more. It’s fresh, well-detailed but very easy to read.

Quote: “I understand that this is rather a lot to take in,’ he said. ‘But I would appreciate it if you would stop referring to me as either psychotic or perverted.’ ‘Well I’d appreciate not being kidnapped and shut in this filthy hole.’ ‘Touché’.”

#7 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Category: Feminism and Classic Literature

Romance Novel Summary:The story revolves around the Bennets, a noble family that doesn’t have a lot of money because of Mr. Bennet, the father.

It all starts when two single noblemen arrive to town and, as it is custom, meet the single women, because ain’t it universally acknowledged “that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”?

When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy meet, it’s not all rainbows and flowers, but would it be a real love story if it was otherwise?

Why You’ll Love It:Classics are important for a reason, and that reason is mostly because they’ll teach you something about the past, which most often than not, still has some truth in the present day.

You’ll love Pride and Prejudice because Jane Austen wrote it for everyone to dream about it. It’s an important story that needs to be read.

Elizabeth Bennet was born way ahead of her time and she’s here to teach you a lesson in sarcasm and feminism – you just cannot not read it!

Quote: “He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far we are equal.”

#8 – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Category: Illness and Loss

Romance Novel Summary:Louisa Clark loses her job and desperately needs to find another one. When the opportunity of taking care of Will Traynor, a young man that is wheelchair bound, knocks on her door, she doesn’t jump of happiness.

It’s a slow start and their relationship doesn’t seem to evolve, but as any other love story, there are twists and surprises along the way for both Louisa and Will.

Why You’ll Love It:This is a story of poor meets rich, good meets bad, but not at all as you’d expect it to be.

It’s not even about these pairs at all. But you’ll connect, at first, with the main character, Louisa, because of this. She’s simple and relatable.

You’ll read it in an afternoon and you’ll still be crying months later.

Quote: “I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”

#9 – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Category: History, specifically the Civil War

Romance Novel Summary:Scarlett O’Hara has a hard task at hand: she’s fighting for her family’s plantation and for the love of her life – if that wasn’t enough, this is amid the Civil War.

In the end, will she get it all or lose everything?

Why You’ll Love It:It’s History holding hands with a love story, what more could you need?

It has the charm of the south in a very troubling period of history; it’s family and love struggles. It’s one of the most popular books ever written, and you just need to find out why!

Quote: “It was better to know the worst than to wonder.”

#10 – It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Category: Abusive Relationships

Romance Novel Summary:Lily is a determined, successful woman. She had a difficult life growing up, but she never stopped fighting for what she truly loved. She meets Ryle who has a no-dating rule, but they quickly become close.

She thinks he had a difficult past too, but she can’t figure out what happened exactly. When things start changing, she’s put in a place she never wanted to be back again.

“Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.”

Why You’ll Love It:If you’re looking for strong-minded, determined women, this book is for you. Lily is written in a way that you’ll be rooting for her from page 1.

It’s a book that will touch some of you deeply and will haunt you for many years after the last page was turned. A beautiful love story that has more to it.

Quote: “Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

#11 – Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Category: LGBTQ+

Romance Novel Summary:Simon is 16 and very much homosexual, however, no one knows. When his secret is about to be revealed, a series of events lead him to being blackmailed.

He’ll try to navigate high school without anyone finding out his secret while not messing up his friendships nor his own life.

Why You’ll Love It:This is a fun yet serious book. The characters are well-created, and the dialogues are hilarious.

The topic is an extremely important one nowadays and the lack of novels about the LGBTQ+ community make this one a success.

The hardships of being teenager and on top of that, one with a secret, are well played in this novel and you’ll easily fall in love with Simon (and Blue).

Quote: “Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”

Romance novels are unique in many ways…

If you’re looking for a happily ever after, maybe you won’t find it in all these books.

However, aren’t stories closer to our reality a whole lot better? They allow us to think of our successes and failures and give us hope for a better future.

If you’re looking for page-turners, refer to this list. I promise you these are novels you won’t be able to put down once you’ve read the first page!


prologue

Prologue: What is it & Do You Really Need a Prologue?

Should you write a prologue, or should you throw the reader right into the story?

This choice will either serve your readers or take away from their experience if you don’t know the intricacies of prologues—like if you even need one (and we’ll cover this below).

This is one of the most important for aspiring fiction authors writing a novel!

Let’s talk about what a prologue is, when to use them, and how to use them well.

Here’s everything you need to know about prologues:

  1. What is a prologue?
  2. How to make a prologue stand out
  3. How to know if it’s a prologue
  4. How to know if your book needs a prologue
  5. How to write a good prologue


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What is a prologue?

