Why Enter Pitch Contests?

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So on Monday we discussed why you don’t have to worry about other writers stealing your ideas when publicly sharing the pitch for your novel, and now I’d like to talk about the cheerier side of the coin: why enter pitch contests at all?

The idea behind the pitch contest is simple: it’s an opportunity for writers to pitch their novel to agents and editors online.

Now some of you may be wondering how this is any different from traditional querying. After all, querying is similar in that you’re pitching your story to an agent or editor in the hopes that they will be interested enough to see more.

Pitch contests, however, are entirely different for many reasons:

  • Different mindset. Agents and editors who participate in pitch contests go in with a different mindset than they do when facing the query slush pile. These are publishing professionals who are volunteering to check out the pitches and are actively looking for something to catch their eye. It’s faster (reading just a pitch is much quicker than a full query letter), the response is instant and it’s even a little exciting. The atmosphere is different than the traditional slush pile, and that alone can make all the difference.

  • One pitch, multiple viewers. The thing with query letters is that you can’t send the same exact query letter to fifty agents or editors at once (well, you can, but you probably won’t be very successful). While querying, you have to choose specific agents and editors to personalize your query to. You’re seeking them out and hoping that they’ll be interested.

    Not so with pitch contests. In a pitch contest, your single pitch may be viewed by dozens of agents and editors—including those you may not have thought to query. It’s one of the few opportunities writers have to throw their pitch out into the wild and see if they get any bites from any agent or editor trolling the pitch feed, and that alone is a huge advantage.

  • Support network. When pitch contests go live, there are often hundreds of writers who participate. You’re all in this together, and the nice thing is you can help each other out—whether it’s offering support, advice to tighten the pitch, or general feedback. As a bonus, when it’s on twitter, writers are able to retweet pitches they like to help them get attention. It’s also a great way to get to know other writers and make friendships along the way.

  • It works. I think this round-up tweet from @Shelley_Watters says it all:
In short, if you haven’t given pitch contests a try, I can’t recommend it more. There are two coming up in March, one hosted by WriteOnCon (which includes pitch critiques before the contest, which is basically gold even if you don’t enter the contest) and another hosted by Brenda Drake and company. If you have a manuscript ready for querying (or will in March), definitely mark the dates on your calendar!

Have you ever participated in a pitch contest or something of the like? What was your experience like?

Don’t Worry About Other Writers Stealing Your Ideas

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As most of you who follow me on Twitter probably know, I participated in #pitmad last Friday. For those of you who don’t know, #pitmad is Twitter pitch fest, where writers pitched their completed manuscripts to agents and editors in 133 characters (to make room for the hashtag).

It was a fun event, and a great opportunity for writers. If you haven’t participated in a pitch event before, I highly recommend you check it out the next time one comes around.

I noticed, however, that there were a few negative Nancies out there who would pop into the #pitmad stream ever so often and make a snarky remark to the effect of “I’m not sharing my idea so that another writer can steal it and make millions.”

I’m not looking down on these people—in fact, I understand where their fear comes from. When I first started writing, I too shared a fear of having my ideas (or other writings) stolen online. For the longest time I didn’t participate in any sort of competitions or online critiques because my skittishness got the best of me.

But then I started getting more involved in the interwebs, and wrote a lot more, and the ridiculousness of this fear became very apparent to me.

The thing is, sharing your pitch is probably the safest, least-risk inducing way of getting your work noticed. Why? The answer is simple: your idea is just an idea.

I’m not trying to demean your work, but an idea isn’t copyrightable (and if you don’t believe me, the government says so). Truth be told, original ideas don’t exist, and even if your idea somehow defied that rule, it still wouldn’t matter if someone stole it.

Why? Because as anyone who has tried to write a novel before knows, an idea is just an idea. It’s the seed of a novel, but it’s just that. Even if someone stole your completely original, totally brilliant idea, they’d still have to write a book to match up to that brilliance. And hell, maybe they would. Maybe they’d write it better than you did. But their book wouldn’t plagiarize your idea any more than Richelle Mead plagiarized Stephanie Meyers, or Meyers plagiarized Anne Rice, or Rice plagiarized Bram Stoker.

