All posts by SarahPerlmutter

Lessons Learned from My 27 Years on Earth

Lessons Learned from my 27 Years on Earth // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published on September 20, 2015-

Today is my birthday.

Back in high school, I decided on scary ages, a.k.a. ages at which I would objectively be old, and my life would officially begin ending. 27 was the first of those ages, and today I have met it head on.

But I was an idiot in high school. I don’t feel any older, and I’m in no way scared.

26 was a year full of successes and excitement, and as you age, those exciting things don’t end, they multiply. I still have lots of excitement ahead of me. In fact, I would argue, most of the more exciting things I will experience as a human being on this earth are still ahead of me. 27 is going to be an even better year than the last.

I know this will be true, because each year I learn something new, something that will make me happier, healthier, better, and every year after, I live that lesson.

For some people, it takes living through mistakes to learn, but in case you are one of those people, like me, who enjoys listening and learning from advice others give you, listen up. As Mary Schmich wrote and Baz Luhrman made famous, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Indulge me as I do just that.

27 Pieces of Advice from my 27th Year

  1. Wake up early enough to see the sunrise. It’s a sight most people don’t get to see, and among the most beautiful sights available to us. From there, the day is yours.
  2. Learn to ask for help without shame. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength.
  3. Be confident in yourself. In your life, you will have many cheerleaders on your side; however, you are the only cheerleader who will never quit your team. Treat yourself well, so you can keep your strength. Never stop cheering yourself on.
  4. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Whether it is writing, singing, dancing, painting, playing an instrument, or reading… find something. Otherwise, you’ll waste half of your life bored, watching the same shows over and over again, and admiring “interesting people,” who are really just “passionate people.”
  5. Understand that learning never stops. If I had known this in high school, I would have tried a lot harder. Learning is not about getting a grade and moving on. It’s about questioning and applying, it’s about living. Learning never ever stops, embrace it.
  6. Let people know you appreciate them. You never know when someone will need to hear that, or even a simple “thank you,” and it takes little to no effort for you to do. You have no idea how many notes of appreciation I still have from people over the years, and I read them when I’ve had a bad day. If you can give someone that, why wouldn’t you?
  7. It’s okay to make mistakes. You learn faster when you make a mistake, because you create a memory with that information. Feel free to try and be wrong. Again, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
  8. Just as you should be passionate about something, try to be a huge, unapologetic nerd about something too. Do you think I ever feel bad about loving The Hunger Games or YA lit? Nope. I take pride in it. It’s a badge I wear every time I put on my mockingjay pin, and I love it. Think I’m weird for it? Oh well, it makes me happy, and that’s more important than what you think. That should be your thought process every time you second guess your nerdiness. Who cares what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy.
  9. Admit to your parents that they were right all those years. Growing up, you’re learning everything as you go. Your parents have already lived it and learned from it. When they tell you you can’t do something, listen. Chances are there is a story behind those words, and if there isn’t, I guarantee they are said out of love, not anger (even if the tone suggests otherwise).
  10. Study abroad. It is likely going to be the last chance you will have to live outside of the U.S., unless you’re very lucky. The U.S. is great, but leaving your comfort zone and entering into unknown territory awakens aspects of your personality you would have never dreamed existed before. It may even awaken a passion, as it did for me.
  11. Try to understand people before you judge them. I didn’t give a lot of really amazing, interesting, brilliant people a chance when I was in middle or high school, because they weren’t in the same cliques as me. Ignore those social boundaries and get to know as many people as you can. You will learn something new from each of them.
  12. Put your phone down. Or better yet, leave your phone at home. Sometimes you need to disconnect (says the girl posting on her blog). When I was studying abroad, I didn’t have an international cellphone. I use home phones and Skype to contact my friends, I made plans in advance, I took the time to talk to people and look at everything around me. Some days I wish I could go back to that, like how it was when I was growing up. Some days I miss having only a home phone, books, and dial up.
  13. Tell people what you want. Being an advocate for yourself and your dreams is crucial. A lot of people don’t do it, because they see it as a sign of entitlement or selfishness or greed. It’s not. Just as you are your own cheerleader, you must also be your own spokesperson. Besides, it’s more than likely that people will want to help you achieve your goals, but they can’t if you never express them.
  14. Treat your body well. I’m still learning to do this in many ways. It’s one of the things I hope to work toward doing better in the future if I want my bones and joints to all work still in 50 years.
  15. Become part of a community. Whether it is with a religious organization, a sports team, a club, or even a writing group, it’s important to have a support system around you. The older you get, the more you’re going to want this in your life, trust me. Start building it now.
  16. Save your money. You will be thankful you did. It may not seem appealing now, but trust me, it will when you’re older.
  17. Keep a notebook. Jot down anything in its pages, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. It’s important to document your thoughts and your life. How else will you remember how awesome you were when you’re memory starts to fade?
  18. Speak up for yourself when you’ve been given the raw end of a deal. I never used to speak up for myself, because I didn’t want people to think I was a “bitch” or needy or high maintenance. I feel like women especially are so easily branded with one of those adjectives, but you can’t let those labels stop you from being treated fairly. Let the waiter know politely that they got your order wrong. Tell someone when you have been overcharged for something. Chances are they made a mistake and they will want to fix it for you. Don’t let fear stop you from letting them.
  19. Learn how to do nothing. Sometimes you need time by yourself to meditate or just relax. We are so quick to grab our phones or turn on the TV… stop. Just don’t do anything. Just sit and be. Not all the time, but every once and a while, be still.
  20. Be patient. They say good things come to those who wait, and they are right. Not everything is going to happen overnight. Work for goals, work for people, work for yourself, and soon, you’ll be glad you did.
  21. Never give up on something you truly want. I gave up on wanting to be an actress, but I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m thankful I did, because what I truly wanted for my life was to one day have a cute little home, a small family, and a group of close friends. With acting, I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of that sort of stability, because I would have to travel and I would have to work constantly to maintain my income and any benefits. I didn’t want that. I do want to be a great teacher and a published writer, and the more I work toward those dreams, the closer I get to reaching them.
  22. Learn self-discipline. You will accomplish more than you ever imagined was possible if you can only discipline yourself enough to stick to a plan or a schedule or a regimen. You may even find it energizes you, as it does for me.
  23. Help others. This can look different for everyone, but as long as you are spreading kindness, you’re repairing this earth and making it a better place to live. That’s what matters.
  24. Keep a clean house. It will reduce stress and allow you to do what you want in life, instead of furiously cleaning every time guests come over.
  25. Learn to work through anger by understanding its source. All anger comes from something else, something that you want from your life but aren’t getting, which makes you angry. You’re not really upset with your roommate about using your shampoo again without asking. You’re upset, because that action shows a lack of respect, and you want to be respected. Once you figure out that source, you can calm down, and have a real, productive conversation about it instead of an argument. It helps you realize what is most important in your life, so you can work toward it, and it helps strength your relationships with others. One of my friends taught me this one.
  26. Find a way to stay in touch with people, even if they are far away. I have loved many people in my life, and I have only been able to stay in contact with some of them. That is a huge regret of mine. We are able to remain so connected to each other nowadays, so find a way to use technology to your advantage. And don’t feel weird to be the one who reaches out after years… chances are if you’re reaching out, that people has missed you too.
  27. And finally, understand that you are on a journey that will last your whole life.Don’t feel upset if you’re not at the place you hoped you would be at your age, or if your journey took you on a detour. Everyone’s journey through life is different. Love yours. Be happy with the path you’ve chosen. There’s no turning back, so if you find yourself on a path you don’t like, cut through the forest to a different one, plant some flowers, find companions to join you on your journey. It is never too late to get to a station along your path, and it’s never too late to find a new path along the way. Just don’t stand there, looking back the way you came, and wishing you could start again. It won’t help. Move forward, make new goals, and find new adventures, appreciating everything around you on the way. Your journey is what you make it.

