Ninja Writers http://www.whatisaplot.com Wed, 23 May 2018 14:23:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 http://i0.wp.com/www.whatisaplot.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-NW-logo-1.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Ninja Writers http://www.whatisaplot.com 32 32 April’s Magic Bullet Download 50% Off! http://www.whatisaplot.com/aprils-magic-bullet-download-50-off/ Sat, 14 Apr 2018 16:50:13 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6734 Just a quick note to let you know that the April Magic Bullet download has been marked down by 50% for the rest of the month. The is a good chance to try the system for a couple of weeks for just $5. You’ll get: Dated daily and weekly dockets for the month of April […]

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Just a quick note to let you know that the April Magic Bullet download has been marked down by 50% for the rest of the month. The is a good chance to try the system for a couple of weeks for just $5.

You’ll get:

Dated daily and weekly dockets for the month of April (these help you organize your time so that you actually get your writing done.)

A monthly accountability calendar.

A writing log.

A list of writing prompts for the month.

Just click here. No coupon or code needed.

Another way to do it.

Did you know that anyone who supports Ninja Writers through Patreon at the $10 level or above automatically gets the monthly Magic Bullet download? If you go sign up at the $10 level now, you’ll get instant access to the April download–plus everything else those patrons have ever received as thank you gifts. AND when May’s Magic Bullet Download drops to patrons around April 25, you’ll get that. You can try the system for six weeks for just $10.

You can stop Patreon support at any time. If you’re still a patron on May 1, you’ll be charged $10 again and you’ll get June’s download around May 25. And so on.

And either way, you’ll be helping to keep the lights on for this amazing community. Thank you!

 

RECAP:

Head to our shop and get 50% off the April Magic Bullet download ($5.)

OR

Become a $10 patron at Patreon and get the April AND May Magic Bullet downloads, plus all the previous thank you gifts.

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Ninja Writer’s Academy: Are You Using a Hammer to Crack an Egg? http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writers-academy-using-hammer-crack-egg/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 19:57:13 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6724 In our Facebook group this week, there’s been a lot of talk about sensitivity and censorship and trigger warnings. I thought it might be interesting to look at those things for this week’s Ninja Writer’s Academy post. Here’s the dictionary definition of a trigger warning: Noun: a statement at the start of a piece of […]

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crack-an-egg

In our Facebook group this week, there’s been a lot of talk about sensitivity and censorship and trigger warnings. I thought it might be interesting to look at those things for this week’s Ninja Writer’s Academy post.

Here’s the dictionary definition of a trigger warning:

Noun: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)

 

It is common to find a trigger warning at the start of a story or article that mentions potentially traumatic topics such as violence, rape, or grief so that a reader can make an informed decision about reading.

My personal take is that I don’t need a trigger warning in fiction. I know my personal sensitivity levels pretty well. I don’t like to read books that make me cry and I really don’t like to read about cancer. Everyone has their own limits. Those are mine.

I can usually tell from the description on the back of a book that a book is about cancer.

I personally have such an aversion to reading a book with a sad ending that I have developed a habit of reading the end of a book first. I also look up spoilers for suspect movies.

Trigger warnings are what they are. I don’t pay much attention to them–but that mostly says to me that they aren’t for me. They don’t bother me. Based on the discussion in our group, they do bother some people. If someone who has something to add to difficult conversations only feels comfortable saying them with a trigger warning, then I say warn away. I’d rather have the warning then a silenced writer.

What bothers me much more is something that I think goes hand in hand here: gratuitousness.

Here’s another dictionary definition, this one for gratuitous.

Adjective: uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.

Violence, sex, or any other potentially traumatic thing, can be powerful in a story. It can be life-changing for the reader and the writer both. I can still vividly remember reading a book called Don’t Hurt Laurie when I was in late elementary school, about a girl who was being abused at home. I was so enthralled with it that I checked it out several times from my school library, and caused the librarian some worry. A few years later, I was equally as moved by the Flowers in the Attic series. My own work deals with traumas from my past and my family–parents in prison, substance abuse, mental illness.

I’ve also experienced some stories that instead of shifting something inside me, just made me angry. The violence or sex or whatever felt gratuitous–like it was only included to make me cry. That feels manipulative. (Trigger warning: SPOILERS!) The kid dying at the end of Pay it Forward and Meg Ryan’s character dying at the end of the movie City of Angels come to mind.

