While writing is therapeutic and fun, making a career out of it can be a challenge.

Fortunately, "challenging" and "impossible" have two, very different, definitions.

Writing for a living is doable.

Proof of this comes, not only in the form of successful writers such as Gillian Flynn, Tina Fey, and Marissa Meyer, but from "How To" sites created by helpful individuals who are already a part of the literary world.

These sites, some by literary agents and others by writers, have great advice on how to write query letters, how to land an agent, and even how to write and get your books out there without a literary agent.

Here are three of my favorite sites:

Thursday's With Amanda

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Pub Rants

Kristin Nelson, a well known U.S. literary agent, offers her blog followers an insightful behind-the-scenes peek into the writing world. Her agency also creates a newsletter with helpful tips for writers, news on upcoming books, and writer's conferences.

Rebecca Berto- Novel Girl

Rebecca Berto is an Editorial Assistant at Thomson Reuters and she loves books! She began studying Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing in 2011 and is very willing to share her expertise in writing in her awesome blog series.

These three sites are just a few of the many helpful How-To sites on writing (such as The Creative Penn and Writer's Digest) that are out there.

So, for the newbie writer like me, these sites are just awesome!!


Who's my favorite fictional character?

That's easy.

At the moment, it's definitely Katniss Everdeen.

She's pretty amazing.

What makes her character "amazing" is that she's realistic.

She's conflicted by her inability to understand why she feels what she feels, she's ferocious in her need to protect the people she loves, and I find her likable because as selfish as she can be, Katniss Everdeen wouldn't be Katniss Everdeen without her conscience. Even Jiminy Cricket himself would admire the girl's conscience.

The crazy story that she finds herself thrown into is believable because she's so easy to relate to.

We're often drawn to characters who share some of our quirks because they make us realize we're not as weird as we think we are. Or...then again, maybe we are weird, but we're not alone in being weird. Yeah, that sounds better.

So anyway, Katniss is the kind of character who makes me feel like less of an oddball when I can't figure out why I think or feel a certain way. For the longest time, she anxiously wonders why she feels the way she does about Peeta and Gale, respectively. She doesn't understand herself well enough to sift through her feelings. I think a lot of us are like that.

I also enjoyed the process of watching someone who reminds me of myself make it through hurdle after hurdle and, in the end, come out, not completely unscathed, but stronger and more mature. It makes me feel like, if she can do it then maybe I can too.

So, that's my favorite fictional character: Katniss Everdeen.

Who's yours?

A still from the "Finding Stories" trailer!

Creating a book trailer was probably one of the highlights of my year in 2011.

Ever since I was a kid I've liked the idea of being a part of a movie, as a grip, an actor, behind the camera...whatever...I just like it.

So last year, I finally got a taste of what being on set is like!

And you know what I learned?

I learned that the secret to making a great book trailer is this: Hire Daniel Jones.

J/K (though Daniel is an awesome film maker and at least 99.9% responsible for everything good about the Finding Stories in The Rain trailer)!

But, creating a book trailer that works involves more than having an experienced film maker on set.

The secret comes down to this: being organized, adaptable, and creative.

Writer's naturally have the creativity part covered, so yay to that!

As for being organized part...well, I needed help with that and here are a few tips that I hope will help you with the organization of your book trailer:

I like step-by-step processes. So, I've tried to organize the creation of a book trailer into steps that will help the writer feel a bit more organized and in control as they move through their project.

Step 1: Write The Script

I want to give the audience a tantalizing glimpse of my story without giving away the ending.
This means the script needs to be SHORT, to the point, and gripping.

Before writing my script, to get myself in the right frame of mind I:

  • Decided to Google "Popular Movie Trailers" and see which ones I liked.
  • Then, after watching my favorite trailers, I jotted down a couple of notes about what I liked and didn't like in each trailer.
  • My next step was to go through the pages of my book and find the most dramatic scenes.
  • Out of all the dramatic scenes, I narrowed it down to choosing three of the most gripping.
Now ready to sit down and write the script, I:
  • Opened Microsoft Word and Windows Media Player so that while I was writing my script I could listen to the type of music I wanted playing in the background of the trailer.This helped keep me in the mood that I hoped to push the audience into.
  • I lifted the dialogue from the pages of the book and retyped it in the style of a movie script (I didn't worry about it being a perfectly professional script, but I did my best to add camera angles and a few helpful notes for the actors)
  • I read the script outloud, realized it was too long and re-edited it to make it as short as possible, which made it about three minutes in length.
  • The, over the next couple of days, I re-edited it a zillion more times!
  • The last thing I did was take the script and storyboard each shot meaning, I drew a picture of how I wanted every single shot to look at every point in the short film. This gave me a clear idea of what I wanted the final product to look like.

Step 2: Scout Locations

  • I checked around town for free places to film and found plenty.
  • I decided to go with using these three locations: a park, the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, and a small restaurant near LSU Campus (with the restaurant's permission).

Step 3: Find a Film Maker

At first I was going to do the filming myself and then...I looked at my last pathetic attempt at a short film and I realized I didn't want to do that.