So there they are: my 27 pieces of advice, my 27 lessons learned.

Thank you for indulging me and for reading. You are among the many good things I have been blessed with in my 27 years. Your support has given me more strength than you can imagine.

Thank you.

-Sarah

Advice for Writers

The Viral Post from Tumblr!
The Viral Post from Tumblr!

-Original post published May of 2015-

Advice for Writers

One of my readers on Wattpad recently asked if I had any advice for writers, and while I feel unqualified to give advice on many aspects of writing, I can certainly relay advice I’ve taken to heart and add my two cents. So here goes…

1. You’re a writer starting right now. Own it.

I have tried writing before and could never get into it until a couple of years ago when I decided that I would share my journey as a writer with the world via social media. You don’t have to go crazy with it, you can begin slowly so as to ease yourself into the world of writing like I did with a few mild tweets, but you have to do this. This is step 1.

You have to own your title as a writer. The best piece of advice I got on this matter was to write an affirmation. Post it somewhere where you will see it every day. Mine is on my desk at work, and it says, “I am a writer. Writing is my art.” I look at it when I’m having a rough day or when I am feeling stressed about writing. It’s a kind reminder that I not only CAN write, but I can write beautifully.

2. After you label yourself as a writer and you receive your inevitable first few rejections, don’t beat yourself up.

For a while I wasn’t sure if I could really pull off calling myself a writer, because I hadn’t been published. I felt like I was writing good stories (and I still do), so I wasn’t sure why no one wanted them. I began to wonder if I was really a writer, and started asking myself, “Can I really call myself a writer if I don’t have any readers?”

The answer is YES. You can. One day you will have readers, but you won’t ever get there if you stop writing. And maybe not every story you write will be published, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer, in fact, it’s more like a rite of passage.

I read once, and I really wish I remembered which author this was, that a famous author kept all of his (or her) rejection letters on a wall in his (or her) apartment. At first I thought, “Well, that’s depressing,” but then I got to thinking about it… If you have rejection letters, that means you’re trying. You’re writing and you’re putting your writing out there, which I think is incredibly courageous.

So don’t lose hope. Rejection happens to everyone. Keep writing.

3. All first drafts are crap.

One of the most freeing things I ever learned as a writer was that all first drafts are crap. Once I learned this, I felt free to just write and write and write. I wasn’t caught up in my own head, and I wasn’t getting down on myself for not being the most amazing writer in my first drafts.

My readers on Wattpad always ask me how I can be such an amazing writer, to which I tell them, “I’m not. I write my books and then I edit the crap out of them.” Literally.

I am currently writing the 3rd book of The Deathless Trilogy, and my readers are dying to read it. But there is still no way they are looking at my first draft. It’s a mess! But I allow it to be a mess. I allow myself to work through the story. Your first draft is never going to be the draft that’s published (nor should it be), and that’s okay.

4. Just write.

Stop waiting for the right time or the right idea. There’s no such thing. Just do it, and it will come to you, even if you’re just writing short stories in a journal each day. Writing is a muscle, and if you don’t work it, you lose it.

Don’t worry about what others will say or whether or not it’s good. Start writing just for you, and once you start to feel a little more confident, start considering your audience. But at first, write for yourself first.

Try keeping a diary. You can remember situations and feelings you can use later for characters WHILE you write for only yourself. I kept a diary all through middle and high school, and you know where I go to for inspiration now? You got it–my diary.

