Tag Archives: Jennifer Bennett

Writers, Do You Know the Power of the Hashtag?

Today writers need to be social media experts. It’s a sad truth that many aren’t aware of. I’m going to help you use the tool called the “hashtag.” In June of 2014, the term, hashtag was added to the Oxford Dictionary making it officially here to stay. “A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character (or number sign) # in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it.” (Wikipedia, 2015)

 I’m sure you’re aware of the term “hashtag” but are you aware of its power?

hashtag

TRENDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA USE OF HASHTAGS

Jimmy Fallon uses hashtags in big ways on his show, “The Tonight Show.” Hashtags have become a way of life in social media and knowing how and when to use them can be a game changer for someone who wants to gain a following with certain readers. Jimmy Fallon shows the public how hashtags can gather people with like ideas for communication. You too can do the same thing—that is powerful.

ARE THERE RULES TO HASHTAGS?

Hashtag on chalkboard

There are certain rules you should follow in creating and using hashtags. I’ll help you understand how you can grow an audience by using hashtags and by investigating when to use a new hashtag and when to use an older existing one. Sometimes it’s important to use both within the same message. Let’s go over how and why you might use a hashtag.

WHY HASHTAG?

09-hashtag.w750.h560.2x

The real reason you’d want to search for groups of people online is to build an audience. These are people who are interested in topics you write about or are people who could be your audience. Hashtags are a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with. That way we grow our connections and sell more books. Hashtags make your life easier and there’s no doubt about it.

When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic—you are giving folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a connection with you—a way to find you.

TIPS FOR USING HASHTAGS THE RIGHT WAY

hashtags

Don’t overload your social media updates with hashtags according to Edie Melson.“The optimum number of hashtags depends on the social media network you’re on.” Here’s a great guide to go by.

Twitter: Two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work.

Facebook: No more than one hashtag per update, otherwise you may be unintentionally spamming your followers

Instagram: Two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work here as well.

Pinterest: Pin it

RESEARCH YOUR HASHTAGS

images

Search social media and figure out where your audience and who your audience is. Once you know where they hang out then use those already used hashtags to bring them to you. Add your hashtag with one they use already so they can find you. Your audience will then grow by your research and understanding of who you are targeting. Only make your own hashtag if you pair it with one already used socially by those who you target. Remember a space ends the hashtag. Don’t forget that key point. A hashtag ends with a blank space. Your hashtag will not work otherwise.

It’s also good to leave some room at the end of your tweets so your hashtags aren’t cut off if it’s retweeted. Tweets are only 140 characters long. If I use all 140 characters, then if anyone retweets it, the end will be cut off because there’s no room for the retweeters information that goes at the beginning of the tweet.

ETIQUITE OF HASHTAGS

images (1)

Try to never use more than three hashtags in any one tweet. If you can make it two that’s even better. Otherwise, you end up looking like a spammer. If you’re trying to reach more groups, schedule multiple tweets, at different times, about the same subject and target your groups two at a time.

Do you have a great story about using hashtags? Share it! We’d love to hear of your success!

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

How to Be a Hero When Editing

How many times have you seen an obstacle in your writing project and felt like it was as big as the Great Wall of China? Too many times we see our problems as something bigger than they truly are. Recently, I read a “pro-tip” that blew my mind written by Joshua Essoe. He wrote:

“What I’ve learned in editing is that even enormous problems in a story can often be fixed with little changes, small additions, and a little more emphasis somewhere.”

The idea of simple fixes to big problems created a new world for me in the editing process. Sometimes seeing only the problem makes the obstacle seem bigger than it really is. As a writer, you feel overwhelmed. You feel like the issue is far bigger than you are. It’s easy to feel this way, but these feelings can be extremely dangerous.

When writers get into a rut like this, it brings down the entire view of the project and pulls in self-doubt. Both of these negative feelings are awful for the growth and development of your writing and your project. At this point, writers question why they write and if they should continue writing. Let’s not put ourselves in this situation. Writing is hard enough.

Today I wanted to give you a plan of action. A bag of tricks. A life preserver of sorts. Sometimes we need something to pull us out of a funk and I hope some of these tools will help you do just that. By asking yourself what simple fix to this situation may help, many times a few slight changes or additions can fix the issue without huge rewrites or changes.

STOP DWELLING ON THE ISSUE 

Right now it’s summer and hiding in your cave can make things worse. Get outside and take a walk. Take time out for you and you might find that turning your attention to something else will help you solve your problem faster than if you were pounding your head on the desk all afternoon. Go camping for a day or two. Go sit by the pool. Let your mind wander where it may. Sometimes allowing yourself to listen to your inner-self can be helped by some R & R even if it’s for a short time.

USE K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid” or KISS is a term used by many. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that simplicity is extremely important in communication. Creating complex ideas that others don’t or can’t understand don’t make you look better as a writer. It makes your audience run away and shut the book. By keeping things in terms others understand, they then see your genius in having a big idea that can be conveyed in simple terms.