A prologue is like a short story—a small glimpse, set in your story’s world, written in the same style as the rest of your book but with clear separation from the start of your story.

Maybe it’s an entire literary device, like a flashforward of your protagonist that gives the reader a taste of the world, some crucial information for the plot, and will make sense later.

Maybe it’s an event from thousands of years ago that sets the wheels in motion for your story’s inciting incident. Maybe it’s a background prologue your reader needs to settle into a fantasy or sci-fi universe (but not an info dump).

Maybe it’s a snippet of your story from a different perspective—for example, this could be used if your story needs information from when your perspective character was a child who couldn’t understand what was happening, or if they simply weren’t present for the event.

If you’re struggling to connect the reader to your story with enough necessary information to understand what’s happening, maybe you need a prologue. 

A prologue should read exactly as if you were writing a short story without a true ending—your prologue should leave the reader questioning and curious.

Note: Any questions you create in the prologue must be resolved by the end of your story.

How to Make a Prologue Stand Out

The prologue should stand out from the rest of the book in a significant way.

If it fits seamlessly into your story and the reader can’t tell it’s a prologue without a label, that isn’t a prologue.

While it should be written in the same style as the rest of the book, here are examples of how it can stand out:

  • Time difference. Your prologue could be set in the past to reveal an important event. It could jump into the future and the rest of the story becomes a sort of flashback up to that point. Oftentimes, you won’t even see the future-set prologue in the book, because the story will end before it reaches that point, but the book should show a logical progression to your future-set prologue.
  • Different perspective. Maybe your story is in first-person and your prologue is an event from a third-person omniscient perspective. Maybe we get a view of the main character from the perspective of a friend or parent. Maybe we see a character’s perspective who never actually shows up in the story.

Your reader should see a distinct difference between the prologue and the rest of your novel, else why is it a prologue instead of the first chapter? 

You also don’t hop back into this perspective at any other point in the book—if you can, then why did you need the prologue in the first place?

If you go back to that perspective, you likely could include the information in the story itself instead of separating it into a prologue.

How to Know if it’s a Prologue

There are many ways to start a book besides jumping into the story. Let’s look at a few options to establish the differences between them.

Preface or foreword

A preface is basically the author explaining something to the reader about how the book came to be, who was involved in creating it, and other information about the book’s creation. A preface is not a part of the story, and it can be skipped without damaging the reader’s understanding.

A foreword is similar, but written by someone who is not the author—a foreword is typically a reflection of how the book relates to society and readers.

Introduction

A book introduction is typically used only in nonfiction.

It gives the reader supplemental information, and it usually isn’t crucial for the reader’s understanding of the rest of the book.

Prologue

A prologue is typically used only in fiction. It gives the reader information about the story, in the same form of the story.

So the prose of a prologue will have the same writing style and vibe of the rest of the book, even if it’s in a different timeline or perspective. If a reader skips reading the prologue, it will affect their understanding of the book.

How to determine if your book needs a prologue

Not every book needs a prologue and if yours truly doesn’t, the actual prologue can then take away from the book, giving away too much or being irrelevant in general.

what is a prologue

So let’s figure out if your book actually needs a prologue or not.

Why should you write a prologue?

  1. If something happened far out of the context of your story that is CRUCIAL to understanding it. If you have the information you must convey to the reader that can’t be worked into the main novel, you may need a prologue.
  2. If the story doesn’t make sense without the prologue. If you can remove the prologue (or a reader can skip it), and their understanding is not damaged, a prologue is not necessary.
  3. If you can’t weave the prologue’s information into the story without muddling your plot. If working the prologue content into your story is unnatural or confusing, you may need a prologue.

Why shouldn’t you write a prologue?

  1. If your story makes sense without it.
  2. If the content could be included in the main story.
  3. If it’s a copout to writing an interesting opener.
  4. If you’re just writing it because you think you’re supposed to have one.
  5. If it’s just an exposition dump.
  6. If it’s just for world-building.
  7. If it’s just to set mood or atmosphere.
  8. If it’s to supplement a boring first chapter opening.

Note: prologues can certainly be used for mood, atmosphere, world-building, and clever exposition, but these shouldn’t be the sole purpose.

So clearly, there are more reasons not to write a prologue than there are reasons to write one. Be very critical of your prologue to be sure you should include it.

But if you decide your story does need a prologue, here are five tips to write a great one.

How to Write a Good Prologue for Your Book

Not every prologue is created equal.

Just as a great prologue can make a book, a bad one can ruin it completely. Here are some tips to keep it fresh, exciting, and influential to your book’s story.