Someone in our Facebook discussions wrote that sometimes violence is used to show that a villain is villainous. My first reaction to that was: that’s lazy writing. Let’s think about the most villainous of villains. Darth Vader. He’s a violent dude. He annihilates an entire planet. His own daughter’s entire planet. But before that happens, it’s his disconnectedness and coldness that show us his nature. It is Vader’s fall from grace, evident even in the first-released Star Wars movie, that cements him as a tragic villain. We would know he is cruel without the violence–although the violence moves the story forward and doesn’t feel gratuitous (at least to me.)

And the thing we remember most about Darth Vader, the moment that’s the crux of his entire character, isn’t a moment of violence. It’s a moment of discovery when we learn that he is Luke’s father.

This week, think about the violence, sex, or other intense parts of your book, and analyze whether or not they are necessary to your story or if they are gratuitous. Are you using those moments to manipulate emotion in your reader? If you are, how can you go deeper?

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Deepen your work by getting rid of gratuitousness. Identify scenes of violence or sex or other intensity and analyze whether you’re using them only to manipuilate reader emotions or to tell the reader about your character, instead of showing.

Come show your work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours.I’ll post the thread in the morning on Sunday 4/15/18 and answer all your questions live for an hour. I’ll email Sunday morning to remind you and let you know when the live hour willi happen. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

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Ninja Writer Book Club (4/13/18) http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writer-book-club-41318/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 03:54:21 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6720 Oh my goodness, it’s been a long time since we did this. Here are the books that Ninjas are reading this week. We are such an interesting bunch! Click any cover to go to the Amazon page (if you buy a book while you’re there, you’ll be supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!!!) Or hit up […]

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Oh my goodness, it’s been a long time since we did this.

Here are the books that Ninjas are reading this week. We are such an interesting bunch!

Click any cover to go to the Amazon page (if you buy a book while you’re there, you’ll be supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!!!) Or hit up your library or local bookstore.

As an aside, this is a good exercise in why covers matter. Especially if you have a plan to indie publish. Think about which of these stand out to you, in thumbnail form. Which compel you to click? Why? Which are obviously something you’d want to read, just based on the cover? Which have covers that don’t give you a clue as to what kind of book they are?

Non-Fiction

Children

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Graphic Novels

Humor

Literary and Classics

Mystery and Thriller

Paranormal and Horror

Romance

Short Stories

Young Adult

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Free Stuff You Should Sign Up For Now http://www.whatisaplot.com/6717-2/ Sun, 08 Apr 2018 04:52:33 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6717 So, this weekend I’m in California with my daughter at a soccer tournament. And, as you may have noticed, the regularly scheduled Ninja Writer Academy post did not happen. Tomorrow I’ll be driving home all day, so there won’t be office hours either. I’ll post a thread and you guys can leave questions while I’m […]

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free-stuff

So, this weekend I’m in California with my daughter at a soccer tournament. And, as you may have noticed, the regularly scheduled Ninja Writer Academy post did not happen. Tomorrow I’ll be driving home all day, so there won’t be office hours either. I’ll post a thread and you guys can leave questions while I’m driving and I’ll answer them tomorrow night. (Or, let’s be honest, possibly Monday morning, depending on how exhausted I am.)

On the plus side, Ruby’s team killed it today! They played in the rain and they’ve made it to the finals tomorrow. Ruby had a couple of seriously spectacular saves in the goal.

Okay, so I thought since I just don’t have a lesson in me for today, I’d share a few free resources with you.

Two Free Audible Books

We listened to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas on the way up, and we’ll finish it on the way down. It  is absolutely fantastic, and it reminded me to remind YOU that you can get two free audio book downloads from Audible right now.

Try Audible and get two free audiobooks.

Free month of ConvertKit

If you’ve been around here any length of time at all, you know how I feel about ConvertKit. Writers need email lists. Period. And ConvertKit is a great way to manage it. Super easy. Super powerful. Just plain super. It’s not free (it costs $29 a month for up to 1000 subscribers), but you can click this link before April 15 to try a month for free. You’ll be able to noodle around and see how things work, so that when you’re ready for a paid service, you’ll be able to make a good choice.

