Tips for Running a Blog Contest

You can find me over at Darcy Pattison's blog today, answering some questions about running online contests, along with authors Lisa Yee (Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time) and Joelle Anthony (Restoring Harmony).

If you've thought about hosting a blog contest or giveaway and need a few tips to encourage more participation, come check it out!


It's a say day when I actually have to post something like this. Today it is a sad day.

What it is:

Taking pride in your profession
Forming a strong work ethic
Treating your peers with respect 

What it is not:

Creating a hate group to single out a person, group or arm of the business
Flaming and bashing people within your profession for amusement
Presenting untruths as fact to make yourself look better or justify your actions

A great post I found that looks at the dangers of thinking the Internet is a playground by an Anon Editor: The Internet, Like Herpes, Is Forever

Definitely something to think about.

A Blog Post instead of the Regular Blog Post

Okay, I totally know I'm supposed to put up another setting today. But it's like the first weekend of summer now that the kids are pretty much done school, I was kinda hoping you would cut me some slack. You will, right?

Instead, I thought I would share what my summer is going to look like.

First off, check out this bad boy reading pile. It is so delicious I just want to hug it. Oh and yes, there are more downstairs, but these are the mission critical ones I want to read.

You can see why I'm struggling on where to start on my TBR pile, but I'm determined to plow through most of them this summer. Luckily I'll be doing something that will give me loads of reading time.

You see, the family and I are going away this year on a little trip. Where you ask? 

Yes, that is an elephant.

In Africa.

Where, in a few short weeks, I will be. *squees*

We are beyond excited as you can imagine. And there will be pictures, I promise. I'll also be able to tackle a few Africa-specific setting posts like the savanna.

The flights are looooong, coming from the edge of the world here in Canada. I'm thinking I'll be able to get through more than a few of these reads along the way.

While I'm gone it's doubtful I'll find Internet access but I will schedule some posts, so no worries. I hope you'll stop in while as I'll be sharing some of the best links I've found to date for unusual and interesting things pertaining to writing.

The trip's still a few weeks away yet, but I wanted to just give a heads up now. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Safety or Refuge

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

High ground--ridge, cliff, tree
Enclosed, defensible space: cave, crevasse
Treeline across a open space
Holes to hide in
Desert oasis
Presence of others (the pack, flock, animal family or group)
Firm ground
Animal burrows
The shelter of tree branches during a storm
A rock overhang
Shallows (river, lake, etc)
Trails, tracks
Rock handholds, footholds
Close proximity to a food or water source

In Society:

School Office
Street lights
Well lit stores
Bank vaults
Locked or even closed doors
Being hugged, held
A warm blanket
Weapons close at hand
Police station
Bus shelter
Personal bedroom
Closet/under the bed
Homeless shelter
A house with lights on
Restaurant booth
Back to a wall
Panic Room
Bars on a window
Fences, chains, barbed wire, sensors, railings
Bank account, investments, mutual funds, RRSPs
Insurance (home, auto, life)
Stocked pantry, full fridge
An extra layer of clothing (jacket draped over shoulders, etc)
Bathroom (home)
Bathroom stall (public washroom)
Well populated areas
Life preserver, life jacket

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Safety or Refuge. Some are more powerful than others. One's own bedroom is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a bird's nest may not foreshadow safety or refuge on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Blogs You Can't live Without

In my recent contest, I asked entrants to supply the link to other blogs they couldn't live without. So many fabulous blogs were mentioned, I decided to collect them here in one post for easy reference. I will make a permanent link to this post in my sidebar as well!

Agents & Industry

Rachelle Gardner's Rants & Ramblings
Nathan Bransford
Mandy Hubbard
BookEnds LLC
FinePrint Blog
Janet Reid
Getting Past the Gatekeeper
Pub Rants
Guide to Literary Agents
The Intern
Editorial Anonymous
The Rejecter
The Blood Red Pencil
Pimp My Novel
Writer Unboxed

Query and MS Tuneage

Query Shark
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips
Query Tracker Blog
Public Query Slushpile
The Book Doctor
Plot to Punctuation
Darcy Pattison
Miss Snark's First Victim
Your First Page

