The only question I get more than “Where are you now?” or “What do you write?” is “How did you do [THIS]?” in regards to writing or illustrating books and building a website.
Sharing is caring so I’ve started a list of things I’ve learned and resources I personally am using in my creative career. I hope you’ll find some of the information useful, and if you’d like to talk more about my personal experience, email me at email@example.com. I am happy to answer any questions–we’re in the creative trenches together. And for those mentioned below, I am grateful for your expertise–thank you for being you.
Lessons Learned During My First Book Signing Event
Software, Resources & Subscriptions I Use
Scrivener is my writing savior, my go-to writing app. I have it on my computer and my iPad. I won’t leave home without it. When I first started writing, I wrote in Microsoft Word. And then I learned about Scrivener (cue Pharrell William’s “Happy” music). Scrivener allows me to write by scene, or by chapter. It allows me to outline, move chapters around with a click and drag. I can take notes and comments in Scrivener. I can store all of my research links and images in the same frigging file. It’s awesome. When I reach the final stage of the manuscript, I export the Scrivener file to Microsoft Word and send it to my editors where they add their comments in Track Changes. From this point, I keep the file in Word, but almost the entire life of the novel happens in Scrivener. I’m so enthusiastic about it, I’ve become an affiliate, so if you’re interested in giving writing a serious whirl, click on the below and a small percentage will come to me which will help fund the Tiger Drive Scholarship. Let me know if you have any questions.
Click below for PC version:
Grammarly is an online tool to check your grammar. There is a free option that covers 250 grammar rules (try this first) and a paid premium plan (the one I use) that checks for 400+ grammar rules. Having Grammarly is like having a second pair of eyes for my newsletters, emails, and my novels. I can export full chapters into Grammarly to check them, or cut and paste passages I’m not confident about. (I just cut and pasted this into Grammarly and it gave me a score of 95. I was docked for a “preposition at the end of the sentence.”)
Sketchbook Pro by AutoDesk is my go-to drawing app. I drew all of my illustrations for my children’s picture books (one of which was shared by Kathie Lee Gifford as a Favorite Thing on TODAY) using the Sketchbook Pro software*.
Vellum.pub is an app that allows indie publishers to format their books beautifully and professionally. Truth be told, I know some small publishing houses that are using Vellum.pub. I used it for TIGER DRIVE. Even if you don’t want to sell your book commercially–perhaps you’re helping your mom write her memoirs (as I did with my mom at one point)–this software is crazy easy to use and it will produce print and digital files that are easily uploaded to your preferred publisher and/or vendors.
99Designs is an online community of freelance artists. I’ve used 99Designs for five book covers as well as one tattoo (not for me, but to illustrate a tattoo the character, WJ, has in TIGER DRIVE). 99Designs handles the licensing and the payment to the designer of your choice. You can choose a designer by reviewing their portfolio and working directly with them (usually less expensive since work is guaranteed and you can negotiate the price directly with the artist) or you can run a contest (99Designs charges a set price). For my covers and the tattoo, I ran contests and dozens of talented artists participated from all over the world. I have since started working directly with one of the designers for future covers, but still through 99Designs.
Click image to try via my affiliation:
Dreamhost is who I use to register and purchase my domains (website addresses). They partner with WordPress and provide DreamPress. WordPress/Dreampress is where I create and update my website (don’t worry, they provide templates or “themes”). I love Dreamhost and their partnership with WordPress. Their support team is awesome and responsive. I have never had any website problems, hacks, or shutdowns.
Click image to access
SQUARE: I use SQUARE magstripe to process my book sales at conferences, signing events, and book clubs. It doesn’t matter if you are traditionally published or self-published, I highly recommend that you carry copies of your books with you on trips, in the trunk of your car, just everywhere you can stash a few. Always be prepared, so if anyone asks you where they can get a copy, you can tell about your vendors and also offer to sell them one on the spot (which you can do with a SQUARE). If you use this link, Square will waive the processing fees of your first $1,000 in sales.
Books I Love On Writing
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
On Writing–A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Story Genius by Lisa Cron (I also took the workshop via Author Accelerator, see above)
Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
On Grammar and Composition
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Self-editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King
Chicago Manual of Style. This is the manual most widely adhered to for fiction writing. It’s an annual paid subscription and excellent reference tool. Most editors will use it too.
On Publishing & Career
The Business of Being A Writer by Jane Friedman
10 Step Self-Publishing BOOT CAMP by S. K. Quinn (Update: I just found out that S.K. Quinn is changing direction and is no longer selling this book. Our loss! I’m sure she will be awesome with her new endeavor.)
The Hot Sheet with Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson. This is the “essential publishing industry newsletter for authors.” It’s a paid-for subscription that is inexpensive but every other Wednesday it summarizes the current news in the publishing industry.
Deborah Halverson, DearEditor.com
Courses I’ve Taken & Recommend
Author Accelerator: Author Accelerator offers a variety of packages and programs for writers at all levels. I’ve used three of their services so far. If you don’t know where to begin a story, I recommend taking Story Genius. If you have a story but need a routine and weekly feedback, I recommend their Basic Book Coaching. It’s a monthly package and you submit at least ten pages a week and get feedback from your editor and coach. If you have a completed manuscript and would like overall feedback, I highly recommend the Manuscript Evaluation.
Kicks Ass Creations: Kelsey Browning is one of my favorite coaches. She knocks out all your excuses and gets your butt in the chair or wherever it needs to be to start and finish your project. I’ve taken Big Creative Project (Get it done in 30 days) and What the F*ck Do I Do Now? (…Stop Wishing and Start Doing).
Ann Linquist’s Beginning Writers Workshop: Though I took this online course in 2011, it still exists and works. It really helped establish a habit of writing each week, and funny enough, I left the course with the first 500 words of Tiger Drive–-which is now published!
We Grow Media Mastermind: Dan Blank hosts a collaborative group of ~10 creative individuals. Each session is three months long. I did two Masterminds. Dan has continued to evolve this mastermind so while I can’t share any specific feedback about his current session, I can say that I’ve made sixty-plus writing friends and continue to collaborate with several of them. Dan Blank also has a book I like, Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.
Decoding Your Rejections: Getting Beyond Form Letters to Find Your Success, Writer’s Digest Webinar w/Carly Watters, VP, Senior Literary Agent, P.S. Literary Agency. Hands down, the best webinar with an agent about the querying process. Carly Watters is savvy. She even shares how agents face rejection from publishers, and sometimes authors, on a regular basis. Sharing great stories is a passion for all involved, but it’s also a business, and a product must sell to support it. Be informed. Try to find this webinar.
*Basics to Sketchbook Pro 6 for Beginners Tutorial by Toonbox Studios (I honestly learned to use Sketchbook Pro and to draw from this single video, watched numerous times of course) This guy has tons of videos on YouTube and I’ve subscribed to him. I’ve also taken a few of his courses on his site.
Wacom Bamboo Connect Pen Tablet (CTL470): Digital drawing table that connects to my computer. I’ve had mine for several years. I’m sure the newer versions are awesome, too.
On Writing Memoirs
The Best Way to Meet Your Parents (my post)
(header image “for writers” created on Canva.com-a free and fun image/meme making resource)