5. When writing any story, have an ending in mind.

Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.

For my first book in The Deathless Trilogy, all I began writing with was a first scene image and a final scene image. With those in mind, I filled in the rest, but having my final scene in mind helped me figure out everything along the way.

6. Speaking of endings, finish your writing.

You have no idea how many unfinished manuscripts are posted on Wattpad right now, and many of them have fantastic concepts that were never carried through to an end. Think of all the potential!

Endings are hard, I get that, and writing takes some serious stamina, but you have to do it! You can’t start to understand storytelling without writing endings. Besides, once you type the period of that last sentence of your manuscript, you can sit back and marvel at what you just accomplished.

So seriously, finish your writing.

7. Protect your writing time from others and yourself.

Obviously you need to go to work or school, you need to have some sort of social life, and you need to have some time for yourself. But if you want to be a writer, you also need to carve out a time for yourself every day just for writing.

I remember hearing this piece of advice when I first started writing, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, every day? I’m not sure if I can do that.” Fast forward two years, and I can’t imagine a day without writing.

I go to work Monday through Friday, and come home and write after chores. Saturdays are my writing day. I fiercely protect my Saturdays and my time after work. I go away from everyone (sometimes this even includes my cat, because she is nonsense), and I write for all of that time.

You have to have that time for yourself to write, otherwise you’re not going to get anything done. And after a while, it will get to the point that not writing will make you feel anxious. When I can’t write for a while, I start to actually stress and just start jotting down notes in my phone or on scrap papers. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s because I love writing so much. Even when it kills me, I love it. I have to do it otherwise I shut down. Force yourself to write every day until you feel like that (or perhaps until you feel something a little less melodramatic after a day of not writing).

8. Believe in your writing.

The piece you’re working on right now could be the piece that changes everything for you. Writing The Blast and The Deathless Trilogy has honestly changed my life. My characters have helped me understand myself better, as well as others in my life. I have learned what is most important in life, and I have come to find strength in myself.

If I didn’t believe in my writing and share it confidently, I wouldn’t have ever discovered those things. Believing in yourself and your books is key. You don’t have to be self-promoting or arrogant, in fact, please don’t do that. But you do have to love what you do, and love yourself for doing it.

www.sarahperlmutter.com

Are there any other pieces of advice about writing that have helped you?

How to Win NaNoWriMo

How to Win NaNoWriMo // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published May of 2015-

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and for some, it can be the most stressful time of the year. It is every November, with “camp” sessions in April and July. Last year I completed The Blast during the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo, which was the most amazing and valuable experience I have had so far as a writer. Because I am a teacher, the November session usually doesn’t work for me, but this year, I tried to make the time for crazy amounts of writing during the school year. This year I completed and won the April 2015 session of Camp NaNoWriMo as well as the November 2015 session.

From my last three wins, I picked up a few tricks and tips for how to survive this grueling month of creative endurance, and now for your viewing pleasure…

How to Win NaNoWriMo

1. Have a plan!

Make an outline. Write some of the first chapters. Create character plans. Know what you’re going to write before you write it. This is key. If you don’t know where you’re going, you may become overwhelmed or distraught during the month of writing, and that’s no good.

2. Participate in NaNoWriMo Sprints on Twitter!

Follow @NaNoWordSprints and @CampNaNoSprint on Twitter for sprint challenges, and to get motivation.

Besides, when you participate in the community of NaNoWriMo on Twitter or the site, you can find new friends, writers, and motivational buddies. Last July I met the incredible indie author S. L. Saboviec. She’s awesome and so are her books. But I guess this is more for my next tip…

3. Participate in the NaNoWriMo Community.

There are SO many awesome people who do NaNoWriMo, and you never know! One of your Camp NaNoWriMo cabin members or one of the authors with whom you talk about the hellish torture of comma usage could be the next best-selling star! And even if they don’t, they know exactly what you’re going through, and they will help get you to your goal. Get to know these people. They have talent, they have experience, they have advice. Soak it all in.

4. Start a routine.

Once you’re in a routine, it will be easy to sit down and type, even just if it’s out of habit. I have a full time job that does not allow me to write at work (I am a teacher), so writing during the day is only ever an option for me during the summer. So my routine this past April developed as follows:

Step 1: Go to work. Teach my students. Change lives. 😛

Step 2: Come home, change into something more comfortable, and transition into home work mode by doing a household chore. Usually this means washing the dishes from the night before or making the bed. (This also allows me to still be a functioning adult while doing NaNoWriMo.)

Step 3: Check my social networks. Ugh, I know, this is horrible, but I gotta. Plus, getting it out of the way before writing allows me to focus more on writing later.

Step 4: Finally sit down to write. Turn off the TV, log off of Facebook, put in my headphones, and write.

Write until you have completed NaNoWriMo’s suggested word count for the day (the worst thing to do is let yourself get too far behind and then become overwhelmed later. I did that my first time).

Take breaks for basic human necessities. If I would get stuck, I’d wash more dishes. For whatever reason, that always gets my creative juices flowing.

Step 5: Read.

Step 6: Night time rituals, and then… bed time. Sleep is so crucial!

Then, I would wake up and begin my whole routine again. It made me feel energized and complete. I am seriously thinking of adopting this routine year round.

5. Like I said before, read.

During last April’s NaNoWriMo I read Legend by Marie Lu. It really helps to read something while you’re writing. It reminds you of words and phrasing you might have forgotten about, it helps you gauge pacing, and it helps you realize what you like and dislike about certain narratives. That way you can either avoid something in your own writing, or experiment with translating it into your own work.