You see, they all wrote books based on a somewhat similar concept, but they wrote their own novels. They each wrote something different, because they each had a different take on a similar idea.

Anyone who has taken a writing class ever knows this very well: if you give a room full of students the same idea to write about, they will all write something different. Will there be similarities? Sure. But does that mean they somehow stole from each other? Does that mean their work shouldn’t be considered their work, or that it shouldn’t be considered original? Of course not.

The thing is, even if someone liked your pitch so much that they decided they wanted to write a book just like it, it wouldn’t matter. You’re already ahead of the game: you have a completed manuscript ready for pitching and they’re just scraping together ideas for a rough draft. And whatever they come up with based off of those 140 characters, I promise you, will be very different from whatever you wrote. And, there’s still the whole matter of getting it published, which, as you already know, isn’t so easy. So.

If you have to worry about something, worry about having your writing stolen if you post online. Worry about someone copying your blog posts and republishing them under their own name. Worry about people pirating your work and selling it for a profit.

But as for someone stealing your ideas? Don’t waste your energy.

What do you think? Feel free to disagree (or agree)! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

And on another note, there are TWO DAYS left to win a cover design for your e-book! Have you entered?

Romance in Writing: Don’t Force It

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It seems that nowadays the vast majority of novels have some aspect of romance intertwined into the plot. The why is understandable— romance is exciting, and real, and it's a part of our lives that we writers like to write about (and readers like to read about). As an added bonus, romantic subplots provide great plot opportunities, twists, moments for character growth and tension. It makes both readers and writers happy.

Sometimes romance is the core of the novel, sometimes it's a minor subplot, and oftentimes it fits somewhere in between. But while romance can work really well in novels of various genres, writers need to be careful not to force something into the writing that doesn't belong.

I once wrote a WIP where I had the romantic subplot all worked out: my protagonist was going to fall for Character A, while Character B fell for my protagonist. There would be unrequited love, and guilt, and all sorts of lovely tension-building things that I enjoy writing about. 

I wasn't very far into my first draft, however, when I realized I was going to have a problem—you see, Character B was very quickly falling for my protagonist, and while said protagonist was initially resisting his advances...well. Her resolve was weakening. And she didn't really care much about Character A after all.

I had a decision to make: I could either refocus my protagonist on her planned romantic interest for the rest of my WIP, or I could forget my original plan and just let the relationships play out the way they wanted to. I'll admit that at first I resisted a little—I had a plan already and I didn't really want to deviate from it—but I very quickly realized that Character B was a force to be reckoned with, and he wasn't settling for anything less than the serious romantic interest, whether I liked it or not. So I adjusted my plan, and in the end I'm confident that I got a better story out of it.

You see, there's this fascinating thing that sometimes happens with writing, and while it sounds slightly crazy to non-writers, it seems that many of us writers experience it whilst writing novels: sometimes the characters take a life of their own and start running the show. Sometimes those plans that we originally had while brainstorming simply don't interest our characters, because while we're writing and we really begin to understand our cast, we start to realize that sticking to the original plan doesn't always fit their character. Sometimes that means those romantic subplots that were going to be fabulous just aren't meant to be, and sometimes it means that you have to adjust the climax, or the plot twist, or various other important plot points throughout the course of the story.

When it comes to relationships, this is especially important to pay attention to.

The thing about romance, is that in order for it to work, there needs to be chemistry between the two parties. This is true for real life, and true for writing, so when two characters don't naturally start to flow towards each other in your writing, you don't want to force it. On the other hand, when two characters who you didn't plan to gravitate towards each other do, you may want to seriously consider letting it unfold the way it will.

After all, you may just be pleasantly surprised with the results if you do.

Have you ever read (or watched) a story where the relationships felt forced, or alternatively, the relationships worked very well? How did it affect the story?

Character Development: Morals & Ideology

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Every one of us lives by a different standard of morality with a unique worldview etched into us over the course of our lives, beginning with simple lessons in childhood and culminating with deep introspection of controversy sitting in the moral gray.

Just as you and I have different ways of viewing and interpreting the world, our characters should each be unique in their worldview and moral code. And it shouldn’t always reflect your own, either.

