Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to Create Unique Protagonists

Creating unique protagonists

I've been prepping for my personal NaNoWriMo challenge and while sorting through the different story ideas that I have, I have realized that my protagonists are all basically the same person. So I'm thinking to myself, what can I do about this?

I guess I never really imagined that anyone would actually read all these different stories, so I never really thought about the fact that I always used the same default as the main character.  Lots of times I even think about the characters by the same name.  Now that I'm thinking I might actually try to get some of these published, I should probably make sure the characters are unique and interesting in their own ways.

Here's a few things that I did to try to differentiate my protagonists:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a breakdown of 16 different personality types based on Carl Jung's theories. It's actually a test your supposed to take to determine your own personality type, but it is also something authors use to determine their character's personality types. This site had a nice breakdown of what the different types are:

I also liked looking through this chart:

It's the same kind of idea - to get you thinking about different personalities and really narrow down the differences between different characters.  If you can put them into different general categories, then you can start narrowing down the differences and developing more diverse and complex characters.

Flaws and Quirks

Every good character needs a flaw, and quirks make them interesting. Thinking about their quirks or flaws is like thinking about what makes them different from others.  Through Pinterest I found a really nice list of character flaws and it even has definitions for each:

Reading through this list I got to thinking about what flaws sounded interesting, and what characters I could make fit with some of those flaws. 

Writer's don't quit


Do your characters all look the same?  Cause they probably shouldn't.  Give them different hair colors, different styles and see what happens. 

Pinterest is also a great tool for thinking about character appearances.  My board, Character Inspiration, I have ideas for outfits, poses and faces. She's Novel has lots of different boards devoted to different types of character inspiration. 


Yay worksheets! There's lots of different worksheets out there to try to help you get to know your characters.  I've compiled a few myself, that's kind of a mishmash of all the different ones I've found (see below).

Here are some of the sources for my worksheets, and they have some good ones too:

     Blank Character Cheat Sheet
     What do you know about your characters?
     Gotham Character Questionnaire

She's Novel has loads of great worksheets for writers but here's one in particular on characters:
    33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters

And here are a few I have compiled after looking through all of those and more:

General Overview



Personality - 2 Pages

Any one else have trouble creating unique protagonists?  Any tips to share?

Monday, March 21, 2016

April NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo? Basically it's a plan to write a novel in a month. The national NaNoWriMo is November and the idea is to write somewhere around 1,667 words a day so that by the end of the month you have a 50,000 word beginning for a novel.

I have never participated before, and I actually only learned this existed a few weeks ago, but I have decided I am going to implement my own version in April. I have been looking for motivation to write down some of my stories and this is it.

Help the cause by donating here!

Check the bottom of the post to follow my progress.

My Plan

Not quite the typical NaNo but the goal of writing some bizarre number like 1,667 words every day for 30 days just seems impractical to me. Some days you won't be able to make your goal, and some days you won't be able to write at all.

So my plan is to aim for writing five days a week and to set a goal at a nice round number. Because, let's face it, the word count really doesn't matter. What matters is getting the story on paper. If the first draft doesn't end up being 50,000 words, who cares? This is just a place to start. I usually write first drafts on paper, so I'm not sure how the word count thing is going to work anyway. Maybe I'll try typing and see how it goes.

So basically, I'm using this month and the idea of NaNoWriMo as motivation to get a story on paper. Not entirely sure what I'm going to write yet, I have a few thoughts and I intend to spend the week before finalizing and seeing what feels like it's ready to be a story. Or maybe a re-write of one that I started a few years back and never quite finished. No matter what I'm fairly certain it will be fantasy, sci-fi takes too much time doing research.