This free course from Sean Wes about building an audience

While we’re on the subject of building an audience, go sign up for this free course from Sean Wes if you haven’t already. It’s really good. And it’s totally free, no strings attached. Sean is one of the most generous people I know.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter and Ryan Holiday’s reading list

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, has a really cool, totally free newsletter that you should sign up for right now. Once a week, on Friday, he’ll send you ten things to inspire your creativity.

I also really love Ryan Holiday’s reading recommendation email. It’s just once a month and I really look forward to it.

This Ray Bradbury video

I’ve watched this maybe  a dozen times and I always get something from it.

The Plotting Workshop

If you haven’t signed up for the free Ninja Writer’s course, The Plotting Workshop–what are you waiting for? It’s an eight week course that will help you develop a story idea and then plot it so that it practically writes itself. And it’s FREE.

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Get  your free  stuff!

Come show your work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. Okay, this  week, office hours are a little wonky. I’ll post the thread in the morning on 4/8/18 and answer all your questions by Monday. I’ll email Sunday morning to remind you. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

 

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Ninja Writers Academy: Start an Email List http://www.whatisaplot.com/start-an-email-list/ Fri, 30 Mar 2018 23:09:42 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6713 I get ideas for these lessons, a lot of the time, by paying attention to what comes through our Facebook group. This week, someone posted about starting a newsletter and I realized we haven’t talked about email marketing in a long time. Here’s the thing about having an email list: it belongs to you. It’s […]

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ninja-writers-academy_start-an-email-list

I get ideas for these lessons, a lot of the time, by paying attention to what comes through our Facebook group. This week, someone posted about starting a newsletter and I realized we haven’t talked about email marketing in a long time.

Here’s the thing about having an email list: it belongs to you.

It’s hard to imagine Facebook or Amazon going out of business–but just watch the news right now. The president is trying to curtail Amazon. Facebook is having confidence problems. You just never know. If your entire connection to your readers relies on one of those, then if they collapse, so does your access to your fan base.

But, if you have an email list? Then you can reach out, no matter what any other service is doing.

Here are some sobering facts though:

If 20 percent of your list opens any single email you send out, that’s on the good end of normal. Thirty percent or higher means you have a very active, engaged list. (Read: you are never going to write an email that everyone reads.)

If 2 to 5 percent of the people you sent your email to actually click on a link you’ve sent them, then you’re hitting industry standard. (Read: the vast majority of the people you send an email to will not act on it.)

People are going unsubscribe, pretty much every time you send an email. Industry standard is 3 percent. When I email this blog post to all of you (there are about  15,000 Ninja Writers on my email list), I expect about 15 to 20 people to unsubscribe. (Read: don’t take unsubscribes personally–sometimes people just aren’t in the place to hear what you have to say.)

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how you can start building an email list.  It all starts with an email service. You can use a free service like Mail Chimp when you’re getting started. The problem is that the free services are generally clunky to use. So, especially if you’re not very tech savvy, you might want to invest in your writing business (and yeah, it’s a business, even if you’re not making money yet) by signing up for a really good email service.

I use ConvertKit. There are lots of others, but since I’ve never used them, I can’t really speak to them. For your first 1000 subscribers, you’ll pay ConvertKit $29 a month. (After that, Mail Chimp and most of the free services are comparable in price with ConvertKit.) There aren’t too many products out there that I’m really, really evangelical about, but I truly love ConvertKit. You can click here before April 6 if you want to check them out for a month for free, just to at least see what a premium service is like compared to a free one.

Okay, so once you have your service set up, you need to get some folks on your list! My favorite place online to get ideas for email list building is Video Fruit. Here are some to get you started.

ASK. Seriously. You can easily build a landing page on ConvertKit (which is one reason why I love it over the free services, which pretty much require you to have a website  to link to.) Post a link to it to your Facebook page, your Instagram, where ever you connect with your friends. Send a message to your mom, your best friend, your third-grade teacher–anyone you can think of–and say: “Hey, Bob! I’m starting a newsletter about my writing. Can I add you to it?” Easy peasy.

WRITE. Start a Medium blog and include a link to your email list landing page at the bottom of every post. You can use a free service like Upscribe to add a form right to your posts. It integrates easily with your email service. Voila.

OFFER SOMETHING. Come up with something that your readers might really like. It can be shockingly small. A checklist or a one-page printable is fine. Think of it like bubble gum at the check out counter. You want it to be something very small that doesn’t take a lot of thought. You want your reader to say, “well, yeah, of course, I want  that.” Offer it in the form or on your email landing page in exchange for an email.

