Episode Summary

One of the unique and wonderful things about the self-publishing community is how everyone seems willing to work together, to help out when needed, and to share whatever wisdom or advice they have. And that’s certainly true of co-authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi,the authors behind Writers Helping Writers. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders we chat with Angel and Becca about their work, and about what it means for writers to help writers.

Episode Notes

Mark Leslie Lefebvre interviews Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi of WRITERS HELPING WRITERS. Angela and Becca are the co-authors of the “gold standard” of writing guides, the Writers Helping Writers thesaurus collection. The series is available in eight languages and has sold over 600,000 copies. These books are used in universities and by editors, agents, writing coaches & authors all over the world.

Learn more about Writers Helping Writers at https://writershelpingwriters.net

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writers, book, writing, people, emotion, publish, fiction, author, blog, business, helping, characters, settings, create, self publishing, lists, logistics


Mark Lefebvre, Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi

Mark Lefebvre 00:03

Hello and welcome to self publishing insiders. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre. I represent draft to digital and I’m honored to have in the virtual studio with me today Angela and Becca from writers helping writers. Ladies, welcome to the self publishing insiders podcast and, and live stream.


Thank you. Thanks.

Mark Lefebvre 00:25

I’m so thrilled I, I’ve never had a chance to talk to both of you at the same time. This is this is pretty extraordinary. So I want to take as much advantage of that as possible. But the first thing I’m really curious to know is is your superhero origin story. So the two of you, powerhouses that you are helping writers around the world? How did it all begin and we’re going to do a little bit mystical thing as we first cut.

Angela Ackerman 00:54

We actually met as critique partners, we met at critique circle calm, which is an online community for people who submit you know, you submit a chapter and people read it and tell you what you think. And then you read their work. And it’s just, you know, it’s I always say it’s a God thing, because there’s 10,000 people on that site, we happen to join within a month of each other found each other, love each other’s work. And from there, we were just kind of joined at the hip. That’s how we started was was critiquing each other’s fiction.

Mark Lefebvre 01:23

really well. And, and, and when did because my understanding is that the first thing you guys did together was the emotion thesaurus was that collaborative book. So you started off critiquing fiction, and yet, you ended up releasing a collaborative nonfiction. What happened there,

Angela Ackerman 01:45

um, we were in this critique group with, with some other people and, and I had noticed my characters were always shrugging or shuffling their feet, and they were just doing it constantly. And I couldn’t figure out how else to show that emotion. And it was just really annoying me. And so I started keeping a list. Okay, here’s anger, here’s fear, here’s his happiness, you know, of the different things that I, you know, might do or that I might be able to use for them. And, and I took it to the group, and I said, you know, does anybody have this problem, and everybody said, Oh, my gosh, I hate that I can’t, it’s a total problem for me, and I don’t know how to fix it. So we all started collaborating on, you know, these lists and kind of coming up with different ways of showing different emotions. And over time, everyone else, just kind of, like, kind of petered out. And we’re doing other things. And Angela and I are just like, going at it, you know, creating these lists. And then that was in 2004, when we met, and then in 2008, I, I was getting ready to take a break from writing because I was pregnant with my first child, and Angela sent me an email and said, hey, let’s start a blog. Because, you know, if you’re going to be a fiction writer, you need an online presence and right, um, and that was a, that was where we started, she’s, she’s got such a great, just a great head for knowing how to do things and what’s going to appeal to people. And she said, You know, I really want a blog where the content that we offer is kind of serialized, where people are gonna keep coming back for what happens next week. And she said, Let’s, let’s take those those lists of emotions, and we’ll post one each week, and we can call it an emotion thesaurus. And people will you know, if they like it, they’ll keep coming back. And I was like, Okay, so that’s what we did. And it just, it just took off. I mean, everybody who saw it had the same responses that people in our critique group, like, I have this problem, and I don’t see anything out there to fix it. Thank you. That was actually the genesis of that.

Mark Lefebvre 03:44

Wow. Was that so what what URL did you use? Was it a WordPress site was a blogger, I mean, because this goes, this goes back quite a ways.

Becca Puglisi 03:53

Where was we originally started on blogger, it was called the bookshelf news. And then in 2013, when we published the positive and negative trait, the source, which is the next two books in the series, on character traits, we moved to WordPress. And that’s when we rebranded ourselves to became writers helping writers because we realized, okay, you know, what, we really have something here and we really want to run with it. So it’s time to kind of grow up a little bit branding wise and, and, you know, writers, helping writers is who we are it, it embodies everything we do, it’s what we’re passionate about. It’s it’s us in a nutshell. And so you know, we just we went all in and just branded ourselves that way. And, and yeah, it’s been it’s been great.

