Saturday, 28 December 2013

New Year's Give Away!

Yes, it is that time of year again: time to make resolutions!

I love the end of the year, and not just for the excess food and drink. I love planning for next year and assessing how I can reach my dreams. In the next post I'll fill you in on some of the exciting developments that are going to be happening for me in 2014 (it is going to be a big year!).

But we all need a bit of help to reach some of our goals. And luckily I've written and helped produce a few books that are perfect for getting you on the right track.

So I'm giving away copies of 3 different books for those in need:

Romance: need a bit of help finding love? Then sign up for my Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles, a practical and entertaining read on how best to present yourself online (great for guys and girls).

Spirituality: decided to take up faith as part of your New Year's Resolution? Prayer, meditation and spirituality are proving to be essential for well being, so why not? Rev. David L. Greentree (yup, he's my dad), has written a short but concise book: Colostrum: Spiritual Antibodies for New Christians. It looks at how to grow big and strong without any veggies (wish he'd had this when we were kids) as well as revealing the major heresies you are likely to come across.

Writing: and who doesn't want to make 2014 their year for writing? What better way to prepare than with a writing retreat to begin the year? The Five Day Writer's Retreat will challenge you to assess and adapt your lifestyle to be more creative. 

If you would like an ebook or hardcopy (excludes Online Dating, which is only electronic at the moment), leave a comment saying which area of your life you want to work on in 2014 and why. Or if you don't want to declare it on the internet (though there is no judgement here, I'm all in support of online dating), then you can email me at

Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy new year!

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Writer's Portfolio: The Author Bio

Early Work
Get in early creating your author identity! (image courtesy of Umut Kemal at stock.xchng)
As writers, we often spend so much time thinking about the piece we are working on, that we neglect the other essential little bits that are required to be an author.

How often on conferences or in courses have you been told to sit down and take time to write up your author bio? Well, for me, never.

Whenever I go to publish something, be it on Amazon, or a guest blog post, or even entering a competition, I am suddenly faced with churning out around 250 words about myself.

Writing about yourself, summing yourself up in 250 words, is difficult. At first, almost impossible. The trash that I've come out with still haunts me at night.

So I am now challenging you to put aside whatever you are working on, and take some time crafting and forming this very important piece of writing. Having a good description of yourself, practiced a few different ways, polished up and ready to go, is an essential part of the writer's portfolio.

The question is, how to go about it?

Sitting at a blank computer screen telling yourself to write about yourself is the hardest possible way to go. Actually, sitting in front of an internet form at midnight, with Amazon telling you to write about yourself before you can publish your book might be slightly harder. Eitherway, you can definitely make life easier for yourself.

First we are going to get some ideas and models. You need to know what to include and what not to, what style works well. Should it be in the first person, or do you write about yourself in the third? Do you mention your pet cat, or focus only on your qualifications for writing in this field?

This varies across what genre and style you are writing in. This is why you should do some research.

Start by working out who you are writing your bio for, who is your audience and what do you want to tell them? If you are a self-help writer you may want to give some credentials. If you are writing humorous fiction your audience might expect your bio to also be funny. A romance writer? Your audience is interested in relationships, and so probably want to know more about you as a person, not just your books.

Next I recommend going to Amazon and reading the bios of authors writing in your field. Note what person they write in (first or third?), the types of details they give and what they leave out. Find a few that really appeal to you, and work out exactly what it is that you like about them.

Now you need to start writing. This is not going to be a once off, polished, done affair. The greater number of different ways you write about yourself, the more chance you have of finding the perfect combination of information and tone.

So I want to challenge you, over the next week (yes, across Christmas), take a few minutes everyday to jot down another version of your personal bio. Try focusing on a few different aspects each time. Also, try adjusting your wording, keeping the same content but changing the style. At the end of the week, sort through them all and pick out the parts that work the best, then start to polish. You should make a slightly longer version, around 250 words, and a much shorter snappier version, down to 50 words.

Then you will need to keep playing with it and updating it at various intervals. Your information is going to change. Maybe your cat died, or you won a great award. I highly recommend keeping a list of all your editable bios (such as your Amazon author page, your blog about page, etc.) so that when you have a new achievement or detail to add, you know where to go.

Remember, you need to give yourself time and permission to do on this. It is all part of your work as a writer, and shouldn't be left to the last minute.

One week, seven attempts, great start for 2014 being your year of writing!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Essential Writing Concepts - Breaking The Frame

It continues to amaze me that I did a number of creative writing subjects at one of Australia's top universities, and there are simple concepts about writing which they never taught me. It was like they believed that to teach these concept would be to place restrictions on us budding authors and therefore somehow stifle our creativity.

Now that I'm a full time writer, I'm working hard to collect all these little bits of knowledge that other writers have worked out over the centuries, so I can skip ahead on making these mistakes myself.

Through reading and attending seminars, I'm finally realising that these concepts and rules could have saved me so much time and embarassment. Once someone pointed them out to me, they were so obvious! I don't feel in any way that they stifle what I want to write. Instead, they are secret short cuts to faster, better writing. Even if I decide to break these rules, I will at least understand what I'm doing and why.

Today's concept was revolutionary to me when I learned it at a writing conference in June this year:

Do everything you can not to 'break frame'. 

For a writer, the best times are when we completely get caught up in the flow, lost in our own world, seeing the story play out in front of us as we hurriedly try to keep up.

Why would we not want to pass this experience onto the reader?

My favourite books are those where I can completely lose myself in the world of the story, where I'm a silent observer, engrossed in the events. When reading like this, if someone calls me back to the real world, I stare around me blinking, wondering why it is now semi-dark or my tea has gone cold.

For me, this is what storytelling is all about, weaving such a world with words.

Breaking the frame is a cinematic concept, it refers to anything that comes within the frame of the shot that shouldn't, that suggests the images are all just constructs. For example, when you are watching a romantic scene, and suddenly the audio boom appears at the top. This has broken into the frame, and once you notice things like this, you are focused more on how the story is made than what the story actually is.

For writers, breaking the frame is forcing the reader suddenly out of the story. Now I understand that some people think it is 'artistic' to confront the reader, challenge them in their perceptions in a way that makes them uncomfortable. If you know why you are doing this, okay. However, there is one very good reason that should make you think before doing this: every time you break the frame for the reader, you are giving them an opportunity to put your book down and walk away.

Breaking the frame is anything that makes your reader realise that they are reading, that they are separate to the world being created. It is anything that jars the reader back into reality and breaks the spell of the writing over them.

That all sounds very dramatic, and a bit mystical, so let me give you a down to earth example in writing. One of the easiest ways that young writers do this is a sudden second person (the sneaky 'you'). While in normal conversation and communication, a second person works well because it shows the listener you are thinking of them, in a narrative it suddenly highlights that the reader is a being of their own, no longer lost in the story.

Simple lines like:

He walked across the lake. You know, it's difficult to walk across a lake in hiking gear. 

The 'you know' seems so harmless, and even give some texture to the writing. However, it is a break and the sudden change can be like a splash of water in the face of the reader. Whether it fully wakes them up or not, it has diminished your spell over them.

There are of course many other ways to break the frame, so start looking out for them and analysing their effect on the reader.

The more you understand about it, the more you can effectively use it. Sometimes the reader does just need a slap in the face in order to fully understand your point, but you should be really sure that they are going to appreciate it and not just walk away.