PROBLEM-SOLVING HELPERS

In the animated film “Big Hero 6” the main character, Hiro Hamada, hits on a key problem-solving tool suggested by his brother. He suggests that they “look for another angle.” Looking at different ways to approach the issue can be helpful. I’ve included the link Fifty Problem Solving Tools depending on what your problem might be. Hopefully, a few of these tools will get you thinking from different perspectives to find the answers you need.

I hope these tools will help you see your project more clearly when approaching a hiccup in your work. Don’t let obstacles bring you down. Look for another angle, take a breather, and keep things simple. You’ll find that fixes will become easier and learning to adjust is all part of creating something great. As Baymax says, “Are you satisfied with your care?” If you have other ways you’d suggest to overcome some of these issues feel free to comment! We’d love to hear them.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Plagiarism: How to Defeat the Digital World Taking Advantage of Authors

UNDERSTANDING PLAGIARISM
What is plagiarism?
According to academic sources, “plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source” (Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2003). If this is its definition, then anyone who uses another’s material without acknowledging it, is by definition—plagiarizing.

It seems like people are accepting plagiarized material more and more and I find this extremely disturbing as a writer. I felt like it was time to address this as a topic. How do you protect yourself as a writer?

How do you know if someone is plagiarizing?
“Ethical writers make every effort to acknowledge sources fully and appropriately in accordance with the contexts and genres of their writing” (Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2003). If someone is writing a novel, for example, it makes it hard to decipher what ideas could have been taken from another’s work. For plagiarism to occur, the passages must sound similar or have similar ideas. This “the gray” plays a huge role.

Look Atedited

What Can Plagiarism Look Like?
These are portions of text claimed to be plagiarized by Sam Taylor Mullens (A.K.A. Tiffany Rushton) in the current Nunes-Rushton case. This example is given to show what questionable material may look like.

• Rachel Ann Nunes 1998 – The dark brown curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for twenty-eight of Cassi’s twenty-nine years. They puffed out from her scalp and plunged halfway down her back as if they had lives of their own, helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the double sink reflected from the brown tresses, bringing out the subtle gold highlights.

• Sam Taylor Mullens, 2014 – Dark brunette curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for the thirty-one years of my life. They puffed out from my scalp and plunged halfway down my back. They helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the sink reflected the brown tresses.
(Nunes, R. 2015)

lawedited

Understanding Laws: Copyright
“For a work to be protected by copyright law, it must be “original.” However, the amount of originality required is extremely small. The work cannot be a mere mechanical reproduction of a previous work, nor can the work consists of only a few words or a short phrase. In addition, if the work is a compilation, the compilation must involve some originality beyond mere alphabetic sorting of all available works. Beyond that, almost any work that is created by an author will meet the originality requirement.” (Tysver, D. A. 1997-2015)

THE SITUATIONS
Let’s take a look at how three different plagiarism situations affect the publishing market today. This should give all writers an idea of the attitudes of how plagiarism is being dealt with in the business world today. Each of these cases of plagiarism have some interesting attitudes and situations. Culturally we can see how people, in some cases, are surprisingly accepting of plagiarism. This is not a good thing.

The Rachel Ann Nunes vs. Tiffany Rushton Case
Locally the state of Utah has had its fair share of plagiarism cases. In the case of Nunes vs. Rushton, it has been well publicized over the past few months showing how social media has been a huge component to the case.

“A Utah author (Nunes) says a schoolteacher (Rushton) plagiarized her Christian romance novel, added graphic sex scenes and passed it off as her own. In a case she says brings to light plagiarism in the burgeoning world of online self-publishing, Rachel Ann Nunes of Orem filed a federal lawsuit in August against a Layton teacher, Tiffanie Rushton, who she says cut-and-pasted large sections from an electronic copy of her book. Nunes wrote Love to the Highest Bidder in 1998 about two art dealers, one from New York and the other from California, who meet while competing for an Indian Buddha statue and fall in love” (Associated Press, 2014).

James Altucher Admits Plagiarism
In an interview, James Altucher talks about stealing from another author as “a test” which will make him money. For Altucher, he believes in stealing people’s ideas and rewording them overseas to make money can’t be wrong if it’s reworded. These are his words from the podcast where he discussed his plans. Altucher for some reason thinks his plan isn’t plagiarism, yet fully discloses that it is.