For example, Legend is written as a dual narrative. My books (so far) have been focused on one character’s narration; however, hearing the dual perspectives made me think a lot harder about my main character’s love interest, and I tried to imagine what his narrative might sound like. This helped me so much in developing his character!

Besides, reading is awesome, and it helps to break up all the writing. You can slip into another author’s world, and just relax there for a while.

6. If your purpose is to work on a story you’ve already begun (as in you’re writing the prequel to the story as I did last July, or you’re writing the 3rd book in your trilogy as I did last April), then get a head start.

Alright, alright, I confess: I got a head start both times I won NaNoWriMo. But I had good reasons!

First: I had already put a lot of pressure on myself to get the story right both times, so I wanted to have some wiggle room for those days all authors are familiar with… you know, the ones where you just sit in front of your computer, staring blankly at the screen with your face in your hands, wondering what the hell you’re doing. Yeah, those days.

I didn’t want times like that to put so much stress on me and the story that whatever I wrote would either be completely edited away later or just unrecoverable garbage.

Second: I use NaNoWriMo a little differently than some other people. I use the month as a push, a nudge toward my end goal. For the prequel, I was really unmotivated to complete the work, because I was already busy writing the second book in the trilogy. NaNoWriMo guided me to the last chapter.

In April, I began the month stuck on an expository chapter of the third book, and I knew I needed a push out of that sandpit to really get going. That’s what NaNoWriMo was for me, leaving me at the moment when the conflict really starts to intensify.

7. If you’re using NaNoWriMo to start and finish a book, never stop typing.

Have a plan in mind, have characters in mind with goals and personalities, and then once the 1st of the month hits, never hit that backspace button. Not once! Worry about edits later, for now, just get it all on paper.

At the end of the month, you’ll probably look it over and think, “This is crap.” But here’s a secret: 1st drafts are always crap, so don’t sweat it. Edit it, fix it, and then admire your work.

8. Reward yourself.

Give yourself milestone rewards to keep you motivated. I would tell myself if I got to a certain word count by a certain day, I would take a day off or treat myself to something decadent. These rewards would motivate me to get my work done faster.

30 days is a long time. Don’t make yourself go the entire month without some sort of reward.

9. For real, get enough sleep.

If you find yourself in a situation where you either go to sleep at a reasonable hour or you meet your word count, go to sleep. You can always make up the difference the next day, but you can’t always guarantee a focused and rested mind the next day. It’s better for your story and your productivity that you are on your game. The only way to do this is to get enough sleep… and I guess eat healthy and take your vitamins and what not, but seriously… go to sleep.

10. Last but not least, celebrate your accomplishments, even if you don’t win.

I know this post is titled “How to WIN NaNoWriMo” but sometimes winning isn’t about getting the winner’s badges or hitting that 100% at the center of your bullseye.

Sometimes winning is really about realizing your accomplishments.

So let’s just say it’s the end of the month and you finish with 50,001 words. YOU JUST WROTE 50,001 WORDS IN FOUR WEEKS. That’s nuts! You’re incredible! Give yourself a pat on the back and a great big bear hug, because you earned it.

Now let’s say you finish with only 43,000 words? Or even just 30,000? THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF WORDS IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT THAT WEREN’T THERE BEFORE, AND YOU WROTE THEM! You can do anything!

Writing is truly magical. Authors create worlds and people and experiences with only marks on a page, and by writing those marks, even just a few thousand of them, you are playing with magic.

Celebrate yourself you magician, you.

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

Interacting with Readers on Instagram // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published September of 2015-

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

#1. First things first, make a username that is easy for your readers to find.

There are a lot of fake accounts out there, so you want to make sure that YOUR account is easy to find. My username, for example, is @thesarahperlmutter. Simple, easy.

#2. Again, because there are many fake accounts out there (maybe not for an indie author like me, but for others, definitely), you want to make sure that you are using the exact same headshot you use for all your other social media sites.

Not using the same one for all of them?

Originally posted by jimmyfungus

It’s important to use the same headshot across the board to make it clear for readers (and agents) that you are you, and you have a presence online.

You may recognize my old headshot from all of my accounts before, and you’ll see now they are all replaced with my new headshot.

Photo credit Shane Jordan
Photo credit Shane Jordan

The point is, before you even begin posting on Instagram, make sure you have an easily searchable username and a consistent headshot.

3. Take pictures of your writing space.

I don’t know about you, but I follow all my favorite authors. I LOVE seeing their writing spaces, their coffee mugs, their open laptops, and all the things surrounding them. It helps me realize that they are real people, and that’s really what’s at the heart of Instagram: Breaking down the barrier between you and your readers to showcase your commonalities and build relationships based on them.

Your readers are going to want to see your writing space to see what inspires you.

#4. Take pictures of you writing.  

Nothing excites me more than knowing that my favorite writer has something new up their sleeve for me. Give that excitement back to your fans. Writing seems to be this elusive, magical process that many people don’t understand, making writers seem like unflappable gods of words. We’re not. Our first drafts are likely all big messes. We’ve all worked long hours to make it so you read the best possible version of our mess.

Instagram helps make that clear to readers, which in turn inspires them to have the confidence to the same thing: Write without fear. Inspire your readers by showing them the heart of your process.

#5. Pose questions to your readers so they feel more inspired to comment.

I love having my voice heard and if a writer I admire asks for my input on something, you know I’m commenting! So pose questions or polls to your readers for them to respond to in the comments, and when they do, try to respond to as many as possible. I don’t know about you, but I freak out every time someone I admire responds to anything I post online (even if it’s just a favorite or retweet on Twitter).

