Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In Case You Missed It...

Ever since I moved my blog to WordPress, for some surprising and very flattering reason I keep getting Google searches for my blogger page (thanks, guys!)  So today, for all those anonymous, awesome people, I thought I'd post a catch-up of what I haven't published here.

If you like it, come have a poke around the new site. :) The top menu has been organized into sections for Blogging and Web Design (including posts like Creating Basic HTML Widgets and Matching Your Link Colors With Your Header), Writing (featuring all posts from the Over-Do-Er's Editing Checklist) and Social Media and Platform Building (with interviews from successful bloggers and authors alike). My aim is to keep my new blog as simple and useful as possible, and as a taster, here are some excerpts from what I've posted this month...


The Over-do-er’s Editing Checklist: Setting

2. Use props to create movement and make your scenes more dynamic. A frustrated businessman could spend a whole scene sitting at his desk, occasionally slamming the phone down to express his emotions. But say he throws his mobile across the room instead. Later, when he finally decides to tell his boss to stick-it, he’ll actually have to get up...

3. When switching to a new setting, establish that setting in the first sentence. Mentioning a symbolic and instantly recognizable object can be enough, but beware of becoming so used to a setting that you make an assumption your reader might not.


Marketing Lessons From A Writer, Self-Publisher and Hobbit Enthusiast

Excerpt (from the interview with Donna Hosie, whose DIY marketing efforts have landed her self-published books at 5th and 6th place in Goodreads' Best Unknown YA Books):

If you use just one social network with writers and readers, make it Goodreads. I recently ran a half-price promotion on Amazon, and I contacted those who had added SEARCHING FOR ARTHUR to their [Goodreads] read list to let them know. It wasn’t spamming, because these readers were already interested. Many even thanked me for the news, and my sales shot up.


The Over-do-er’s Editing Checklist: Characterization

1. Check that your characters react realistically, in both mood and actions, to big events. It can be particularly useful to draw your plot from the antagonist’s perceptive, since they usually drive the action. Would they really overlook such a fatal flaw in their diabolical plan?

2. It’s also useful to examine your main character’s (and supporting characters’) personality at the beginning and the end of the novel. Has your protagonist grown or changed from their experiences? If they haven’t, check that they’ve been central to your plot all along – all the ‘good stuff’ may have been happening to your supporting characters, or your MC may not have been reacting fully to the actions of the antagonist.


Sharing The Love… Or More Accurately, Discounted Editing

It's a bit late to view that post now, but I'll keep an eye out for more editing sales in the future and be sure to post them on the new blog!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Customizing Your Blog Link Colors: A HTML Tutorial

You know the feeling when you land on a blog and can’t help thinking ‘wow, this site has such a well designed theme it must belong to a professional the likes of Steven King and without even reading a word I know I must follow it’?

Maybe I just don’t get out enough.

Anyway, part of the wow factor on many blogs is the way everything matches. So today’s post, which follows on from my post on free design tools for creating awesome header pics, is about strengthening your design by color-matching your link and heading colors with your header. It's over at my new blog - Enjoy!

Would you know how to get the exact code for your desired text color? It's actually very easy, and I've included instructions for both Paint.Net, an extremely useful, free design program pictured above, as well as regular Microsoft Paint. Have fun!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Over-do-er's Editing Checklist Part 3: Show Instead of Tell

Hey everyone, and thanks again for being so appreciative of my last editing checklist post. :) Today, to follow up the posts on structure and point of view, I bring you my checklist for showing instead of telling. (Well, technically it's over at my new blog, of course).


Show Instead Of Tell:

1. Describe things using different senses, rather than just sight. Smell, in particular, can really bring a scene to life.

... 3. Make sure your beats are original, and try and build a character’s personality rather than just their mood at the time. e.g. A character biting their nails will show they’re anxious, but it’s a cliché. What other nervous traits would build that character? i.e. If they’re a writer, their nervous tick could be to compulsively tap their pen against their desk.

... 6. If you must convey a piece of information through dialogue or thoughts, make sure you're at least showing something, by using words which build character or voice.

... 12. Don't forget to check for situations where showing may not be necessary. e.g. it’s dull, irrelevant, or would be much simpler as a tell.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Over-do-er's Editing Checklist: Part 2 - Point Of View

Earlier this week I posted part one of my personal editing checklist, as compiled over three years of agent stalking and reading every editing blog post I could get my hands on. The good news is – you liked it! Thanks so much for all the tweets, likes and favourites of my post, and I hope you enjoy part two just as much. Thanks so much for all the tweets, likes and favourites of my post, and I hope you enjoy part two - Point Of View - just as much. You can find the full post over at my new blog (time's running out to head over there before I stop posting here for good!). Enjoy!  