I did sign up for camp NaNoWriMo but I'm not really participating in the official things just yet, I think I want to try this one on my own so that I am prepared and will participate for sure in November. Some of the official stuff:

     Camp NaNoWriMo

Some other helpful links:

     Novel in a Month Notebook - Eva Deverell
     7 Strategies for NaNoWriMo Prep - Maris McKay
     NaNoWriMo Checklist - Author Zoo

And this, which is possibly the best idea I've ever seen for combating writer's block:

     My NaNoWriMo Jars! - Rachel Rose

Anyone want to try this one with me?

Here's an image of my calendar if you'd like to print one out for yourself.

Current Progress

Date Day Total Goal Final Word Count Goal Met

Monday, March 14, 2016

5 Reasons Blogger Could be Right for Your Blog

Blogger right for your blog
The first time I looked at the Blogger interface I had never seen a blog from the inside before. It seemed so confusing and difficult to navigate and I was so turned off by the experience that I went and got a WordPress account. However, what I found was that it was just the same and possibly even more confusing. The only thing I liked about WordPress was what seemed to be the immense customization that they offered. Something that, I thought, Blogger had nothing to compare to.

I think it was probably through WordPress that I figured out the inner workings of a blog and blog design, though I never actually used that account for anything. So, when I decided to give Blogger another try, it made much more sense and is actually pretty easy to navigate when you know what your looking for. 

Why I decided on Blogger

  1. Free. I'll be the first to admit that I am super cheap. So anytime I can find something at a low price - or free, even better - then I will at least try it and see if you get anything of value for it.
  2. Convenient. Everything I use is google. Using Blogger puts everything in once place and it is quite nice to only have to sign into one account for everything.
  3. Easy. Google really knows how to make a great user experience and make things easy for you to accomplish. If you don't know how to do something, they probably have a how-to page to walk you through it. Try a google search, and it's usually a google help page that pops up first.
  4. Custom Templates. So I thought that one of the downsides to Blogger was the very limited template options that you had. Not true at all. The amount of templates that are available is just unbelievable. And lots of them look like they could rival those provided by WordPress.
  5. Custom Domain Name. The fact that Blogger is free and they let you use a custom domain for free really is the best part. WordPress wanted to charge me $18 just to use my domain name that I already purchased. And purchasing a name through them was just way too much.

Custom Templates 

After spending several days attempting to customize one of the standard Blogger templates into something a bit more elegant (and less obviously Blogger), I discovered that there are loads more options available.

A google search for "blogger templates" brings up tons of free options and Gooyaabi Templates has a wide variety of free designs for your blogger blog. The site might not be quite the easiest to navigate, but the content makes up for it. It's also super easy to install one of these templates, and there is no coding knowledge necessary. You can, of course, customize these templates the same as the basic ones, through the html file, if you would like.

     Instructions: How to install Blogger Template

Pretty simple. Browse their templates and when you find one you like, hit the download button below it and it will download a zip file. Go to your downloads file on your computer and unzip the file. Then on your blogger account go to the template page and in the top right corner it says "Backup/Restore." Click that and then in the box that pops up click "Choose a file to upload" and navigate to the extracted .xml file and upload it. Now view your blog with the new custom theme. Done!

You can customize the file the same way you would a standard template, if you want to get into the css side of things. Some templates don't end up looking quite right when you upload them, but there's lots to choose from so you can always try another.

Using a Custom Domain 

I purchased my domain name through Google Domains for $12. After lots of research I decided this was the best option. Check out my post on Web Hosting for more on this.

When you buy a domain through Google Domains there is the option right away to connect it to your Blogger account. I don't remember the exact specifics, but I remember it was a relatively easy walk through. I remember being amazed that it could be so simple.

The Trade-Offs

While I do really love the features and the customization options that Blogger has going for it, I'm still not entirely sure that it is the best platform to host a blog. I was pretty much against using WordPress when I started out because everybody uses that, but then, everybody uses it. And that means that the potential for connecting with other bloggers and growing your own blog seems like it would be a lot better than the potential that Blogger has. The Blogger community doesn't seem to be quite as involved as the WordPress community does.