Each of our characters have (or should have) a history that shaped them into who they are. This very same history will also help to mold the way that they view the world, from their outlook on life (pessimist? optimist? realist?) to the rigidity (or not) of their sense of right and wrong.

Knowing this aspect of your characters is essential to both character development and plot. Throughout the course of your novel, your characters will be pushed to their limits and challenged in various ways—and knowing the basis of how they view the world is the foundation to the decisions that they make.

Here’s an example: in the Twilight series (Stephanie Meyer), the Cullens drink animal blood because they believe it’s immoral to hunt humans. Most other vampires, however, have accepted their human diet as part of their nature, and see nothing wrong with it. This makes the Cullens act very differently around Bella than other human-hunting vampires. Different worldviews. Different moral codes. Different decisions.

Another example: in Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi), Warner tries to manipulate Juliette into using her ability to torture people fighting against The Reestablishment. To Warner, it is a necessary part of living in a world torn apart by war, but Juliette refuses because she can’t bring herself to intentionally harm another human being. Different worldviews. Different moral codes. Different decisions.

There are many other examples out there, but they all lead back to the same conclusion: our worldview and moral code shapes our decisions, and they should affect our characters the same way.

Make a point not to neglect this aspect of character development—it is an essential part to truly understanding your characters and allowing them to act in a way shaped by their beliefs and understanding of the world.

How do you incorporate your characters morals and ideologies into your work?

Writing Discussion: Where Do Your Novel Ideas Begin?

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From the outside, novel-writing appears to be a somewhat nebulous process. Writers wrangle stories from sheer imagination and layer them with complexities and emotions, plot twists and character arcs that leave readers craving more.

The inception of that novel idea is often regarded with some wonder, even to writers. For some, the idea begins as a sentence, or a scene, or a world or situation. For others it begins with a character, or a line of dialogue, or a stray echo after a dream.

I’d like to hear from you: where do your novel ideas begin?

I am absolutely a character-based writer. Every one of my WIP ideas has started with a character, with a world and situation built around them. I find it very difficult to build a character to fit a story—instead, the story evolves from the character.

This is likely a large reason why I tend to neglect setting in my first drafts—I focus instead on learning about my characters, what makes them tick, what makes them them and worry about nailing down a setting in future revisions. Of course not all writers work like that, but character to me is the heart and soul of the novel. I could have a fantastic premise, but if I don’t have equally spectacular character to go with it, the idea fizzles away.

I’m well aware, however, that there are many writers who function quite differently—writers who create an intricate, interesting setting and fantastic premise long before they begin to think about who populates the world. And then there are writers who work somewhere in between—those who develop the two simultaneously and integrate them at the same time.

So now you tell me, writers: where do your novel ideas begin?

Over-Editing: Does it Exist?

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If you’ve visited this blog before, then chances are you know that I often emphasize the importance of editing. And with good reason—editing is essential to both improving a WIP and refining your skill as a writer.

But while writers often talk about working on their third or fourth (or tenth) draft and most of us are well aware that the editing doesn’t stop after the completion of a second draft or a few beta-read edits, the seemingly endless flow of edits begs the question: is there such a thing as editing too much?

It probably comes as little surprise to many of you to hear that creative individuals tend to share perfectionistic traits—particularly with their work. We truly are our greatest critic, and because of that, many writers often find themselves caught in a loop of endless edits.

Considering the enormous amount of rejection most writers must face, it’s easy to see why so many writers get so caught up in the editing stage that they never really reach completion. Letting our work go—whether to be self-published online or subjected to opinions from professionals in the publishing world—is a scary thing. And naturally, we want out work to be the best it can be before release—as it should be.

But eventually, you have to let your WIP graduate to the title of completed work. Eventually you have to accept that you’ve made your manuscript as good as you possibly can and it’s time to let it speak for itself.

Editing is an essential step to the writing process, but it is possible to overdo it. Because I promise you, your work will never be perfect—even traditionally published works contain grammatical and typographical errors. In your eyes, there will always be something to fix—whether it’s that sentence that still doesn’t sound just right or the possibly misplaced comma on page 193.