#1 – Keep it brief

Your prologue shouldn’t be longer than your average chapter length.

It should be one event (maybe two), it shouldn’t bother with developing characters, and it should only include the crucial information.

#2 – Keep it interesting

If your prologue is boring, readers will skip it. We all know that the first pages of your first chapter are extremely important.

This is where the reader will either be hooked to finish the book, or where they lose interest.

If you include a prologue, it should be just as gripping as your first chapter.

However, this doesn’t mean you can slack in the first chapter. The two should work together to be as intriguing as possible to yank the reader in and not let them go.

An author who exemplifies this greatly is Jenna Moreci in her novel The Savior’s Champion. The prologue is vital to the story, is written in another perspective, and is just as (I would argue it’s even more) gripping as the first chapter.

prologue example

#3 – Focus on crisp, original prose

Even if your prologue is historical or in a book genre that’s less “exciting”, or if it’s a document of some sort, keep your prose on par with the rest of your book.

Put special effort into the quality of writing—this is your reader’s first taste of what’s to come!

#4 – End with a burning question

After your prologue, your reader should be so intrigued that they immediately jump into the first chapter.

You want them to say “What the **** is going on?!” so loud it freaks their cat out.

This is what pushes readers to buy more books, increasing your overall book sales and hooking fans.

George R.R. Martin did a great job with this in his infamous series Game of Thrones. The series opens with a prologue of men venturing beyond the wall to investigate certain occurrences.

prologue examples

At the end, you’re left wondering what the heck just happened.

#5 – Make it an event, not an exposition dump

This is where most writers go wrong…

They use their prologue as a tool to spoon-feed readers information about a world the reader hasn’t developed an interest for yet.

This will often make them skim the prologue, skip the prologue, or skip the book entirely.

Prologues are a great story-telling tool when used properly. Make sure you need a prologue before you include one, keep it brief, keep it interesting, and keep it Absolutely Necessary.

#6 – Give your prologue a purpose by finishing the whole book

A great prologue means nothing if it only ever sees a folder in your computer that you only open every seven months.

If you really want to finish writing your book and even self-publishing your book someday, a kick in the butt to get it done will help.

Here’s your kick, go get to work 😉

Get a free fiction book outline to help you get started below!


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character names

Character Names: 19 Methods & Tips for Naming Characters Step-by-Step

Your character names have the ability to transform the perception readers have of your book and story.

If you think about it…character names are actually a specific literary device you can use most sneakily.

And if you want readers to love, adore, and care for your main character, giving them the best and most memorable name can make all the difference.

Use these methods for naming characters in your book:

  1. Using baby name websites
  2. The Root-Meaning method
  3. Mash-up character naming method
  4. The Add-on method
  5. Develop-First naming method
  6. Making character names up from scratch
  7. Naming-by-era method
  8. Using similar-to-real-life names
  9. 11 tips for getting character names right

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

Keep your characters feeling REAL and organized at the same time with a fully customizable and printable character development worksheet designed to make your characters shine!

Naming Characters Intentionally: Why Character Names Matter

Character names have the power to transform your reader’s perception of your character entirely.

Let’s use the example of names from How to Train Your Dragon, the animated film.

Character name example: Hiccup

Why this character name matters: This name is extremely fitting to the type of character Hiccup is. The reason for a silly, “weak” name like this is because that is what the creators want you to think of when you hear the name. They want you to have low expectations so that when this character rises above, the emotional impact is far greater than if he had a typical “hero” name.

You can use this same ideology for villains. One in particular with a famous name is from Harry Potter.

Character name example: Lord Voldemort

Why this character name matters: From the beginning, Rowling crafted this name to be foreboding. In fact, this character himself chose the name because of that. As the author, you can craft your villain’s name based on your intentions. If you want readers to underestimate them, choose a silly name like Bob. But if you want readers to fear the wrath of your villain, choose a more fitting name like Lord Voldemort.

Character Name Generators

If you’re looking for the easy way out and would rather someone else do the work in naming your characters, there are tools online for that.

Here are some of the top character name generators:

  1. Character Name Generator – This one allows you to fill in several different defining factors in order to produce a character name that fits your character best.
  2. Fantasy Name Generator – Are you writing a fantasy novel and need some character name ideas? This generator offers several different options for theme-based character names for your fantasy book.
  3. Name Generator for Fun – With this one, you can choose from several categories, like villain names, rap names, superhero names, and more.
  4. Name Generator – This character name generator also gives you options to narrow in on details about your character for a more fitting name. However, this one has more real-life names than uniquely created, so it may serve better if you’re writing in the contemporary book genre.
  5. Writer’s Character Name Generator – While very random, this one may just allow you to stumble upon your next main character’s name.