I did a little experiment and I started a new blog on WordPress, and I posted most of the posts that I have done on my Blogger account (it's only been up for a few months anyway, so there isn't very much) and I changed the dates so that they all matched and all that. Almost instantly I had a comment on one of my posts on my WordPress account because I linked to another blog that was also a WordPress blog. WordPress lets you know when other blogs on their site link to your posts. Blogger does not do that. 

So it's the little things like that that have the potential to increase your exposure just by choosing WordPress. And that makes me think that when I eventually decide that I want to pay for a hosting account, I will probably end up hosting my domain with eHost and setting up a WordPress account as my main blog. It is something that is really easy to do, and my eHost Review discusses how that works and also why I think eHost is a great option for hosting a domain.

If you are looking to start a website, or trying to find a good hosting site, I highly recommend eHost.

Useful links:


 Anyone have thoughts on why WordPress is better than Blogger, or vice versa?

Monday, March 7, 2016

DIY Website Hosting - Don't be Intimidated

DIY Website Hosting
So you're finally ready to get your own website for your business, author platform or whatever. And you want it to be "yourwebsite.com" not something with all kinds of additional junk in there. And you don't want to spend a lot of money.

But you're not really a tech person, or you never really got what all the internet jargon meant. Even more than that, there are so many options out there, how do you know if you're getting ripped off?

There are two really important components to consider when starting a website and those are a domain name and a web host.

What is a domain name and what is a web host and do you need both? The answer is yes, but there are some relatively inexpensive ways to get there.

Domain = name

This is what most people think of when they think of building their own website. The domain name is your unique web address, it's what you type into the bar at the top of the web browser to take you to a web page.
But that's all it is - a name. You purchase the right to use this name, usually for a year at a time. Some places offer discounts if you purchase more than one year, so if you plan to be around for a while, it's probably the best way to go.

What about free?

You see lots of places advertise for free domains, $.99, $.01... But what they really mean is that it's free or discounted if you purchase a hosting package from them (more about that later). And even then, it's usually only free for the first year, and after that the rates go up to, in some cases, around $30 a year. Where they get you is on the renewal fees.


Privacy means that your personal information will not be listed in the domain registry where everyone can find it.
You need to look if the site where you are purchasing your domain name from offers privacy for free or if it is an additional charge. Usually these sites where they offer free or discounted domains do not offer privacy and will charge $9.99 or more a year to keep your information private.

DIY Website

Hosting = place to put name

So you get a domain name, now what do you do with it? Having a domain is only having the name, you need a host to put your website out there where people can find it. 

Using a hosting service is like renting an apartment, or a storage unit. They are storing your website (domain name)  somewhere where others are able to view it. So, of course, to do this, they have to charge you a monthly fee.

The fee for a web host can start around $2 a month or go as high as $100 or more. Why such a dramatic difference in price? Services they offer, I guess. Depending on what you need them for, the added services can be a benefit, but if you're just starting out, most likely you don't need any of them so then the $2-$10 per month price range is pretty standard.

You can usually find a discounted rate if you sign up for a long period of time and pay it all upfront, so from the right host that takes you to just below the $2 per month mark.

What about free?

There are free web hosts around, but free is never free.  Most of them will offer you free hosting, but you get adds on your site, which can be really unprofessional and the whole reason your purchasing a domain name is to look more professional.

Buying Domain Name from a Web Host

Places like Weebly, WordPress and all those other big name sites will offer to host your custom domain, and they will even sell you a domain name, but they will usually charge quite a bit for it. They even sometimes have additional costs if you purchased you domain name somewhere else.

I did a lot of shopping around back in December and this is what I found to be the best deal:


eHost looks a bit like a sketchy site, but I have been using it since December for TheShrineOfArthis.com and I love it.

I got a hosting package for under $2 a month when I paid for 3 years upfront.

They also offer a free domain name for life. This means that for as long as I host a site with them, I will never have to pay for a domain name, only for the hosting package.