But if we never let our work try for the limelight, then we’re crushing its potential before it even had a chance. We’re killing the dream with fears and doubts and a reach for the impossible.

Don’t let a fear of rejection or less than perfection keep you from achieving your dreams. Edit your work until it’s the very best that you can make it, then stop. It’s time to let it go.

Have you ever fallen into the endless editing loop? Share your experiences in the comments below!

How to Rewrite Old WIPs Like a Pro

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So I've written in the past about how to know when it's time to shelve your WIP, and I've talked about how trunking your work doesn't mean the death of your novel, but I never really covered the afterlife of a trunked work: that is, the un-trunking. Ok, so un-trunking probably isn't a word, but hopefully you get what I mean.

I truly believe that nothing you write ever goes to waste — at least, not for writers. We learn and gain experience from every piece we write — whether it's an essay for school, or a report for work, or a poem scratched on the back of a napkin, or an 80k novel shoved in the drawer. You see, the great thing about putting WIPs that weren't working at the time away, is that nothing is stopping you from going back at a later time to bring them back to life. Or, if more drastic measures are necessary, cannibalizing its parts to create a completely new version of the novel.

Granted, rewriting a trunked WIP isn't skipping through a field of daisies whilst singing songs, but if you break it down into manageable steps, this seemingly daunting task can become significantly less overwhelming.

  1. Choose your soon-to-be reincarnated WIP wisely. Depending on how long your WIP has been sitting in the proverbial (or possibly literal) drawer and how much writing you've done between WIPs, you may have many WIPs to choose from when considering a rewrite. The key to a successful rewrite, however, begins with this crucial step.

    The good news is chances are, if you've become excited about a project again, or found new inspiration for an old WIP, you're headed in the right direction. We writers tend to have pretty decent instincts when it comes to what WIPs we're ready to work on, so just the fact that you're seriously considering rewriting an old WIP is a fantastic sign. The key is to make sure you choose a project that you're willing to put a lot of hard work, time and effort into. You need to be excited about your work in order to really be willing to put the time you'll need into it to create a decent rewrite. 

  2. Read it through (again). Before you begin any major rewrite, you need to re-familiarize yourself with your work. Since this is a trunked WIP, chances are it's been a while since you really took a good look at it, so now's the time to sit down and read from beginning to end.

    Depending on how long it's been since you wrote it, this step may be a bit painful, but if you're able to look at your old work, see the potential in it and cringe at your writing from however long ago at the same time, it's actually a good thing. It means you've grown as a writer, your writing skill has improved and you may very well have a potentially excellent rewrite on your hands.

    Note: now is NOT the time to edit. NO EDITING (seriously). Make notes on what you like, what you love and what you hate. Make a list of elements you'd like to keep in your rewrite and elements that need serious tweaking (or removal altogether). Now, however, is not the time to edit, because chances are you'll be ripping the WIP apart and completely rewriting large portions of it anyway. Any editing you do in this stage will very likely be altered or erased later on while rewriting. 

  3. Brainstorm. Now that you're familiar with your WIP and you have a list of elements you love and elements that need changing, it's time to delve deeper into the list. Brainstorm potential rewrite ideas — what works and what doesn't? Could you put it in a new setting? Rewrite the protagonist as someone new? Use the POV of a different character? Change the antagonist? Remember that you don't necessarily have to rewrite the same story — now's the time to consider maybe using the elements you like to create something entirely new. Push yourself to brainstorm new possibilities. You don't have to choose the craziest idea you put on your list, but you might surprise yourself with the scope of possibilities your WIP has. 

  4. Know where you're going with your new rewrite? Good. Now get to work. In other words: start writing. 

Have you ever rewritten or taken elements from a trunked WIP? What tips would you add to the list?

Write What You Know?

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Most writers hear pretty early on that you should write what you know. While many writers agree that writing what you know is key to genuine writing, others point to speculative and fantasy genres where much of the writing is clearly not based off of knowledge on the writer’s part and use that as proof that writing what you know isn’t sound advice.

The debate, I believe, depends largely on how you interpret those four words.

