Category Archives: Writing Craft

Don’t Give Away Your Work for Free

Recently, I started posting an older publication of mine, chapter by chapter, in the hopes that it would let people sample my writing and grow their interest. I wrestled with myself a long time about it because I have strong opinions about not giving away your work for free. After all art is work. Yes, it can be fun but it’s still a job. And there’s nothing that peeves me more than people who expect to get your hard work for free.

After having some long conversations with myself, I decided that I was going to go ahead and post all of my first novella, Laszlo, on this blog, free of charge. However, partway through posting, I had a friend from work tell me that his neighbor had published a book about his time spent in prison.

My co-worker did a fantastic job selling the book (and he hadn’t even read it yet.) Needless to say, my interest was immediately piqued. After all, I like to learn and prison is a place that I’ve never been nor do I ever want to go. So what better way to learn than from a book written by someone who’s actually been there? I was very excited to read it. I went home that day and purchased it for five dollars on Amazon.

According to my Kindle, I got 20% through the book before I stopped. The summary of the piece on Amazon should’ve been a huge red flag that the quality of the writing inside the book wasn’t going to be much better. I hate bashing other artists’ work and I really wanted to give the author the benefit of the doubt. If I don’t care for someone else’s work, I won’t say anything but this piece was so horrible, I felt compelled to warn others.

The following is what I wrote about the piece:

“The Amazon summary of this book was a huge warning sign that the piece itself would be filled with errors but I wanted to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, I had to return it for a refund. This piece is filled with typographical errors, incorrect punctuation, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, incorrect verb tenses and mix-ups between plural and singular verbs and nouns. The author claims that this book has been edited (as per the very beginning) but not by anyone with a proper education, comprehension of the English language or the craft of writing. Frankly, it’s insulting to those who both respect and understand the craft of storytelling.

Overall, there is no story structure. It reads like a NaNoWriMo rough draft. There is also no variance between the author’s voice as a narrator and the dialogue of other people/characters. The idea for a story is there but it isn’t organized; one could say it’s a 200+ page rant. Some of the paragraphs are over two pages long. The book was originally published by Infinity Publications which (after going to their website) appears to be a cross between self-publishing and a vanity publisher. While I see nothing wrong with self-publishing, this is one of the many pitfalls. Books like this are why self-published authors receive a bad reputation.”

Not only were there quality issues, but I had some personal issues with the piece that caused me to stop reading. For instance, the author described every woman in the book by her bra size and breast shape. Occasionally there was an ass or thigh mentioned. In the beginning of the book, the author mentions that he doesn’t have a good relationship with his daughter. After seeing how he describes women as walking sex, I can see why. I hope for his daughter’s sake that she stays far away from him until he understands how to properly reintegrate into society.

It’s rare that I leave reviews on books but I’m trying to get better because the Golden Rule states to do unto others what you would want done to you.

Reviews can help sell books, so I’ve been trying to leave reviews on Goodreads or Amazon for every book I read. As stated before, I hate leaving a bad review. If I had written something and published it with that many errors, I would hope that someone would bring it to my attention, so that I could improve.

That was a long-winded explanation but this is ultimately why I stopped posting my work for free. I composed a story that may not be the best story ever written, but I took the time to think about voice and characterization. In taking the time to proofread and edit and get others to look at it, I actually cared about the craft and I think in large part that’s what separates the successful from the unsuccessful. Their passion.

When it comes to writing (and other forms of art), you have to have passion for the craft. A lot of people see writing as a get rich quick scheme. They think it would be easy to be sitting on a beach in Maui by this time next year.

The truth is- if it were easy, everyone would do it.

The other day I saw a meme that said, “Stop trying to skip the struggle.”

It’s easy to get discouraged when you release a book or a couple of books and you feel like you should be an overnight success. The thing about overnight successes is that while it appears to happen overnight from the outside looking in, the person it’s happening to has probably put a lot of work and years of struggle into making their vision a reality.

Going forward, I will continue to post excerpts and chapters from published works with links to the actual product. However, I will not be posting entire works for free. Art is work and if you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect anyone else to?

On Cover Art

They say never to judge a book by its cover. However, we all do it. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to. It’s human nature. When we see something we automatically start sizing it up as to whether we think we’re going to like it or not. This goes for more than just books. We do this with many things in our life such as what furniture to put in our homes and with which people we choose to spend our time.

Appearance means something.

