Wednesday, December 6, 2023

How to Write a Book Review

The IWSG question of the month: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book review do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author? 

I would argue that book reviews are not only for readers, but for authors as well, and not just for the author of the book being reviewed, but for authors of similar books. They help us get a feel for our readers, what they like and dislike. They help us write better books, and they help us with marketing those books. 

So it’s important to know how to write a book review 

1. Most people would suggest you start with a brief summary of what the book was about, but when reading a review, I generally skip over this part because I’ve already read the blurb. But if you do include this, try to avoid spoilers. 

2. Share what you liked about a book. Did you like the characters, the pace of the story, particular scenes? Did the book keep you guessing or was it an engrossing page-turner. How did the book make you feel? Did it make you laugh or cry? 

3. Share what you didn’t like about the book. I’m guessing most authors wouldn’t like this part, but a well-rounded review has more weight than one that only talks about the best bits. Maybe the book had a cliffhanger or left you unsatisfied. Maybe the book wasn’t what you had expected. Maybe the characters were unlikable. 

4. Would you recommend this book to others? If so, who? 

Reviews don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be eloquent. Us authors appreciate any form they come in. A review is a way of spreading the word about the book. The algorithms of online retailers favor books with many reviews. 

Remember, every review helps.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

5 Benefits of Writing Quickly #IWSG

With November, comes the NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.  It's a nonprofit organization that challenges us to write 50k words in the month of November. I have done the challenge for many years on and off, depending on busyness. 

Wielder's Prize was the first novel I wrote via the challenge. Sitting at around 80k words, it obviously got extra attention after the challenge finished, but it gave me such a great kick start. I learned a lot about the benefits of writing that dreaded first draft quickly.

While I have written a post about the Advantages of Writing a Fast First Draft, I would like to expand on the benefits. Writing quickly means:

1. Setting aside that inner editor.

While it's great to have an analytical inner editor, during the story creation, it can slow down the process  too much. That inner editor can trip us up and become a hindrance. We end up using it as a procrastination tool. For example, if you're stuck on a story beat, you might go back and start editing earlier content. You call it writing, but really it has stopped you from facing a hurdle that needs jumping. 

If, instead, you're focused on writing the story down quickly, knowing you'll edit later, you can tackle those tricky plot problems that might crop up, the beats, the characters, the actual story.

2. Keeps you focused on the big picture.

Writing quickly helps you remember those plot threads you've woven into the story, to keep them consistent. It helps you work on the pacing and the general flow. When you stop after a page or a paragraph to do something else, you have to return and waste time reminding yourself where you were up to. Often the flow is forgotten, the pace becomes jerky, or a character has changed traits. It becomes harder to fix later.

When writing that first draft, staying focused on the bigger picture is so important. It's so much easier when you reduce the breaks between writing.

3. Helps to avoid overthinking.

Fear and doubt are a writer's worst enemy. We might come up with a brilliant idea, but if we overwork it, start questioning it, or have time to doubt ourselves, then it will die before it even had a chance. Writing quickly pushes all that aside until we can get a proper grasp on the story.

4. More productivity.

Productivity means more stories and more sales. When someone finds your book and loves it, they'll go looking for more of your books. The best way to have more is, obviously, to write more. The bigger your backlist, the easier it is to sell. So rather than deliberating over a phrase here and there before even completing the story, leave that minutiae for the editing phase.

5. Stops us wasting precious time.

I'm guilty of spending too much time on a scene before finishing the first draft. When it came to editing, I ended up deleting that scene. Sometimes you won't know if a section works until you've finished the rest of the story. Why waste time on it before you know if it's there to stay?

What holds you back from writing quickly? If you've participated in NaNoWriMo, what benefits did you discover?

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Why AI Won’t Replace Writers #IWSG

When I was first introduced to AI for writing, I was truly impressed by what it could generate. As a test, I gave it some parameters and watched it come up with a whole story idea. I got it to break the story down to chapter titles and then I even asked it to write a chapter in full. 


It was amazing. 

It wasn’t perfect, though. 

Among other things, it followed clear tropes, which isn’t too bad for genre writing. But it became very tropey, with no surprises, which in turn made it bland. This became more obvious when I gave it different story ideas to explore. The more examples I asked from it, the less impressive it became. All the stories the AI gave me were basically the same. Even the style of writing was bland, lacking atmosphere and imagery. 

While this will improve over time, I still don’t believe AI will wholly replace us. Why? 