“So today something interested me. I decided, just for the fun of it, I’m going to take a very popular book and I’m going to hire somebody on Freelance.Com to take this very popular book, and change every word, but keep the same story. So if the words were, “Jane ran to the store,” I might change that to, “Christine walked quickly to buy her clothes.” So I’m gonna basically, it’s just for fun, I’m gonna see if I can essentially see if I can have someone use a thesaurus to change/rewrite an entire book. So it’s the same book, but just every single word is rewritten. So nobody can say this is plagiarism. And if I load this book to Amazon, what will happen? It’s just an experiment. So I just had the idea to do it today. I found someone in India who extremely cheaply will do it, by Monday. So I’ll have the book finished by Monday.” (Dutson, A. 2015)

Jared Keller and Benny Johnson
For some plagiarism doesn’t end their career. Sadly people still get hired and work as writers in an industry where people are forgiven such as in the careers of Jared Keller and Benny Johnson. In an article for the Huffington Post, these men are “called out” for their sinful ways.

“In further evidence that plagiarism is no longer a career-ender, Jared Keller, the former Mic news director who was fired for plagiarism, has published at least six items in publications like The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and Daily Dot, Talking Points Memo reported on Thursday. Keller was fired from Mic last month after allegations of some 20 instances of plagiarism were published by Gawker. Keller’s second life shows just how much things have changed. Far from being run out of town, those accused and even fired for plagiarism are more often finding themselves easily back in a job. Last year Benny Johnson was hired by National Review not long after he was fired from BuzzFeed after more than 40 instances of alleged plagiarism surfaced. Just last month Johnson jumped to IJReview.com. In both Johnson and Keller’s cases, the plagiarism mostly amounted to not properly citing information or full passages lifted from other sources.” (Gold, H. 2015)

It’s evident that all of these situations are related to plagiarism. In some situations people were prosecuted and other times not. The criminals are hoping they won’t be caught, but with more and more people becoming aware, writers and authors are starting to stand up for themselves and their work in this digital scam. Some authors have publishers who help them in plagiarism cases while others do not.

criminaledited

WHO IS DOING THIS?
Anyone could commit plagiary. The internet gives people the temptation to make money from others work with a click of a button. Unfortunately, it looks like other writers are beginning to plagiarize other writers in some instances like web content with Keller and Johnson. Authors, even notable ones like James Altucher, are beginning to believe plagiarism is allowed and should be looked at as fun. Well, they are all sadly mistaken. The key is how any author handles the situation of protecting their own work. Let’s take the Rachel Ann Nunes case as an example.

WHO CAN HELP?
Nunes found help through many sources. Many of these didn’t cost her money and, in fact, helped her fund much of her costs to this point. Let’s break down how she did this.
• Lawyers
• Social Media Web Funding
• Fans
• Other Writers
• Documentation

Lawyers
Nunes hired a group of lawyers at the beginning who were very expensive. With the help of her fans and other writers, Nunes was able to find legal representation with a writer who just so happened also to be a lawyer. This saved her a huge amount of money.

Social Media Web Funding
Without endless supplies of money, Nunes took to social media with her case appealing to fans, other writers, and her community for help. To date, she has had over $12,000 donated to her cause to stop people like Rushton, who believe they will not be caught plagiarizing.

Fans
Nunes has a huge support with fans. Online they have stood up to blatant bashing from Rushton and aliases she has assumed or hidden within. Social media bashing has become a huge issue within the Nunes-Rushton case and Nunes has been vigilant in documenting everything she can find on the internet.

Other Writers
Writers have spread the word on the Nunes-Rushton case through blogs and support with money to help Nunes. This has been a huge support. Even New York Times Best Selling author, David Farland has come to the aid for Nunes by rallying people to her aide and even suggesting that writers need an insurance policy to help with situations like these. David says he’s in the works of coming up with ways to protect writers in these situations who need support in lawsuits against plagiarism. (Farland. D, 2015)

docsedited

Documentation
One of Nunes’s biggest strengths in her case has been the documentation of criminal behavior that Rushton has been involved in. Anyone who believes that they are being plagiarized needs to document everything they can find online that links this person they believe to be stealing from them to the crime. Not everyone can hire a private detective so this is a great way to show the evidence you have. Screenshots are a great way of doing this to save evidence that could be taken down by the criminal or the website like Amazon or Goodreads.

MONETARY LOSES
This diagram below shows an estimate of fees that Nunes has lost due to her plagiarism case—since the case is ongoing, it could cost much more. This is how she explains what it’s like dealing with a plagiarism case. “Every day I was doing something to protect myself, taking screenshots, communicating with attorneys, deleting posts, asking Amazon to take down her reviews, trying to find books to put into fundraising sets, etc. Even when I had a slice of time, working was impossible because of the emotional upheaval. I felt terror every time I turn on my computer for fear of what I would find next.” (Nunes, R. 2015)

Monetary Loses

Lawyer Fees $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$= $25,000 and up
Court Costs $=$300
Time Lost $$$$$$$$$$=$10,000 and up
Book Sales Lost $$$$$$$$$$=$10,000 and up