When it comes to getting cover art for your work of fiction, it’s important to go the extra mile and get it done by a professional. When I first started publishing, I was guilty of going the cheaper route. I tried designing things myself, but I’m no graphic artist. I tried websites like Fiverr and purchased cheap cover art, but rarely ever was a satisfied that the product. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

There are many self published books out there with cover art that looks so cheap and poorly done that it makes you wonder about the quality of the book. I once brought this point up to a friend and that friend said to me, “maybe they want their book to look cheap and crappy.” What? I’m pretty sure I was being trolled as he was playing the devil’s advocate because seriously when you’re putting your work out there you’re baring your soul. Do you really want to look cheap and crappy?

I am a big fan of simplicity when it comes to cover art.

I’m not saying the cover art needs to be super fancy with lots of different layers and colors. Sometimes a simple cover is the best cover and holds the best stories. I see a lot of self-published authors making their own cover art. They layer so many things that don’t go together and don’t mix well. You don’t have to put every image or element of your story onto the cover! Leave some mystery. It would behoove them to pay for a professional artist who has experience in creating book cover designs.

It doesn’t take much. With a little research, you’ll be able to find plenty of people who are capable of doing the job. There are a lot of artists out there who are willing to work with you and provide you with a great product. After all, if you put so much of yourself – your blood, sweat, and tears – into your work, doesn’t it deserve to be presented in the best way possible?

Below are a few examples from artists I’ve worked with.

One of many works in progress. Design by FrinaArt.
Second in a series. Design by LaLimaDesign.
A new project that isn’t even fully outlined yet! Design by Sharnel.

Laszlo: Chapter 1

What you are about to read is my very first publication. I’m not overly proud of it but having found a few kind reviews online, it goes to show that even the work I’m not crazy about, is liked. If you don’t want to wait for me to continue to post chapter by chapter, the full work is available on Amazon, here.

Interested in reading a review? Here’s one I found from India!

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I. The Ravine

“This isn’t right. We should’ve been there by now,” said Noelle. She kept her left hand on the steering wheel and her right between her thighs. She reached over and turned the heat dial up a notch.  

“That nice old man said it would take a good hour and a half to get there,” Kim chimed from the backseat. Snuggled under a blanket, she flipped through the pages of a popular magazine and clicked her retainer on and off with her tongue. Ben turned around from the passenger seat and glared back at his friend. Kim smiled and stopped clicking.

“Thank you.” Ben returned to his previous occupation of staring out of the window.

“Can you check the radio again?” Kim looked up to see Noelle’s blue eyes in the rear view mirror.

“The signal isn’t strong enough.”

Ben reached over to switch on the radio but there was only static. The ghost of a voice passed but the signal struggled to reach through the mountains. “Are you sure you pulled the antennae out all the way?”

“Yes, for the last time. It’s a shitty car.”

“Just asking a question.”

“One that you’ve already asked twice.” Noelle switched the radio off and glanced towards Ben who was studying the darkness outside of the window. “What does the map say?”

He jerked his attention back to the map and fumbled with the flashlight. “The map says…we should have been there by now.”

“Maybe we should turn around.” Kim pulled a compact from her purse and reapplied her bright, Rockin’ Red lip gloss. “We could go back to Dunmore for the night.”

“No.” Noelle put more weight on the gas pedal. “We’re not turning back now. It can’t be much farther.” She looked at Kim through the rearview mirror. “I probably should have let you drive.”

Kim shrugged as she pulled her platinum hair up into a bun. “I wouldn’t be much good. Last time I saw my father was freshman year of college. That was six years ago. He wasn’t living out here at the time.”

“What’s this place called again?” Ben held the map closer to his face.  

“How are you reading that map if you don’t even know where we’re going?” Noelle asked.

“I know the general area.”

“Christ. You really are a waste of space.”

“Sitting right here, thanks.”

“If I didn’t want you to hear that I wouldn’t have said it.”  

“Can you guys not do this for ten minutes?” asked Kim.

Ben muttered an apology and went back to the map. “It’s not like it’s hard to find civilization on this thing. Whenever there’s a knot of roads, I know there is a city.”

“That’s fascinating but that doesn’t help us. We need to find civilization on this road.” Noelle saw Kim rummaging through the luggage in the mirror. “Snacks are in the cooler.”

“Music?”

“The player is in my bag. Front compartment.”

“Thanks.”

“We’ve been in the car for at least two hours without music and now you pull out the headphones?” asked Ben.

“It beats listening to my two best friends bicker.”

“We’re being good,” they argued simultaneously.

Kim smiled and shook her head. “Thank you guys for doing this.”

“You’re welcome,” said Noelle. Ben grunted in agreement.

