Category Archives: Writing Tips

When Authors Mean Business!

BeanCountingECoverAuthoring books is amazingly fun and creative and never, EVER dull . . . However, along with all that imaginative wonderment, Authors come closer to becoming mini-accountants than they realize. Why? Because once anyone becomes an official business owner, he/she crosses into the realm of accounting and taxes.

Oh, the horrors of it, right? But never fear!

When Authors Mean Business, they have propelled themselves from merely writing for “fun” to reaping well-earned monetary rewards. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING, RIGHT? Authors are not only wand-waving story weavers, but also real-world professionals running businesses that earn money. And, yes, along with that comes accounting and taxes. If that causes some of you Authors out there to squirm, just remind yourselves that it’s a sign of monetary success if your books are earning ENOUGH profits to generate said taxes. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own!

In order to help fellow creatives with all of this business and accounting stuff, I offer a handy little guide with some important must-knows of accounting, taxation, budgeting, and planning for the future. Learn the differences between a hobby and a business; get a handle on different business structures; learn about proper bookkeeping, sales tax, common and complex tax deductions, retirement options and more!

BEAN COUNTING FOR AUTHORS-Helping Writers & Creative Business Owners Grasp Accounting & Taxes

NOW AVAILABLE!!

Counting each and every “Bean” earned may not be the idea of fun and adventure for most, but having lots of beans in the bank is a pretty great way for Authors to keep on doing what they do love most—WRITING BOOKS! And understanding some important business and financial basics is a big step toward making that happen.

head shot image extra crop colorOnce-upon-a-time, Christina Mercer worked as a CPA. Though she retired that formal hat, you can still find numbers buzzing around her head. She is also an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She currently resides in Northern California enjoying life with her husband, sons, pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest 

 

 

Don’t Destroy Good Writing

Sometimes writers don’t trust themselves. We write a paragraph, reread it, backspace (a lot), and write it again. And then we repeat the process. Several times.

For me personally, I’m not so sure if the sixth time I write the same paragraph is really all that much better than the first attempt. What I do know, however, is that writing this way takes forever and turns something that is naturally hard to do into something that is excruciatingly difficult.

Lately, I haven’t been making progress because I keep writing the same stuff again and again. I’ve decided to take a lesson from history and break this bad habit. Let me explain:

Over Thanksgiving break my family went on a little adventure. Our favorite stomping ground is Southern Utah (near the Kanab area). First we hit Cutler’s Point, which is a fabulous cave (albeit shallow) inside the side of a mountain plateau. (See pictures below.)

We drove back from the hike using an old highway that used to be the
main road into Kanab.  On some of the red cliff walls right next to the old highway are Native American Fremont petroglyphs dating from 700 to about 1300 A.D.

writingOn top of some of these wonderful writings from a culture lost hundreds of years ago, business men from the mid 1900s wrote big advertisements in black paint—everything from law services to painting for hire. It was a “natural” bill board of sorts. People noticed the cool petroglyphs, so writing a business advertisement right over the top of them would ensure better visibility for their ads.

Seriously?

What were they thinking?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question when I “write
over” my own writing again and again, hoping to improve it. Am I actually making things worse?

My new game plan is to write whatever comes out and move forward. In the end, I know I’ll be going back and rewriting/cleaning up my manuscript. I don’t need to keep writing over myself during the creative process. After all,  I may be destroying things that should be left alone.

Here are a few more pictures from our outdoor adventure:

Cutler's PointIMG_1338

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How to Write Action Scenes that Pack a Punch

I love to write action scenes in all my books. Martial arts, spaceship battles, monsters–you name it, if it goes SMASH and CRASH, I love it and I want to write about it.

I’ve developed a little acronym to help me remember how to get the most out of my action scenes. Here’s a simple recap of the “POW” philosophy to help you write your own awesome action.

pow

P=PACK A PUNCH

Remember that everything is connected. Think “The hip bone’s connected to the back bone …” Get out of your chair and pay attention to your body as you throw a punch. If you try it without any preparation, you won’t be very successful. But if you stand with your feet apart, bend your knees a little, focus on drawing strength all the way up from your toes, and PUNCH, you’ll find you can feel it in every part of you–and that your hit will do a lot more damage. Be aware of all those connections when you write about fighting.

O=ORDER IN ACTION

Know the purpose of your scene. Is it simply something the character has to get through to get to the other side? Or is its purpose to show the reader something important about the character?