How to Come Up With Character Names

Naming your characters is one of the best and scariest parts of writing a novel.

Using one of these methods will help ease the process while providing higher quality final results.

#1 – Baby Name Websites

One of the most popular methods of coming up with new character names is to pretend they’re your baby…literally!

Baby naming websites have been serving up characer names for writers for years.

Oftentimes, these websites even offer name meanings, trending names, and even names that were popular doing different years.

Here are some great baby name websites to discover your characters’ names:

#2 – Root-Meaning Method

Welcome to the most common, tried-and-true method to name characters in books.

People use this method in real-life to name their children, too!

The root-meaning method simply refers to using a core meaning or belief or even origin of a name for symbolism in your book.

Here are some examples of this:

  • Tobias Kaya in The Savior’s Champion: His name means “goodness” and is very much meant to align with who his character is and his role in the series.
  • Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: Little do most people know, the name Frodo originated from the old English word “fród,” which translates to “wise by experience.”
  • Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games: This book’s author really took the name meaning seriously when crafting her main character. Katniss is a plant in the genus Sagittaria, which roughly translates from Latin as “archer.”

You can easily find the meanings of names by venturing to baby naming websites. You can also type in a name you like to Google and it will usually pop up.

#3 – The Mash-Up

One of my personal favorite ways of creating new names is to simply mash real-life names together until I find something that’s real-sounding but also unique to my world and characters.

This method of coming up with character names is better learned through seeing than a simple explanation:

Josh and Riley = Joley, Jile, Rosh, Rishe

Casey and Michael = Cachel, Cachael, Casel, Misey, Miche, Michey, Masey

Emily and Rochelle = Emelle, Echelle, Romil, Romily, Rochil, Rocily

Obviously, some combinations will be better than others, but this is a quick way to generate new but realistic character names.

Here’s the step-by-step breakdown for how to create simple character names with this method:

  1. Choose or find 2 real-life names
  2. Match them side by side
  3. Take the first half of the first name and mix and mach it with the last half of the second name
  4. Repeat step 3 but vice versa
  5. You should have a list of several different sounding names
  6. Choose a few to keep that you like
  7. Repeat this process with several pairs until you have a roster of character names to choose from

#4 – The Add-On

This method is super similar to the previous method but with more freedom.

This is another personal favorite and how I manage to come up with cool and interesting names that are also unique to my story.

Instead of taking two names and matching the beginning of one with the end of the other, simply choose real names and swap out the endings or add on to them completely.

Here’s what this looks like…

Rebecca = Rebera, Rebilla, Rebyr, Rebine, Reborra

Taylor = Tayr, Tayora, Tayrin, Taysila, Tayserra

Cory = Corrin, Corel, Coreesa, Coryn, Corros, Cortsa, Corta

John = Johva, Johrrin, Johk, Johrey

The steps for this one are pretty obvious. Choose a random real-life name and simply swap out the endings for a combination you create on your own.

I always try to do varying combinations, remembering that double consonants work well, as does changing the length of the vowel sounds by adding or changing those letters.

I do this often and keep a spreadsheet with names I like, as in the image below.

character name list

#5 – Develop-First Naming

Sometimes choosing a character’s name too early will make you subconsciously develop that character into someone who fits that name.

This can be bad if you need that specific character to act and behave in a certain way.

With this character naming method, you will develop your character in full first and then choose their name. The reason for this is to ensure you’ll write that character with intention.

For example: in the Harry Potter series, the mood tends to be more serious. Rowling created Ron Weasley as comedic relief. While Ron is much more than that, the intention is still for him to be a goofy, funny character.

The name “Ron Weasley” supports this development.

Had she named him a more serious name like Reginald, Theodore, or Christopher, crafting those scenes may have been very different.

The same can be said for another character called Draco Malfoy. This name is far more dark than it is funny, which is fitting for his character.

The steps for this character naming method are simple:

  1. Download and fill out this character development worksheet.
  2. Understand your character’s role in the story. Do you want them to be serious, funny, silly, foreboding?
  3. List names that make you feel the way of your intentions.
  4. Ask friend and family to tell you what each name makes them think of personality-wise.
  5. Narrow down your choices to 3 and ask another group.
  6. Decide on the best-fitting name.

#6 – Make Them Up

If you want to have 100% unique character names (like Lhonniadreah, a character in the book I’m writing, Lhonni for short), you’ve got to get creative.

But you’re a writer, so you know how to get creative.

This particular method doesn’t have many rules.