Obviously authors like Sarah Dessan (who does a phenomenal job on Instagram, check her out! She is my social media use icon) cannot respond to all the comments, but interaction can be key to building your fan base, all of you writers like me who are just starting out or whose books don’t reach as wide a group as Dessan’s yet.

#6. Show love to your fans.

If you are lucky enough to have fans as amazing as mine, chances are they are going to Instagram pictures with your book, fan art, or even quotes from your book. When you see this, repost those pictures to show your fans some love.

Everyone loves to be recognized, so recognize those who are supporting you and your characters.

#7. Show that you are a reader and a supporter of other authors.

½ of being a writer is also being a reader, and ½ of being a writer on social media is supporting your fellow writers. Nothing is more satisfying that making a friend with another author and sharing your successes, challenges, and internet space. I learned this lesson through being active on Wattpad and from participating in events like #PitchWars.

Besides, people love to share what they’re reading, and when you see authors reading other authors’ works, it inspires you to read that much more.

I also really get a kick out of author friendships like Siobvan Vivian and Jenny Han have and what Wattpad authors Rebecca Sky and E. Latimer have. It inspires me to work with others and collaborate like they have. (Go SciKick!)

If you are lucky enough to have fans follow you on Instagram, share that love with other writers. They will do the same, but more importantly, they will be more inclined to reach out and become your writer friend.

A common misconception about writers is that all of us are competing with each other. We’re not. We can’t survive like that. We have to work together, and it starts online.

#8. Show that you are your own #1 fan as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one is going to be excited about your writing if you aren’t first. You are your own best cheerleader. So cheer on!

Instagram pictures that remind you of your books or would remind readers of your works. It will help you take more pride in the work you’re doing, and it will get your readers excited to see those little references to the books they love so much.

#9. Share your hobbies, pets, and anything else you feel comfortable with the world knowing.

By now, all of my Instagram followers should be familiar with my nonsense cat, Fluffhead. Recently I was asked about her in an interview, which, I think, showed that not only are readers connecting with me on a personal level now (through my nonsense cat) but also that my presence on Instagram is working. I’m sharing you I am with people, and they are taking notice and wanting to learn more. That’s huge, because that shows me I’ve made a connection with that reader as a person.

If I personally like an author, I’m way more inclined to purchase a book by them. There are so many authors who I either haven’t had the opportunity to read yet or haven’t necessarily loved their work, but I still buy their books every time they release a new one. Why? Because I like them as people, and because I want to see them succeed.

Make that connection with your readers. Obviously, don’t overshare or share anything too personal, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. But your pets are fair game (I see SO many author pets on Instagram), your favorite food (any loyal follow of Sarah Dessan is familiar with Peccadillo Carrboro, am I right?), your favorite hobbies (how about Sarah Dessan and yoga? See, Sarah Dessan really is an Instagram Queen), and your favorite fandoms.

#10. Host giveaways and contests.

You have no idea how many times I see giveaways to celebrate X amount of followers, and you know what? I enter every single time. Why? Because I want free stuff! You know who else wants free stuff? EVERYONE.

Giveaways are a fantastic way to get your name out there and to get knew people to see your book. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and with the internet, things like giveaways can be megaphones for this. Why? Because you’re not just spamming people, you are offering them something in return for the simplest of gestures. Reposting the giveaway announcement, commenting something below a picture, posting a picture with a certain hashtag. You have so many options.

I haven’t done an Instagram specific giveaway, but I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway and a Wattpad giveaway. PLUS I actually WON an Instagram giveaway recently that I was totally stoked about! I won The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster (one of my new online writer friends), and so far, it’s SO GOOD. With the new school year, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, but I intend of finishing it soon because I need to know what happens! Would I have really known about this book without the giveaway? Maybe… because I follow her, but my followers now all know about it too, because I reposted her giveaway picture. Now she’s reaching a wider audience than before, and I got something out of it as well. Win-win.

#11. Reach out to Book Bloggers/Instagrammers.

There.are.so.many.book.bloggers.

And many of them have over 1K followers on Instagram. Think of all those book lovers just waiting to hear from their favorite Instragram book bloggers to tell them what they think of an up and coming book.

Follow them, see if they read your genre, and reach out to them. It’s not going to hurt you one little bit, but if they read and feature your book on their channel, feed, and/or blog, it could help you a lot. Plus now they have a free book to either keep or give out in a giveaway in the future, thereby continuing to spread your words around the world. I did this, and my book will be featured on Books and Mugs later this autumn!

#12. Promote your writing with updates and reviews.

When The Blast had its first book blog tour last April, I instagrammed pictures of some of the reviews. One of my high school friends contacted me on Facebook after years without hearing from her, and basically said that since seeing the reviews on Instagram, she purchased the book and couldn’t wait to read it.

Don’t spam your feed obviously, but reviews help a lot. Don’t be afraid to take clips from them and put them on Instagram.

There are also updates or quotes that I post from my books every now and then to generate interest or to alert my readers of a new chapter on Wattpad. Sometimes my readers will check Instagram before they check Wattpad, and I’ve had readers comment on a picture, “Just saw this, going to Wattpad now!” When you include a quote or a picture with the announcements, even people who aren’t reading along can enjoy reading a snippet of your work. And who knows? Maybe one of your quotes draws them in?

Recap:

  • Keep your Instagram feed visual by keeping words to a minimum.
  • Share your writer’s life. That includes writing space, writing process, and favorite writer’s tools (coffee is big on my list).
  • Make connections to your readers.
  • Use Instagram as a networking opportunity. No one ‘grams in a vaccuum.
  • Don’t spam.
  • Support fellow authors and support your readers.
  • Stay true to your brand.