SLANDER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

“In his new book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (The Psychopath Test) points out that public shaming was a popular punishment in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it usually had a highly personal and physical component—confinement to the stocks or pillory, or even something more creative, like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter. The punishment had died out with the rise of anonymous urban environments and easy travel, which made it less effective. But this wasn’t the reason for its disappearance, he argues: “They stopped because they were far too brutal.” Ronson makes clear, throughout the book, that he wholeheartedly supports this assessment. Still, it was the recent rise of the Internet and, specifically, social media that allowed for public shaming, of a sort, to become widespread.” (Fallon, C. 2015)

With this wide spread public shaming, Nunes found that her plagiarizer (Rushton) planned revenge through social media as the only way to get even. Social media has allowed public shaming as entertainment for some at the expense of others. In this case for Nunes it actually proved a point and gave her supporters room to defend her. Nobody feels good about getting into social media battles, but as social media becomes more and more popular, people are finding ways to discredit and become deeply slanderous to others and their work.

WHAT TO DO?

Nunes has dealt with her plagiarism case in a way other authors can learn from her. Unfortunately, for Nunes the end is not yet in

Nunes has dealt with her plagiarism case in a way other authors can learn from her. Unfortunately, for Nunes the end is not yet in site since the case is ongoing. What we can learn from this report is that more and more people feel that plagiarism is socially becoming acceptable. This is not acceptable to authors and writers who slave away to create their work. We must protect original works from those who scam, steal, and socially berate those who make an honest living with hard work and creativity. Having strong social connections has helped Nunes pay for a case she normally couldn’t afford. With the help of the writing community, Nunes is standing up for all writers in a case to prove to those who plagiarize that they will be prosecuted.

In order for authors to protect themselves against plagiarism, it’s important to have a strong social media presence. This helps fans and other writers know you and understand who you are so when you’re in a situation where someone could be plagiarizing your work, you have people who will stand up and support you. Nunes used her social media connections in her favor to rally others to her cause. You can too if the situation arises. Be aware of costs that cases of plagiarism may cost a writer and be ready to spend hours of your life fighting for your creativity.

Remember to:
1. Have a strong social media presence
2. Build networks with other writers
3. Be ready to fight for your own work

Works Cited

Associated Press. (2014, September 10). Schoolteacher copied Christian romance novel and added raunchy sex scenes: suit. Retrieved from Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/schoolteacher-stole-christian-romance-suit-article-1.1934341

Council of Writing Program Administrators. (2003, January 1). Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices. Retrieved from Council of Writing Program Administrators: http://wpacouncil.org/positions/WPAplagiarism.pdf

Dutson, A. (2015, March 19). Best Selling Author, James Altucher, Admits Plagiarism. Retrieved from Anthony Dutson’s Paper Petroglyphs: http://avdutson.blogspot.com/2015/03/best-selling-author-james-altucher.html

Fallon, C. (2015, March 25). Jon Ronson Shames Shamers In ‘So You Think You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/jon-ronson-wants-us-all-t_n_6935060.html

Farland, D. (2015, February 11). #DailyKick—Update on Rachel Ann Nunes Case. Retrieved from David Farland: http://www.davidfarland.net/writing_tips/?a=474

Gold, H. (2015, March 25). Jared Keller, fired for plagiarism, still writing. Retrieved from Politico: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/jared-keller-fired-for-plagiarism-still-writing-204588.html

Nunes, R. A. (2015, March 27). http://www.gofundme.com/StandingAgainstPlagiarism. Retrieved from Rachael Ann Nunes Woman’s Fiction: http://www.ranunes.com/

Tysver, D. A. (1997-2015). Obtaining Copyright Protection. Retrieved from Bitlaw: http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/obtaining.html

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

7 Steps to Writing Publishable Real Life Experiences

Writers find themselves having a deep desire to write about experiences in their life or in others lives that have inspired or molded them in some way. Naturally a large percentage of agents and publishing houses don’t find these narratives to their liking— tossing the works to the curb when it comes across their desks like a day-old danish. However, often writers find the process of writing down this information/story very therapeutic in nature. What if you could find a way to satisfy your therapeutic experience in a way those agents would be begging for your work? Well, let’s talk about how you could achieve this.

WHY DO WRITERS GET REJECTIONS ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCES?

The reason these works are typically rejected is that personal experience pieces are more about the author than anyone else. What editors and agents are looking for are works about the reader. Writers can open up any possibility of experiences by tapping into the reader —understanding it’s not about themselves when they go to write. Moira Allen, a former editor and writer for Writing-World, suggests you ask yourself these four questions when you think about writing about personal experiences.

  • Is this an experience the reader might wish to share or enjoy?
  • Is this an experience from which the reader can learn or benefit?Question
  • Is this an experience the reader might wish to avoid?
  • Is this an experience that will help the reader cope with difficulty? (Allen M. 2001)

STATS ON PUBLISHING REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES

For most magazines, Allen explains that editors look for “service” pieces to make up 80% to 90% of their editorial content. If an editor could purchase ten articles per month out of 100 submissions, a personal experience piece might have a 1-in-75 chance of acceptance while a service article’s chances could be as high as 9-in-25 (Allen, M. 2001).