Mark Lefebvre 04:39

Wow, that’s fantastic. Now, I want to put up some product placement here because this is, this is just amazing. I mean, I remember when the first book came out, and then as you guys have continued to, and I guess I should get rid of the little banner there so you can actually see it. The the series that you have that has just dominated really intelligent an author’s bookshelves, because these are the kinds of books that I think it’s best to own in paperback, even though I’m a digital advocate, it’s one of the ones you’re constantly flipping to. So did you ever imagine that you would have this many resources that you created in that series when you first were creepy, that blog list all those years ago?

Angela Ackerman 05:22

I know I didn’t. I mean, Angela may have a different answer, cuz she’s more of a visionary than I am. But I mean, I remember telling her when we published the emotion thesaurus, you know, if we could just make enough money to cover our expenses, I will be so happy, you know, and then it just, it’s just been really, really amazing and surprising.

Becca Puglisi 05:42

Yeah, I think once we finished the emotion thesaurus, we were so excited by how much this was this concept was helping people and how people really gravitated to the idea of having these lists to brainstorm from that. We thought, Okay, what else can we help writers with. And that’s always been kind of the function of our blog is that we will start a thesaurus on the blog. So we’ll have an idea of a topic that we want to cover, something that really digs into show don’t help description, because this is something that is threaded throughout, you know, every aspect of storytelling and for us to really elevate ourselves and to elevate those, the the fiction that we’re writing, we really need to be very, very, very good at show don’t tell description. And so we wanted to really think about how can we activate the different aspects of storytelling in a way that every word that’s going into our manuscripts are doing as much as they possibly can, there’s no filler, every detail, every description is meaningful, and it’s pushing the story forward, and it’s characterizing. And so, you know, we we immediately gravitated to characters, because that’s where we started. And, you know, we thought about their personality, you know, what can we build to, you know, help writers better craft balanced personalities were characters have negative traits that they have to overcome, but positive traits that are going to help them interact with other characters and achieve their goals and be part of their identity. We thought about setting and how setting integrates into everything. And you can use it to show emotion, you can use it to characterize you can use it as a backdoor to backstory when it’s necessary. And you absolutely need to show things, you can create mood and atmosphere and weave in symbolism, and there’s just so many things you can do with setting. And so that has kind of always been our passion is to take a topic, and think about all the ways that can be used, and, and maybe all the ways that we don’t always think about a person as writers. And so we’ll do a deep dive into each topic. And it just, you know, people just kept coming back week after week on our blog, and it would become clear which the source collections were kind of the front runners that people were most interested in. And so we kind of developed a routine where we would have heard about the source being built on the blog. And then while one was being built on a blog, we would take another one and we would develop it into a book. And then all of our sources would go to one stop for writers, which is our subscription site. And it’s where all of our sources live together in one single database, because we have eight books. But back in I’ve been doing like we’ve been writing these, these the sources for years and years and years. And so I think, Becca, correct me if I’m wrong, I think we’re on number 16. Now 16 different sources. So not all of them are all in books, but most of them are at one stop for writers.

Mark Lefebvre 08:38

Wow. Wow. I love that concept. I have to pause for a second, I’m just going to pop up a compliment from Craig, who says I love you gals books. so helpful. And I know that sentiment is echoed throughout the author community. But I want I’m fascinated that it started. Now as you’re collaborating, and you wanted to put together a blog and create resources that were helpful for writers. And I love that you’ve continued that because that’s still the primary resource, even though I mean, I think of you ladies and I think of those beautifully branded that series. It’s really, really handy for writers to have. But the core of the business is that content and you said you’re 16 titles where you’re constantly pushing out material and information that writers can benefit from does that interactivity that you get from a blog and the feedback does that inform what ends up getting into a book when you actually, you know, decide to put it into a book or how does that how does that process work?