Point Of View

1. If there are multiple changes in POV, check that they’re all necessary. Are they increasing tension or confusing/slowing the action? If you NEED to show a character’s thoughts, can you imply them though their actions or through the internal observations of your main character? (Showing a character’s judgement of others can strengthen POV and character anyway, see point 9).  Can you combine passages to reduce the number of changes?

When in Greece... take silly pictures of marzipan figurines
whenever humanly possible.

... 3. Beware that you can’t always count on the location – for example a particular character’s house – to give away the POV. Look out for instances where you’ve only assumed it because you’re the writer and you’re used to a certain setting meaning a certain character.

... 7. Check for filters, e.g. “I watched.” If you were living that event you wouldn't think ‘I'm watching this happen’, you would just think 'this is happening'. Other examples: I saw, I heard, I felt, I wondered.

... and so on. Visit for the rest!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Over-do-er's Editing Checklist: Part 1 - Structure

What’s the most useful editing tip you’ve ever discovered? For me, it’s the idea of going back and giving characters props they would naturally interact with. This technique alone can: 

  • enhance setting
  • help readers recognise a location
  • build character and mood
  • act as a beat so you can imply who is speaking
  • and even remind readers of the presence of bystanders who aren’t speaking.

In fact it kills about four-and-twenty-blackbirds with one stone, and as I’ve spent three years reading every bit of PROFESSIONAL writing advice I can, I’ve got a 70+ point checklist full of similar gems. My list covers everything from large-scale considerations to grammatical and punctuation errors your spell-checker won’t always notice, and I’ve decided to post it as a series, starting today!

The list is broken into sections for Structure, Point of View, Showing Instead of Telling, Characterisation, Setting and Writing Mechanics, based on what I’ve found is the easiest order to work in. As a result it’s starts out quite general, but stick around and it’ll traverse into the nitty-gritty, where it works best as a chapter-by-chapter checklist. Hope it helps!  You can find the full list over at my new blog, but here's a taster. :)

The Over-do-er's Editing Checklist: Structure

1. Does each chapter start and finish with a hook?

... 4. Do the climactic sections of your novel follow the structure of: Scene (Goal, conflict, disaster) and Sequel (Emotion, quandary, decision, action)?

... 5. Do you have too many action scenes in a row; or scenes where the character’s ordinary actions are described in too much detail? Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to summarize. 

... 8. Are your characters’ goals clear in this chapter?

... and more!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Designer's Choice Part 2: A Paint.Net Tutorial For Creating Awesome Headers

In my post on free design tools I mentioned a nifty little program called Paint.Net, and today I'm sharing a few, specific tricks for those ready to create their own header images. Want to fix a blurred image? Magically erase an unexpected photo-bomber? Turn a fairly ordinary image into a professional header? No worries!

From my holidays in Ireland. All images are copyrighted to me,
so if you want to use them, let me know. :)

Hmmm... a possible sequel to my current blog? P.S. To give the header a
nostalgic feel I went Color - More - and increased the transparency to around 30%

You can do all this, and more, and it's surprisingly easy. The full post is over at my new blog, so please check it out and follow, because after January I'll no longer be posting to this blog. Thanks!

P.S. Just to whet your curiosity, here are some of the common image issues I've looked at in the full post.

My image doesn’t have the crispness I need.

I don’t want crispness. I write fantasy – my pictures have to be dreamy!

My image needs to be black and white - but how do I stop it from becoming dull?

I write historical. I need my picture to look really old fashioned.

How do I apply an effect to only part of my image?

The Lasso Tool
The Magic Wand Tool

I’ve photographed the most beautiful scene ever imaginable, but I’ve accidentally included the top of someone’s head!

And lastly, how do you use all these tools to turn this...

into this...?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Web Design For Beginners: Using HTML To Create Your Own Widgets

It may sound complicated and time consuming but it’s actually very easy, and as part of my current focus on blog customization I thought I’d share some tips I gathered while studying graphic design at uni. I’m starting with the basics – creating your own blog widgets to give yourself better control over the look and performance of your blog. Here’s a preview and the full article is over at my new blog, Head on over there and follow because I won’t be posting here for long. And of course, enjoy!

Web Design For Beginners: Using HTML To Create Your Own Widgets:

Simply put, HTML coding involves giving the computer commands in the form of pairs of <> brackets. One <> will open the command, one <> MUST close it, and whatever content sits between the <> and <> brackets will be affected by that command. For example if your brackets involve a link command, then whatever text you put in-between those brackets will become a hyperlink.

i.e. the code to create a link is <a href="">My Link Text</a> and the words My Link Text will display as a hyperlink

The problem here is that the link will load on the page your reader is viewing, so it will effectively take them away from your blog. To ensure that the link instead opens in a new window, you add the instruction target="blank" within the first <a> bracket.