Any other ways you’ve used Instagram or other ways you’d like to see me use Instagram?

How to Write a Long-Term Relationship

How to Write a Long-Term Relationship // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published May of 2015-

Sometimes writing about characters in a long term relationship can be difficult. There’s no new spark, they have settled into companion love, and healthy relationships often don’t have much conflict. I realized this issue in the middle of my second book in the Deathless Trilogy.

So how did I overcome these issues? And how do we as authors write these relationships in interesting and engaging ways?

5 Tips for Writing Long-Term Relationships

1. Establish goals for your characters that can be accomplished outside of the relationship.

Real people who have been together for years have moved past that initial oh-my-goodness-my-life-revolves-around-my-significant-other phase, and have returned to join regular society. They have aspirations outside of “I want this person to love me,” and the all too familiar “I only want you to be safe/I only want to protect you.” They know the other person loves them, why else would they still be hanging around? (Unless that’s the conflict! That there is no other reason to hang around! Oooh.) And if you’re with someone and not living in mortal danger, you can ease up on the safety talk.

Real people in relationships have their own things going on, and can feel comfortable doing them without the other person objecting. Besides, giving your characters unique goals that are personalized to their character helps to deepen their characterization.

2. Give them inside jokes and memories.

There is nothing cuter than a couple who has been together for years, and who still has so much fun together. Because what people say is true: Your significant other really does become your best friend over time. After awhile, the passionate love comes and goes, but the companion love is always there. And think about it: People living together or spending that much time together are going to develop jokes and fun memories together.

What is the phrase your characters repeat? What is the “that one time” they often remember? Including these stories via flashbacks are also a great way to incorporate some of those butterfly feelings other stories about new loves often give readers.

What is important is that you show these characters as friends first. Kissing is awesome, but friendship and laughter with the person you love… man, that’s sweeter than anything.

3. Let them argue.

Real people argue. Especially when they are around each other for so long. What I was concerned about with this one was the line between healthy arguments and hurtful ones. In my books, I often portray arguments, but whether or not the characters say something they don’t mean during their fury, I made sure to always include an apology. (At least at some point. In The Blast one of the characters doesn’t receive an apology from another character until about 6 years after the argument. But hey–at least it happened.)

This was important to me, because I certainly don’t want to write situations that can be seen as unhealthy to one or both of the characters, unless that’s the point. Unless I’m writing to show the dangers of domestic abuse, I don’t want my characters mistreating each other. Especially as a YA author this is important. We have to model what relationships should be all about: Balance.

After my parents got a divorce, I held onto the juvenile belief that if a couple fought, they should break up. This idea ruined a lot of my relationships with friends andboyfriends. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband (who is by far the more level headed person in the relationship), and he explained to me that we could argue and still love each other that I realized he was right. As long as we apologized, and really meant it, and made conscious choices not to upset each other again, we forgave each other.

I still argue with my husband every now and then (usually about stupid stuff, but they are arguments nonetheless), but the majority of our arguments are behind us. Why? Because we apologized, and we worked to make sure we will live harmoniously in the future. We work to balance our own needs with the needs of the other person.  Love isn’t about being perfect. Love is about forgiving each other for your misunderstandings.

4. Give them a new adventure.

Put them in a new situation or on a new adventure. They will be forced to make new memories and learn new things about each other, which can always lead to drama or more butterflies. Besides, your plot needs movement. This helps with that.

5. Give them friends.

Real couples have friends, they don’t just hang out with each other all the time. Or, at least, hopefully they have other people in their lives… unless they’re homebodies… in which case, I guess, staying home might be the best thing ever.

However, giving your characters friends helps to switch up the dynamic. Now it’s not just the two of them providing all the action and drama. Now they can work together with someone else, or become jealous of someone, or gossip about someone.

Friends can also function as foils for the characters, especially if one of your characters feels they need to act a certain way around a new friend, or if an old friend comes to illuminate characteristics your character used to possess.

So those are my 5 tips for writing a long-term relationship. Any other tips you would add to this list, or that you have tried? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Getting Started on Wattpad

Getting Started on Wattpad // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published in May of 2015-

Getting Started on Wattpad:
A beginner’s guide to Wattpad

So first of all, what is Wattpad? Wattpad is a free, international site on which writers can share their work and readers can read millions of stories based on their personal interest.

Wattpad is a great starting off point for new and emerging writers to develop a fan base and to find beta readers. All work is still copyright protected, and copying and pasting functions are disabled. Your work is safe on the site, which was a big concern of mine at first. The site allows opportunities to collaborate with graphic designers, and there are even stories of authors being discovered by agents through the site. If you’re worried about building your author platform, this is a great place to start.

The steps to getting started on Wattpad are simple.

Step One: Create a login. Mine is just @sarahperlmutter because I am using the site to build a fan base. I want my name to be recognized; however many people on the site are widely popular and famous even with pseudonyms, so it’s up to you what you decide to use for your username.

Step Two: Customize your profile. Let readers know about who you are, and what you’re all about. Readers on this site value human interactions and opportunities to connect with writers on a personal level, so be yourself and have fun with it.

If you have an author brand already, post a background photo that fits your brand. If you’re in need of copyright free (and also just plain free) images, check out Unsplash.com. It’s my favorite site for copyright free images, and it’s where I found the image I use in all of my branding. Find something that works with the mood of your works and tells readers a bit about what they might experience in your stories. You also want to use the same author photo across all your online profiles to establish consistency. This will help to develop your brand.

My author brand reflects the darkness and the fire found in apocalyptic situations, using the copyright free image of a fire that you can see in my header on this site. I use lots of dark blues and oranges in my color schemes, and when I can, I add in the image of a tiger lily to fit with a motif found in The Deathless Trilogy.