Angela Ackerman 09:40

Yeah, we we, we use the blog as kind of a What do you call it a a vetting system? You know, because we have the ideas about and we usually get our ideas from our own writing, you know, what am I struggling with that i i believe other people are struggling with too, that we can maybe offer some some advice or some help with and So we do have to source at the blog, and we kind of see what the reception is, you know, if we see that it’s it’s not maybe as exuberant as some of the others, then maybe that one just lives online instead of being made into a book, or sometimes the entries are really good, but we just can’t kind of see how that that particular topic Can, can hold the weight of a whole book in terms of all the frontmatter that we would write for it and, and everything else. And so that’s why we have, you know, we have some that are published, and some that are not, but the blog is a deliberate, it has become kind of a tool for us. From that regard. We obviously use it to connect with people and love to connect with people there. But it’s a really good way of determining what our audience wants and what they need and what they want to see.

Mark Lefebvre 10:46

I love that. I love that. Also, you mentioned this, and I want I want to dig into this for a minute take a little bit of an aside, because I’m very fascinated with this is you started this off to help with your writing. If not, what do we need? What what are the tools? What are some of the lists and things we’re creating, that are going to help us therefore chances are, there’s probably this can help other writers, and that’s part of the Genesis. So I want to take a pause then and say so since you started this venture, which I can imagine is very all consuming. It takes a lot of your time and energy. What about your personal writing? That’s not necessarily writing writers helping writers? Writing? Are you still able to do any of them?


In a perfect world? Yeah.


Oh, sorry, Becca,


go ahead. Go ahead. No, no, go ahead. Um,

Becca Puglisi 11:45

I think, yeah. As this business evolved, and as we really started seeing, you know, just the response from people and the requests, you know, can you please write about this, can you write about this, we realized that if we really wanted to do this, well, we had to dedicate ourselves to it, and it meant putting our fiction on hold. And then I think that definitely doubly came true when we started one stop for writers, because it’s an entire other ecosystem that, you know, we’re responsible for all the IP and managing the business and all that kind of stuff. And so, it’s, it’s like having two full time jobs. And then there’s the teaching component, which is a third, you know, job. So, unfortunately, you know, we both understand that right now, for us to do this well, in a way that really honors the people that have, you know, been with us, and constantly, you know, support us by recommending our books and telling people about the guides and telling people about our sights, you know, we want to do right by them. And that means really, you know, focusing on the work that’s in front of us and coming back to writing when it’s a good time for us. I think if we tried to take it on right now, it would be too much and we would get very frustrated. And and and then we’re not, you know, we’re not, we’re not doing anyone any good. And we’re not doing ourselves any good. So sometimes it’s better to just make decisions about cutting things down and reallocating your time until you can better dedicate yourself to to the other things.

Mark Lefebvre 13:18

Wow. Well, thank you for taking that personal sacrifice to help other writers. But I guess that is priorities, right, is that the priorities or thing writers often have to deal with? Right? You only have so much time? And what are you going to dedicate your time to? Well, and

Becca Puglisi 13:34

we love helping writers like, you know, this is it’s funny, because this whole thing was an unintended career path that we went on. But, you know, Becca, before she became a writer, she was a teacher. And so you know, teaching and helping, like, this is a big piece of who she is. Both both professionally and personally, and, and me as well. You know, I really love being able to help people in whatever capacity I can. So this is incredibly rewarding. And, you know, yeah, there’s a little piece of me sad that I can’t work on my own fiction right now. But I know I’m going to come back to it when the time is. Right. So

Angela Ackerman 14:08

it’s all good. And to speak to your comment about, you know, prioritizing. I know that that I think that’s a huge struggle for for writers everywhere, because so many writers are not just writers, they’re doing other things. They’re raising families, they have day jobs, they’re involved in so many things that it’s all you know, important stuff. So how do you find that time and you know, that’s been a big part of our evolution over time is just, you know, when we started, things were pretty simple. We had one book and we put it out there and we were marketing it and then you know, other books came up and then we started getting invitations from people or emails, you know, we’d like to partner with you here or can you come and do this and pretty soon we were having totally different discussions, you know, in our skypes together about how do we how do we do it all you know, I really want to do this. This is so good will be so good for our business. Provide a new way to, to reach out and help people and but I don’t see how we can. And you know, we had to put together a business plan, at some point to kind of solidify, you know what our goals and our priorities were and to provide a framework for us to be able to say, I can’t, I can’t say yes to this, because it just doesn’t, it doesn’t align with what we’re doing, even though it’s really good. I have to focus on these things in order for us to be successful. And I think that, you know, a lot of people get to that point. And it’s so terrifying like, because as writers, so few of us are business people. And it’s like a totally different way of thinking, but I think that’s a, that’s key. If you get to a point where you need to do that, you’ve got to make the time to figure out how to prioritize all those opportunities.

