As a writer of fiction, you have to be a jack of all trades at times. I have gone to many strange places on the Internet in search of information or knowledge that would help make my story that much better. The Internet truly is a virtually endless source of facts and - yes - misinformation. These are the ten sites I have found to be the most useful resources for fiction writers.
Dictonary.com - Can't remember how to spell chrysanthemums? Need another word for maniac? Not really sure what the word didactic means? Dictionary.com is my favorite spot on the Internet for all things words. Whether it's the meaning, the proper spelling, or a more literary synonym, you'll find it here.
Baby Names World - Nickelodeon's Parents Connect Baby Names World website isn't just a great place to find the perfect name for that next bundle of joy. It's also great for finding a fitting name for your protagonist. Looking for a name that means "brave" or "wise" or virtually anything else, you can probably find it here. Their search by meaning option has been a lifesaver for me on a number of occasions.
Crime and Clues - Want a peak into police procedure on a crime scene? Maybe you need to tap into that criminal mind, but you of course do not have the personal experience to draw from. Crimes and Clues can help you tangle that mystery you're trying to build.
Mythical Creatures Guide - There are more than just vampires and werewolves to include in your next horror novel. Cultures from throughout history and in every corner of our globe have had a catalog of monsters that have provided plenty of screams and scares. The Mythical Creatures Guide can provide you with plenty of inspiration for your next creepy creature.
This Day in History - Even if you're writing fiction, you want some basis in fact. This Day in History provides a great database of historical events on every day of the year. Just type in the day, and you'll be on your way to giving your story a little historical perspective.
Popular Science - This is a fantastic site for a look at all the latest advances in technology and science. You'll find plenty of information on what's current and what the future may hold.
How Stuff Works - Details can flesh out a character and plotline. Even in a fictional world, authenticity can take your story to a whole new level.
Space - The final frontier is a mystery in and of itself. The more you know about the skies above you, the more you can draw your reader in and make them true fans of your work, particularly if you're a science fiction author. Just because it's "science fiction"; doesn't mean your reader doesn't want it to be plausible. If you write that Titan orbits Neptune, you'll probably lose a reader.
Snopes - There's nothing built better for a book-length work of fiction than a good urban legend. But does that urban legend contain any truth to it? Snopes is a website dedicated to solving the origins of urban legends.
Strange Facts - Did you know that there are 18 different animal shapes in Animal Cracker cookies? Or that forest fires move faster uphill than down? If you visited Strange Facts, you would know all that and more. A great place to find those little tidbits that may separate your story from others.
Those are mine. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
If at First You Don't Succeed... You Know the Rest!
It's been said many times. Babe Ruth struck out more than any other player on his way to become the homerun king in major league baseball. If you want to succeed in publishing, you've got to strike out from time to time. Novelist Scott Turow says this about an authors greatest tool:
My life as a writer was carried on against the odds. I had written four unpublished novels by then ... as a writer of fiction I hadn't gotten very far. I just wanted to do it. It was my dream as a kid to be a novelist and I wanted to carry on with it. And I did. The truth of the matter is that the people who succeed in the arts most often are the people who get up again after getting knocked down. Persistence is critical.
Don't have the funds for your next film project? You've tapped all your old resources dry? If there was only some way to let your fans chip in. Oh wait, there is. It's called the internet. Crowd-funding, Crowd-sourcing, Tribe-funding, it goes by many different names, but it all means the same thing. Ask your fans to contribute to your next film. Film finance expert Jeff Steele weighs in on the topic in the Huffington Post.
Ultimately, if crowd-funding is going to work, it needs to appeal to those most basic investor emotions: greed and self-interest. Why do disinterested investors support a project? Because they see a potential upside for their money -- and it's the producers job to make sure that happens. You can't reinvest a producing credit.
What happens when the musical inspiration hits you, and you don't have a way to capture the magic for posterity and profit? If you're an indie musician, it's almost imperative these days to have your own home recording studio. Not to worry. If you don't currently have one, Renegade Producer has come to the rescue with all the basics you need to get started. As they put it:
Your DIY home music studio will always be a work in progress and will grow as your music production skills grow and you expand your music career. Try to avoid the "my music would get better when I have [enter name of new studio toy]" trap. Remember, your studio is your workspace and your studio equipment serve as tools. You make the music.