Because AI lacks that special touch humanity brings to a story. We offer stories that are unexpected, we offer a different perspective, we can capture those special moments that shine when taken from our own unique take on the world. 

How then can AI help us? 

It can do those tasks a lot of us don’t enjoy. It writes great advertising. It can help us break down our already written story into an exciting blurb. It can help us with taglines and synopses. It can shorten research time. It can even help us through a writer’s block by suggesting possible solutions when we’ve written our characters into a corner. And so much more. It's like an assistant who is super helpful when you know what questions to ask.

AI is a tool to enhance our creativity. The best thing we can do is embrace it, to learn how best to use it, and reap the benefits. 

What are your thoughts on AI for writers?

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

IWSG 12th Anniversary

In case you haven't heard, the IWSG is short for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. It was established on the blogsphere twelve years ago by our Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's free to join and has kept me blogging for way longer than I had realised. Where did that time go? 

Each month we come together to post about our great writerly news, our writing insecurities, to encourage and support each other, or to simply connect with like-minded people. Each month we have an option question to answer too. The question this month asks, When did you discover the IWSG, how do you connect, and how has it helped you?

I was there at the beginning when the group first formed. For a while I was even one of the administrators, helping to set up the IWSG website, building and maintaining the About Us page and the Publishers, Agents, Queries resource page. I even helped out in the Facebook group and the behind the scenes work on some of the early books produced by the group, and a bunch of other stuff. 

Over the years, I've met so many wonderful writers from all over the world. The support from this community has been unparalleled. When I published my six books, I don't think I would've found the same success without the help I received from the friends I formed -- the critique partnerships, the encouragement, the glowing reviews, the help spreading word. 

I'm still writing because of you guys, so thank you. 

If you haven't read any of my books yet, and love Fantasy Adventure, then check out my Wielder's Storm Trilogy Box Set, or the individual books: Wielder's Prize, Wielder's Curse, Wielder's Fire. I also have a fantasy novella available, Well of Ash

And for something different, I have Cling to God: A 365-Day Devotional. If you're looking for inspirational Christian thoughts for each day of the year, then please consider this book.

More novels will be coming next year. It takes longer to write multiple books at the same time. Who knew? I had hoped to publish again this year, but there's been a lot of disruptions to life in general. Despite that, my plan is to add science fiction to my collection as well as fantasy. More on that later.

So, how about you? How has the IWSG helped you?

Note: This post is prescheduled. Yep, I'm away again (an example of one of those necessary disruptions). When I get back, I'll do the rounds to say hi.

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Writing Regrets #IWSG

Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

This is the IWSG question of the month.  

My debut novel was Wielder's Prize, a YA Fantasy Adventure. I'd done my research, read heaps of fantasy novels, heaps of young adult novels, heaps of young adult fantasy novels. I was pretty sure I knew the market. It was a story I was super proud of and happy to share with the world. What I hadn't expected was that for some people, the portrayal of physical abuse is a trigger--a bigger one than I had anticipated. And I portray it early in the story. I feared it had an impact on sales, because those people were loudly vocal about their feelings in their reviews. While the majority of my reviews were four stars or higher, I never wanted people to feel uncomfortable, and while we can't please everyone, I wanted to do something about it. 

The situation my main character grew up in was integral to the story, so it wasn't just a matter of taking that portion out entirely. The whole point of the overarching story across the three books was the importance of forgiveness. So, I came to a compromise and revisited the beginning of the story so that the abuse is softened greatly. It will still be a trigger for some. That I can't change. But I hope that I've made it less uncomfortable when there are already enough things in this world that are grim.

Having learnt that lesson, I now steer clear of anything that's remotely controversial. I applaud writers who can tackle those difficult subjects, but for myself, I just want to offer exciting, escapist reads.

How about you? Ever feel conflicted about something you wrote?

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Where Ideas Come From #IWSG

The July IWSG question of the month: Where do you get your ideas?

While this is the most common question posed to writers, it's also the most difficult to nail down. I don't think my ideas come from one place. They blossom from anywhere and everywhere. An idea can germinate from anything I see, hear, smell, feel. It's probably why, during the pandemic, I had so few ideas to play with, because I was holed up with little-to-no creative input. 

Ideas need seeds from which to grow. The seeds are our life experiences. 

The snippet of a half-heard conversation. A stranger's unusual gait. The way the city smells after rain. A dream. A movie. A book. A single sentence spoken in whispers. A new technology.

Nothing is safe from a writer.

So, if you're struggling to come up with new ideas, stop stressing and start living. Take the time to pay attention to this wonderful world around us. Read more. Take in a slow breath, and start wondering what if...