Writers, Authors & Writing

Adventures in Children's Publishing
YA Highway
Kiersten Writes
Jody Hedlund
Shrinking Violets
Anita Nolan
Market My Words
Elana Johnson
Grab a Pen
We Love YA
Margie Lawson
Spilling Ink
Sisters in Scribe
Hey Teenager
Cornell Deville
Angels and Demons and Portals. Oh My.
Word Play
The Bluestocking Blog
Literary Rambles
Candace's Book Blog
La Femme Readers
Mystery Writing is Murder
Writers' Alley
Romance University
Super Mom Writes
The Deadline Dames
Beth Revis
Neil Gaiman
Laini Taylor
No Letters on My Keyboard
Words From the Woods
Falen Formulates Fiction
Fiction Groupie
Mark of the Stars
From the Mixed Up Files
Through the Toolbooth
Writer Jenn
Elizabeth Craig's Twitter
Writing for Children
The Graveyard Shift
Shooting Stars
Mary DeMuth
Between Fact and Fiction
Limyaael's Rants
Southern Princess
Cat Woods
Daily Pep For Writers
Laurel's Leaves
Weronika Janczuk
Shannon O'Donnell
Jill Kemerer
Let the Words Flow
Practicing Writing
A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing
Sara Merrick

Live, Write, Thrive
Writing Straight

I'm happy to say most of these blogs I already follow in some way or another, and those I didn't know about I'll be adding to various subscription lists! Thanks everyone for sharing the places and people that help you on this journey.

800/200,000 WINNERS!

I know you guys don't want to read paragraphs of inner musings about this contest, so let me make it short and sweet and say THANK YOU to everyone who has visited, supported and passed on the word about The Bookshelf Muse. I'm so glad you find this site a worthy place to spend your time!

Now, onto the goods, yes? YES!

Congrats go to...

Winners of a Full MS Evaluation:

Eli Ross
Stina Lindenblatt

Winners of a 5 page inline critique: 


Winners of a 1st page inline critique:

Genevieve Wilson
Bethany Elizabeth

Winners of a mystery prize:

Tricia J. O'Brien
Sandy Shin

Winners can contact me here for formatting instructions/etc! Just put 800/200,000 in the subject line so I can find you if my spam folder decides to eat your message.

Thanks everyone for entering. Have a great weekend and happy writing!

800/200,000 Contest Closed

Good luck to everyone who entered my Thank You Contest. I'll post the winners tomorrow...have a great writing week!

Thinking Outside the Character Sheet

I don't know about you, but sometimes I struggle with characterization. Characters don't talk to me, they don't pop into my head fully-formed. I have to work at uncovering who they are and finding what makes them unique.

I have used those massive 'Get to Know Your Character' question sheets, but I find many can be a bit generic and aren't always enough for me to brainstorm the qualities of a Stand Out Character.

Flaws, quirks, mannerisms, interests, obsessions, fears and secrets are often what sets a character apart. I have a few techniques that I've used that help me 'think outside' the interview sheet when a character is being particularly stubborn about revealing themselves to me. If you're like me and need a bit of a push to unearth that special spark of uniqueness, try one of these exercises:

Be a Snoop

Invade their personal space and list out the contents of something private and personalized: a wallet, purse, locker, work desk, car, bedroom vanity, backpack, pseudo sock drawer. What objects/keepsakes/personal items do they keep on hand? Make it your mission to discover one or two things you didn't expect to find there but do, and think about why they have it and what it means. Creative thinking will lead to new facets of their character you might not have expected.

Speed Date

You've seen it on TV, maybe even tried it yourself. Set a timer for 5 minutes and ask your character as many questions you can. Make it your goal to discover something unusual about them--a secret, fear, an interest, a phobia. Go beyond "What's your favorite color?" and thick them in the hot seat. Pay attention to the questions that they try to avoid or are discomforted by.

Play a game of Would You Rather...

Would you rather...chew gum off the sidewalk or eat a worm? Would you paid $1000 to fire a single parent or have to pay the police $2000 for a traffic violation? This is a great, quick game that will test your character's moral center and expose those phobias and dislikes, and also tell you whether they are attention getters, risk takers or quiet observers.

Good Cop/Bad Cop

Pretend your character was in the vicinity to a crime (murder, robbery, car jacking, choose) and hit them with a split personality interview--good cop, bad cop. Is your character a bystander or guilty? You decide. Watch them squirm, grow frustrated or lie with ease. This is a great exercise to put them in the pressure cooker to judge emotional range and reactions.

Do you have any special techniques to bring out the interesting traits of your character? I'd love it if you shared them as I'm always looking for new ideas to strengthen my ability to connect with my characters and understand who they are.