I think that’s enough for this week. Next week we’ll talk about actually writing your first newsletter.


Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Sign up for an email server–either a free service or a free month at ConvertKit.  And ask your friends to sign up.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/31/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.1

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

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Ninja Writer’s Academy: How to Avoid Stage Directions http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writers-academy-avoid-stage-directions/ Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:25:34 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6709 Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such […]

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stage-direction

Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get an email reminder on Sundays.)


This has come up on our Facebook page a few times recently.

How do you avoid writing that reads like stage direction?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

John walked across the room. He sat on the edge of the sofa. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him.  They had been fighting all day and the atmosphere in the room was tense.  He was so done with this.

Can you see the problem? Every sentence starts with either a proper name or a pronoun. John, Mary, he, she, they. It winds up reading like a list of actions, or stage directions, instead of a paragraph in a novel.

So, how do we fix it? I have a couple of ideas.

Use sensory details

Sensory details are just what they sound like: details that involve the five senses.

So, instead of He sat on the edge of the sofa, you could write An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable.

Show, don’t tell

This is something you already know. Instead of telling us that John and Mary that the atmosphere in the room is tense, put us in the room with them and let us feel it. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. 

Also, hopefully, you’ve done the work of showing that they’ve been fighting all day already. You don’t need to repeat it here, which brings me to the next point.

Leave out the boring stuff

Do we need to know that John walked across the room? Is it important?  Probably not. You can just cut that particular stage direction out altogether.

Also, like I mentioned in the point above, you don’t have to tell stuff that you’ve already shown. Trust your reader to know that John and Mary have been fighting all day if you’re shown the fights.

Let’s look at that paragraph again, just with the changes I’ve outlined here.

An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. He was so done with this.

See? Not a list of stage directions anymore. And just one more line of space, we get to feel how angry John is with Mary and how tense the situation is between them. When John says that he’s so done with this, suddenly, we believe him.

You could go even further. Instead of telling us that Mary is perched on the back of the chair, show it. The back of his favorite chair bit into the back of her upper thighs as she pinned him with a pale blue glare.

And technically, you might not need to say that he’s so done with this. Instead, show how he is fed up with an action.

So one last time.

Original:

John walked across the room. He sat on the edge of the sofa. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him.  They had been fighting all day and the atmosphere in the room was tense.  He was so done with this.

Better:

An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable. He looked across the room at Mary. The back of his favorite chair bit into the back of her upper thighs as she pinned him with a pale blue glare. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. 

“I want a divorce.”


Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Take a passage of stage direction from your novel and fix it.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/25/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: How to Avoid Stage Directions appeared first on Ninja Writers.

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Ninja Writer’s Academy: Write a Logline + a Tagline http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writers-academy-write-logline-tagline/ Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:35:53 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6706 Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such […]

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tagline-logline

Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get an email reminder on Sundays.)

First, some vocabulary in case you need it:

A Logline gives the gist of your book in a sentence.  It gives something about the main character, the conflict, and the stakes.  So, the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY of your story. When someone asks you what your book is about,  you’ll probably give them your logline.

A Tagline is a catchphrase. It’s a few words that sucks the reader in. It’s the high concept idea behind your book. AKA: the hook. The tagline is what might be on the front cover of your book. The tagline doesn’t really give any plot or character development. Its job is to evoke emotion.

Writing a logline and a tagline for your work in progress is a great exercise. The logline especially helps you to build a framework for your story.  The tagline helps you narrow down the emotion you want to evoke in your readers.

This exercise also forces you to distill your story down. You can’t put every single thing in  one sentence, so you have to decide what’s most important.


Let’s start with the logline by answering  these  questions:

WHO  is your main character?

WHERE does the story take place?

WHAT is the situation?

WHY does it matter?

HOW does the character solve the problem?

Here’s an example using The Wizard of Oz.

WHO  is your main character?  A TEENAGE FARM GIRL

WHERE does the story take place? KANSAS and OZ

WHAT is the situation?  THE GIRL IS TAKEN BY TORNADO FROM KANSAS TO THE MAGICAL LAND OF OZ, WHERE HER  HOUSE LANDS ON A WITCH.

WHY does it matter? THE WITCH’S  SISTER IS PISSED OFF AND WANTS REVENGE.

