Why I’m Changing How I Review Books

Several months ago, I started hearing about other indie authors losing reviews on Amazon. One day their book would have 50 reviews, the next day it would have 30. Some people were unable to leave reviews or had lost their accounts all together. Rumors swirled, theories ranging from faulty bot algorithms to deletion due to social media connection. The only thing that’s for certain is reviews must abide by Amazon policy, and those policies are pretty strict. They have to be, because a lot of people try to game the system.

One of the things that’s forbidden by Amazon is review trading. In other words, “If you review my book, I’ll review yours.” That makes sense because it’s sketchy as eff-all, but unfortunately, Amazon can’t tell the difference between traded reviews and two authors who just happened to read each other’s books.  This is a huge problem because it’s not uncommon for writers to read each other’s books, not because they agreed to, but because they were genuinely interested. Often times, you may not even know a fellow author has read and reviewed your book, so if you happen to read and review their book, too, you could appear to be review trading without even knowing it. But it doesn’t matter whether you knew or not, because if Amazon sees you’ve reviewed each other’s books, you could both lose your Amazon account.

That said, I’ve decided to stop reviewing books on Amazon from this point on. It already feels risky enough, and with what is and isn’t allowed constantly changing, it’s much too easy to run afoul of the rules. Instead, I’m going to start reviewing books here on my blog, which I’ll cross-post to social media. And then I’ll continue to post reviews on Goodreads.

Hopefully Amazon will eventually find a more precise way to cut down on scammers, but until that time, better safe than sorry.

Guest Post: Four Tips to Help You Master Deep POV

I’m so pleased to welcome author Jade Young to my blog!

A lot of the writing I do is very character driven. Therefore my goal is for my readers to connect with my protagonist. I want my protagonist to come alive for them and for his or her thoughts and actions to jump off the page and draw the reader in. Ultimately, I want my readers to feel like they are the protagonist.

That’s essentially what Deep Point-Of-View or Deep POV is. The reader forgets they’re reading a book because it’s written in such a way that they feel like they are living the character’s life. Basically, you the author, do everything you can to remove dialogue tags, filter words, and passive voice. This establishes a deep and emotional connection with readers.

Now, this isn’t the easiest technique to master. It’s so easy to slip back into your regular writing style. However, practice makes perfect and if this is something that interests you, read on for my four tips.

Tip One: Get Inside Your Protagonist’s Head. In order to help readers get lost in my protagonist’s head, it’s essential that I get inside my protagonist’s head first. This means I need to know my character inside and out. I need to understand their goals, motivations, relationships, and other facets of their lives. This will add a level of realism to your protagonist and make them relatable to your audience. To check out my personal five-step process for creating relatable and well-rounded characters click here

Tip Two: Watch out for Filter Words. Filter words are words like saw, heard, thought, felt, watched, etc. If writing in Deep POV, they are unnecessary because they take readers out of the character’s head. The goal of Deep POV is for you to experience the story through the protagonist’s eyes so you need to write the action as it happens. Think about your own life. You don’t go around using filter words so why should your protagonist? Let readers experience story events as a character does. Confused? Here’s two examples:

Not Deep POV: Mary heard a gunshot and saw Eric fall to the ground.

Deep POV: A shot ring out! Mary stifled a cry as Eric’s body fell to the ground in front of her.

Not Deep POV: Eric thought the baby smelled bad. Time for a diaper change!

Deep POV: The baby smelled bad. Time for a diaper change!

Tip Three: Show Don’t Tell. Many of us are familiar with this rule, and it’s interesting to note that in some cases, telling can be effective. However, the goal is for our readers to feel like they are the protagonist and become immersed in their world. Therefore, we want to create dynamic scenes and use our protagonist’s five senses to tell the story. When conveying emotions, describing the setting, or during conversation be sure to stay inside your character’s head and avoid lengthy info-dumps or descriptions. For more information on show vs tell, and how you can master both, click here.

Tip Four: Write in Active, not Passive, Voice. Writing in passive voice can pull your reader out of your character’s head. Why? Because passive voice indicates that something has already been done or is being done somewhere the protagonist isn’t. For example,

Active Voice: The dog bit Katie.

Passive Voice: Katie was bitten by the dog.

Active Voice: Joel hit Nick.

Passive Voice: Nick was hit by Joel.

Note: An easy way to help you identify passive vs active voice is to add “by zombies” after the verb in the sentence. If the sentence makes sense then it’s passive. For example, if we were to use the examples above:

Passive: Katie was bitten by zombies.

Passive: Nick was hit by zombies.

Still confused? Check out this blog post by Kaitlin Hillerich for more examples and tips.