Step Three: Upload your first chapter of a piece of writing you’re working on. Don’t upload the whole piece at once unless it’s a short story or poem. Wattpad is an awesome site for serial fiction. You want to create a schedule for yourself, and stick to only posting updates on certain days. When I first began, I posted a new chapter every Saturday. For I Am Deathless and They Are Monsters (working titles for Wattpad that are changing for publication), I posted a new chapter twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

At first you’re not going to see many reads on your chapters, but give it time and the readers will come and they will wait for updates. It helps to give readers time to find you before you have a whole book up.

Also, when you create a new book, make sure to use plenty of hashtags to attract as many readers as possible. Look to see which hashtags are popular, and which among those would fit your story. If none of them fit your story, just do your best to use appealing hashtags.

Use copyright free images and image editing sites to create an appealing and eye-catching cover. Like I said earlier, I recommend unsplash.com and either pixlr.com or canva.com for editing and customizing.

Step Four: Find what I call Watt-friends.  The best ways to find Watt-friends include:

  • Reading stories that are the same genre as yours, commenting on chapters, voting on chapters, and reaching out to the author. You’re going to want to find an author who is around a similar or slightly higher read count/follower count as you are so that you can grow together. Writers who are followed by thousands of people and have hundreds of thousands of reads often don’t have time to invest in a new friendship (though I’ve found Watt-friends in many of my fans).
  • Participating in the Wattpad Club forums for your genre. You can find them by clicking on “Community” and then “Clubs.” Toward the bottom right hand corner of the screen you will find categories of clubs with all the genres available when you create your story. Go to your forum and click on “Share Your Story.” Follow the rules and guidelines to embed your story into the forum discussion. This will attract more reads and more Watt-friends.
  • Using the #wattpad or #wattpadlife hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram to find other Wattpadders out there. ‘Like’ Wattpad on Facebook and participate in discussions there. Get involved in the community of Wattpad even while you’re off the site. Wattpadders are passionate folks and they stick together, no matter the site.

And finally, step five: Follow proper Wattpad etiquette. There is nothing that will turn readers off more than a newbie Wattpadder not following the rules. In the forums, the rules will be clearly stated, but for regular use, I can sum up proper etiquette in two words: Be Respectful.

  • Don’t make rude comments on stories, only constructive ones, and always make sure to compliment along with any criticism. It takes guts to post a story, so show respect.
  • Don’t self-promote on pages other than the Share Your Story pages, and definitely don’t self-promote in the comments of other stories or on the page of another author. If they take read requests, you can, or I always prefer it when readers message me. It’s more private and therefore more personalized. And always say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’
  • Understand that Wattpad is a positive community of millions. If you can’t handle that or you have a bad attitude, find a different site to troll. Either Wattpad kindly or not at all.

Happy Wattpadding!

What To Do When You’re in A Writing Slump

What to do when you're in a writing slump // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published June of 2015-

I’ve always written when I’ve felt upset. When I was younger, I turned to my diary. As I grow older, I turn to fiction more and more, and while I’ve always been a writer, it’s when I’m most upset that I seek solace in writing. Which is why it was so strange to me that recently, when I experienced an extremely stressful situation, I took 2 and ½ weeks off of writing instead of channeling my feelings into my work.

I gave myself the time. I didn’t push myself, but I knew that I would have to return to writing someday. But… I also knew that once I got back into writing, I would feel better, which of course made me more stressed. I had to get out of my writing slump, and now, 2 and ½ weeks later, I feel like I’m finally back on the horse.

I know that this is sure to happen to me again (life gets stressful, friends), so this post is as much a reminder to future Sarah as it is a guide for you.

So…

What to do when you’re in a writing slump

1. Don’t stress yourself out.

If you’re like me, writing is a daily occurrence and days gone without writing lead to some serious stress. Because of this, my 2 and ½ week hiatus caused me intense stress, especially since I’m working with a writing deadline. (Deathless fans, I will get you that 3rd book by the end of summer!) I’m also a teacher, so summer break kicked off my hiatus, which of course led me to stress that I was wasting my free time. Ugh, I am such a worrier.

This all, obviously, did not help me get back to writing. Instead of actually focusing on my work, I would sit in front of the computer, stare at the page, check Facebook, stare at the page, check Tumblr, stare at the page some more, check Pinterest, and then repeat the whole procrastination cycle. Of course I couldn’t focus on my work, because I was too focused on the causes of my stress.

People need time to heal, recuperate, relax. Allow yourself that time without guilt or stress. Your writing will get done. You will do what you need to do. In the meantime, treat yo’ self with some Netflix marathoning and lunch dates with your friends. The writing will return to you with time.

2. Read

Nothing gets your writing muscles warmed up like a good book. You get to stretch your imagination in someone else’s world, so it’s a low stakes and easy way to get back to the writer mindset. Besides, reading is awesome. Do it even if you’re not in a writer’s slump.

3. Sleep

I don’t know about you, but stress and anxiety keep me up at night. During my recent writer’s slump, I was averaging maybe 5 hours a night. That might fly with your body, but with mine, I became a zombie. Obviously I couldn’t think, because I wasn’t allowing my mind and body to rest properly.

I finally got my sleeping schedule back on track, and now that I’m not wasting half of my day trying to wake up, I can get to work on my writing as early as possible, maximizing my time.

4. Create a routine and follow it. Even if you’re not doing a whole lot of writing yet.

The first few days of summer break were killer, mostly because I lost the routine that I had going for the entire school year. Because I was in my slump, I didn’t work too hard to change this or establish a new routine at first, but after a week or so, I created a new routine for myself. I wasn’t writing much. Again, I was mostly just staring at the screen and checking out my social media, but it still helped to have my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys. Eventually, my butt was in the chair for longer periods of time, and my fingers moved across the keys to type my story.