HOW does the character solve the problem? SHE HEADS OFF  TO FIND A WIZARD WHO CAN HELP HER.

Got it? Now let’s put it all together.

A Kansas farm girl is transported by a tornado to the magical land of Oz,  where her house lands on a witch, leaving the girl to try to find help from a wizard before the witch’s wicked sister can kill her.

See? That long sentence gives us an idea of who the main character is, what happened to them,  and why it matters.

Things that didn’t make it into the logline: Toto, Glinda, Auntie Em, the Scarecrow, The Lion, The Tinman, flying monkeys, buckets of water, deadly poppy fields. And on and on.


The tagline is shorter but not necessarily easier.

A tagline for The Wizard of  Oz might be: We’re off to see the wizard.

Just six words, but they give a sense of adventure and excitement, which is the emotion evoked by the book.

Ask yourself what emotion you want your reader to feel when they read your book.

Is it scary?  (Jaws 2 tagline: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the  water.)

Is it romantic?  (The Notebook tagline: Behind every great love is a great story.)

Is it pre-teen angst? (Are You there God, it’s me, Margaret tagline: Growing up is tough. Period.)

Is it grit? (Gone with the Wind tagline: Tomorrow is another day.)

Once you know what you want your readers to feel, come up with five or six different taglines. Play around with them. They don’t actually have to tell much about your story at all. They just have  to make the reader feel something.


Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Write your own tagline and logline for your work in progress.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/18/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: Write a Logline + a Tagline appeared first on Ninja Writers.

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How to Make Killer Business Cards from Recycled Records http://www.whatisaplot.com/diy-business-cards/ Sat, 10 Mar 2018 02:45:05 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6685 Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such […]

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business-cards

Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get an email reminder on Sundays.)

Writing is a kind of singular business in some ways.

It’s making art. But if you were painting or sculpting or drawing, you probably wouldn’t put pressure on your art to support you. Especially not on a deadline. (You know: if I don’t make money on THIS book I’m quitting.)

I think one of the most important things is to set yourself up to really believe, deep down, that you ARE a writer. A real writer. A professional writer. And that has to happen well before you make any money. Well before you even have any real proof that you ever will make any money.

You have to have faith.

One way we find that faith is by inserting ourselves in the writing community. We go to conferences. We join groups (like Ninja Writers!) We find our people.

And when we do that, it’s nice to have a business card that says: Hey world, I’m a writer. Nice to meet you!

And since we’re artists, it’s totally, perfectly fine to have fun with our business cards and make them arty.

So, in that spirit, here’s a little tutorial on how to make your own business cards by recycling record jackets.

In Reno, I can find record albums at one thrift store for a quarter. A local used bookstore has a vinyl event every month and on the last day, every album is 29 cents. Pretty much every other thrift store here sells them for 99 cents. I’d be shocked if you couldn’t get your hands on some for less than 2 dollars a piece.

I’ve actually been collecting business card-sized scraps as I’ve been putting together notebooks for the Ninja Writer Shop. But, for the purpose of this post, I headed to a thrift store that sells albums for 99 cents each. I found three.

You’re going to need:

3 record albums to recycle (for a  max of 108 business cards, assuming you can use every inch of your albums.)
Hand sanitizer and paper towels.
Some way to cut the albums (a paper cutter is best.)
Spray paint.
A stamp with your info on it (or a Sharpie.)
Optional bling.

If you buy a stamp online and you don’t have any spray paint laying around, you’re going to spend about $25 up front to make 108 cards–but the main expense is the stamp, which will make 1000s of cards. Once you have your stamp, you can make 108 more cards for about $3, plus a little spray paint.

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You want albums that have interesting covers, with colors that speak to you. But don’t worry too much, because they look cool all cut up, regardless.

To clean them, I used a little hand sanitizer (which basically just alcohol) on a paper towel. These guys were more than 50 years old, so the cleaning was definitely necessary,  as you can see in the photo below. The cover of the albums have a coating on them that makes it fine to rub them with a little hand sanitizer, but you don’t want to soak the cardboard. If your albums don’t have that coating, if it seems like they are just  bare cardboard, then I’d skip the hand sanitizer.

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Now you need to separate the album fronts from backs. (You’ll have to remove the records first, of course. You can save them in their sleeves to listen to, or look up the multitude of things you can make out of them. Or re-donate them to the thrift store.)