Mark Lefebvre 15:47

I’m glad you mentioned that, because that is so critical. I know, relatively recently, I think I reached out to wonderful ladies to see if you wanted to participate in a particular promotion for the books, and you took a look at it and went, Oh, no, this goes against whatever business principle, it’s gonna we’re gonna lose out on this if we if we participate in that. So thanks for the invite, but not so one of the things that I really respected about about you saying no to me, but is that you, you didn’t just say, oh, we’d like Mark, we, you know, we, you know, we hung out with them. He’s got a cool bald head, any of those things? You looked at it from a business perspective, not a personal one and went doesn’t make business sense. And I think writers need to learn from that, that sometimes it’s okay to say no, because it may not, may not fit the big plan, right.

Becca Puglisi 16:36

I think everything changed for us once we built a business plan, and I know talking about business plans is totally not sexy at all. It is not, you know, and it and it scares people to they’re like, oh, business plan that sounds really complicated. And it’s going to help me in and especially as free spirited creatives, you know, like, Oh, I don’t want to do that. But I think Becca would agree everything changed for us once we started following that plan. Because it just simply it, it made sure that our yearly goals were always in the windshield, and anything that came up anything that could potentially be an opportunity or sidetrack us that was the litmus test, is it pushing our goals forward? Or isn’t it right, and, you know, it was just amazing how much more we started to get done, once we started doing that. And it does mean having to evaluate and say no to some things, you know. And sometimes, too, you also have to understand, like, if you’re over committed, and you’ve got too many things going on, even if it’s a great opportunity, you have to be willing to say no, or, you know, you’re going to burn yourself out, which is another big thing that we face, because there’s a lot to juggle as authors with the marketing and the promotion and the writing the books and engaging with, you know, your audience and all that kind of stuff. So

Mark Lefebvre 17:52

I think I think fiction writers would probably agree with you as well, because it’s kind of like, yeah, I throw out 10 ideas a day, because I only have time to work on. Right, I can only commit myself to so many projects. So I love that I do have to add this comment from Melissa says what business totally sexy,

Angela Ackerman 18:10

we needed to listen to, when we were Yes, putting all this together.

Mark Lefebvre 18:14

And Lexi adds to that, of course, the comment that business is the only sexy that’s, that isn’t not safe for work. So I want to dig into some of the logistics because you have a company that you run together. And I know one of you is American, and the other one is Canadian. And so how I’m just curious about the logistics, a of the collaboration, because you’re in different cities, you talked about Skype calls, but how did that work in terms of incorporation? And I know, none of us are lawyers, but just for authors who are thinking, wow, I really like to collaborate with this person. And how do you guys make that work?

Angela Ackerman 18:55

Um, well, we had to catch we took like a crash course in figuring out all of that, because there were so many different ways we could have gone but the the gist of it was that it made more financial tax sense for us to to set up a house and in the United States. So that’s what we did, based on just some different, you know, information that we received. And we have always worked via email, you know, before Skype was really a thing. We were just emailing back and forth, you know, talking about ideas, passing manuscripts back and forth. And you know, it seems like really cumbersome now, but it totally

Mark Lefebvre 19:41

came in the mail. You were using that?


Yeah. Oh, good, but dial up.

Angela Ackerman 19:47

But yeah, and then we once once you know, Skype came on board, and we were able to talk and save a lot of time and back and forth just in discussing things but Angela, and I have such a synergy, it’s very, very easy for us to work together, it’s just, it’s just really seamless. I mean, we are very compatible, she has strengths that complement my weaknesses, and vice versa, you know, so we each bring certain things to the table, and we have such an easy trust and respect for each other that, you know, she’s in charge of marketing, I’m gonna let her do that I’m not gonna, you know, nitpick and try to be involved in all of those conversations and decisions. You know, and, and she does the same thing for other parts of the business that that, that I’ve kind of taken online, and that kind of collaboration has just made it super easy for us to work together, it helps that we have kind of the same aesthetic to you in terms of what we’re writing, you know, we, we see things very similarly, in the ways that you need to be similar, you know, we’re different in the important ways, but then we are we see eye to eye on the on the important things too. And, and that’s made it super easy.