Setting Description Entry: Dragon's Lair


Dragon, a massive wide cavern, high ceiling, smooth walls from the dragon body scraping the sides, coins, jewels, precious metals, weaponry and other riches scattered on the floor and piled up in adjoining chambers, heat vents, fissures, stalactites and stalagmites, nesting area made from branches, fresh leaves, melted gold coins to form a bowl to keep the eggs (clutch) warm during absences, bones, skeletons, skulls, spoiled meat, ragged clothing from past dead adventurers, hoarded items of a magical nature (scepters, crowns, tiaras, rings, amulets, staffs, potions, gemstones, cursed artifacts, robes, knives, chalices, etc), old discarded dragon scales on the floor, egg shells, crumbles of rock, boulders, debris, scorch marks on the walls and floor, cracks in the wall or high ceiling, weaponry and smashed, splintered shield the dead left behind, fire, smoke, cliff ledge


The crash of water and waves (if located on a cliff face on the ocean's edge), powerful inhaling and exhaling that reverberates throughout the chamber, the scuff of a foot, the drag of a tail, knocking over a stalagmite with a crash, a metallic slide of metals and coins from sorting through treasure piles, a rumbling snoring sound, the crackle of branches as something large settles on the nest, scraping noises as the dragon rubs its side against the wall for itchy relief, the flutter and flap of wings settling and adjusting, angry bellows, the roar and crackle of fire, noises and shifting echoing throughout the cavern, soft footsteps in the dust, sneaking toward the treasure hold, the crack of eggs breaking, the squawk and cry of new draglets


Fire, blood, metal, char, brimstone, the sea, salt, hot stone, musty air, rotten food breath, death


Sour tang of fear, sweat, dry mouth...don't think you want to stop here for a picnic


Rough handhold climbing up to the lair entrance, stone digging into knees, cutting hands, scraping legs and arms, inside: taking careful steps, picking your way across a floor littered with bones, rock and riches, careful not to disturb anything, pausing to wipe away droplets of sweat, chest tight from forced light inhales and exhales, pain in the ankles and legs from holding a stiff position at the slightest sound, reaching for a jewel or sword, wincing and gritting teeth as you attempt to pull it soundlessly toward you, dropping small baubles and coins in pockets, constantly glancing up and this way and that as you collect for fear of the dragon awakening or returning, drawing a weapon free from a scabbard to do battle, the drag of armour and a shield pulling at arms and shoulders, heartbeat straining, panicked running at being discovered, The pain of skin burning, hair sizzling, crushing pain of a talon or tooth piercing chest, a wing bashing into you, throwing you against the wall, or giant foot crushing air from lungs, the final exhale of death

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

With each exhale, Ceron's face burned and came close to blistering, but he gritted his teeth and stayed focused on the key resting just beyond the sleeping dragon's blood-splattered claw. Two more steps and he would be able to free his son, shackled in the antechamber by the giant beast for daring to wander too close to its lair.

Example 2:

Harland stood outside the cave mouth, refusing to go in. Something terrible was inside, for not only did a chilling rumble sweep down the passage toward him in a steady beat, it carried upon it a stench that made him wonder if the mountain had swallowed a demon and it lay decomposing within its stomach.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

Rubies and emeralds dotted the pile of coins like sweet currants decorating a cake.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

I glanced back at mouth of the cave and the unblemished blue sky beyond. The realization that this would be the last time I drank in such a sight was a heavy shield to carry, yet at least the burden was mine alone.

800/200,000 CONTEST!

Seriously, look at those numbers: 802 followers. Over 200,000 page views.

What that 802 number really means to me is this--802 spectacular people have been kind enough to visit The Bookshelf Muse and like it enough to hang out for a spell. 802 incredible writers, educators and publishing industry professionals who all so generously believe in sharing knowledge, learning together and helping each other succeed. 802 people who, while working toward similar goals, have enriched my own experience beyond words, along with all the other great visitors who come here, day after day.

How great do I feel to be a part of the blogging community? Pretty darn great. I cannot underscore how much I have learned from all of your blogs or how much I appreciate everyone who spends time here, sharing their thoughts, encouragement and wisdom. I started blogging two and a half years ago, totally clueless, believing that maybe there would be a handful or two of people who might find my ramblings useful. How shocking to reach this milestone, and know that more lies ahead.

I hope that as The Bookshelf Muse continues to grow, that many more friends will share the journey. I am a firm believer that none of us reach publication alone, and I am honored to be able to have such fine folks to share the road with.