Noelle waited and watched in the mirror while Kim inserted the headphones into her ears. The lights from the player’s LCD display coated her face in a soft blue hue. Her eyes, heavily lined with black makeup, were closed, and her lips moved to an unknown tune. There were numerous chains that hung around Kim’s neck baring different crosses and pendants. “She does have strong faith, I’ll give her that.”

Ben reached into the backpack at his feet and pulled out a thick woolen hat. “I’ll never understand it,” he said, stretching the cap over his bald, ebony scalp.

“Neither will I.”  

He glanced back at Kim before addressing Noelle again. “Do you think she suspects anything?”

Noelle shook her head. “No but if we don’t get to her dad’s house within the next hour, there won’t be anything to suspect.”

“Why couldn’t we have had the party on campus? I mean we’re grad students. We rule that place. We could’ve gotten whatever we asked for, I bet.”

“Too obvious. Trust me. She thinks she’s spending her birthday with her two best friends and her beloved father. She wouldn’t expect everyone else to drive all the way out here for spring break.”

“So what happens if we don’t find Elkins?”

“They’ll probably send out a search party if her dad is anything like the stories she tells.” Noelle turned the heat dial up another notch. “If we keep at this road we’re bound to find something. If it’s not Elkins then we’ll get better directions.”

Defeated, Ben turned the flashlight off and folded the map. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. “I think that old man in Dunmore was full of shit.”  

“In his defense, I’ve been driving below the posted speed limit. It’s unbelievable how dark it is out here. I expect a deer or something to dart across the road at any minute. And I can’t understand why we haven’t run into any village or passed another car. I know the Appalachians are more inhabited than this.”

“They probably don’t come out much once the sun goes down,” said Ben. “Nothing to do out here.”

“Yea, I’m not a huge fan of the cold either.”

“At least you don’t have to deal with shrinkage.”

Noelle laughed and looked back at Kim. The platinum bun on top of her head bobbed to the music. She was not paying any mind to their amiable behavior. Noelle turned her attention back to the road as the eyes of a large creature reflected the headlights. Noelle jammed her heel into the brake pedal and cut the wheel to the right. Ben dropped the flashlight and clutched onto anything he could find as the tires lost traction on the icy road, sending the car downhill.

Copyright © 2015 Regina Bethory. All Rights Reserved.

Interested in reading the whole thing? Laszlo (The Chronicles of Noelle, Book 1) is available here.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Baby Steps, Pacing, and Ye Holy Writing Time

As most of you know, NaNoWriMo 2018 has already begun. We are four days in and things are going rather well on my end. But as I promised, this month I will post two blogs a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays. And look! I’ve already fallen behind. But I’m okay with that and I’ll tell you why.

NaNoWriMo 2018

Previously this year I participated in the NaNo July Camp in which I challenged myself to post a new blog every day for 30 days. While it was an interesting and… challenging challenge (I guess that’s why they call it a challenge!) it really did push me to my limits and I eventually ended up burning out.

Not ideal…

But I proved to myself that I could accomplish the feat. It wasn’t always easy. I don’t see myself doing that challenge again. This month for NaNoWriMo 2018 I am finishing the edits of In Articulo Mortis while writing the second installment. I keep pushing back the release date for the first book because editing is taking a lot longer than I originally anticipated. Truth be told, the writing of the rough draft is the easiest part. All you have to do is put words down. They don’t have to make sense and characters’ names can change. It can be pure craziness but that’s part of why rough drafts are so much fun!

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” -Terry Pratchett.

Many times writers sit down to write and we may have a few scenes in mind or maybe a character but we don’t have it all figured out. Even “plotters” who painstaking outline their stories before sitting down to write that first draft will encounter some surprises along the way.

So while editing one novel and writing the second, I’m trying to uphold the promise of posting 2 blogs a week. A large part of my success this month is going to depend on how I finish out this 4 day weekend. I got a head start by using two days of vacation.

I’ve also been staying active on my Instagram account, engaging with other writers. So while NaNoWriMo 2018 is kicking off, there are two important lessons that I’ve learned. And I think some of this month’s blog posts are going to focus on the lessons I’ve learned from writing every day as opposed to only writing when I feel inspired.

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned

If you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, I’m sure you’ve come across 1,000,001 sayings, advice and clichés. But the thing is – they are all true. In today’s post let’s discuss Baby Steps and Writing Time.