Taken literally, the “write what you know” adage could be seen as automatically disqualifying any novel with fantasy, supernatural or science-fiction elements. We obviously can’t write about magic, supernatural abilities and paranormal creatures from experience, and thus, can’t necessarily write what we know. 
But when applied to our characters experiences and surroundings, the “write what you know” adage couldn’t be more relevant.

You see, the key to making our readers experience what our characters are going through is to weave truths into the writing. When your protagonist is walking through a rainstorm in November, don’t just mention the rain—think back to the last time you were outside in a storm and describe how it felt. When your character is guilt-ridden over something he just did, don’t say he feels guilty—describe the heat flashes and nausea and fear that comes with every bout of guilt.

Writing what you know doesn’t mean that if you’re a single mother from Montana, you can only write about single mothers who live in Montana. Writing what you know doesn’t mean you have to move to Thailand to write a story set in the Far East.

The true meaning of write what you know is to draw from everyday life. It means you need to pay attention to the world and even the most simple of everyday occurrences, because you never know when you’ll need to relive a moment of your life in order to realistically write a similar experience for your book.

How do you interpret the "write what you know" adage? Do you utilize it in your writing?

How (Not) to Write Like a Master

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All writers strive to one day reach the literary level of the greats: Hemingway, Rowling, King, Tolkien, regardless of who your writing role model is, we all hope to be considered great writers.

Becoming a great writer, however, takes years of dedication, hard work, writing and writing. So for those of us interested in fast tracking our way to writerly stardom, here are a few shortcuts. As long as you don’t skip any, you’ll be well on your way to millions:

How to Write as Well as Hemingway, King or Rowling* 

Beginnings: 

  1. Irrelevant prologues. Prologues are the time to trick your readers into believing that they’re going to be reading about something entirely different from your actual WIP. Drone on about a character mentioned once on page 146, or throw in a high-speed car chase to your medieval fantasy novel for fun. It’s not like anyone actually reads them, anyway. 

  2. Long, arduous descriptions. Describe everything with meticulous detail. At least a page each should be dedicated to the color of the sky, the kind of trees outside, the animals going about their business and the exact physical description of every character (important and not), down to the shape of their eyebrows. 

  3. Itemization of your protagonist’s every move. Brushing teeth, tweezing eyebrows, shaving, preparing breakfast, choosing clothes—everything is relevant. After all, how are readers supposed to believe your characters are real if they don’t know their everyday routine? 

Middles: 

  1. Steal clich├ęs. The calm before the storm. Cute as a button. Tongue-in-cheek. Wakeup call. These phrases are popular because they are the essence of writing genius. Use as many as you can possibly squeeze into your writing, in fact go here and here to find more and use them all. 

  2. Uniform sentences. This one is a bit tricky, but essential nonetheless: every sentence must have the same amount of words. There are absolutely positively no exceptions to this rule, and the longer they are the better the sentence. Trust me on this because it’s the only way to truly hone the essence of sentence writing skills. 

  3. Impressive vocabulary. As a writer, it’s your duty to show the world the depths of your carefully honed vocabulary. Your characters don’t think—they surmise; nor do they speak—they pontificate. Use that hard-earned vocabulary so your readers may be awed at your superior intellect. 

Endings: 

  1. Monologuing villains. If your villain doesn’t have a five-page monologue in which he explicates the full details of his diabolical plot, you’re not doing it right. 

  2. Kill everyone. It’s how Shakespeare ended everything, and he’s a literary genius, so... 

  3. Inception. Was the whole novel a dream or reality? If you did your job correctly, your readers will never know. 

  4. The end...or is it? Don’t tie off loose ends—you’re just destroying future possibilities for sequels and series continuations. The more questions your readers have at the end of your book, the more likely they are to continue the series to find answers. 

With these simple steps, you’ll have your name permanently etched in the literary hall of fame in no time. You’re welcome.

*There are no shortcuts to becoming a great writer. This is a sarcastic post and none of these points are meant to be taken seriously. In fact, it’d probably be best if you avoided every one of those so-called shortcuts.

What so-called shortcuts do you have for writing like the masters?