Essentially, you can simply think up a random name. Perhaps you have a base or a beginning that you like.

For example, my full original name for the character mentioned above was Lhonni. But I felt her character needed a longer name to fit with the traditional style of the names in her culture.

Secondly, I decided to pull from the common letter match-ups this culture sees often. In this case, the combinations of the “dr” sound with long vowels is popular.

I went on to create several combinations of potential full names:

  • Lhonnidray
  • Lhonniyadra
  • Lhonniodrin
  • Lhonnidra

Ultimately, the name I chose best fit her as a character, and I decided afterward that her mother’s name would be “Dreah,” so that her name is a namesake that’s in common format for the culture I created.

Here’s how you can replicate this process:

  1. Write down a sound or start or end of a name you like (this can be a “-ly” ending, an “ash-” beginning, or even an “-eer-” middle of a name.
  2. Decide if you want the name to hold any significant meaning the way mine does. This does not have to be the same meaning. You can even find base words in English or Latin to use.
  3. Take into account any world-specific cultural influences on the name. Your world building expands to even your character’s name. Don’t forget this! (If your book takes place in this world, think about family spellings and such as a substitute)
  4. Create a list with several different versions and variations. Remember your character’s name can take on very different meanings and intentions based on the sound (and look!) of it.
  5. Choose the name that feels right and embodies your intentions for the character. And let it stew for a few days! Now, even if your character is brave and strong, like in the Hiccup example, using a less-than-obvious name can provide a unique perception that fosters a better reaction later.

#7 – Name-by-era

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is unintentionally destroying your reader’s suspension of disbelief by naming a character something wildly out of the ordinary for a time period.

naming characters

If you’re writing historical fiction or just a story from 10-15 years ago, you want to make sure your names are realistic for the time period.

This trick is also helpful if you want to give your out-of-the-real-world novel a specific time era vibe.

Here are some resources for baby names by era:

#8 – Using similar but different real names

The most famous author who uses this method is George R.R. Martin in his infamous series Game of Thrones.

What Martin did in order to give this epic fantasy series realistic but medieval sounding names is simply alter just a few letters in a name.

Here are some examples of names from Game of Thrones with more common real names:

  • Gregor — Gregory
  • Joffrey — Jeffery
  • Brienne — Brianne
  • Theon — Theo / Theodore
  • Petyr — Peter
  • Jorah — Jonah
  • Gilly — Lilly
  • Podrick — Rodrick

Martin has a way of completely transforming these very similar-to-real-life names into something with both a. fantastical and medieval twist in order to further transport us to his world.

https://youtu.be/zfffCzEZwqI

Of course Game of Thrones also features completely unique names like Daenerys and Tyrion along with real-life names like Robert and Jon. Martin uses this combination to his advantage—and you can too!

Top Tips for Naming Characters in Your Book

No matter which method you choose for naming your characters, you’ll need a few tips to make it more effective.

Here are the best tips for naming book characters with intention.

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

Keep your characters feeling REAL and organized at the same time with a fully customizable and printable character development worksheet designed to make your characters shine!

#1 – Remember, length matters

This is particularly true if you have several characters who will interact with one another regularly.

If you have all very long names, your reader will be exhausted.

You don’t want that…

What you do want is a reader who doesn’t have to focus on the pronunciation or longevity of several character names.

Using a combination of long, short, and medium length names will allow your readers to read easier so they can focus more on visualizing what’s happening.

Here’s an example of this with names from my work in progress:

  • Essadra
  • Vhie
  • Dailan
  • Lhonniadreah
  • Riddick
  • Ket

This combination allows several of these characters to be in the same scene without exhausting or confusing the reader.

#2 – Keep nicknames in mind

You can use your character’s name as a plot device if you really wanted to.

Maybe the reveal of your main character’s full name is important to the story and your character has only been called by a nickname their whole life.

Nicknames can also serve as a way to show and not tell within your writing as well. Those close to your character are more likely to use a nickname and therefore, you don’t have to dumb as much exposition in order for them to learn.

Just make sure the nickname is also fitting and not too similar to other characters’ names.

#3 – Make sure the name fits the character

We’ve already mentioned this tip a number of times but it’s worth mentioning again.

If your character’s name is very, very ill-fitting, it will stand out in a bad way to readers.

This is why getting feedback and understanding your character fully is so vital for the naming process.

#4 – Make sure the name fits the setting

Where your story takes place can change the names you use for your characters.

What’s the location?

Does your story take place in a cold, harsh climate or in a dry, warmer environment?

The location matters because the names used can help enhance or take away from the mood you’re trying to create within that environment.

