Writing Life: Lions and Tigers and Titles… Oh My!

picture of untitled bookIf you’re anything like me, you start writing because a character (or an interesting situation) comes to visit your brain. And you write and write and write and begin to bring the story to life. You start to get excited about your wonderful writing so you share bits and pieces of the project with your friends and/or fellow writers. And then, inevitably the question arises:

“So … what’s the title?” 

And you pause for a never-ending moment before answering with glassy eyes and a trembling smile, “Uh … no title yet!”

You say this even if it is titled because you only have a working title. And no one in their right mind wants to share a working title because that would jinx the project. Or maybe it’s because the WT is embarrassing or silly or unimaginative or anything but the perfect title you know your masterpiece deserves.

Nah, definitely the jinx.

Speaking from experience, I can say this traumatic title trouble also happens with poems, flash pieces, works of nonfiction both long and short, essays, research papers, academic works … and yes, even blog posts.

So what’s a writer to do? 

I wish I could give you a one-sentence magic answer … but I have yet to master that mystical power. What I can do is give you a list of some pretty nifty websites that have helped me tackle title trouble in the past.

Here they are in no particular order:

    • From indiebooklauncher.com comes the post, How to Pick a Title For Your Book (doesn’t get more obvious than that). What I like about this post is that it presents a number of options to brainstorm – I particularly like the suggestion to look for snatches of dialogue.
    • I love this post from Scott Berkun entitled The Truth About Choosing Book Titles because he hits on what matters and what doesn’t, which helps when whittling down that endless brainstorm list of possible titles – I especially like #10!
    • The helpful Tucker Max over at Scribe Writing (formerly Book in a Box) has provided this detailed guide aptly named How to Write the Perfect Book Title. It covers everything from titular research to social media to your own gut – very helpful and full of jumping-off points for your title adventures.
    • Don’t forget the value of old-fashioned brain picking – friends, family, even strangers in the supermarket might have the perfect title on the tips of their tongues. My husband was instrumental in helping me figure out the title to a nonfiction piece I recently wrote for a workshop, and the first thing everyone commented on was the amazing title!
    • Still stumped? Check out these random title generators from TaraSparlingWrites. I’m happy to see that if I were to ever write Chic Lit, the title could be Where Smiles Might Tell — mysterious and strange, just like me!

If all else fails, keep in mind that if you decide to publish your baby via a publishing house, the editor and marketing peeps may make the decision for you! So sit back, relax, and keep writing. The title will appear, one way or the other. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

Do you have tips for tackling titles? I’d love to read them, so share away in the comments section!

Writing Life: Creating a Book Cover

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.It’s the eleventh of November. And that means we’re almost halfway through NaNoWriMoNo, you didn’t read that word wrong and it’s not Pig Latin.

For millions of writers each year, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo., a free program for creatives everywhere. And for these intrepid wordsmiths, instead of spending the month planning for Thanksgiving Dinner and Black Friday shopping, they’re racing toward the 50,000-word finish line.

That’s right: NaNoWriMo challenges writers to complete an entire novel (50,000 words or more) in the 30 days of November. Not an easy feat.

To keep ourselves motivated, we writers use lots of tricks, like word sprints, write-ins, pep talks, and more. Falling under the “more” category is to use visual motivation to generate creativity.

What does “visual motivation” mean for NaNoWriMo? It could be a word count checklist, a map to the finish line, pictures of characters or settings, or even a working book cover.

You might be wondering how a book cover can help motivate you to keep writing through dry spells and busy days. For me, seeing the cover of my work in progress helps make my book real. It pushes me to write, to fill the pages between the covers because I want to hold it in hands, flip through, and revisit my characters and their (usually wacky) lives.

There are many talented artists who offer their creative services to writers. These phenomenal peeps can make your vision of a cover a reality. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, like me, I’ve got a fast, easy, and free way to create your own NaNo book cover.

canva-step-4

Click here to read my post from last year that walks you through the process step by easy step.

If you’re already doing NaNoWriMo, send me a buddy request! And if you haven’t started, don’t worry — it’s not too late. Every year, hundreds of writers manage to fit 50,000 words into the last few weeks of November.

And even if you don’t hit 50,000, the number isn’t what matters anyway. The idea is to get started writing and write every day. So even if you hit 50, 500, or 5000, that’s more than you had when you started.

Did you try making a cover using my tutorial? Let me know how it went in the comments!

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo: Create-a-Book-Cover Tutorial

NaNo-Shield-Logo-WebIt’s October. Which means next month is November. And for many writers, November = NaNoWriMo, or for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month.

This year, I’m busy as usual. I’m hosting a write-in every Friday on top of my weekly Shut Up and Write meeting. I’m also serving as Cupertino Poet Laureate, which means I’m teaching several workshops and attending various events… on top of my usual freelance writing work and my work at the local community college.

Did I mention I have four kids and husband? And am hosting Thanksgiving?

So with this busy schedule, I need all the help I can get … and that extends to writing motivation. Little things can get me pumped when I’m feeling intimidated, so this morning instead of focusing on the writing, I thought I’d focus on something easier:

Creating a book cover for NaNoWriMo.

I have no plan when it comes to NaNo. I don’t plot – as much as I want to be the writer with the outline, character sketches, and full-blown plan for novel writing, I am a pantser through and through. In fact, I don’t have a clue as to what this year’s NaNo book will be about. Or at least I didn’t until I started making a cover. It’s one of my tricks up my very tricksy sleeves. I force myself to complete the first step, and the rest follows. Eventually. And if I change my mind or the Muses gift me with another story? I’ll change the cover. Easy as Thanksgiving pie.

So for anyone who would like a nudge in the pants(er), here is a quick and painless way to create a NaNoWriMo book cover to display with pride (or any other emotion you choose) on your dashboard…

(1) Log in to Canva.

Canva is a free, online site that comes fully loaded with easy-to-use tools that make it possible for everyone (well, maybe not my mother but she still can’t figure out her email) to design graphics, presentations, social media bling, headers, buttons, and yes, NaNo book covers. For free. Just register with your email address and you’re good to go!

(2) From your Canva dashboard, click “Use custom dimensions” and enter 230 x 300 pixels. It will look something like this:

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You’ll then end up on the layout page with a blank slate, like this:

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(3) From here, you can get as creative as you’d like OR keep it as simple as you like.

Simple cover – For a crisp, clean cover, simply add a background color and lettering, like so:

canva-step-3

All I did here was select existing text from the left sidebar and edit it. For the author’s name, I used “Add a little bit of body text.” You can change the colors, size, etc., by simply selecting the element. Playing around and experimenting is the best way to find what you like.

Fancier cover – Or add photos (choose from free stock photos, pay $1 to use protected images, or upload your own photos), graphics, fancy fonts from your personal library, and other elements. Here’s an example using a free stock photo:

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I selected “Elements” from the left menu bar, picked “Free photos,” then entered “train” in the search box. To make the photo fit the cover, I dragged the corners until the image filled the 230 x 300 pixel template. Then I added text as above.

(4) After you’ve played around and are happy with the cover, click “Download” from the top menu bar and save the file as a JPG or PNG, the forms compatible with NaNo.

canva-step-4

(5) Finally, all that’s left is to visit your author dashboard over at NaNoWriMo and upload the cover!

I promise this is a very easy process and was actually faster than the time it took to write this post! I created my 2018 NaNoWriMo (working) cover this morning. And while I didn’t know going in what my book would be about, the creative process got the juices flowing and an idea sparked. Now let’s hope it catches!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know if you create a NaNoWriMo cover! And if you have a different technique or use different software, please feel free to share in the comment section!