How to Think of Blog Post Ideas

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For roughly a year and a half now, I’ve written blog posts three times a week. I haven’t made any changes to the blogging schedule because I believe it’s important as a writer and a blogger to post consistently, and as of yet, I’ve never missed a day. I’ve also never run out of ideas.

Well.

That last part is a little misleading. Saying that I’ve never run out of ideas makes it sound like over the course of the last year and a half, I’ve never had a day where I wasn’t sure what I was going to post about, which is nowhere near the truth. I have, in fact, often had days where I stared at the screen, wondering how in the world I was going to come up with and write a post over the course of the next twenty-four hours.

But being the stubborn, stick-to-the-schedule person I am, I’ve always managed to wring a topic out of the air, one way or another.

The truth is, there’s nothing mystical about thinking up blog post ideas. While some days I’m lucky and the idea will just make itself known to me with little effort on my part, most days I have to go looking for ideas. Lucky for me, I have plenty of sources of inspiration all around me. Such as…

  • The blog archives. For those of you who run a blog, I highly recommend keeping a blog archive list. The funny thing about blog archives, is that while I originally created mine to make it easy for readers to dig through my old posts, I soon realized it was just as useful for me as it was for my readers.

    You see, when your posts start reaching triple digits (and even before that), it can start to become a little tricky to keep track of what you’ve written about and what you’ve missed. When I’m searching for blog post inspiration, I nearly always start by scrolling through my archives: not only does it keep me from unintentionally rewriting an old post, but it gives me a general idea as to what areas I could explore more in, and what areas are already well-saturated with posts.

  • The brainstorming list. I’ve written in the past about how helpful it is to keep a running list of ideas (both for writing and blogging), and this is a large part of the reason why. When I’m low on ideas and searching the archives isn’t helping, I often turn to my brainstorming list and either spend some time thinking up new ideas, or choose one that I’ve already thought of but haven’t written about yet.

  • Life. You’d be surprised how many ideas you can generate just from your everyday life. I’ll often turn to a problem I’ve recently encountered in my WIP, or a stage of writing I’m in, or a book I’ve recently read to try to think up of some blog post ideas. Another great life source is current events: whether in publishing or just a topic that’s trending online (that’s related to whatever you post about, of course), writing about current events or topics is a great way to tap into a collective discussion online. 

These are just a couple examples of places I find blog post inspiration from—now I want to hear from you. Where do you find blog post or writing inspiration?

The Cure to Resistance in Writing

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When working on the first draft of a WIP, writers will often hit this point when the writing no longer feels like cooperating. The words that once came easy now feel like are wading through an ocean of maple syrup to get to you. Sometimes even knowing where you're going with the writing does little to help—the words fight you anyway.

For some people, this stage comes in the middle of the WIP, for others it strikes shortly after the beginning or even at the end. The when doesn't really matter—the point is that it often strikes, sometimes randomly, often unexpectedly, and it can be very difficult to get through.

For me, I've noticed that I tend to slow down at the end. Even when I know exactly how the WIP will end, even when I have a scene-by-scene breakdown, I often find that for me, the end is the hardest part to write. I'm not sure if it's the pressure of trying to write an ending that simultaneously excites and ties up loose ends and creates a sense of closure, but my point of resistance invariably strikes as I near the completion of the first draft of my WIP.

The trouble is that there isn't a guaranteed cure. There isn't a special book you can read, or diet you can eat that will magically make the words start to flow like they did before you hit the resistance. There's only one thing you can really do to get through it, and it's the one thing that at that point in time, you'll find most difficult.

You have to write.

The truth is this: the only cure for the point of resistance is to force yourself to get through it. To write even when writing is difficult. To break through the resistance with the only weapon you have—your words.

Sometimes the resistance breaks quickly and the words return as normal, and sometimes it takes many thousands of words and days or weeks of fighting to emerge victorious. But as long as you fight through it, you'll find the words again soon.

What tips do you have for writing through resistance? Do you have a common resistance point?

The Heart of Social Media

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Social media is a funny thing. When offline, people tend to talk about it in terms of promotional use—how many people they can get to see the ad about their book or business, how many followers they can get on Twitter or likes on Facebook and how many people in turn buy their product.