So to celebrate, how about a contest? :)

The Prizes? I like the numbers 2 and 8 today, yanno?

2 First Page Critiques (approx 250 words) Analysis of your hook, introduction of characters, setting and events. If you want an agent or editor to keep reading, you need a perfect first page.

2 Five Page In line Critiques (approx 1250 words) I tooth-comb your first 5, honing in on your characters, set up, description and pacing. I will also slice and dice as needed.

2 Mystery Prizes (might be a book, might be a gift card, might be something won't know until you see it in your mailbox).

2 Full Manuscript Evaluations. (max WC 100,000) Yes, you read right. Two. Of. Them, thanks to Paul W. Hankins, who helped answer my challenge and became my 800th follower before hitting 200,000.

I will read your book, and provide several pages of my thoughts on characters, plot, dialogue, voice, pacing, plot, resolution, description, emotions, sub plots, tension, believability, logic, etc. The draft must be complete and clean (minimal typo/grammar issues). I'll read first drafts on this if the winners want me to, but the more developed the book is, likely the more my critique will help you.

What you have to do to win:

--Be a Follower
--Comment with a link to one of your favorite writing blogs that you can't live without (it can't be mine or yours)

--Optional: Pass on the word. Hey, as always I appreciate everyone who spreads the word about The Bookshelf Muse on writing forums, Twitter, Face Book, critique groups and email, and I hope you'll continue to as long as you find the content helpful. But I won't chase you down and beat you with a stick if you don't, lol. This contest is my thanks to you, simple as that!

Have a great one! Contest closes Wednesday, June 16th. I'm looking forward to seeing the sites you link to and I hope people reading this post will visit them as well. Let's spread the love around, because this blog community is something to be celebrated.


Angela, Good or Bad? Musers Said...

I recently won a contest in which a character will be named after me in the upcoming fourth novel in Marilee Brothers' series, Unbidden Magic. All I had to do was choose whether I wished to be a good character, or a bad one. Being terribly torn, I passed it over to Musers to decide.

I loved all the commentary that came with your votes, and hearing your passionate pitches for good or evil. Things were neck in neck for a while, but then a push for one rushed in and overwhelmed the votes by a landslide.

Angela will be...BAD.

Thanks for playing along, people! You are the bestest! And massively huge thanks to Marilee Brothers and Got YA, for holding such a fantastic and unique contest!

Oh, and DEFINITELY check back a little later today for something special going on here at The Bookshelf Muse!

Is Angela Good, or Bad? You Decide!

Okay, so something cool just happened. FOR REALS.

Awhile ago I was blog surfing, reading an author interview and found the coolest contest EVA--author Marilee Brothers was giving away a character's name in the fourth book of her Unbidden Magic series on the Got YA blog.

And so naturally I entered.

And I sorta fudged a bit. One thing I was supposed to write on the post is whether I wanted to be a good character or a baddie, but it was so hard to choose! I mean, talk about Sophie's Choice here! So, I just posted that I wanted to be entered and figured I'd probably never stand a chance of winning but if I did, I'd worry about that later.

Well kids, it's later.

And I WON!!

And...the most wonderful Marilee is expecting an answer: Good Character, or Bad character? Which will be given my name?

So, dear, wonderful Musers, I am leaving my FATE in your HANDS. Is Angela a good girl, or a bad one? Vote in the comments below. Most votes by the time I reach 200,000 WINS!

Setting Description: Emergency Waiting Room


Automatic sliding doors, beat-up chairs (filled with people who have: broken limbs, cuts, red noses, bruising, scrapes, holding garbage bins to throw up in, are wearing surgical masks, are crying, have been beaten, are holding onto the person next to them for support, reading magazines, books, clutching at purses or holding tight to jackets slung over an arm, leaning back in their chair asleep), overflowing garbage bins, half finished coffee containers, piles of newspapers and magazines, nurses, orderlies, janitorial staff, dividing curtain for people with airborne illness or contagious diseases, glassed in admitting area, glassed in reception area, nearby bathroom, vending machine, signs to other hospital areas, stretchers zooming past with paramedics, blood pressure monitor stand near the ER, sliding doors to the ER, doctors in scrubs and white coats passing through the area, people in wheelchairs, intoxicated people, worried parents and friends, small children huddled in parents arms, kids playing handhelds or listening to ipods, Cabbies coming in for pick ups, wristbands on patients waiting to see a doctor, ice packs, bandages, stethoscopes hung around necks, people whispering, security personnel, police officers, hand sanitizing stations