However, they do charge an additional fee for privacy, which was $9.99. It said per year, but there was only one charge of that amount on my account. Maybe they will take out another next year, but still, I feel that is a great deal.

For $80 I have a domain name and a place to put it for 3 years.

eHost also has some great features, especially if you are not familiar with websites. They have lots of custom templates and a drag-and-drop interface, similar to what you would find with Weebly or those other sites. I will post a review of my experiences soon.

*Marks affiliate Link

The Free Hosting Option

Of course, I'm super cheap and always looking for the best deal, so I've got to try out some free options right? What's the harm, it's free!

I did still have to purchase a domain name, there really is no way to get around that. But I didn't go with those super cheep $.99 godaddy.com or whatever it is you keep stumbling across when you look for domain names. I am cheap, but I want to get a good deal.

I purchased my domain name from Google Domains

For $12 a year I have a custom domain name. Privacy is included for free. They give you the option to turn it off but... who the heck would want that? It is also (as far as I could tell) $12 to renew next year.

For free hosting, I am using Blogger.

Blogger offers to redirect its blogspot site to your custom domain. They even offer detailed walkthroughs to help you out:

     Change to a custom domain
     How do I use a custom domain name for my blog?

The only downside is that you are a bit limited in customization. You have to use Blogger's interface and it really treats your site as a blog. I am finding though, the more that I use it, that Blogger has a lot more options for customizing than I thought, but you have to know a little bit about html and css to make it happen. Check this post for my thoughts on Blogger.

UPDATE: I just discovered that there are lots of free templates that can be added into Blogger so you are not limited to the 5 styles they offer.  And some of the templates are comparable to the WordPress designs, and maybe even more customizable  if you know a little css. I got mine from Gooyaabi Templates.

There are other "free" hosting options as well, but they all seem rather sketchy and don't really deliver on what they promise.

Freevar. I tried freevar.com, and even though that looks like the sketchiest one out there, I was happy with it up until I tried to install WordPress, and I started getting all kinds of popup ads on my site. I blamed myself because I did do a little modifying of some files, changing permissions and such that would have just been asking to be hacked, but then I deleted that site and started over with everything. And again, as soon as I added WordPress, the popups were back. So maybe you'd be ok with it if you dont want Wordpress...?

Freevar is also not very user-friendly. I tried it because I wanted complete control over my site, right down to making my own html pages, and with freevar you really have that option. It's kind of the only option, actually, though they do say that they are working on a drag-and-drop website builder. So from a developer standpoint, it was a really exciting free option. But...disappointing.

Any better options that I missed? What budget-friendly options have you tried?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tips to Grow a Meaningful Twitter Following as a Real Person

Grow a twitter following
Recently I've been trying to build an author platform and one of the things I have been doing is to try to increase my twitter following. I am by no means an expert at this considering my following is still very small.  However, I started with 10 followers and in about a week got over 300. And I haven't really been doing all these things consistently everyday.

I think it might be worth giving a shot if you're serious about growing a meaningful following.

Besides, isn't there some saying about how the best time to teach is right after you learn?
Or something...

Here's a few things I've found:

Fill Out Your Profile

Make sure your bio is filled out. Be as specific as possible and make sure you add all the important details that you think people should know about you. If you don't know exactly what that is yet, start with generalities and you can change it later after you read other profile and see the things you like which you will be doing a lot of.  If you are a writer, make sure to indicate which genre you write in.

Pictures help also. Having a profile picture and a meaningful header photo lets other people know a little bit about you, just like filling out your bio. It doesn't have to be a picture of you, just something to get rid of that egg.

Follow Others Within Your Target Audience.

  1. Search for hashtags that relate to the type of people you want to interact with. #amwriting #amreading are good places to start with for writers.
  2. Follow others that do lots of re-tweeting. You'll find that there are people that basically only re-tweet certain hashtags. I found that by following some people that re-tweet #amreading it gave me a great start for a variety of people who like to read. @AdamSanto was who I started with.
  3. Follower lists. Find someone within your target market who has a lot of followers and start following the people on that list. There's lots of those for writers, look at publishers, indie author promoters or just other authors with lots of followers.