It's 2010. Do you know where your author blog is? If you haven't started one, the time is now. If you're hesitant, take it from author Emily Benet (Shop Girl Diaries), blogging is more than just about building your personal brand. It's also a great way to develop your craft.
Benet finds that blogging actually keeps her focused and thinking about her audience. "In practical terms a weekly blog keeps me working on the skill of writing and helps me stay disciplined by being connected with my readers," she said.
When it comes to filmmaking, a little home cooking may be your best chance at success?
Thanks to the Internet we live in a shrinking world where making it in the film industry no longer means you have to live in Hollywood. If you've got a camera, a computer and some friends, you basically have the power to be a movie mogul. In fact, filmmaker Len Esten believes setting up shop in Hollywood may be more trouble than it's worth.
At the early stages of filmmaking wringing the most out of what you have is an important skill. There will never be enough money or enough good people. Your film will only be as good as you can make it given your resources. Instead of spending too much time trying to make your circumstances perfect or even optimal, spend more time concocting creative ways to use what you have and make it be something you can be proud of.
So you think you have what it takes to make it in the music business? According to music career mentor Tom Hess, he's seen far too many young musicians pull the trigger too quickly on their pursuit of fame and fortune playing music for a living. The maddening thing is the ones who fail make mistakes that could have been avoided. In his words:
In addition to mentoring musicians from all over the world on how to build a successful career in the music business, I have several free music career assessments on my website where I ask musicians specific questions to test their effectiveness in building a music career. From my experience of mentoring hundreds of musicians and after analyzing the responses of thousands of people to my music career surveys, I found that musicians tend to make the same kinds of mistakes over and over again in their pursuit to become professional musicians.
So, you've got your community in place. You're a regular contributor to your own blog. Your Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with Friends and Followers that participate in your postings. Your Youtube channel has a growing base of subscribers, and they love to give you feedback on your videos. Everything seems to be going great, but unless the members of your community are engaged by you, you could experience turnover.
Turnover connotes a passing interest. Remember, you are trying to build a passionate following because passionate followers spread the word about your book, about your blog, about you. Engage your community. How? Really all it amounts to is you taking an interest in your own community. Don't just post and run. Post and communicate. True, you are the personal brand, but the personal brand has to be more than about you. It's about your community. Here are a few suggestions on how to engage your community:
1. Respond to feedback: When someone comments on something you've posted, they are inviting you to talk with them. Take them up on their offer. Make them feel welcome. They'll reward you by coming back and commenting again.
2. Polls: Asking someone's opinion about something is a great way to engage them. People love to participate in polls. Whether it's current events, sports, genre related, pop culture, etc., your community is very likely willing and wanting to share their opinion via a poll. Why not give them the opportunity? Polls are relatively easy to set up these days through free online polling services.
3. Open Line Day: Pick a day to open up your blog to your community. Maybe they have a project that they are working on, but they don't have a forum to do so. Give them the forum. This is something you can do once a month. Make them feel like your home is their home.
These are three simple suggestions which you can adjust to your own environment. The important thing is to always engage your community because the more engaged they are the more ownership they will take in your personal brand and passionately start spreading the word for you.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor
Okay, it's been fairly well established that in order to have a successful online presence it must be an active online presence. Simply having your book listed with an online retailer isn't enough. Having your own Web site isn't even enough. You need to always be promoting. We've talked extensively about kinetic marketing. That means it's essential for you to have your own blog, participate in social networks, and utilize personal video as part of your personal branding strategy. But you can do more.
If you are just starting out online it will take you awhile to build traffic for your various sites on the World Wide Web. In the beginning, you may need to go where your readers are and shine a light on yourself. How? By participating on a more established author's blog or message board. It's a great way to introduce yourself to readers of your genre and start making a name for yourself as a thoughtful and viable voice in the community. I have gained a lot of followers for my own blog by simply visiting someone else's blog and commenting on their blog posts.
There are few unwritten rules to keep in mind if you're going to pursue this particular strategy:
Do not overtly promote yourself, your blog, or your book. You are an expert or fan giving your opinion. You're not selling anything. Providing a link to your Web site or blog within the body of your comment signals that your comment is self-serving. It is okay to reference a blog post that you wrote addressing the same issue, but steer clear of encouraging people to visit your blog and read it. Most blogs have an option for the commenter's name to be linkable. Put your blog address in this field. If people like your comment, they will click on your name and discover your own online community.
