Color Theory, Part 2 – If you want to create your own covers, or if you are a part of selecting your cover in your published work, you need to understand color theory.
The basics of color theory, part 2
Color theory is the associations and impressions we get when confronted with a certain color or set of colors. Color matters.
Red and its family of colors
Red tends to be a bold, standout color. It works with a lot of other colors. It can also help if you’ve got a mainly black, white, or gray image for your cover. Red lettering can work with that background. However, if the value (brightness) of the red is the same as the gray behind it, you may find it feels like the color is vibrating.
Red means stop or anger or ripeness. It can also feel like excitement or danger, as it can remind us of everything from sports cars to raspberries to stop signs. The Twilight book covers in particular rely on red accents to great effect.
Orange is more likely to be associated with hunters or the harvest or prisons, but it can also be associated with traffic safety. It can remind us of sunshine and, of course, oranges, but also the toxin, Agent Orange.
Closely related copper associates best with pennies or cookware more than anything else. However, we also associate it with bronze (about 90% of bronze consists of copper), and so we may link to the idea of third place medals.
Choose a color from the red family for your cover or for its accents, and expect some strong associations but also a cover that can really stand out.
Literature sometimes feels like medicine writing. You know you should read it. But sometimes it just feels like cod liver oil in book form.
What is it about literature? From the classic to the lowbrow, it permeates our lives. As writers, we might appreciate it more than others do.
Reading to write
First of all, whenever people ask about how to best develop their writing chops, inevitably they are told two things. One of these is to read extensively. Hence if you are following this, you are already halfway there. And it does not have to be classics. It does not have to be Silas Marner or the like. You can be voraciously reading YA, or bodice rippers. It does not matter.
As a writer, examine the work. How does the author pull you from one chapter to the next? Or how does she start? How does the story end? Are the supporting characters as interesting as the lead(s)? Or do they take over? Or are they cardboard cutouts? Do you ever lose the suspension of disbelief?
Writing to write
The other standard piece of writing advice is: write a lot. And you can do that with any form of literature. Hence take whatever you just read. Flip the POV (point of view) and rewrite it. Gender swap. Figure out what happens after ‘The End’, when the curtain comes down. Decide what happened before the story started. Write a back story for a supporting character, or even a bit player.
So if the work is in the public domain, then you might even be able to publish your work. Yet if it’s not, then treat it like any fan fiction and use it as a learning experience. Since you can’t publish fan fiction, why not consider how to further alter your new piece? Maybe you can convert it to something more wholly original. Because you might even be able to publish it.
Since so much of writing is structural, why not pick apart someone else’s work? Because if they have been published, then someone liked their work enough to take a chance on it. Finally, a peek behind the curtain can also show you where even great works falter. And that can be comforting if you ever doubt your own abilities.
Reinvention is such a lonely word, isn’t it? We are so used to being one way, and the world is used to it, too. But then there we go, screwing it all up.
I mean, changing it up.
Oops, I mean, improving ourselves.
For quite a while, Adventures in Career Changing ended up somewhat stagnant. At the same time, I ran a blog for independent writers called Lonely Writer. The numbers for that other blog were not so great, and they fell off dramatically after I graduated in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, it was costing me some bucks. Hence I decided to simply not allow that URL to renew when it came up again.
Instead, I decided to combine the two works, back here, on Adventures. Because career changing, for me, has also been about writing.
You may have noticed me making some housekeeping changes. There is a lot more color. The theme is considerably livelier. But beneath the surface there is another change, and it is not merely a cosmetic one. For these changes also contain adding the Lonely Writer videos, updating what I post here, and what I put on Facebook as well. And Twitter (or Twitter here). Plus of course there is still a YouTube channel, although I may eventually figure out a way to rebrand it.
Some things cannot be changed (such as the audio in preexisting YouTube videos). But for the most part, I have changed anything that can possibly be changed.
These transformations are folding Lonely Writer into my professional social media brand.
But please do not worry! What is free is still free! Rather, I want to introduce you to what I can do. So, that is another purpose behind this particular blog post, okay?
I can blog about virtually any topic. I can create WordPress sites, and I can develop and manage them. See, I can get you started on social media platforms. And I can help you with SEO.
As a freelance blogger, my job is to write about maritime law one day and ad retargeting the next, and then about real estate a few days later.
In the old, pre-Internet days, people like me would put out a shingle.
The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.
So as some readers may recall, I started this website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.
But now it’s March of 2017.
Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently work four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.
In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.
Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.
What Will Happen?
The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about this domain and the blog posts.
So, where are they going? Why, they are off to Adventures in Career Changing! As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? This advice and this work will not be gone. It’ll all just move down the street.
As a part of our required readings for the social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase and read On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. This was a terrific book.
On Writing Well covers a multitude of issues that writers can face. Zinsser gives writers the freedom to occasionally break some rules, or at least to bend them. Moreover, he gives reasons why one type of construction might work better than another.
For Zinsser, the start and the end pack heavy punches. On Page 54, he writes,
“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he’s hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the ‘lead’.”
Not only is this good advice for fiction writing, it’s excellent for report writing and for writing for the web. How many times have we had to slog through a ton of prose before getting to the good stuff? How many times have we tried to hang in there when we’d rather be doing anything but tackling an opaque garbage can full of prose?