So your new code looks like this <a href="" target="blank">My Link Text</a>

Now let's say you'd like to create a simple widget which displays all your social media hangouts in one. Here is the template…

(Well, technically here is the template :P )

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

"Designer's Choice" - Free Tools For Creating Awesome Header Images

Welcome to day two of my move to Wordpress, and my attempt to be useful by sharing what I’m learning. This week I’m diving into Wordpress customization, since I have a background in graphic design and HTML coding and don’t understand the phrase ‘walk before you can run’. Today – how to create your own header image using some great, free software to help you edit said images like a pro. And I'll be posting loads more hopefully helpful advice posts down the track - for both Blogger and Wordpress - so please head over to the new blog and hit follow to keep receiving them. Thanks to the people who've already skipped over to sign up. Enjoy! 

Turning Your Photos Into Professional Headers

First, check your theme’s allowable header dimensions in the theme details section (eg. 960 pixels wide and 262 pixels high). If you just want to crop your image, open it on your computer with Microsoft Picture Manager, select Edit Pictures, then in the side toolbar which pops up, select crop. The panel on the right shows your new picture dimensions, allowing you to drag it to the correct size and save. It’s the easiest way I know! (And sorry I don’t know a similar program for macs. If anyone does, leave it in the comments. :D )

Now you have a blank, accurately sized canvas to work on. So MAKE A COPY, and have some fun with these free tools:

In the future I’m planning a how-to post on creating your own badges for blog hops etc, and this site will play the lead role. In the meantime you can sign up, upload your new and accurately sized canvas, and start playing with a cool set of editing features. For example in this picture I edited for my band’s posters and business cards (that’s me in the middle and my awesome dad on the right), you can see there are twenty tools in the adjustments section alone.  

No teeth whitening tools were abused in the making of this picture.

Useful (for a start) because you can work on pictures from your own computer instead of having to upload first, Paint.NET is like Microsoft paint only a billion times better. Free, and easy to download and use, it’s great for those who pine for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (like me) but could only pay for such magnificence with old paperclips and a bit of string (like me). I’m thinking one day I’ll do a whole post on Paint.Net and its features, but for now I recommend having a muck around anyway – and as the website says, it has unlimited undo functionality! 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

How I Accidentally Slept Through New Year's Eve...

Yep. In the great tradition of nerdiness that saw me spend last year's NYE alone, Googling weeds for my novel, I've stuffed it up again. See I'm not a drinker... so when I started getting ready by blasting dance music and hitting up the Contreau (or contrae, as I drunkenly spelled it on Facebook, cringe) I ended up having too much, fell asleep at 9:00 pm, and missed the whole thing altogether.

No need to tell me how cool I am. :P

Anyway, next day I woke, stupidly well-rested and fresh as a daisy, and by 8:00 am I was already working on a new year plan: moving to wordpress. Everyone's been saying it. I've been ignoring it, confident that content matters above a fancy wordpress logo anyway. But when I decided to give it a go I realized it's not as hard as I thought. Oh, and the features are amazing...

So over the next few days/week I'm going to post some of the tips and tricks I found through trial and error while completing the move. Plus I'll scour the internet, far and wide, for whatever other useful Wordpress goodies I can scoop up. I'll post them on the new site (which I'm still perfecting but is pretty much ready to go), and I'll post the links here on this blog. Or you could head to the new blog and follow that too, which would make me happier than a dork with her Contreau. :) 

Here it is, complete with a new and much more grown up header image - what do you think?

And here’s my first bit of 'advice'. Enjoy!

Choosing A Wordpress Theme

It’s always important to have a good idea of what you want from your blog before you start, but with Wordpress I think that’s even more important, since it’s more complicated and it’ll probably take longer to work your head around the customizations available. You don’t want to suddenly find that the theme you’ve chosen doesn’t support the feature you need.

What I wanted most was a customizable header image, customizable menu, and a nice, serif font (serifs are the little kicks you get on the corners of letters in fonts like Times New Roman), rather than some new age text which would clash with the historical feel of my blog.
And do you think I could get all three?

Yes… with compromises, and only after about two year’s worth of searching.

So to save you some time, the first thing I’d recommend is Googling the support for what you’re after. e.g. “customize header image wordpress” leads you to this nifty list of themes which allow you to create your own header image:
Do the same for the other features you’re after and have them all open at the same time, along with the list of available themes, and you’ll be able to cross-check as you go, rather than having to load the details of every single theme until you go slightly cross-eyed and start thinking the walls are talking to you.