Be brief and thoughtful. Don't show off with a ton of information. Show off with your ability to be concise and entertaining. This will do more to establish your personal brand and entice people to click on your name to find out more about you.
Don't pick a fight with the blogger or other people commenting. You can respectfully disagree, but don't be rude. This will put you in a position of defending yourself on someone else's blog. This never goes well, and it makes you look bad in the eyes of the community. If possible, post your disagreement in the form of a question to allow the blogger to address your differences in a non-confrontational manner.
In essence, all this particular strategy amounts to is good old-fashioned networking. You're placing yourself in a community of like-minded individuals and sharing your knowledge. Comment frequently enough and it could even lead to an opportunity to be a guest blogger on the site. Have fun. Be yourself. Build your personal brand with insightful and helpful comments.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
Branding is the foundation on which you build your marketing campaign. You can't effectively market without a brand. For authors, that means building a personal brand. Robert Friedman of Fearless Branding covered the topic of "brands" at a recent gathering of the Northern California Book Publicity and Marketing Association. According to him:
He said it starts with a "who are you" kind of conversation, and the further it is explored, the more companies (publishers and authors in this case) can uncover not just the unique value of their offerings but also the market that wants that value most. The next step in branding, said Friedman, is to segment that market.
At The Movies Won't Be Going to the Movies Anymore
The show that made Siskel and Ebert and their two thumbs celebrities is leaving the air. The two hosts who playfully fought over cinematic tastes brought a unique chemistry to movie reviews that hadn't previously existed, and apparently disappeared when they left the show. Gene Siskel died of cancer in 1999 and Roger Ebert left the show to battle cancer in 2006. Richard Roeper did his best to keep the show afloat with a string of co-hosts, but the magic faded once Ebert could no longer do the show. As James Poniewozik of the Times puts it:
Part of the issue, I suppose, is that the chemistry between Siskel and Ebert were so key to the show, and their sparring rapport was what made the show a mainstream phenomenon. Not to take anything away from the new hosts or their predecessors, but once Siskel died of cancer, something irreplaceable was lost.
Not every work of poetry, no matter how revered, is made for music. Professor Carol Reynolds examines the art of creating lyrics on MusicAfter50.com, and reveals that composers need vivid expression in order to create a quality song. In her words:
And "expressing more vividly" is what a composer wants to do. Why else bother to set a text to music? Music can add depth to the words, shape them, interpret them, or even reinterpret them. But for that to happen, the words have to offer the composer some kind of opening.
We've been told over and over again not judge a book by its cover, but invariably, we do. The publishing industry counts on it, and self-published authors should, too. But, what should the cover convey? The Rumpus recently covered the subject:
Earlier this month, the subject of book cover design, and who the final design should speak to, blipped across the blogs for a day or so after Seth Godin reasonably opined that the single purpose of a book cover is to raise expectations that the book can and will deliver.
It seems the key to astronomical DVD sales success is tied the book. The New Moon DVD sold 4 million copies in its first two days. That's 200,000 more than the more than the first movie in the series based on Stephenie Meyer's books. According to the Los Angeles Times:
The difference between the movies in DVD sales is substantially less than at the box office. "New Moon" grossed $296.6 million domestically last year, compared to $192.8 million for the original "Twilight" in 2008.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds the Result of Innocent Inspiration
The urban myth is that The Beatles' song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, is a song about the psychotropic drug, LSD, but it turns out, the song springs from slightly more innocent origins. The song is based on a drawing John Lennon's son Julian. Here's the full story:
The song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was inspired by a drawing that John Lennon's son Julian did of his classmate, Lucy O'Donnell. Julian brought the drawing home from nursery school in 1966, and explained to his dad that it was "Lucy - in the sky with diamonds."