5. Work on a different writing project or scene than the one you left off on.

Sometimes your slump can be cured by working on a scene you’re more interested in than the one that you left off on. Sometimes your slump can be cured by working on something else entirely. You never know until you try.

For me, working on a short story for my book of short stories about The Deathless Trilogy’s secondary characters helped a lot. It got me into a different character’s perspective, into a 3rd person point of view, and into a different time and place in the world I’ve created. This change helped me to look back at my other writing with fresh eyes, and become excited for it all over again.

6. Create a playlist to get you in the writing mood.

As some of you know, music is a huge inspiration for me, so if that’s true for you as well, all you may need are some songs that get you in the mood for your story. I found some songs that fit with the theme of my current work in progress, made a Youtube playlist for them, and listened to them over and over while I stared at the computer screen unproductively. It took me a couple of days, but eventually my brain began making connections between the music and my story, as it normally does when I’m listening to music that inspires me. Little by little, I wrote a scene in my book, and now that I’ve pushed past that hurdle, I’m writing normally again.

Check out maxkirin‘s blog for awesome playlists!

7. Take a walk.

Sometimes you just need a change of pace, a new environment, and some exercise. If you’re not into hitting the gym, a walk is a great way to get all three in one. Besides, when I took a walk, I saw a ton of flowers that feature in The Deathless Trilogy, which inspired me to get back to writing. I even Instagram’d the moment!

8. Talk about why you’re in a slump with someone. There may be more to it.

Like I wrote earlier, I wasn’t in a slump just because I was stuck on a particular scene. I was in a slump because I was super stressed and going through a major change in my life (a new job, and therefore a big career move). I didn’t really understand why I was so upset about it, because I should have been over the moon about my new opportunity. I talked to my husband about it nearly every day, but I couldn’t quite place why I was so stressed until a couple of nights ago.

As we were talking about my writing slump yet again, I finally realized why the new job was stressing me out so badly: Because I like to know exactly what’s going on, and with any new job, there will be new things to learn and you won’t know exactly what’s going on until you’re doing it. Realizing this helped me overcome some of that stress and get back to writing.

The point is, talking to people you trust really helps. It may take you a few conversations, but eventually you’ll get there. Realizing what your roadblocks are helps you drive past them and get back to where you really want to be.

9. Organize and clean your writing space.

An organized and clean writing space invites creativity. At least, for me. I don’t know what it is, but I have a hard time writing when there are dishes in the sink and when there’s a mess around me. For whatever reason, I really like writing in the kitchen at our dining table with the window open, but if the kitchen is dirty, I can’t concentrate (and I can’t open the window).

An organized space encourages an organized mind.

10. Allow yourself to write complete and utter garbage.

After a writing slump, you will probably be at least a little bit rusty. Allow yourself to write crap, it’s okay. You can edit once you’re back in the right mindset. What’s important now is that you’re trying without pressuring yourself, and that will likely mean that you are writing garbage. That’s okay. At least you’re writing something.

11. Return to the inspiration that got you writing in the first place.

In this last writing slump, I felt so lost. I began to question all my projects, published and unpublished, and doubt myself. But as I was staring unproductively at my computer screen, I went to my Pinterest page and looked through my Writer’s Life inspiration board. I scrolled through the hundreds of pins and read all the inspirational messages and quotes I’ve pinned over the years. They reminded me why I’m a writer in the first place: Because I have stories inside me I want to share, because I love my characters, and because writing is how I find solace in this crazy world. I reminded myself of all my goals I’d like to accomplish as a writer, and I realized that I wouldn’t reach them unless I tried. I stopped scrolling and started writing.

12. Get excited for something.

I would have started writing anyway, but finding out that #SFFpit, the fantasy and science fiction pitch day on Twitter, was later that 2nd week really pushed me to get back to writing. I wanted to participate so I started by writing 140 character pitches for my book (which is way harder than you might think), and then wrote the query letter, and then worked on edits.

I was already excited about writing again, but now I was excited about the publishing industry as well, which, let’s be honest, can be pretty disheartening at times. It helped a lot to have a short-term goal in mind that I could be excited for.

13. Try your best to stay off of social media, unless it’s your author pages.

Just… try to do this. It’s hard. I’ve already admitted to doing it more than once in this post, and I’ve checked my social media more than once while writing this post. However, if you can limit yourself to your author page on Facebook, your author Instagram, your author Twitter, your website, etc. then at least you can be on social media while building your brand. (Right? Right….)

14. Write an affirmation for yourself.

Maybe self-confidence has become an issue leading to your slump. It happens, especially in this crazy competitive industry. Write down a positive message, an affirmation, for yourself and keep it somewhere. I already have an affirmation that I like to read, but it’s with my supplies for work, so I wrote it in my notebook: I am a writer, writing is my art.

Write it. Read it. Believe it.

15. Talk through your plot with someone.

If you’re stuck, this trusted friend with whom you share your plot can help you unstick yourself.

If you’re not feeling too hot about writing, talking about your books with someone may help to reignite your passion. You are used to hearing about your characters and your plot, it belongs to you. It will be exciting and engaging to someone else, and their questions and responses to your plot might just help you realize how incredible the book you’re creating is. How incredible it can be if you just finish it.

Writing is hard work, some days more so than others. But at the end of the day, you are a writer. You will write. Have faith in yourself and in your ability to un-slump yourself.

Have you also experienced a writer’s slump? What was something that helped you get out of it?