Just carefully take the sleeve apart. I use a box cutter to help. You want two 12″ X 12″ pieces from each sleeve.

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Once you’ve done that, you need to trim the sleeves. I trimmed about 1/8 of an inch from all four sides first, to give me clean edges. Then you’ll have to further trim to 12″ X 10.5″.

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Then trim to six strips, 2″ x 10.5″ each. That’s going to give you thirty business cards that are 2″ X 3.5″ each.

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It’s okay if you have to sacrifice some of the cover due to damage to the cardboard. Just do your best. Don’t try to only cut perfect pictures out though…just cut your strips and cut them into the cards. The strips will have to be 2″ wide and either 10.5″ or 7″ long (which will give you three or two cards from each strip, respectively.)

I used a guillotine paper cutter that I bought at a thrift store for $5. I routinely see paper cutters at thrift stores–the rotator kind and guillotine kind–for less than $10 (and usually less than $5.) You can use scissors, but it won’t look as professional. A metal ruler and a box cutter or Xacto knife to make cleaner, more precise cuts.

The back sides of most albums are significantly less exciting than the fronts. Many are just black and white and typographic. You can decide whether or not to make cards from the backsides. I personally do. I kind of like it.

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Once you have all your cards cut, you can bling them up some with spray paint on the edges. These cards are perfect for that because the cardstock is thick. I used gold spray paint, but you could use any color. I think a neon would be awesome. My can of paint cost about $3.75 from Wal-Mart. You can buy some on Amazon, too.

Just stack your cards up and secure tightly with a rubber band on each short end. You’re going to sacrifice the top and bottom card, so look through your stack and see if you have any that are, for instance, all black or all white, or just a block of type that you don’t like for a card. Or cut 2″ X 3.5″ rectangles from an index card and use those on the top and bottom of your pile of cards.

Then spray all the edges. Let the paint dry an hour, then move the rubber bands to expose the lines and secure again, then repaint.

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Once that paint is dry, you’re ready to turn your glitzy recycled record rectangles into business cards.

I bought a stamp from Vista Print. It’s self-inking and cost about $18, on sale. You can buy DIY rubber stamp kit, too. Or, if you’re feeling super frugal and have great handwriting, you can just break out a Sharpie.

You want your card to have your name, your title (WRITER!), your website if you have one, and an email address. You can also list any of your books, if you have some already published.

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You can add something to the front, too. You don’t have to. Your cards will already look awesome, just the way they are. But, if you want to, you can add something more. Maybe a little washi tape stripe? Or, you can do what I did, and rubber stamp something. I happened to have a stamp I had made up a long time ago that says Ninja Writers Rules the World. I added that to the lighter-colored cards. I think it made the typographic cards extra awesome.

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For the darker cards, I found a sheet of 1300 (!) little adhesive jewels for less than $3. I added one to the corner and I think it looks awesome. I won’t do it to too many of them, probably, because they won’t stack perfectly flat this way. But I like it for some.

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There you have it, Ninja! DIY Business cards from recycled records. I’m super, super happy with how these turned out. I’d use them over regular printed cards in a heart-beat. I’d also hold on to one of these if someone handed it to me, if only to check out what exactly it is. That’s a huge bonus.

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Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Find yourself a couple of record albums to upcycle into business cards. Order your stamp, if you’re going to order one.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/11/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning) and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

 

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Ninja Writer’s Academy: How Setting Informs Story http://www.whatisaplot.com/how-setting-informs-story/ Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:18:01 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6681 Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such […]

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Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get an email reminder on Sundays.)

I’m in the super early planning stage for my next book. Like early, early, early. I won’t really get started until after my MFA semester is over in May. But I needed to develop an idea to present to my editor this week.

For the first time, my idea started with a setting instead of a character (most common for me) or a situation. So, I thought this week we’d focus on setting for the Academy, and how your setting can inform your story.

Setting serves more purpose in your story than just a place for things to happen. It adds to the atmosphere of your book, it shapes your characters, it can even become a character itself, and it forms the framework for your story itself.

For this week’s lesson, you’re just going to take a look around you. Make a list of the iconic or unusual or interesting places that could serve as a setting for your next story. Try to come up with at least five.

I live in Reno. Here are my five:

  • The “Biggest Little City” arch downtown.
  • A junk shop.
  • A used bookstore that fascinates me because the employees seem almost like a family.
  • My favorite house.
  • The newspaper office in Virginia City where Mark Twain used to work.