Allen, M. (2011). Writing (and Selling) Personal Experience Articles.  Writing-World. Retrieved from: http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/personal.shtml on 16 Mar. 2015

Publcation-stats

In looking at the pie chart, writers can tap into a larger market by writing their stories and others as a service piece instead of a personal story. Your odds are substantially better. I don’t have stats on books. However, I’m betting they are similar.

7 STEPS TO WRITING PUBLISHABLE REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES

1. Find Your Topic
Think about unique and life changing aspects of your life or some else. What was the biggest obstacle you/they had to deal with, overcome, or may be different? Ask yourself how your viewpoint can help open a door to bonding with your reader.

2. Look for an Angle on Your Topic to Make it Unique, Provocative, Compelling, and/or News Worthy
Religion, family dynamics, upbringing are all factors to who you are and your experience. Tell a story where you push yourself to reveal who you are or who the person is. Ask yourself what impact can this have on readers and what do you want them to get out of it?

3. Write What You Know
Pick something you’re extremely knowledgeable in. If you aren’t, and you still want to write about it then do your homework. Learn everything you can and then learn some more. Knowledge is going to be the framework the reality you are bringing to the reader.

slushpile4. Be Careful When Writing About Living People
I caution anyone about writing about living people and using real names. People can and will sue you if they don’t see situations as you do. Don’t open yourself up to that. Always change people’s names and use disclaimers at the beginning of novels and or articles, so you don’t find yourself in court. That doesn’t mean they can’t take you to court even if you do these things. Approach those who you plan to use in your work and ask their permission to use them as inspiration. If they want nothing to do with it, then make sure the places, names, and situations are different as a protection to yourself and those still living. If there’s a question, always consult a lawyer. It never hurts.

5. Choose Fiction or Nonfictional Genres
Only you know how you want to write your work. You can create fictional characters who get into situations that you experienced, or you can write from a narrative standpoint—either style will work and finding the best way to tell the story is key.

6. Write Under a Pen Name
If you write in a different genre, then I suggest you come up with a pen name for your reader’s purposes. Readers tend to read books by their favorite authors. If you normally write middle-grade books, you will not want your readers to pick up your book on porn addiction, for example. Create something else that can stand on its own, and if you want to build on it, you can use the same name. Just make sure you’re upfront with agents and publishers on your pen names. If you are writing this as a narrative and have nothing you feel is needing to be hidden, ask yourself if others in your family may or may not be offended by your work. Think about how you expect to be treated because of the topic you’re writing about and consider its ramifications. Consult a lawyer if there’s ever a question or concern about your project.

7. Take it to the Next Level
People want to read interesting or different things, and they want to relate and find themselves within the characters. Sometimes divulging that sort of raw honesty can be hard but make the story. The typical or mundane life for one person might just be totally different for another. Finding that sort of balance between the two is critical to writing a powerful message in real life stories.

If you use these steps in writing real life experiences your odds of publication will be dramatically higher. Understanding the odds helps writers develop game a plan in how to write these experiences. Some of the best stories of our time have been based on real life events. Today the market embraces great story-telling in both books and movies. It’s the great writers who need to tap into themselves and others to give readers what they want. A story that touches and moves them.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Incorporating Beta Feedback into Your MS

 woman reading

You slave over your MS and finally beg borrow and steal to get beta readers to take a look at your work. Finally you’re getting somewhere. What do you do after you get your feedback? You have all these notes, both positive and negative, written throughout numerous copies of files and all the processing feels overwhelming.  As a writer, you may feel like you’re starting all over again and question everything on the page. It’s rough trying to weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, let’s devise a plan.

6StepsRecurringRevenue

Find Reoccurring Comments

First things first—read through everything and see what comments are reoccurring. These are issues that need to be addressed first. Make a list of these issues and devise a plan that works well for your story. Listen to the feedback from your betas and think of ways to weave the suggestions into the work so that it appears to have always been there.

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

Hold to a Vision/Concept

Understanding what your story concept is, is so important and it’s what makes your work unique. Sometimes others reading your MS may see it as something other than what you envisioned it to be. That isn’t always bad. Be open to what’s coming off the page to your readers and see how you can tweak your work so that the concept shines through.  You may need to make big changes and be ready to if needed.

keep-calm-and-read-between-the-lines
Overall Comments

Read these comments carefully. Information here is huge. The overall likes and dislikes typically are written in these areas of notes. There might not be notes throughout the MS on these topics and the overall impressions are what the beta reader has taken away from your project. These “overall impressions” are what readers will be taking with them up to this point. How do you want reader’s opinions to change when they read it next? Think about it and look at edits in this manner.