For example, harsher climates tend to pair well with curt, quipped names to mirror this. But if you want your character in this specific place to stand out, you can give them a name that’s ill-fitting in order to focus on this contrast.

A great example of this is Ygritte from Game of Thrones. Yet again, George R.R. Martin has named someone who lives in a tough, gritty environment with a suitable name that gives off this vibe.

character name example

What are the cultural influences?

As mentioned in a few of these tips, culture plays a large role in your characters’ names.

Does your culture, whether you make it up or it’s real, influence your character’s name in any way?

For example, in a certain culture in my work in progress, names can often be namesakes. However, instead of simply naming a baby the full name of whomever they’d like to honor, they add the name to the start of another.

Lhonnidra is a common name in a certain place of my book. However, her mother Dreah died. Her father then named her after her mother, but in this world, that would translate to Lhonniadreah instead of just “Dreah.”

Ask yourself if there are any cultural influences and if there isn’t (and you’re completely making up this world), feel free to add some!

What is the intended time period?

Even if your book takes places in a completely different world, you can still allow readers to get a sense of the intended time period you’re going for with the names you use.

For this method, use old victorian names or names from medieval times as a base when also using another method for coming up with a unique name.

Victorian name example: Emaline

Created for a unique world while maintaining the same vibe: Emarise

You can tweak the names until you find something that feels right.

#5 – Consider how each name sounds

There are several literary elements that touch on the way similar or contrastingly different sounds can play into the attractiveness of writing.

Although most people don’t read novels out loud, unless they’re reading to their kids, we all still have a voice in our head that is “out loud.”

And that voice is drawn to names that sound appealing.

This can often be a subjective element when coming up with character names, but you can probably recognize names that sound good versus names that sound bad.

But you can also use this to your advantage for further character development as well.

“Ugly” sounding names are a great fit for characters you’d like your audience to interpret as just that. It’s all about what intention you have for that character.

An example of this is the name James Bond. I think we can all agree this is a great sounding, tough name that fits the character well.

#6 – Get feedback on the names

Other people are a better judge of the first impression of a character name simply because it’s fresh for them.

Enlist 7-10 people you can get feedback from when it comes to these names.

Send the name along with 2 sentences describing the character (physically and personality) and ask them if they sound like they fit.

Oftentimes, we might really like names that are hard to read or pronounce for new readers. In that case, you’ll want to problem solve for a solution.

#7 – Don’t be afraid to go crazy with it

This is your book! This is your world and if you have names that are a little out there, that’s okay!

The only reason you’d want to reel in the craziness is if the names are too complex for readers to easily comprehend and remember.

Nobody wants a character whose name people forget when talking about the book. After all, characters are one of the first things raving fans gush about with a new book they love.

That being said, don’t be afraid of creating your own names in your own world. Real-life parents make up names for their children every day. You can do the same for your characters.

#8 – Create cultural similarities in your world

This is mainly for authors writing in a unique world they make up on their own.

Different cultures and languages have very different names and common ways to spell and pronounce those names.

Here’s a quick example of several names from opposite sites of the world in my story:

Doyen Falls

  • Essadra
  • Vhie
  • Dailan
  • Lhonniadreah
  • Riddick
  • Ket

Sahïl

  • Nimah
  • Yarai
  • Déron
  • Creïdon
  • Ghe
  • Anahi

If your characters are from very different areas, the names should reflect that, just like in life.

#9 – Avoid using already-popular book character names

Using the name “Harry” or “Katniss” isn’t the best idea. At least…not if you want your characters to be remembered as your characters.

With infamous names, it’ll be very hard to set your character (and therefore, your book) apart.

If you want to use a name and aren’t sure if it’s in another super popular book, just do a Google search for “Name in book” and if it doesn’t populate a very specific result, you’re in the clear.

#10 – Avoid similar names if your character is based on someone you know

All writers draw inspiration from the real world. They’re lying if they say otherwise.

BUT, if you do base a character on someone you know in real life (which we recommend you change enough that they wouldn’t know anyway), don’t use a name that’s similar for the character.

This can make people feel very uncomfortable, not to mention it’ll be that much more obvious to outsiders who know you.

#11 – Bring your characters to life

Don’t just name your characters and leave them to exist only in your imagination and future conversations of friends or family asking you if you’ve finished your book yet.

Give them a world by finishing and even publishing your book.

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

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how to write a book about pets

How to Write About Pets: 6 Steps for Writing a Book About Pets the Right Way

Writing about pets is a great way to share your passion and get paid for it!