How to Pick Which People to Follow

A few things to look at:
  1. Their profile. Is it full of hashtags or does it actually say something about the person? Based on that description, does that fit your target audience? Here's when you can go back and edit your own description based on what you've found you like from other peoples descriptions that make you want to follow them.
  2. Their feed. Is it full of plugs for their own product or does it look like they are really using the account? If they're doing nothing but trying to advertise their own book then they are just going to fill your feed with their ads.
  3. Number of followers. If you are just starting out and have very few followers yourself, start by following others that also have a low number of followers. Sure it won't get your reach out as much as if they had a million followers, but I've found that they are much more likely to follow you back if they have fewer followers themselves. You can move on to those with more followers later.
  4. Followers to following ratio. This one I feel is really important. Does a person have 100K followers and is following 1K themselves? And even if they don't have a huge following, if it's only 2000 and they are only following 100 then they aren't likely to follow you back unless you've got something really big going for you. Maybe someday down the road, but for now, I would move on to someone else unless you really like the things they have to say. I especially like to find people who are following more people than they have followers.
  5. Time. When was there last post? I like to try to follow users who have recently posted. It just means that they are likely to follow you back quicker because they are currently online.
  6. How much and how often do they post.  If they post several times every hour, then they likely have some software creating those posts. It can also get rather annoying having that one person always filling your page every time you log on.

Most important: like or re tweet something they have posted when you follow them.

And when someone follows you, follow them back.

Remember that these are not just numbers on your account, but these are people and your ultimate goal is that you want to build a relationship with them.

Some Don'ts

A few things that I've noticed that really bugged me:
  1. Automated messages thanking me for following. Sometimes it's a plug for their product, sometimes it's just a link to check out their blog, but when they end with a "via @crowdfire" or something similar it has just taken what could have been a personal message and made it impersonal. I get that not everyone will have time to personally thank all the people who follow them, but in my opinion, if you can't make it look like a personalized message then just don't.
  2. Thank you for following tweet containing multiple @'s. Ex. Some one tweets "Thank you for the follow @--- @--- @--- @kt_gustafson @---- @----" Not only does my name get lost in there, but it is so impersonal.  Even tweeting to an individual and then looking back on their timeline and seeing that their last 10 tweets were the same thing just to a different person is still impersonal.
  3. Message plug for products. After following someone I got a lot of private messages saying "Go check out my blog!" and "Go buy my book!" and a link. You should have the link that you want people to check out listed on your profile. If I want to visit your site, I will click on that. There is no need to send it to me personally, and it is likely an automated message anyway.  I have already followed you, which means I am already interested in you or your product, so I don't need to be bashed over the head with it.

 Some Things That Were Really Awesome

  1. This guy is awesome. Go follow him, send him some #rtok because he does for everybody else and I'm sure he could use some: @TRUE_BOHEMIA  Sending perpetual Random Tweets of Kindness = #rtok
  2. Here is something that I thought did really well at addressing the issues I listed above. It's personal and it really gets to the whole point of why I'm trying to do this in the first place which is to try to build relationships with other writers and people that would be interested in reading my work.

This is just my "getting started" point. Once you get a base group of followers, you should be able to keep getting followers without doing so much work. Having quality content, not just promoting yourself, and interacting with other people should keep it rolling.

Anyone else have any tips? I'd love to hear what worked for you.

Other Related Links:
4 Ways to Grow a Twitter Following That Matters
How I Went From Zero to 380,000 Twitter Followers Without Spending a Dime
9 Ways to Streamline Your Social Media Profile
5 Things For Authors To Tweet About (That Aren’t “Buy My Book!”)
The Days of the Week According to Twitter

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