Inspiration concept
Unique Comments

Some readers will come up with realizations you never did. Listen to if the make sense and how personal experiences can help your story. For example:  One of my beta’s came from a divorced home. This was really important when my main character was dealing with going through his parent’s divorce. The attitudes, thought process and reality needed to be there. Getting firsthand knowledge of this is priceless.

After you’ve looked over the comments, breakdown your edits into these categories:  Story Structure, Characterization, Dialogue, Setting, Action, Stakes and Risk, Writing, and Formatting. Make notes in these areas on how you’ll tackle the issues/comments given by your betas in these areas. Once you’ve compiled the information, make passes through your MS on each topic to strengthen the work. David Farland suggests making passes through a manuscript on key elements during the editing stage. This is a great time to do this.

You may need to adjust from this plan depending on how big the changes are. Maybe you need to add scenes, take out characters, and rework your character arc ect. This is only a skeleton plan to help you sort through the feedback and come up with your own plan of action. I’m sure there’s many ways to utilize feedback. Feel free to post other ways that have worked for you. It’s always nice to learn from others! Happy editing.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Accepting Critique and Liking It

Most of us have writing groups but, we get in a comfort zone with them. They are our friends, our confidants, and we like to

pic

spend time with them. Let’s be honest, writers like feeling like they’re not alone. Writers are a strange brew who like to be alone and understood at the same time. We love to feel like others understand our weird idiosyncrasies and even welcome them.

What we really need to get out of that comfortable place to get real feedback others.  We need honest and helpful feedback and not from people who are worried about giving you warm fuzzies. Sometimes friends work but usually they don’t. It’s important to get feedback from a mixed group of people—people who you trust will be honest with you.

I’m not talking about the idiotic morons on Goodreads, Amazon, or some other site leaving you an evil trashing of your reputation. I’m talking about you seeking others to critique your work because YOU want it. Betas readers, editors, and people in the business who are willing to help you.

writing-group

So, how do we take these honest critiques from our  acquaintances as positive experiences? Easy, we understand when others take the time to give feedback; we need to look it honestly and as a gift. It’s easier sometimes to accept hard feedback from those we aren’t as close to. Than those who we see week to week.

On a personal level, I’ve been receiving editor notes and beta readers notes this past week. Most of the things I need to work on I already knew to some extent, and others  I hadn’t seen at all. The information is some amazing to ponder. We all miss things and these helpful little gift givers are fantastic at pointing out our flaws.

Our dangers  are always discouragement. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a project is defeating you instead of you defeating the project. Anything worthwhile is going to be hard. ediorSo if you think some honest feedback is going to break you then you might need to pull up your big kid panties and suck it up.  You aren’t going to improve without some good direction. Be ready to work.

We all hope to be doing something right and we all do otherwise we wouldn’t enjoy writing. People who critique your work should also point out things that are working well. If they don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t trust the critique.  What we need to understand with critiques, are that they’re not there to destroy us as people, but help mold us. Being honest is a key part of the process.

I wanted some direction on a project. I made the choice to pay out of my own pocket for an editor to do just that. I felt like the money was worth it. Not because I suck, but because I love the concept of the project and I wanted help. Honest help. I’m not saying that everyone needs to do what I did. But, for me it was the right thing to do.

There are two ways writers can take critique. Ignore it and stay stagnant or welcome it as a special gift. It’s your choice how you take it and it’s a slap in the face to ignore giftcritiques as time goes on. People won’t want to help you if you don’t start listening. Just as gifts go, we don’t always like what’s in the box but we smile and think about what the gift really means. It was still given as a gift and we need to take it as such.

I had one person who wanted critiques from me last year and I sent them for months. Chapter by chapter.  After working with this person for months I found all they wanted from me was to tell them how great they were. They didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say to improve the work. That’s tough. It makes the critiquer feel like they’re wasting their own time.

So, remember to listen to those who take time to help you. You don’t need to take everything critiquers say as law, but be open to what others have to say and welcome the help. It’s only going to help you and your writing.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

The Writing World is Going Hybrid

authorreport2_cover_2About three weeks ago I attended LTUE and the buzz with everyone, published or unpublished, was about hybrid authors. If you haven’t heard the term, it’s someone who has traditionally published works as well some that are indie-published. Years ago you wouldn’t have heard authors doing such things. But these days, it’s becoming more and more popular.

Why might a traditionally published author go indie? Very simply, they believe there’s a market for the book when traditional publishers may not. The market might be small on some projects and the revenues in traditional publishing may not be the best fit for a project.

So, instead of writers writing a book and then picking how they want to distribute the work, writers are letting their works speak for themselves and determine what market the work is suited for.

Publishers Weekly wrote this article not too long ago on this very topic. You can read it here to see how the industry is looking at this idea. If you subscribe to Publishers Weekly there was an article published last month on this very thing.