But that’s only doable if you know how to write about pets in a way that others will actually want to read…

Because let’s be real, we’d all love to gush about how amazing our pets are ALL day long, but that’s not what’s going to sell.

I have some tips for writing a book about pets (or just writing in general) to help you out.

Here are the steps for writing about pets:

  1. Journaling or free-writing about pets
  2. Researching writing about pets
  3. Develop your pet’s character
  4. Decide on the theme
  5. Read books about pets to learn
  6. Build your pet’s author platform

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How to Write a Book About Pets

If you’re ever having a bad day at work, you may indulge in scrolling through some kind of social media app to get your mind off your problems.

As you scroll, something catches your eye, so you stop. It’s a video of cat with no front legs, learning how to jump, run, and play while still managing to be cute and adorable.

You can’t help yourself; you smile.

Not only is the kitty’s antics a little funny, but the story is also inspiring. Despite its disability, the cat forges on as if it had four legs instead of only two. Well, if that sweet little kitty can overcome its obstacle, you can get through your bad day at work.

This is the power of pet stories.

Along with making us laugh, pets and animals have a way of tugging at our heartstrings. Even though they’re animals, their tails—I mean, tales—humanize us every day.

Pets and animals—big or small, hairy, feathered, covered with scales, paws, wings, or hooves—have a way of impacting our lives, whether it’s with humor or heroism.

Either way, there’s a big market for pet stories and they give you a strong reason to write a book about them.

Besides, anybody who has ever had pets always has a few stories to tell.

So, do you think your pet/s have a unique story to share? I’ve got some tips to help you share it.

#1 – Journaling or freewriting about your pets

Set aside a few minutes each day—let’s say, 20 minutes or more—to write about your pets. Developing this writing habit is crucial to actually finish your project.

Try to focus on one memorable event and write it down. This doesn’t need to be perfect; you can always revise later.

If you are still feeling a bit stuck, try these ideas for writing about pets:

  • Write about the time you met your pet for the first time. Were they given to you as a present? Did you adopt them from the shelter? Or did you find each other through some sort of happenstance?
  • Write down something funny your pet did. Did they fail at training? Did they have an odd habit? Why was this memory significant to you? Was anyone else there with you and were they also amused or no?
  • Write about a time you lost your pet. How did this affect you? How was their loss significant? What brought you two back together again? If your pet passed away, how did you handle your grief after?

If you are still feeling stuck, try using these pet writing prompts to help you get some ideas to write down.

#2 – Research and notes

Just like any other form of writing, you will need to backup your brainstorming with sound book research.

This research will provide background information to your pet’s story to give it a fuller narrative and may help you to develop a theme (we’ll talk about themes next).

Here are some research topics for pets and animals:

  • Species/breeds: Research your pet’s species and breed. Does your pet fit these characteristics? Make notes of your pet’s behaviors and habits and see if they are common. How do they communicate (think sounds and body language)? Do other pet owners experience the same behaviors with their pets? This kind of research is especially important for exotic pets, like tarantulas, snakes, and turtles. It is unlikely that many readers of your story will have any kind of experience exotic species and/or breeds, so be sure to share more information with them
  • Service animals: If your pet was a service animal of some kind—therapy, police, military, leading the blind, search-and-rescue—research about those services provided and the organizations out there that provide them. These animals have benefited people tremendously and have very moving stories. If you have done any kind of professional and/or volunteer work with service animals, readers will find your insights and experiences invaluable.
  • Adopted/rescue pets: Perhaps you adopted your pet from an animal shelter. Research the specific shelter you adopted your pet from, as well as how shelters functions in general. How high is the need to adopt animals? If your pet’s species or breed is one that has a high rate of ending up in shelters, it’s imperative to conduct research on this issue and provide readers information on it and how to prevent it. For example, pit bull terriers and huskies are two dog breeds that are known to often be sent to shelter; pit bull terriers are sent in because people use them for dog fighting and believed to be an aggressive breed, while huskies have extremely high energy and are very clever, both of which make them difficult to handle. This will encourage readers to think carefully about pets they adopt into their family and prepare for the responsibility they require. Perhaps you volunteered with a pet or animal sanctuary. Research the history and the purpose and mission of the organization.
  • Pet care advice: Taking care of pets requires a great deal of responsibility. Each pet has its own set of care instructions, and some even require special care. What is the best way to care for this particular pet? What kind of expenses has your pet incurred? For example, let’s say you bottle-fed a kitten because it was an orphan. In your story, detail where you bought supplies for bottle-feeding, how often you fed them and how much for each feeding, how long you had to bottle-feed them, and at what age is best to finally transition from milk to solid food. Readers may find this information handy in the future.

