August 23, 2019

How to be a Writer


This past week I had the pleasure of hosting a writing workshop with fellow writer, Rebecca Toro. I’m pleased with how well the event went. And since we gathered a ton of really great information for the workshop, I thought I’d share it here with you.

Start Your Writing Career Today!

A brief guide by Beth Martin & Rebecca Toro

What is a writer?


A writer is simply someone who writes. As long as you’re working on something, you are a writer. You don’t need to have any published works, articles, a blog, or stories shared on networks like Wattpad. If you have the desire to write, then start calling yourself a writer.

Step One: Set Your Goal


Before getting started, know what you're trying to achieve.

Do you want to make money or be widely read? Will you write essays, short stories, novels, or non-fiction books? Do you have a time frame in mind? How do you plan on getting to your goal?

Each of these decisions will influence the following steps, but before you have anything you plan on publishing, your writing career goal should be to build an audience.

Building your audience means finding the people who will read what you write. These are the people who will follow your career and purchase your books and anthologies and read literary magazines featuring your work. Don’t plan on having a publisher find your readers for you. This is your job, and it’s never too early to start.

Pro tip: Start by recruiting friends and family. They can give you the boost in confidence you need when sharing your work with an outside audience. 

Step Two: Define Your Ideal Reader 


Once we have a clear goal—build an audience—it’s time to decide who that audience is. What type of person would likely read your work? Often, your audience will be a lot like you and will engage in similar activities to those you enjoy.

Take a few minutes to think about what type of person is in your ideal audience. How old are they? What experiences do you think they’ve had? What do they like to do in their free time? What books (in addition to yours) do they like to read?

Pro tip: Once you know who your ideal reader is, you can start thinking of what kind of content they would enjoy. Do they like pop culture, a playful tone,  or complex language?

Step Three: Define Your Personal Brand


You are your brand. Your brand is everything from your personality to your style, the language of writing, how you talk, who you communicate with, and how you look. Some examples of things writers may use in their brands include sharing writing advice, building a cabin, being a hardcore book nerd, engaging in tons of geeky activities, caring for lots of cats, and prepping for doomsday.

Aesthetics


Choose colors, fonts, and design elements for your brand. Go with colors that would represent your work or something that defines your personality. Something you’re obsessed with? Something that makes you, you.

Ideally, people who look at your work, website, or book cover will say, “That’s _____ work! I recognize it because I keep seeing this color scheme with this font and this author’s name. I want to read their book since it looks interesting.”

Pro tip: Think of it like this—how can you be memorable? With so much content out there, how do you stand out? 

It sounds intimidating, but just find something that really resonates with you and it will come naturally. Take a few minutes to think about what you want your brand to be. What aspects of your personality would you like to share with fans? What detail(s) would you like readers to remember about you? What sort of colors and images represent you, the writer?

Step Four: Build Your Platform


Your platform is your presence online. This should include a website and one or more social media accounts dedicated to you, the writer.

Pro tip: It is entirely up to you if you want to have a separate professional social media account or combine your personal account with your professional work. 

Build a Website


Make your site clear, concise, and easy to navigate. Lots of website builders have premade themes that you can tweak to your liking, or you can hire someone to do the work for you. Some good website builders are Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, and Blogger.

A website functions as your ‘home’ on the internet. It’s the place you’ll direct people to who want to learn more about you and your work.

Although it’s tempting to build a website around your book or story, your website should be about you. Choose a name for your site which includes your name or pen name. Domain names are affordable, but you can use a free webname in the beginning.

There are a lot of benefits of hiring a professional to build your website. You don’t have to do nearly as much work, and they can help come up with your logo and color scheme and create multiple pages. A pro may have ideas you didn’t think of. Although self-made sites give you more control, when you hire someone to help build your site, you will still have the final say.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with building your own site. A self-made site is more affordable, and depending on your skills, you can customize your site as much as you want. It’s easy to set up a simple website from a template.

On your site, you should have dedicated pages for:
  • About you: Your work, education, hobbies, fun facts
  • Portfolio: Your published works or current work in progress
  • Contact page: Ways fans can get in touch
  • Blog: (optional) Share posts about your work and life, give advice, etc.

A key part you can include on your website is a blog. Blogs are great since they provide content for your page which can potentially lead people to your site; however, it takes time and dedication to keep up with a blog. Think about what content would interest your audience when deciding what to post. Try to post regularly (once a week or a couple times a month).

Pro tip: Connect your social accounts to your website. That way people can find you online easier. You’d be surprised with how many professional business social media accounts are not linked correctly, not linked at all, or not located on their site. 

Take Advantage of Social Media


There are tons of social media sites. Here are a few of the more popular ones for writers:

  • Facebook Make a dedicated page to share photos and thoughts. It’s good for marketing your work and makes it easy for fans to share your content.
  • Instagram Great for sharing photos and reaching outside of your existing fan base.
  • YouTube Make videos including vlogs, insights to your writing process, writing advice, etc.
  • Goodreads Meet other book lovers and leave reviews for your favorite books.
  • Twitter Share thoughts and quickly meet like-minded people.