I came across this video from the Digital Minds Conference 2013 (London) that discusses how the business is changing. There’s some really interesting information in this video. Another website full of help is http://www.thewritingplatform.com/. It’s an outstanding site that’s being funded by the UK for writers.  Check out all the incredible information that’s at your fingertips.  Happy Writing!

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Logic and Story: Getting your readers “buy in”

I can’t tell you how many times I see posts from writers who are trying to get their character to go from point A to point B, and they aren’t sure how to do it. It can be frustrating to have an outline that just isn’t working for you. I think this opens up some key ways to discover your main character and get your audience to “buy in” to your story. Let’s talk about logic.

Logic as defined is the study of methods and principals used to distinguish correct from incorrect reasoning.

If this is a true definition, then you need to know your character well enough to deduce the correct form of reasoning from the incorrect. Let’s say your character has two choices like Harry Potter did in the final book. Harry could either go after the deathly hallows or the horcruxes. What made Harry choose the way he did? It was his character, his logic, his reasoning… As an audience we need to know what our main character will chose by his/her point of view. 

Horcruxes-horcrux-hunters-26434096-500-500

With every movement/or scene we should see as readers, how it relates to the story you’re telling and the logic behind it. This is where pantsers have the upper hand to some degree. When your outline is too structured then your character’s logic dies and you lose your audience. It’s also a great way to look at all your editing as well. If the idea, situation, or scene is not supporting the logic of both the story and your character then take it out. It’s unnecessary.

Often times we see characters make wrong choices and their logic has everything to do with their moral fundamentals. Here you can toy with your audience to get an emotional response. Brandon Mull does this with his character Seth in his Fablehaven series. Time and time again Seth makes bad choices.

Maybe your character makes the wrong choice in a situation and the reader can see it puts them in harm’s way, or causes more problems for your main character. These choices come in forms of propositions where you can show off who your character is. Placing your character in a position to make a choice often helps us as writers to understand what the character would chose logically and can morph stories in ways that are unexpected and deeply interesting—many times much more so than what we had planned at the beginning.

The greatest philosopher both in ancient and modern times is none other than Aristotle. 

aristotle_stoneEven when he was wrong about something he was rarely questioned because of his strong logic.

Writers need to understand their characters logic so deeply that readers won’t question them. It needs to be believable because readers are smart and can’t be buffaloed into just anything you put on the page. Each line you write is a building block of reasoning to support your argument. Your argument is your story and you must convince the reader it’s real. The characters on your page need to become real people like you and I based on morals, convictions, and logic. If you can do this, then you’ll get the “buy in” you need to be successful.

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Diary of a Bipolar Writer

clock

I’ll be honest. I know A LOT of writers. Some highly successful and some… not so much. Yep, they’re all different, but similar. Most tend to be flippers. Not like the dolphin, but their moods swing like pendulums in a Harry Potter movie. Let me explain briefly by giving you a slice of life for an example. (Disclaimer:  All Facebook statuses posted are factious even though they may seem like actual living breathing people you may know. Reading discretion advised.)

Facebook status:  11:23 am

I just cut 15,000 words from my novel. I suck. Everything I write is total crap. #thismightnotbeforme #whatwasithinking

Facebook status:  11:27 am

@AgentX thinks I’m the best writer in the world! They emailed and requested a full! I just know I’m going to make it big. #showmethemoney

Facebook status:  11:33 am

My file is gone. I don’t know what happened?! My life is over. I think I’m seriously having a heart attack or maybe a stroke. I cut ALL my words NOT 15,000! #call911 #iamamoron #nevergettingthatagentnow #stupidstupidstupid

Facebook status:  11:43 am

Called my friend and they saved the day! I will be the next J.K. Rowling! #lifeisperfect #irock #iwillwalktheredcarpetinamoviepremire

This was twenty minutes in the life of pretty much most of the people I know. Looks familiar doesn’t it? This may not be something that happens every day, but it does happen; sometimes quite a bit more than we care to admit to ourselves. In thinking of the highs and lows writers experience, they can be pretty extreme. It’s both sad and funny at the same time. ALL of us can relate. This is when a comical little thought about being “bipolar” took a turn in a more serious direction–from being a cute little observation to our lives as writers, to something that quite possibly …could be true. Are a great deal of writers really bipolar?

So what do we do when we have a question? We Google it and I found some interesting information. I wanted to know if writers had a tendencies to have bipolar disorders. Here’s just a small portion of information on what I found.

ParttimeIndianSmokesignals

I’m a huge fan of Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as well as the book and movie titled Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre, 1998). If you aren’t aware of either one, I highly suggest checking them both out. Some people have put his “part-time Indian” book on the banned book list. In my opinion that only makes the book that much more interesting. In this short video clip, Alexie talks candidly about being bipolar and the positives and negative effects it’s had in his life.