Whispering, crying, uneven or distressed breathing, the sound of someone throwing up, moaning, groaning, whimpering, pleasing, praying, newspapers rattling, arguing, magazine pages flipping, the papery slide of a book page being turned, the pop and fizz of a pop can being opened, the rattle of candy and chip wrappers, glass doors sliding open and shut, names being called to admitting and the front desk, security and paging over intercoms, static-y police & security radios, the calming voice of a nurse, the rustle of paperwork, pens clicking on to fill something out, people talking on cels, footsteps pacing, swearing, drunken slurring, coins clinking in the vending machine, the thunk of a candy bar or pop hitting the tray, sirens, squeaky wheel on a crash cart or stretcher zooming past


Antiseptic, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, vomit, BO, sweat, booze breath, coffee, taco chips, perfume, hair products, cough drops, air conditioned & filtered air


Coffee in a container, pop, juice and water from a container, snack foods from a vending machine, mints, gum, nicorette. Most people try hard not to eat in the waiting room because of the risk of exposure to airborne and surface contaminants.


Thin padded or plastic seats offering little comfort or room, metal arm rails digging into forearms, making oneself 'small' and holding self straight to avoid touching those to either side, twisting the admittance band on wrist, rolling shoulders, crossing and recrossing legs, cracking knuckles, glancing around, standing up to pace, walking over to browse the vending machine, digging in pocket or purse for change, the cold, dewy bottle of water against the palm or warmth seeping out a Styrofoam coffee container, flipping through a magazine or paper, checking watch or phone for time, texting, scrolling through iPod, going out into the lobby or heading down the hall to find a cafe/gift shop/cafeteria, talking quietly on the phone, pulling tissues from a tissue box, tapping foot impatiently, twisting hands together, fiddling with purse straps, buttons on a coat, twisting a wedding band, rubbing eyes, pinching bridge of the nose, rubbing arms and shaking self in an attempt to stay awake, leaning back against the wall and dozing, fanning self with a magazine, tapping a magazine against the leg, standing in line at the reception to check on a patient being seen by doctors, trading encouraging smiles with others who are waiting, or initiating small talk to make the time go by faster, blowing nose, wiping at tears, getting up to use a washroom or put hand sanitizer on

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

I stared down at my hands, twisting and knotting them as if doing so would hold back the turmoil inside me. Despair roamed the room, expelled on the breath of worriers like me and those doing their best to bite down on the pain that brought them here.

Example 2:

Hannah sagged in my arms, her feverish warmth making me wish I'd taken my coat off before she'd fallen asleep. I pushed a clump of damp blond hair off her flushed cheek and she moaned softly, a sound common enough that no one else in the waiting area even looked up.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

After the symphony of coughing, hacking and wheezing that greeted Becky in the ER waiting room, she found the closest antibacterial hand dispenser and starting working it like a gambling addict hitting up a VLT machine.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

During Rick's six hour stint in the ER waiting room on Saturday night he learned two important things: first, all the crazies really did come out after midnight. And second, there was a very good reason for the plexiglass fortress that surrounded the receptopn desk, and for the armed guard standing in front of it.

Bookmark and Share

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Loss

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

A tree barren of leaves
An empty field
Forest Fire location
Uprooted trees
Animal skeletons or scattered bones
Animal death
Fallen trees
Dried up waterways
Red poppies
Dandelion seed head with no fluff
Flood destruction
Animal grieving (elephants covering the dead, cubs refusing to leave their fallen mother, etc)
Industry encroaching on nature
Fences, barriers, presence of man symbolize the loss of natural habitats

In Society:

Missing teeth
An empty vessel (cup, bowl, etc)
Funeral homes
A mother crying at graduation
Staring down at empty hands
House fire
An empty well
Roadside memorials
Military memorials
Sunken ships
The holocaust
An empty chair
Widows & Widowers
Cancer ribbon
Fliers for Missing children, pets or items
Lost and found box
Items forgotten in a public place (coat, scarf, glove, book)
A person holding an empty dog leash
A used up candle
The color gray
Metal detector
Ghosts, spiritual presence
Damage aftermath caused by natural disasters

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Loss. Some are more powerful than others. A Funeral home is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single red poppy may not foreshadow loss on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
Bookmark and Share


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...