There are many more social websites including Tumblr, Snapchat, TikTok, etc. Use whatever social media your audience might have and you yourself enjoy using.

Pro tip: In order to not overextend yourself, choose two social media platforms in the beginning and dedicate your time to those.

Post content which your audience might enjoy. Include snippets of your work, share your hobbies, and post pictures of you being you. Let people know what books you’re reading, how your work is going, and which things you find interesting.

Sometimes we forget that published writers are everyday people with thoughts and feelings. Some people get really political, curse, argue, or post incessantly about their dog. Your personal brand is you. You can be playful or opinionated, professional or risqué. It’s up to you! Anything you post will be a reflection of you and your brand.

Take a few minutes to think about what you would like to use for your platform. Will you have a website? How about a blog? Which social media websites would you like to use to connect with fans? What sort of content will you share on your platform? How often will you post?

Pro tip: Be mindful of how you react to criticism and trolls. Your platform is visible to the public and reacting poorly to comments will reflect negatively on your brand.

Step Five: Network with Other Writers


When you connect with other writers you’ll be able to make lasting friendships, gain exposure, discover writers you may not have heard of, relate to fellow book nerds, write editorial reviews for each other, and cross-promote your work.

Once you’re actively presenting yourself as a writer, you’ll attract the attention of other writers. These connections will be invaluable.

So, how do you network with other writers? Try to comment on other users’ posts, follow hashtags that you’re interested in, or create your own thread. Ask a question, and be the conversation starter! Join groups and pages you are interested in and follow your favorite authors.

Next Steps: Have Fun!


Yes, starting a career is a job, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! Try new things and experiment until you find a strategy that works for you. If your platform takes away too much time from your writing, it’s totally fine to downsize your social media involvement.

July 22, 2019

I Now Have A Patron

I have wanted to do this for a while and kept putting it off, but I’m excited to finally announce that I’ve set up a Patreon. If you enjoy my content and are able to help support my writing, please consider pledging!


All the money I receive from Patreon will go directly to table fees and travel costs for upcoming events. I really enjoy meeting fans in person and getting to connect with you all, and I hope to do more of that in the future.

If you’re not able to pledge anything, you can still follow my page—just go to my Patreon page and click the “Follow” button under my portrait.

July 8, 2019

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: ★★★☆☆

Aiden Bishop wakes up with no memories, no idea where he is, and no idea how he ended up in Blackheath. In fact, he doesn't even know he's Aiden Biship. Instead, he's trapped inside of the body of a doctor and when the day is done, he's thrown into another person and another. The common thread is that all these people are at Blackheath on the same day--the day Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered.

As he stumbles through this bizarre game, a plague doctor tells him that the only way to find freedom is to solve the mystery of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. Aiden teams up with Anna, another person stuck in the same one-day loop as him, and together they uncover the truth behind the multitude of mysteries shrowding Blackheath.

My husband read this before recommending it to me, raving about how great the mystery is. Unfortunately, I got too stuck in slow pacing and confusion for the sake of confusion. I assumed there would be some sort of sci-fi framework holding up the game mechanics of playing the same day over and over as different people. However, the end only reveals the surface layer of what the game really without showing how it works or what real life even is for the characters in the book. The details of how the timing functions, with each character playing through the same day over and over (but Aiden somehow jumping between days), is glossed over, leaving us a structure which couldn't actually work and doesn't make a lot of sense.

The mystery is cool and mostly resolved at the end, although the slog to get there left me unsatisfied and disappointed.

If you enjoy Agatha Christie or mysteries in general, you should definitely give this book a read. If you prefer more sci-fi and get picky about time travel details, some of the story aspects might get in the way of you enjoying this novel.

July 1, 2019

New Events

I’ve added two new events to my calendar this year:

Fairfax Comic Con


August 24-25, 2019

The Dukes Expo, Chantilly, VA


Fairfax Comic Con is a new annual comic convention brought to you by Tidewater Comicon and the diehard comic fans of Fairfax County, Virginia. Our first year (2018) we plan on a smaller show with a strong focus on comic book creators and a few surprise guests. We want to be a family friendly event that brings fans from far and wide for two fun-filled days in Fairfax. Ok, admittedly we tried to put as many F’s in that last sentence as we could. Fantastic!

Oakland Mills Craft Fair

November 2, 2019 10am-3pm
Oakland Mills Highschool, Columbia, MD

This event is a fundraiser for the OMHS PTSA. We will have 100+ vendors all selling unique, handcrafted items. Food will also be available for purchase. So stay for the day and shop til you drop.
I also have the Harrisburg Comic and Pop Con in September. I would like to do a fall festival again this year, so if you know of any fun events in Maryland or nearby, do let me know about them!