Baby Steps

I’ve always held myself to really high expectations. I’m talking unrealistically high. I expect myself to come home from a full day of work and sit in front of the computer for hours on end and churn out the next Great American novel. And I expected it to be easy because I know that I’m a smart person and that I’m capable. However, I fall into this trap of making things way too hard on myself. It is so much easier to break a task into smaller portions to accomplish it.

Granted, I still have extra time on the weekends where it’s okay to spend a few hours in front of the computer trying to get the words out. However, this is a rare luxury. Even if you’re just getting 500 words down a day you’re making progress. Don’t get down and don’t be too hard on yourself because you’re not writing 10,000 words a day and some other author is. This can lead into the whole “don’t compare yourself to someone else’s progress” advice.

Every artist works at their own pace.

I’m sure some painters can paint a masterpiece in a week and some might take months or years. We’re all different and that’s okay. The importance is that you’re always moving forward and working toward your goal.

I’m currently reading a fanfiction that’s in progress and is such an inspiration to see the author post the new chapter every week – sometimes two a week – and each chapter is a little over 1000 words. This may be lightspeed to some people or this may be really slow to others. The point is, it doesn’t matter. This author is making progress every week, every day, towards their final destination. It’s okay to take baby steps. It’s better than taking no steps at all then beating yourself up for it because you didn’t write 10,000 words.

Keep Writing Time Holy

When you’re around other writers, they understand, “Hey, this is writing time. This is work time.” But when you’re around a lot of people who don’t write or who are not creative, they just don’t understand. It’s equally frustrating when no amount of explaining helps it sink in.

They see your hobby, or your life as an artist as fun and games. They don’t see it as work. And therefore they don’t respect as work. They often selfishly think, “He/she can write later. There is plenty of time for that, therefore they should be able to spend time with me doing this and that.” Wrong.

Family and friends can be selfish when it comes to your time.

It is very important that you tell your loved ones that your writing time is sacred. It’s work time. No, you can’t go to the movies right now. No, you can’t go out to dinner tonight. No, you can’t watch so-and-so’s baby. If you have a writing time scheduled, stick to it. If you don’t, you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself. And after all, you are in a relationship with yourself longer than anyone else in your life. Your relationship to yourself matters most.

It is vital to love yourself and honor your own promises before anyone else’s. And as for the people in your life, I guarantee there are others out there who will respect you, your time and your decision to be a writer. It may take some trial and error to find the right people but if I can find them, so can you!

Happy Writing!

-RB

The Top 6 Benefits of Writing

Hello, readers! My week hiatus from writing after that really intense month was bittersweet. On one hand, I felt that I was burning out at the end of July and needed a break. On the other hand, this past week has been one of the most emotional and stressful weeks I’ve experienced in a long time. At first I thought that it was just a weird phase. However, I have read in the past about how beneficial writing can be to one’s mental health. It prompted me to do some more research. Below, I have listed what my experience has led me to believe are the top 6 benefits of writing.

The Top 6 Benefits of Writing

1. Relaxation/Eliminates Stress

By getting my thoughts out on paper, I can unwind from the work day or get my ducks in a row for the day ahead. Writing helps me vent all of my frustrations or reflect on what I’m grateful for. It can also helps me put my struggles into perspective.

2. More Productive/Wakes Me Up

When I wake up a little earlier to get my morning pages done or work on my blog, I feel more productive. It allows me to start the day off right and wake my brain up before the commute to work. It helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

3. Learning New Things/Establishing Community

Whether it’s expanding your vocabulary, or learning about new topics by researching things you want to write about, writing helps you learn! Last month I was constantly learning. I was also constantly reading and connecting with other writers and bloggers.

4. Helps Memory

Writing is a mental exercise. It trains your brain in so many ways. You can stockpile ideas before you lose them or store memories from trips. I know I don’t want to forget that 7-course sushi dinner we had in D.C. or the artful displays of Fish Bone Alley in Gulfport, Mississippi (blog post to come). Some people use it to record their dreams and they end up finding it much easier to remember them when they wake up, after practice.

5. Better Sleep

Feeling grateful for my life, relaxing from a hectic day and getting my emotions down on paper can ease my mind into sleep faster. I sleep better when I write. And better sleep is never a bad thing!

6. Faster Typing/Writing Skills

At my day job I’m often teased because of my fast typing rate. People are always amazed, especially when I can type quickly without looking at the keyboard. When they ask how I do it, the answer is simple. It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. Practice. Practice. (That was a theater joke).

Still don’t believe me? Check out this fantastic blog post by Gregory Ciotti on the psychological benefits of writing: https://www.helpscout.net/blog/benefits-of-writing/

Happy Writing!

-RB