Where do you get your ideas?

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Pull of Creativity #IWSG

The IWSG question of the month: If you ever stopped writing, what would you replace it with? 

Many writers say they write because they must. There’s something deep down inside that drives them to string words into stories. I too have a similar drive, but it’s less specific. For me, it doesn’t have to be words. It’s anything creative. If it includes storytelling in some form, then that's even better.

Consequently, I tend to oscillate between art, writing and music. I’ve pursued animation, game design, graphic design, photography, music composition, piano, ai art, card making, sculpture, even cooking can be creative in a way. They all bring a quality of peace that eases the need to express myself.

As long as I’m doing something creative, I’m happy. 

How about you? If you couldn’t write, what would you do instead? 

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Aussie Phrases and A New Release #IWSG

The first Wednesday of the month is IWSG Day. This group is all about support, so today, I'm hosting hosting L. Diane Wolfe to support her new release. Take it away, Diane. 

Hello to Lynda’s friends and fans!

She asked me about Aussie words and paranormal romance. So, my answer here will be two-fold.

When I was crafting The Shark, I asked Lynda about phrases that were popular in Australia in the early 90’s when the story is set. While I didn’t use all of them, I used a few, and some really amused me.

Chucking the wobbly – getting angry and showing it

Arvo – the afternoon (much shorter which is nice)

I’m a happy little vegemite – do a search for the commercial, it’s so funny

I feel daggy – comfortable but unfashionable (my daily attire apparently)

To chuck a sickie – take a sick day off (maybe because you are chucking)

And from Lynda’s comments, apparently they say dunno a lot, too!

As for paranormal romance…

I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. I don’t read romances but I like that element in the genres I do read.

Paranormal encompasses a wide variety of fantasy/horror/speculative elements and creatures. As thus, my series contains an assortment of paranormal critters. The first in the In Darkness series was The Vampire, set in a medieval type of fantasy world. This next release, The Shark, is more contemporary and set in 1990’s Australia. The third, The Werewolf, is set in mid-80’s England. The Alien, set in the far future, is a stretch for paranormal but I do have plans!

The Shark is paranormal because…well...Clarence is a talking shark. Is he a shifter? An anomaly? What is the story behind this great white shark who can speak?

I also have a huge fascination with great white sharks, but that’s for another post!

Thank you, Lynda.

In Darkness: The Shark
By L. Diane Wolfe

Souls shrouded in darkness…

Focused on her studies and duties at the aquarium, Jewels prefers her solitary life. Burned many times and short on trust, she has more in common with her aquatic friends than the people around her. But she never imagined coming face to face with a shark named Clarence…a shark who talks!

As their friendship grows, Jewels must overcome her deep set mistrust. There are dangers, both in the Australian ocean and on dry land. Can Jewels depend on the great white or will his animal nature betray her?

Release date - May 9, 2023
Romance/Paranormal - Fantasy/Paranormal - Fantasy/Romance
eBook ISBN 9781939844910 $3.99

A professional speaker and author, L. Diane Wolfe conducts seminars, offers book formatting, and author consultation. She’s the senior editor at Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. and contributes to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
Spunk On A Stick
Spunk On A Stick’s Tips
Insecure Writer’s Support Group

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Wednesday, April 5, 2023

A Writer's Dreams vs Reality #IWSG

So, I started a new Instagram account. The old one no longer exists. You can find my new one here: @Elle.Cardy

I'd really appreciate it if you could like and follow my new account.


IWSG Question of the month: Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you? If you're at the start of the journey, what are your goals? 

When I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, full of unrealised dreams, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had no idea how to make that a reality. All I wanted was for my stories to be in every bookshop across the world and to have movies made from my books. Not too much to ask, right? 

I shake my head at my younger self. At that stage, I hadn’t even written a book. So that’s where I started. I threw everything into it. If I only could’ve won on enthusiasm alone. 

First mistake: Other than reading a lot of my favourite genre, I did no research. I had no idea what made a good book, structurally or otherwise. Consequently, my first book was not up to scratch. It was insanely long. Some chapters were 10k plus words. For a single chapter! And that’s just one of its many flaws. 

I had no idea how to approach agents and publishers. Which agents? Which publishers? What was a query letter? What was a synopsis? I hadn’t even wondered how to get my story across in any form of interesting manner that might pique ANYone’s interest. Erm, it’s a fantasy. Lots of adventure and stuff. You’ll love it. 