 Sherman Alexie on Mania, Bipolarity and Great Art | BillMoyers.com (click link)

Alexie has some interesting thoughts on creatives and being manic/bipolar. People have argued the topic for years. Evidently they feel there’s a fine line between being mad and creative. In this article, The Bipolar Brain and the Creative Mind by Sarah Eberhardt, Sarah sheds some light onto the subject on how they differ. For more information on mental illnesses and writing, check out or podcast with Robison Wells. He also speaks very candidly on the subject of mental illness. 

I wanted to shed some light on writers with bipolar disorders and how our minds work in the creative process. I found this information extremely interesting and I hope you do as well. I’m not saying everyone who writes has a bipolar disorder, but we do need to be both aware of ourselves and the world we live in. If you think you may have a metal disorder seek professional medical help or if you have information you’d like to share on writing and/or mental disorders feel free to leave comments. Happy Writing!

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

comfortzone

When I was asked to talk about growing as a writer, one thing for me stood out. Every time I pushed myself, I succeeded. So, how on earth do you push yourself when you’re just starting out? Good question. Stop treating yourself like a hobbyist and treat yourself like a professional.

It’s so easy to relax in your comfortable zone as a writer. You write when you can, dabble in blogging, have that one book collecting dust on your shelf, and you call yourself a writer. I’m just as bad as the next person when it comes to procrastination. So, how do you make that jump? It’s fairly simple. Make better choices.

outside-comfort-zone

Sounds easy, but it’s not. Let me explain. Professionals have deadlines, meet with other professionals, and work every day in their craft. They don’t let things stand in the way with getting the job done. They work hard and fast.

Let’s get moving in the right direction then. I’d suggest following these guidelines.

1. Attend a professional writing seminar where you’re asked to produce writing.

Yep, other professionals are going to read and critique your work. Get over yourself. You’re a professional.  The best way to improve your writing is to get feedback from other professionals. You’ll be surprised the by your growth. While you attend, the pressure of having to write to a higher standard will help you grow as a writer. You will be amazed by the work you produce. Only by being cornered to produce, will you grow at a faster rate than otherwise.

2. Your new best friend is having a deadline.

Professional writers have deadlines. Give yourself some. I’m not talking about goals like I want to write 2500 words a day sort of goals. I’m talking hard deadlines where other people are waiting for your work. If you’re trying to finish that “first book” then pay for an editor before you finish the story. It sounds crazy but most editors (at least the good ones) are months out until they can take on a new client. Pay and get on the list. This way you are invested in the task. You’ve made a commitment to both yourself and the editor. You’re making a “blood oath” so to speak that they’ll have your manuscript in hand in “X” amount of days, weeks or months. Professionals only work under deadlines like these. Get some!

3. Make a place to write.

Not everyone has a beautiful oak carved desk with matching built-in shelves in a home office. Sure it would be nice, but most of us live in the real world. This doesn’t mean go kick your kids out of their bedroom just so you can have an office, but it does mean you need to make a space of your own. It could be a small computer desk in the corner of the front room, bedroom, or even in a closet (if you have a large walk in). Find a space that’s yours and yours only. Remember, you’re a professional. Your area is only for you. I have friends who write in trailers, rent office spaces away from home, and make a space somehow. Wherever your space is no matter how big or small, don’t let the kids do homework there. It’s YOUR SPACE! Ultimately, if something goes missing, is lost, or spilled on… it’s all on you. Taking responsibility is part of being a professional.

4. Make yourself a schedule.

Professionals have their life mapped out. They have a planner or calendar of some kind. It could be on their mobile devise, on a computer, on paper–just somehow get organized. If you have a blog, write down the days you need to post. Write down days and goals to meet your deadlines to others as well as yourself and then integrate it into your family schedule. One schedule to rule them all…

5. Live it.

This one is pretty easy to explain but the most difficult to do. You need to set your priorities.

6. Stay Educated in the Business.

Part of being a professional is staying up on trends. What are people in the field of writing talking about? You need to understand your profession and what’s working and what isn’t. If you read, research, and understand the business side of writing, it will only strengthen you and your standing in the industry.

Getting out of your comfort zone is hard. People don’t like it. It causes stress, inadequacy, and it brings your faults to the forefront. Nobody likes that. It’s hard work and it’s so much easier to coast through life at your own pace than to push yourself. Without that push however, you won’t see that growth that you’re looking for.

easy-chair

If you take these steps to move out of your comfort zone you’ll become a better writer, people will take you seriously, and your writing will show all your hard work and dedication you’ve put into your craft. Sure, it’s nice to sit back in your easy chair and coast through life dreaming of becoming something.  But, you’ll spend all your life dreaming instead of becoming anything. It’s time to put down the footrest and get up out of your chair. Get out of that comfort zone.

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).