Tip Five: Remove Dialogue Tags. Dialogue tags are common in most novels. For example, “she said,” “he yelled,” “Mary screamed,” “Jack whispered,” etc. Though small, using dialogue tags can jar your reader out of your protagonist’s head and remind them that they’re reading a book. They can also kill the tension. I found an amazing blog post by Laura Drake that explains dialogue rules and can help you effectively delete dialogue tags in your novels. You can read it here.

I hope this blog post was helpful in helping you master Deep POV. If you have any other suggestions, or additional questions, please leave them in the comments down below.

Happy writing!

JadeSmallCroppedJade Young is a blogger, and writing coach, currently working on her debut novel. You can find helpful tips, writing advice, and more information about her services on her website at www.theeducatedwriter.com.

 

Re-Defining New Adult

I missed it, but there was a conversation on Twitter last week about whether or not to include college-age protagonists in the Young Adult category. From the sound of it, people were evenly split–and since this is something I was already pondering, I know exactly where I stand.

“Young Adult” is a book category featuring protagonists in the 15-18 age range. Although YA fiction is enjoyed by young and older adults alike, it’s often geared toward teenage readers. However, what truly defines YA isn’t so much the age of the characters or target audience, but the novel’s issues and themes. High school drama, first love, increased independence from parents, discovering self-identity,  blossoming sexuality, and facing peer pressure, are just some of the subjects tackled by YA fiction. But now something funny is happening…

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Why I’m Not Writing a Sequel to Ashes Swept

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After the release of Ashes Swept, I was surprised by how many readers said they were excited for the sequel and asked when it would be out. This caught me completely off-guard, because Ashes Swept was always meant to be a stand-alone novel. The book covers the important part of Synda May’s story, so I’d never even considered adding on beyond that.

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Looking Back and Looking Ahead

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Looking Back at 2017

Sitting here at my desk, contemplating this post, I’m finding it hard to believe another year has gone by. One year ago, I was knee-deep in editing Ashes Swept with the help of my CPs, Shannon and Ely. It had been a whole year since I’d set up my author page and social media sites, but the reality of calling myself an author felt a million miles away. Now, with 2017 behind me, it feels like my first launch day was ages ago.

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Horseback Kidnappings, Apparently?

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Hillary Clinton said: “The whole romance novel industry is about women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance.”

I laughed when I first read that. Then I grumbled. And then I set out to write a post about how unjust that sentiment is. That’s when I fell down a familiar rabbit hole. And bear with me, this subject change is going to give you whiplash…

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Random but handy…

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It’s already been two weeks since the launch of my debut novel, Ashes Swept. Looking back, I can’t help but take stock of the entire process–what worked, what didn’t, and what to do another way next time. Here are five (totally random) things that I’ll definitely remember when I’m ready to do it again…

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Ashes Swept is now available!

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You can find it in print and e-book on Amazon.com!

Ashes Swept Playlist ~ Top Five

Lots of things inspire me when I write, but nothing inspires me more than music. The right song can help me flesh out my characters, spark plot ideas, and can even influence entire scenes. The playlist for Ashes Swept is one of my favorites so far, so I’m excited to share my five favorite songs on the playlist with you, along with some of the lyrics that inspired me.

#1 Home by Gabrielle Aplin

So when I’m ready to be bolder, and my cuts have healed with time;
comfort will rest on my shoulder, and I’ll bury my future behind.
I’ll always keep you with me. You’ll always be on my mind,
but there’s a shining in the shadows, I’ll never know unless I try.

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Book trailer for Ashes Swept

I’ve been waiting for months to finally share the book trailer for my new novel, Ashes Swept, which will be available at Amazon on Friday, 9/29!

Ashes Swept Cover Reveal!

I’m so excited to finally share the cover of my new novel, Ashes Swept, which will be available on Amazon.com next Friday, September 29th. The cover was created by the talented Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Designs. Thanks, Clarissa!

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Stay-tuned for more exciting goodies as launch week for Ashes Swept continues!

Ashes Swept Book Blurb!

To kick-off launch week for my new novel, Ashes Swept, I’m excited to share with you the official book blurb! Ashes Swept will be available on Amazon.com on September 29th!

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As a ministerial daughter, Synda May Ivey has a duty to her family and to all of Floridian—but she has no interest in galas, garden parties, and high-tech society life. With everything in disarray after her father’s death, marriage to her aristocratic childhood friend is the last thing she wants. After escaping to a world of simplicity in the low-tech tractlands, life couldn’t be more perfect. Silver Glen is everything she’d hoped for, and Wilken Kirby might help her forget about the noble Everton Greer. But with her overbearing stepfamily in pursuit and her true identity cloaked in deception, her two worlds may not stay separate for long. Having seen her nation through different eyes, she may find it difficult to choose freedom and love over duty.