Active Versus Passive Tense
Many writers are told to prefer active to passive tense when writing. Zinsser explains why, on Page 67,
“Use active verbs unless there is no comfortable way to get around using a passive verb. The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style – in clarity and vigor – is the difference between life and death for a writer.”
A little over the top, maybe, but it does get the point across.
Don’t dance around your subject. Be bold. Be clear. Be terse.
Independent writers can sometimes be rather lonely indeed. You can feel as if it’s just you in a sea of promotions, prompts, social media, and writer’s block.
I’m here to help you. I am getting my Master’s degree in Communications (social media), and this is my capstone project. Yeah, I’m being graded for this! I might just continue after graduation. Furthermore, I can see there is a need out there, for a sharing of this sort of expertise.
I am also a published author. I write or do something regarding writing every single day. Plus, I just so happen to be a retired attorney, and I used to work in databases and even voice recognition. My resumé is rather eclectic.
I seem to have a pretty balanced brain, in that I am not too far over on the artistic side (right) or the analytical side (left). However, I tend to split the difference. Or maybe it’s just my genetics. Because my father is a retired engineer and an inventor, several times over. And my mother is a retired reference librarian. This stuff is in my DNA.
So with such an odd and varied background, I have become what you, too, need to be:
Open to all sorts of possibilities
I know you need some help, or maybe just a sympathetic ear. And believe me, I know! Just between you and me, we have to wear a ton of hats. Writer. Marketer. Accountant. Lawyer (or at least paralegal). Editor. Cover artist.
Fortunately, you are not alone.
And I am more than willing to share my expertise and my experience. So let’s explore, together, how to navigate the waters of being an independent (no agent yet) author, whether published or not. I’ll provide videos and cheat sheets for you to refer to, so you’re no longer in the dark.
True influence requires two things: audience and advocacy. Advocacy is driven by the depth of conviction, and influencers typically are less committed to the product or company than are actual customer advocates.
In the world of aspiring authors, advocacy isn’t limited to just influencers. Nearly everyone is an advocate, but it’s the influencers who have the audience.
Amateur authors love to write and would love to be published (and quit their day jobs), but many are terrified of being seen as wannabes. In the NaNoWriMo community in particular (NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during November), there seems to be a fear that the product created at the end of the month is somehow ‘not good enough’.
For these aspiring authors, the ability to interact directly with their literary heroes is a means of seeking and obtaining a degree of validation.
Within NaNoWriMo, the organization leverages its network of authors (not necessarily ones who have ever participated in the annual event) to write Pep Talks. Neil Gaiman, in 2007, wrote –
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
For aspiring authors ready to throw in the towel, Gaiman’s words ring true. All NaNoWriMo is selling are buttons and a few other products sporting their logo. Plus they are hoping participants will contribute to the site.
Inspiration isn’t easy to bottle, but Gaiman’s words (and the words of other authors such as Jim Butcher) are helpful. The aspiring author realizes he or she is far from alone. Even the people who really did quit their day jobs struggle at times.
#MSWL is a Twitter hashtag meaning ‘Manuscript Wish List’. Instead of waiting for a slush pile’s worth of unsolicited manuscripts, agents and publishing houses reach out directly to the writing community and make their desires known. While #MSWL is more active in February, the most recent tweet (as of the creation of this blog post) is from freelance editor Libby Murphy –
REALLY want a romantic comedy featuring hockey players! Bonus points for an enemies to lovers conflict.#MSWL
Murphy’s tweet provides writers with exactly what they need. If they’ve got a manuscript tucked away with Bobby Orr as the protagonist, then the writer’s next step is obvious.
Is everyone who uses #MSWL an influencer? No. But the clear request is a win-win. It wastes time and goodwill if an aspiring author doesn’t have a hockey story but queries Ms. Murphy anyway, or presents their Alexander Ovechkin-inspired romantic comedy to another. #MSWL has been so successful that it has spawned WordPress and Tumblr blogs. Most of the buzz behind #MSWL comes from agent Jessica Sinsheimer.
Twitter, though, is the place to be for literary agents, and not just when #MSWL is most active. Even Sinsheimer, who invented #MSWL, admits she uses the hashtag even when there’s no event going on. It’s that convenient.
How Organizations Can Best Use Influencer Networks
For NaNoWriMo, tapping their influencer network is a way to shore up fragile aspiring authors’ egos and, maybe, get them to purchase merchandise or donate or both. Further, the use of pep talks – on-point evergreen content – means influencer names are associated with NaNoWriMo and remain so in perpetuity.
For looser confederations of publishers and literary agents, using #MSWL gets them connected to online influencers in a way that they weren’t before. It doesn’t hurt that the hashtag is practical, too, and cuts out wasted time as aspiring authors are directed to query agents and publishers interested in their nascent masterpieces.
For the Spring Semester of 2015, I decided to double my course load and try to graduate a bit more rapidly. This entailed taking two classes. Little was I to know, when I signed up for these courses, that I would also get a job and my book, Untrustworthy, would be published. Hence my workload began to feel a bit out of control. Continue reading “Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac”→