4 Things I've Learned From Vlogging

Vlogging, for me, began as an experiment. Something to try out to help get over my anxiety around having my face online. Ultimately when I decided to stick with it, it was largely because the new medium was fun to play around with, and I figured maybe it'd help broaden my platform, though I really wasn't expecting much in terms of reception for a channel about books and writing.

Luckily, I was wrong. Though YouTube is far from my oldest platform, it has undeniably become my largest and most interactive audience by far. It turns out, there are loads of writers out there looking for tips to help better their writing on all media formats—not just the written ones.

I've now been vlogging for a number of years. And here are some things I've learned along the way.

  1. YouTube's audience isn't just trolls. YouTube kind of has a reputation for having a large audience of trolls who get kicks filling YouTubers' comments with meanness and/or grossness. I was pretty worried about this when I first started vlogging, but I'm glad I took the risk because my experience has been far from the stereotype. Have I encountered jerks making rude comments about my appearance or presentation? Yes. But to be honest, I'd say as of right now with over 13,000 subscribers, for every troll comment I get, I get like fifty genuine comments. Maybe even more. My ratio right now is probably about the same as Twitter, and though that might change as my channel grows, my experience over the last couple years has been largely positive. 

  2. Relaying the same information in different formats works. While not all of my YouTube videos are a vlog version of already-existing blog posts, many of them are. I was a little hesitant about doing this at first—after all, the blog posts exist!—but I quickly learned the audience on YouTube is largely not interested in jumping over to my blog unless I don't already have a vlog about a topic they want. It even works on my blog too, because obviously most of you haven't read all 1,167 blog posts on Writability, so it allows me to go over information I covered a while ago in a new way. 

  3. If you do what scares you repeatedly, it (sometimes) becomes less scary. I was terrified of putting my face online when I did my first vlog. To the point where when my friends took pictures with me, I asked them not to put the pictures on Facebook for years because the prospect of having my likeness on the internet sent me spiraling into anxiety mode. I started my YouTube channel after I'd started actually treating my anxiety, which then made it possible for me to push past it enough that I posted my first vlog. And my second. And my third. Vlogging was pretty terrifying at first, but the more I did it, the easier it became. And now it doesn't scare me at all—and I actually quite enjoy it. :) Bonus points, vlogging has made public speaking a million times easier—in large part because the process is pretty nearly the same, I can just see my audience instead of staring into a camera. 

  4. In terms of income, YouTube has a pretty decent conversion rate. It's hard for me to compare this to my other social media sites, because people don't regularly tell me on Twitter or my blog when they've decided to get my book because of my presence there. But for whatever reason, people on YouTube do—and the number of times I've heard from my YouTube audience that someone bought my book because they like my channel is way higher than I was expecting. Same goes for my freelancing—I've had quite a few clients discover me on YouTube and hire me from there. Now I've just recently started monetizing my vlogs that have over 10,000 views, and though I'm not making a ton from that, it's still a little extra something that will only grow over time as more vlogs hit 10,00 views. Or I decide to lower the threshold. 

So those are some things I've learned from running a channel on YouTube. Do you watch writers on YouTube?

Twitter-sized bite:
Over 150 vlogs later, @Ava_Jae shares 4 things they've learned from running a YouTube channel. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Writing and Music

Another question asked, another question answered. Today I'm talking about what I listen to while I write and edit—and why.


What are your music preferences while writing?

Twitter-sized bite:

From bands to soundtracks to headphones and more, @Ava_Jae shares their music preferences while writing. (Click to tweet

Discussion: Top 5 TBR

Photo credit: Goodreads
So while I haven't had as much time (or motivation, if I'm being honest) to read as I would like, as of late, and I'm hopelessly behind on my Goodreads reading challenge, I still do have a schedule of books I'm itching to dive into, as always. Because while the never-ending TBR list is overwhelming, some books I own eventually find their way to the top for more immediate reading.