I could go on and on. I bet you could, too.

Once you have your list, make sure you keep it somewhere you can find it again because there are a ton of stories there! But for now, just pick one setting. Do some research if you can–Google it. Start making a list of the setting’s attributes. Now just start writing. Describe your setting in as much detail as you possibly can. Go visit it if you have time today. Take pictures.

Use your five senses for this exercise–and ask the question ‘why’ a lot.

What does your setting sound like? Why?
What does it smell like? Why?

You get the idea.

Also, start a list of connections. What does the setting make you think of?

Once you’re done, start thinking about how all that detail reveals a story.

I chose my favorite house. Because the house was for sale not too long ago, I was able to find lots of pictures of the inside online. I also know it was built in 1940, has nearly 9000 square feet (!) and a basement the size of my entire house, and is located on what is called Mansion Row. It’s next door to an outrageously lux 1907 mansion that has nearly 18,000 square feet (what in the world?) that was built for a US senator.

Some of the connections I made include The Great Gatsby, Nevada politics, the second world war, Reno’s mid-century divorce culture, and (because I read about it recently) Louisa May Alcott’s father’s commune experiment at Fruitlands. Also, I wonder what it must have been like to build a house directly next door to an already-historic, insanely huge mansion. Imagine a house big enough to make a nearly-9,000 square foot house seem reserved.

Once you have all that, you’re ready to start making a list of possible stories. Aim for at least three, but don’t hold back!

Here are mine:

  • A post-apocalyptic story about a group of people who turn the house into a fortress.
  • A story that centers on someone who rents the little pool house and observes the eccentric family who lives in the mansion.
  • A murder mystery surrounding the building of the mansion, set in the 1940s.
  • An alternative history story where the transcendentalists build their experimental commune in Reno in the 1960s instead of Massachusetts in the 1840s.

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Take out your notebook and make a ‘worse’ and ‘better’ list for your MC. If you have a scene that’s you’re struggling with, this is a great way to give it a boost.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/4/2018 at 11 a.m. PST to answer all of your writing questions. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

 

 

 

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EXTRA Portable Scene Card File http://www.whatisaplot.com/card-file/ Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:14:20 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6674 Not long ago, I shared a system I’ve been using as a portable plot book. I’m so in love with it! It involves a business card organizer and blank 2.5″ X 3″ flash cards. One scene per card, the book is divided into four parts (Act 1, Act 2-a, Act 2-b, Act 3), and I […]

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Not long ago, I shared a system I’ve been using as a portable plot book. I’m so in love with it! It involves a business card organizer and blank 2.5″ X 3″ flash cards. One scene per card, the book is divided into four parts (Act 1, Act 2-a, Act 2-b, Act 3), and I can carry it around with me.

The thing is, though, that I noticed I wasn’t carrying it around with me. Because it’s small and portable, but I usually leave it on my desk. And sometimes I find myself with a pocket of time where I can write, and I really wish I had it with me.

So, I came up with this little cutie.

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It’s a truly pocket-sized card file that will let me carry 14 scene cards with me. It fits nicely in my notebook, which I really do carry every single place with me. I just clip the top with a binder clip and everything stays where it’s supposed to.

Which means that I have my scene cards AND a means for writing with me all the time.

Perfect, right?

I love it so much that I actually made a couple of them. I use one for business and credit cards.

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And one as a habit tracker. I don’t actually bring the habit tracker with me, usually. It hangs by it’s binder clip from the same hook as my weekly docket, where I can see it while I’m working. It’s so simple! I have each part of the WRITER framework on one side and each one of my 7 Super Habits on the other. A couple of times a day, I flip through my little tracker and if I’ve done one of my habits, I flip the card over upside down. Looking through it reminds me to get on with the things I haven’t done.

At night, when I’m setting up my daily docket for the next day, I also review my habit tracker and reset it.

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The front and back of the file are made from a deck of vintage animal cards I found at a thrift store. Super cute right?

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I have a whole pile of the cards left and I’m experimenting with an Etsy shop and I needed a listing to open it up, so I thought I’d make the card files available to you guys if you’re interested. You can check them out here.

(The shop is going to be slow going at first. We’re just prepping it for when Zach gets to Reno. YAY! But it’s going to have some super fun stuff in it.)

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