A plot-driven action scene is usually fast-paced and action-based.

A character-driven action scene is character-based and may have a lot more internal thought and character narration, which slows the action a bit.

W=WRITE IT WISELY

Remember, “There’s nothing passive about action scenes”.

Choose powerful, active verbs, and always look for ways to strengthen sentences by eliminating passive voice where possible.

I’m certain that if you practice some POW when you write your action, it’ll totally pack a punch and your readers will FEEL it. Happy writing!

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Alex 1 (2)Alex Banks likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin’ husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles.

Alex writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction (suitable for readers over fourteen) under the name Ali Cross.
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W-H-I-P is a Four-Letter Word: Action Verbs for Fiction Writers

After my brother-in-law read the first draft of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, he remarked, “She is doing an awful lot of whipping.” And sure enough, Cassidy was: whipping her head around, her body, leg, a tight fist. I hadn’t realized my enormous love for this particular action verb until I’d re-read my fight scenes. Usage was downright flagrant and utterly cringe-worthy. It was humiliating! Okay, humiliating might be a wee-bit dramatic, but to this day, I swear I have an aversion to the word “whip,” and even wince when I see it in other written works. I can barely tolerate saying it!

“Whip” is my four-letter word and a reminder to not get lazy in my writing and push myself. (Note: I still use W-H-I-P in my writing, but selectively, and with grave reservations.)

If you find that your reservoir of action verbs runs on the dry side (or you forego verbs altogether and talk like this: “I home.”), help is on the way! More action verbs than you’ll ever know what to do with, though I challenge you to select five from the following lists each day and slip them into conversation, especially you “Verbophobics.” Good heavens! There is such a thing! I kid you not! Consult Wiktionary, if you don’t believe me. 😉

Fighting Words: http://linestorm.tumblr.com/post/98608734568/fighting-words-active-verbs-to-use-in-a-fight

Writing Tips: Choose Active, Precise Verbs: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~cainproj/writingtips/preciseverbs.html

1,000 Words To Write By: http://dragonwritingprompts.blogspot.com/2009/02/1000-verbs-to-write-by.html

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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Positive Portrayals of Females in our Writing

I attended Salt Lake Comic Con this last weekend and I had the opportunity to be a part of four different panels. I enjoyed each of them, but I think the one that stuck with me the most was the last one I attended. It was called Positive Portrayals of Women in Pop Culture.

I was the only writer on the panel, while the other women came from different podcasts. They were more into pop culture and the latest and greatest television shows, while I was involved because of the characters in my books. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or have a clue what to say among them, but I found that we had a lot more common ground than I’d first expected.

One thing that stuck out to me the most was that we made sure to point out over and over again that a positive portrayal is not simply making the female the super tough heroine who needs  no one because she can win the battle herself. It was more about bringing depth to those characters and making them real.

As the different women spoke of their favorite shows and why they liked those female characters, I had time to reflect on the books I write. I thought of each of the main characters and why they were “strong” to me. I realized that it was their flaws and their need to get through their obstacles that made them who they were. Am I perfect at getting those characters down? Probably not, but I want to do my best to build someone who girls can relate to and want to be like.

Each of us have our own voice, our own likes and dislikes, our own backgrounds. We as writers need to make sure that we provide those same attributes for the characters in our stories.

So what does this have to do with portraying strong women? Or the girls in younger books? Everything. It’s not about making them tough enough to win a battle. It’s about making them strong enough to be the daughter or the best friend, or yes, the hero by showing who they really are. Give them a backstory, fears, and a reason to go on. Let’s make them strong by allowing them learn and be a better person than when the story began.

Think of your favorite villains who share their backstories. Maleficent’s movie showed her love turning on her and stealing her wings, causing her to lose everything. The stepmother in the new Cinderella movie only wanted love and comfort and watched the stepdaughter she’d tried to squash, get exactly what she wanted.

Think of your heroes. Hermione used her book smarts, her wit, and the strength of her friends to fight, but also to help Harry and Ron survive. Katniss was tough, yes, but she also stepped in to protect her family so her sister wouldn’t have to be part of the games. Aurora won Maleficent over by her love, her smile, and her kindness. Black Widow is a tough fighter who knew nothing else as she grew up, but when it comes down to it, kindness is what makes her the person I admire. The way she handles Hulk to calm him down, touches my heart every single time.

If you need tough females to make your story work, do it. But give her both the flaws and the strengths to make her the best person she can be.