My top five TBR right now includes:

  1. A Gathering of Shadows & A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. Technically I'm cheating by including both books, but I'm nearing the end of my A Gathering of Shadows re-read (because it is a re-read) anyway. Next up will be A Conjuring of Light because the whole point of re-reading AGOS was to have everything fresh in my mind for ACOL. And honestly, I'm just impressed I haven't run into ACOL spoilers yet. (*knocks on wood*)

  2. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. I am super blessed because I managed to get my hands on a Mask of Shadows ARC which immediately leapt to the top of my TBR pile because I've been dying to get this book since I first sneakily heard about it before the publication announcement was up. Which is to say forever ago, or at least, it feels that way. But I have a copy, so you can bet I'll be reading this as soon as I'm done with the Shades of Magic trilogy. 

  3. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee. Technically this isn't out yet but I have a pre-order and I figure it'll be out by the time I finish AGOS, ACOL, and Mask of Shadows. (Given how long I've been re-reading AGOS, it's a pretty safe bet.) Anyway! This is another I've been super excited about since I saw the pub announcement and I'm absolutely delighted it's been getting reviewed so well because I really want to love it. And judging by the sample I heard already, I'm sure I will. :D

  4. The Girl From Everywhere & The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig. Cheating again with two books here, but like AGOS, my The Girl From Everywhere read is a re-read. I originally read TGFE way back in 2015 as an ARC, so I definitely want a refresher before I dive into my beautiful copy of The Ship Beyond Time. I expect it'll be a fun re-adventure. 

  5. Wildcard. Obviously this isn't a book, but I'm letting myself cheat because technically I already have six books on this list. I'm not quite sure what I'll read after I get through this list, but I have a pretty large selection of unread books I own, so that won't be a problem. But I suppose it'll depend on my mood after I've read these books. Whatever I settle on, I'm sure it'll be excellent. :) 

What books are on your top five TBR?

Twitter-sized bite:
What books are on your top five TBR? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

6 Most Common Critiques

Photo credit: freestocks.org on Flickr
I've been freelance editing for over a year now, and in that time I've written a lot of edit letters. Which is great, because it means I've had the opportunity to read and critique a lot of work, which I've really enjoyed.

It also means, over time, I've noticed quite a few patterns in the critiques I frequently end up giving, because there are trends in the issues many manuscripts I've worked with have had. These trends are things I figure would be helpful for writers to look for while revising on their own, so I thought I'd share them.

So without further ado, here are the six most common critiques I have for manuscripts and samples I've read over the last thirteen months. In no particular order...

  • Filtering/telling emotion. I did say this list is in no particular order but this is definitely my #1 most common critique. As I've talked about here before, filtering is a form of telling that often subtly distances the narrative, and removing the amount of filtering can make the narrative feel more intimate. Same goes for telling emotion—rather than stating how characters are feeling, it's much, much more effective to consider how those emotions affect your characters physically and consider how they affect your characters' thoughts. Then by writing those physical and psychological effects, your readers can intuit what emotions your characters are feeling without ever being told. Which again, makes the narrative feel closer and more immediate.

  • POV issues. There are several POV issues I frequently come across, namely: too many POVs, POV slips, and adult POVs in YA manuscripts. The first two kind of go together: I frequently remind my clients they should only use as many POVs as they need to tell the story, and it's not uncommon that when there are too many POVs in a story, the POVs also kind of slip together—meaning POV will switch within a scene without any transition, which is confusing and hard to read. The last point is pretty YA-centric, but I've on several occasions come across adult POVs in YA manuscripts, which isn't really allowed in YA. YA, after all, is a teen category for teen readers and their stories are supposed to be told by teens. Save the adult POVs for adult books, because they largely don't belong here.