I soon realised this dream of mine wasn’t going to fall into my lap. I finally did the research. How to write, how to structure, how to edit. I also researched my genre of choice, preferable book lengths, chapter lengths, story beats. And I wrote a whole new book. Then I edited it and edited it some more. Then delved into the business part: finding an agent. 

Second mistake: I gave up too easily. I convinced myself my new book wasn’t good enough. So I stopped looking for an agent and started writing another book. (As if I couldn’t do the two things at the same time). I went through the process again. And did the same thing again. 

Then life got in the way. 

When I finally got back to writing and publishing, life had taught me a tough lesson: It’s short. After some mighty rough times, I wanted control back. So, I took the self-publishing route and haven’t looked back since. 

I’m proud of my books. I love the stories I’ve written. I’m living the dream where I can continue to write what I want, when I want, all within the parameters based on my research of what readers want to read. Life is continuing to throw those nasty curveballs, but I’m not stressed about my writing. As long as people are still reading my stories and enjoying them, then I’m in a good place. And that makes me smile. 

What makes you smile? 


Wielder's Prize, Wielder's Curse, Wielder's Fire

Wielder's Storm Trilogy Box Set

Well of Ash a fantasy novella.


This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.




Note: I'm not actually here. I'm 6.5 hours away visiting family again for a week. When I'm back, I'll tour around the blogsphere to say hi.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Author Envy #IWSG

The IWSG question of the month: Do you ever get Author envy?

My answer is yes, of course. But I want to add that not all envy is bad. Here's why:

When we look at the success of other authors, not only can envy come for a ride, but with it a desire to analyze how that author found success. In many ways, envy can become a drive to improve the way we write, the way we market. It may bring with it the crucial questions we need to ask ourselves: What does it take to become successful? What is success to me?

I once met a writer who thought his path to success was through writing novels. He tried this route for many years until he forced himself to stop and wonder why he found no satisfaction. That's when he asked the difficult questions and discovered the truth. He was a short story writer at heart. When he shifted his goals, he found not only satisfaction but success.

Everything I read inspires me in some way. When I read something exceptional, my analytical brain switches on and I ask myself what exactly is it that engaged me with the story? How has the writer tugged my emotional strings so perfectly? How can I improve my work so it touches readers in a similar way? When I read published work that I perceive as not as great yet seems to have found success, I remind myself  to stop delaying, stop striving for perfection and just get my stories out there. There's an audience for everyone. I just have to find mine.

Envy is only bad when you let it stop you from moving forward, when you fool yourself into thinking you'll never be good enough and give up. Keep improving, keep reading, keep writing and get your work out there.

What does success mean to you? Does envy drive you forward or hold you back? 

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.



Please note I'm actually away at the moment, visiting family. When I get back, I'll do the rounds across the blogsphere to say hi. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

On Book Covers #IWSG

The IWSG question for this month: If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover? 


When I was traditionally published: I had no say in the covers. As an artist, I find this hard, but the publishers usually know what they are doing and they want the best success for your book, so you just have to put your trust in them. Thankfully, I was happy with my covers.

When I was published by a small press: A couple, I had no input at all, but again they generated wonderful covers so it wasn't an issue. One, I did have input into the cover, but perhaps not as much as I wanted. It turned out fine, though.

When I self publish: I do my own covers. But I do a lot of research into what is popular for the genre I'm publishing. Doing my own covers takes a lot of time and I throw out many failed attempts. There is one book I haven't published yet because I simply can't get the cover right yet.

Please note I do NOT recommend any writer to do their own covers. Even if you have a artistic background, you may not be able to achieve that professional look. There's a lot behind creating the cover: the colors, the fonts, the whole psychology behind the images. Book covers are so very important to get right if you want to sell your book. It is the first impression your potential buyers will have. Don't risk it. Make it professional.

What elements are in some of your favorite book covers? What first draws you to a book?


This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Word of the Year #IWSG

Happy New Year everyone. 2023 is going to be a good one. I can feel it in my bones. To be honest, it's all about attitude. I've decided it's going to be a good year, so it will be a good year. So there.

The IWSG question of the month: Is there one word that sums up what you need to work on or change in the coming year? 

For me the word for 2023 is focus. Lately I've been getting easily distracted. I make big plans and then they don't eventuate because I go and make more big plans or change my mind or I just do something else. Not this year. This year is a focus year. I plan to complete a few more stories before I release them into the big wide world. I plan to read more, get out more, but mainly stay focused on getting things done. And staying positive while doing it.

How about you? What's your word for the year?

This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month, members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.