So the next thing I did was:

  • Contact a professional film maker. (This isn't as difficult as it sounds because just about every city has at least one wedding videography production company that's filled with young, aspiring film makers who only shoot weddings to pay the bills. If not, there are also talented film students at local universities and community colleges who would love the opportunity to help a writer with their book trailer.
  • The film maker, in this case, happens to be my brother. So, when he read my script, frowned, shook his head, and handed it back to me saying, "Can you re-write this?" I didn't kill him because I really, really love him and also because he was right      : ) 

  • I gave him my notes on Locations, showed him my Story Board, and to make sure that we were both on the same page, we fleshed out which one of us would have the title of "Director" once we were on set. This way, the actors would know who to go to for the final decision when they had any questions.

Step 4: Find Actors

Baton Rouge has several Community Colleges and Universities so I:

  • Went online, found an email address to the Theater and Film department at one of the local Universities and asked them if they had any theater students who would be interested in acting in a book trailer. My email was forwarded to all of the students in their Department and I was flooded with responses from interested actors. (This is the part where I started getting nervous, because I knew the trailer had to look good. I didn't want to embarrass the people who agreed to act in the trailer! In retrospect, I think this extra pressure actually helped me try and do my best to be professional about it all.)
  • The next thing I should have done was hold an audition but I skipped that and simply selected actors based on their head shots (which worked out OK because, thankfully, all of the actors were wonderful to work with).
  • After selecting the actors, I provided each of them a contract that gave me the right to use the video and sound from whatever we filmed in any way I choose and, of course, I gave each of them a specific day and time they'd need to be "on set". 

Step 5  Have Fun Filming

This was the best part, the filming!!!
Despite the fact that I was pretty shy when it came to directing the actors, I still had a blast  : )

But, next time here's what I'd do differently:

  • The day before we begin filming, while I'm making sure I have all props ready to go I would also take a few minutes to read through each of the actors lines and jot down a specific subtext which would show exactly what their character is thinking at that moment. (a lot of times the things we have our character's say is either the exact opposite or only a shadow of what they're really thinking- so it helps to let the actor know what's really going on in the character's head)
  • While we're filming, I'd make a point of being assertive and not shy away from exclaiming, "Hang on, that's not right, why don't we fix this and try again!" in my best Oprah-voice. Next time, I won't shrug and "just let it go" when a line isn't said correctly or a bird flies into the scene or something because the trailer is my vision and it ought to look the way I want it to look, right?

Step 6  Editing The Trailer

  • Before opening Vegas Studios to begin editing the film, the first thing I did was go to http://www.gameaudio.net/ and find the perfect music for the trailer. I purchased it, along with the appropriate license for about $60-$75.
  • I took about four weeks to edit several versions of the book trailer, and my brother edited one version of the trailer, which is my favorite (his trailer is posted below if you want to check it out)

Step 7 Advertising and Marketing

  • I decided to contact Rave Cinema about advertising my book trailer at a few of Baton Rouge's local movie theaters (it's pretty funny when people see the trailer at the movies and they're like, "You wrote a movie?!"... I wish!!!).
  • I also contacted a local television station and purchased a few inexpensive time slots.

So, creating the book trailer for Finding Stories in the Rain was an adventure and I honestly loved every minute of it!

The next time I embark on a book trailer, I'm going to try to do it without my brother's help (ack!)  In case you haven't noticed, this leaves me slightly terrified but I plan to give it my best shot : )

I'd like to make a behind-the-scenes video diary of what happens throughout the process of writing, filming, and creating my next book trailer. I'll let you know when I'm getting started on it and post each video diary here in my journal.

Whew! This was a long post!

What was your book trailer experience like? Or are you weighing the pro's and con's of creating one?

Yesterday I was in the mall with one of my friends and we stopped in Express to browse.

You know how those stores are; wonderfully loud music that sounds the way Pixie Sticks taste, cute, headset-wearing guys running around ...and you just have to stop and look at them because they're even prettier than you : )

So, we're looking at the outfits on display and comparing our differing tastes.

I like the weird looking pink dress with the jacket that doesn't really match slung over it, my friend says she's not crazy about that outfit, she prefers the really pretty, red sweater that, for some reason has a nice romantic look to it.

Then my friend is staring at this really sleek black and silvery outfit that's topped with a cropped leather jacket and she looks at it for a long time before quietly saying,

'I'd wear that if I had a different life...'

The way her voice trails off and the expression on her face has me curious, so I ask her what she means.

She smiles and seems a little embarrassed, but that day-dreamy sort of look hasn't left her face, so she goes on to describe what her life might have been like had she gone on to pursue her interest in art.

As she's explaining herself, I'm totally pulled into her daydream, but when she's done I'm feeling a little sad because it makes me wonder if she wishes that's what she'd actually done with her life.

The moment passed and we went on to look at other outfits on display, making up stories about what kind of life the girl who wore each outfit would have. After that we walked around the mall enjoying good conversation and it was a fun, relaxing evening.

But still...that question of "if" gets to me.

What would life be like without "if's"?

Suppose there was no looking back on alternative options that were passed up and instead, we just kept moving forward.

Some people equate that sort of outlook as more positive than one that looks back to consider the "what if's".

I confess, it does make me sad to recall some of the not so great choices I've made, but realizing that I could have made a different decision with a different outcome tempers the depressing factor.

So, while it's probably not a great idea to get stuck in the past, anxiously tripping and falling all over the "what if's...", it can be a good idea to consider and learn from past mistakes.

I like thinking about the "if's" because once I get past the sad part, it reminds me that there are always options...we just have to keep our eyes open to see them.

What do you think? What's one thing you've learned from a past choice you wish you'd handled differently?