And I’m not going to pretend that social media isn’t great for that—just about every business knows that social media is key to getting exposure and ultimately getting clients or buyers. But the thing is, social media isn’t just about the numbers—if it was, it wouldn’t work because all we’d do is spam each other with Follow me!s and Buy my book!s and Hire me now!s and God knows that’s not what social media is about.

The heart of social media is something that I didn’t really discover until I was neck-deep in Twitter and tumblr and Facebook. I went in expecting it to be very much about the numbers, but I quickly realized it was about something else entirely: it was about the people. The relationships. The connections. It’s about helping and encouraging each other and celebrating victories as a community and mourning tragedies together.

The heart of social media is the community. It’s you and me. Your first Twitter follower and your last Facebook like and everyone in between. And that’s something that we should all be thankful for.

I’ve found that the writing community is especially wonderful—you see, the nice thing about us is that we can be genuinely happy for every new writer that gets signed or book that gets published, because the beauty of it is that we aren’t really each other’s competition. Many products rely on the fact that a buyer will only choose one product—one iPad or Surface or Android tablet. Writers, however, don’t live in that kind of cutthroat competitive environment—readers can and will buy multiple books, so when a new author is signed or a new book is published, we don’t have to feel threatened. We can be genuinely happy and help each other.

When used correctly, social media is truly a fantastic asset and using it is a joy. It enables us to be kind and lend a helping hand with minimal cost or effort, and it gives us opportunities to make new connections and relationships that would have been impossible otherwise. We are the heart of social media.

As an example of this, I’d like to give a shout-out to one of my favorite authors Beth Revis (Across the Universe), who is currently running a very cool contest with authors Marie Lu (Legend), Marissa Meyer (Cinder), Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch) and Megan Shepherd (The Madman's Daughter) called Bringing YA to You.

In short, these five authors will be taking a book tour trip to any city in the continental US or Canada that gets the most votes, so if you’ve ever wanted a YA book tour to take a trip to your hometown, now’s your chance to speak up and let them know. All you have to do to enter is fill out this form and you get extra votes for spreading the word about the contest. It seems like a really fun way to get readers involved and gives everyone a unique opportunity to have a say in where the book tour will go, so I wanted to share it with you guys. As a bonus, if you share the word about the contest, you could qualify to win ten signed books from the authors. Pretty cool, right?

The thing is, contests, giveaways and opportunities like these to really get readers involved would be impossible without social media. And if you ask me, there’s something really special about that.

So let’s make a point to remember to keep social media special and support each other this year, and it can start right here: what blog or social media account would you like to give a shout-out to?

First Ever E-Book Cover Design Giveaway

Photo credit: Mine
So remember that exciting thing I hinted about on my New Years roundup post? Yep. This is it.

Writability is roughly a year and a half old and for one reason or another, I’ve never had a giveaway, so I thought this would be a really fun way to kick off the New Year and tell you guys about the re-launch of my book cover design services. So!

Some of you may remember way back when I announced that I am now officially accepting submissions for book cover design work. In short, I’m also an artist as well as a writer, so the opportunity to be able to combine my love for books with my love for art is one that I won’t pass up. For an example of some of my work (beside the cover mock-up used for this post), you can check out my deviantart page.

While there will be a new page describing all the new details and fiddly-bits soon, let me tell you about the awesome giveaway.

I want to design an e-book book cover, bookmark or banner for you. For free. Should you win, all you would have to pay for is the cost of any stock images you wanted to use (which are optional). Considering these services usually run plus a hundred dollars, I think it’s a pretty exciting opportunity. The only thing I would ask is that you let me show everyone your shiny new awesome cover by putting it in my portfolio.

The best part is winning is easy—all you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. There are tons of ways to gain entries, and if you’re a follower of this blog, then congratulations! You already qualify. All you have to do is submit your entry below.

Now some of you without books in need of e-book covers may be wondering whether or not to enter. Even if you don’t have a book, I can also create blog or website banners (book-related or not), or you could always create one for fun. It’s all up to you.

The giveaway will run throughout this entire month and the winner will be announced on Monday, February 4th.

So what are you waiting for?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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