It may be wise to research and share some advice on how to encourage kids to be responsible for their pets.

Sometimes kids are eager for a new pet, but once they realize how much work it is to take care of them, they quickly lose interest and neglect the pet they so badly wanted before.

This is an issue that many parents face and often end up taking care of the pet themselves. It’s important to hold children accountable to their choices, but there are ways to do that without making them begin to dislike their pet.

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#3 – Developing your pet’s character

If your pet is still in your life, observe them and take notes. What are their habits? How do they interact with people and other animals? Do they do anything unique or peculiar? This research will enable you to develop your pet’s character and endear them to your reader.

Don’t assume that just because you love your pet, your readers automatically will as well. This may be hard to believe, but it’s true. What makes your pet any different from others? You have to develop their character just as deeply and richly as you would a human character.

Your pet’s story won’t stand out to readers unless their character stands out to them as well.

Here’s some character development tips and advice to help you out:

  • Detail their background
  • Note their strengths and weaknesses
  • Observe unique habits or traits
  • Create a character arc for them

The following excerpt from Marley by John Grogan is a great example of developing a pet’s character by using the rule of “show, don’t tell”:

cover of marley a book about a pet

“Just as we were reaching the car, we heard a commotion coming from the woods. Something was crashing through the brush—and breathing heavily. It sounded like what you might hear in a slasher film. And it was coming our way. We froze, staring into the darkness. The sound grew louder and closer. Then in a flash the thing burst into the clearing and came charging in our direction, a yellow blur. A very big yellow blur. As it galloped past, not stopping, not even seeming to notice us, we could see it was a large Labrador retriever. But it was nothing like the sweet Lily we had just cuddled inside. This one was soaking wet and covered up to its belly in mud and burrs. Its tongue hung out wildly to one side, and froth flew off its jowls as it barreled past. In the split-second glimpse I got, I detected an odd, slightly crazed, yet somehow joyous gaze in its eyes. It was as though this animal had just seen a ghost—and couldn’t possibly be more tickled about it.


“Then, with the roar of a stampeding herd of buffalo, it was gone, around the back of the house and out of sight. Jenny let out a little gasp.

“‘I think,’ I said, a slight queasiness rising in my gut, ‘we just met Dad.’”

Even though we only see the daddy dog for a just brief moment—literally—we’ve learned something about John’s new puppy, Marley; he is going to be a big, wild, hard-to-handle, and happy dog.

This scene is foreshadowing the kind of main character Marley will be later in the story.

#4 – Think of a theme

Now that you have some done some substantial brainstorming and research, think of a theme your pet’s story could fall into. Themes in pet stories help connect ideas and issues with stories. Often our experiences with our pets coincide with life-changing events. If this is true for you, consider how your pet’s presence helped you through that time in your life.

Examples of themes include coming-of-age, new relationships/romances, new parents, twenty-something years, thirty-something years, historical events, etc. You could even write a pet-themed cookbook with recipes for fun pet treats!

#5 – Read books about pets

To better understand the niche market of pet and animal stories, read books about pets.

how to write about pets graphic showing a woman and a dog

Here are some examples of books about pets you can learn from:

  • Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
  • Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

For more examples, you can check out this list of animal memoirs on Goodreads.

As you read, ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of impact did this animal have on the writer?
  • What’s the theme of the story?
  • What kind of research about this animal did the writer have to do?
  • What does the writer do with this story that you like?
  • What would you do differently in your pet’s story?

#6 – Build the pet’s online platform

Yes, you did read that right. While many pets have an online platform, it’s necessary for yours to have one if you’re writing about them.

writing about pets instagram image of a cat and a book

As you complete your pet’s story, begin building an online platform…for your pet. Having an established online platform will help market your story once you publish it, so come up with a plan on how to promote your story, and your pet.

Here are some creative ways to create “buzz” about your upcoming book about your pet:

  • Create an Instagram account for them
  • Blog on your author website about them
  • Have a bunch of videos of your pet? Make an online video series

Their online platform can be about anything—funny things they do, the two of you traveling together, throwing birthday parties for them, and so on. You can even write posts and captions from their point-of-view.

In fact, this will even help you with building their character to make them more relatable to your audience.

If you’re still feeling at a loss on how to do this, read some pet blogs and search social media for examples.

They may give you an idea of what you need to do to get followers for your pet.

Need a little help? We’re here for you!

How to Earn a Full-Time Living From Your Fiction Writing WITHOUT Compromising  on Quality  Learn how to write a strong fiction story readers love and launch your fiction  career...without compromising on quality (or taking YEARS to make it happen)!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!