This may come as a shock to you, but you're in sales now. You have a book, film, or CD to sell, and compared to the bigger companies, you have a limited marketing budget. You are going to live and die by word-of-mouth, and the first words have to come out of your mouth. Ask fans of your book to spread the word. In the sales world (your world now), it's called asking for referrals. People love Cinderella stories, and in this case they can be part of the story. They can contribute to your success by spreading the word, and when they do, reward them. Whether it's an acknowledgment on your blog, a shout-out on a Facebook page or a simple thank you email, make sure you show your appreciation to those who are helping you sell your book simply because they like your book. Asking for referrals is tough, and chances are it's going to take some getting used to. Take heart, because what you don't know is that people want to help you. If they are truly fans, they will feel like they are adding value to someone else's life by introducing your work to them. Asking for a referral is similar to asking someone out on a date. There's always the possibility of rejection, but you'll never know until you ask. It's going to be hard to ask your friends, family and fans for help, but remember, it is an extremely crucial component of your marketing strategy.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
Have you thought about asking your online community to finance your next film? Many producers are doing it today with varying degrees of success. The Independent Film Blog examines the idea to see how well it works.
9 Places to Find Affordable Graphic Design - Bob Baker
Need a t-shirt to promote your band? Looking for someone to design a band logo? Bob Baker list 9 graphic designers that may be in your price range.
Before you proceed with your marketing plan, you want to clearly define your idea of success. After all, how can you gauge your progress without knowing what your goals are? Knowing where you want to be will help create a plan that will get you there.
Now, it seems like a no-brainer. You should measure success by sales, right? You can make a very convincing argument that sales and sales alone demonstrate the success of your book, CD, or film. But to do so, would be short sighted. Sales do not necessarily translate into profits. You may have invested a great deal of money to make a lot of sales. In fact, it's possible your investment exceeded your income from the sales. So, sales and sales alone are not a good measurement of success.
Critical acclaim is a good indication of success, right? Yes and no. Being well-received for your craft is personally satisfying, but it doesn't necessarily translate into sales. A good review from a well-known source can be used in marketing campaigns, but again, it does not guarantee sales. Also, critical success isn't something you can count on, so working it into your marketing plan isn't practical.
So, if having a lot of sales doesn't necessarily mean you're successful and being loved by the critics won't guarantee success, how should you measure success? My suggestion is to measure success by the number of contacts you make through your social media presence. The more people you have in your online community, the more mouths you have participating in your word-of-mouth campaign. This is a strategy that will help keep down your costs and increase your chances for something more valuable than critical acclaim - peer recommendations. People in your community will recommend your book, CD, or film to their friends because they are part of your community. Simply put, your job is to meet and sell yourself to as many people as you can on a daily basis.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
What is the proper email query format? A lot of writer's make the mistake of using snail-mail guidelines when it comes to formatting an email. Literary agent Nathan Bransford uncovers the mystery of the email query.
Could including tales of your protagonist's time spent in his/her cubicle make your book great literature? The New York Times wants to know why workplace drama has disappeared from modern day literature. After all, Moby Dick would be nothing without all that waling ship politics and coworker conflicts. From the article that dares to ask the question:
And in The Telegraph of London, John Lanchester, who took a break from novel-writing to research "I.O.U.," his new primer on the financial crisis, asked why fiction tended to "break down" in the face of the complex modern economy. Work has become central to many people's self-¬conception, Lanchester noted. So why, in novels, does it tend to be ?as much a marginal detail of a character's life as her hair color"?
Documentaries are an excellent vehicle for unknown filmmakers to break into the business. You don't have to deal with actors who may or may not be movie stars. You don't need a carefully crafted script. All you need is an interesting story with some compelling real life characters. The interview is key to creating a documentary, and it is not just the questions that matter. Your location plays a big part. Here's some sage advice on filmmaking.net:
For instance, if you were going to do a documentary on how to play texas holdem, you would first need to find an appropriate location where you could interview the players. Since many people play inside of casinos, this would be a good location to use. Be sure to contact the casino ahead of time though so you can ensure that you've got permission to shoot in their establishment. Getting this permission can be as easy as emailing the desired casino or as complicated as making several phone calls to get a hold of the person in charge.
What happens when a musician decides to set aside his/her musical muse and replace it with a literary one A surprising number of musicians have done just that over the years, and they've been surprisingly successful. Paste Magazine has posted their list of favorites. Here's a sample:
John Wesley Harding is actually this British folk/pop singer's stage name, and when he released two novels - one in 2005 and the next in 2007 - he chose to put his given name, Wesley Stace, on the covers. The name swap had zero effect on his books? success, though. His first novel, Misfortune, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award...