  • What is the protagonist's goal? This is a pretty big plot issue and it's not uncommon. Sometimes I'll go through a manuscript and it won't be clear until halfway through, or the last act, or later, what the protagonist's goal is—but that's way too late to introduce a goal. The protagonist's goal should be clear right from the beginning. It's okay if their goal changes over time, but the protagonist must always have something to strive for—without that goal, the plot and pacing falls flat.

  • Voice issues. Given that I edit YA and NA, voice is especially paramount, and a frequent critique I have especially for YA works is that the voice doesn't quite sound like a teen. This is hard to nail, especially at first, and my biggest suggestion for fixing that is to read a ton of YA. But it's also a matter of constantly reminding yourself that you, the adult author, aren't the one telling the story—your teen characters are.

  • Action tag + dialogue tag. This a pretty easy to fix—but common—one. When writing dialogue, you only need an action tag or a dialogue tag—not both for the same line. So rather than saying, "'I hate you,' she said with a smile," you can say, "'I hate you.' She smiled" and get the same point across in less words. It's a trick to help cut down on wordiness. And speaking of which...

  • Wordiness. Line editing is really my forte, so it's not surprising that I pretty nearly always find wordiness to cut in a manuscript. I already did a post on things to look for to cut down on wordiness though, so I'll refer you to that.

So that covers my most common critiques. Do you catch any of these in your own work?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author & freelance editor @Ava_Jae shares their most common critiques. Do you catch these in your own work? (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #36!

Photo credit: Sophe89
We're just about halfway through June which means we're halfway through 2017! Which is...really weird to think about! But it also means, of course, it's time for the next Fixing the First Page feature, which happens to be the 36th feature, which means we've been doing this for three years!

Very weird.

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-fifth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Wednesday, June 21 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: On Writing Description

You've asked, I'm answering: how do you write description? How much description is too much or too little? I'm sharing my thoughts on this essential part of novel writing.


What tips would you add for writing description?

Twitter-sized bites:
How much description is too much? How much is too little? @Ava_Jae vlogs some tips. (Click to tweet
Struggling to get your description right? @Ava_Jae shares some tips in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

What Should You Focus On While First Drafting?

Photo credit: Brian Stetson on Flickr
I've frequently talked about how first drafts are meant to be terrible, and how I worry about nothing while first drafting except getting the story down. I've said time and time again that anything messy in the first draft can be fixed with revisions, but you can't edit a blank page, so getting the words down first is the most important thing.

But what's involved in "getting the story down"? What should you focus on getting on the page, rather than saving it for later?

As is the case with many things in writing, this answer is going to vary writer-to-writer. But after completing sixteen first drafts, this is what I've learned to focus on while getting the story down for the first time:

  • The plot. Technically I worry about this while plotting, not first drafting, but the first draft is where I take note of whether or not the plot is working as it should be. A lot of times I can't really tell for sure whether the plot is working the way I wanted it to until the first read through and revisions, but while first draft I at least get a sense of the flow and the way one scene leads into another and how they stack up together.

  • The characters. The first draft is really where I get to know the characters for the first time. This is where their personalities start to shine, where their interactions with other characters tells me about them, where I get glimpses into who they are and what makes them tick. By the end of the first draft, I don't have a full picture of my full cast of characters, but I usually have a pretty good idea of how the main cast behaves and how they get along (or don't). 

  • The story. Ultimately, the first draft is where I follow a lot of gut feelings. It's not uncommon for my plotted scene card to say one thing and the scene itself to turn out another way entirely. Arguments happen where I didn't plan them—and so does kissing—flirting crops up between characters I didn't expect, and sometimes new plot ideas hit me along the way. I pretty near always follow those gut instincts and go wherever the story takes me, regardless of whether or not I'd planned for it before. And sixteen first drafts later, I've yet to regret going with what felt right as I wrote rather than with what I'd originally planned.

So those are the main things I try to keep in mind when putting words on the page for the first time. What do you focus on while first drafting?

Twitter-sized bite:
What do you focus on while first drafting? @Ava_Jae shares some experience and thoughts. (Click to tweet)
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