Becca Puglisi 21:02

Yeah, and I think to what probably helped us with seeing things a similar way is early on, went back and I met, we took it a year, I think it was about a year. And we decided that we needed to learn writing craft, just to improve our own writing. It’s funny, because when we first started joined critique circle, we sort of thought, Oh, yeah, I’m I’m pretty good. You know, like, this won’t take very long to get, you know, just Polish me up a little and publish. And oh, how naive you are, you know, when you first start out? So we we realized, okay, yeah, maybe there’s some stuff we don’t know here. So we took a year and we each wrote, we’d read the same crap book at the same time, and then we would talk about it. And so if there was something that I didn’t understand, chances are Becca caught it, or vice versa. And so I think that that really helped us sort of guide our ideas of what strong writing was, and how to present it to other people, which really lends itself well, when we are collaborating on these different guides. Typically, what we’ll do for a book is, once we’ve decided what the framework is, first, we’ll decide, you know, what is the most important aspects of a topic, you know, say emotions, you know, writers need to know the body language, they need to know, thought processes, visceral sensations, vocal cues, all of those kinds of things, so that they’ve got a good database of things to brainstorm, when they’re thinking about what’s going to fit my character in the situation. And so, you know, we’ll, we’ll create that framework will decide which emotions we’re going to cover. And then we split those lists in half, and we each cover half. And we do the same thing with all the teaching content, the front matter that we, as we call it, for our books, you know, we’ll go through we’ll outline what we want to talk about, we each take half, we each write it, and then we swap and edit. And so by the time it’s done, you wouldn’t be able to point to an entry or a particular area in the frontmatter and say, oh, Becca definitely wrote this. Or Angela wrote that you just you can’t tell who wrote what, just because we both lent our ideas by that point in time. So yeah, works really well. The you know, and it’s amazing to because Becca, I’ve only met four times in person. It’s just crazy. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre 23:16

Is there a picture from each time you’ve met in person? I’ve seen that.


I think there is. Okay, good.

Becca Puglisi 23:21

Yeah, I think most of them. Yeah, we did. There’s one of us in the stocks. I remember the first time we met, we were in Disneyland, or Disney World, I should say, ah, hang on a carousel. And we have to from when we spoke to the apprentice. Yeah, yeah. So anyway, it’s it’s kind of hilarious. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre 23:41

So I’m always curious to dig into the logistics about this. So you’ve created this company together this entity? How did you decide to pursue publishing? And like, what were the logistics of that? Did you go out and find an agent? Find a publisher? Did you did you indie publish? That was a combination. How did you go about this?


Well, we, with the emotion thesaurus,

Angela Ackerman 24:04

it was so well received. And everyone was saying, I need a physical copy of this, can you please turn this into a book? And so we’re like, oh, okay, we can do that. Let’s, you know, let’s publish this book. And we had always been, you know, enamored with the traditional model, you know, that was kind of what we came up understanding and knowing and, and so that’s what we were gonna do, you know, so we started looking into getting an agent and figuring all of that out. And we started seeing the emotion, the source entries, like popping up on people’s sites where they were just basically lifting it and putting it on their sites. And we said, Oh, shoot, you know, somebody is going to publish this before we can get an agent and then wait the 18 months, you know, before our book is published, and then we’re, we’re going to be screwed, right? So we said, Gosh, Can Can we self publish? I mean, we were like, had zero idea had never looked into it, we couldn’t, you know, kind of wrap our brains about that plus at the time in 2012, there was still a fair amount of stigma around self publishing. And so we were really, really nervous about kind of going that direction. But it became very clear that that was the only reasonable option for us, we could not wait. And so like the story of our of our career, I mean, we just Okay, let’s learn about self publishing now. And we both kind of dove into that, and figuring out, you know, where to distribute, and how to format and the business side of that, you know, and how to take care of all of the financial everything. And it was terrifying, we were just felt like we were completely in over our heads in the process. I remember I had a, I had a three and a two year old at the time at home, when I was editing, the emotion thesaurus, and I, one of them had a fake thermometer stuck in my mouth. And one of them had a blood pressure cuff, you know, and I’m like, trying to publish this book with, you know, with two toddlers, it was it was insanity. And I remember thinking, what have we done, but we just, you know, we put our heads together, and we figured it out. And that’s kind of, that’s kind of how we did it.

Becca Puglisi 26:21

I think too, we had to, we have to talk ourselves off the ledge a little bit with, with self publishing, because at the time, like Becca said, 2012, there’s a stigma. But there was, we were publishing a book in a space where there were very few self published books. In fact, the dominant books were, you know, they were Writer’s Digest books, they were writing guides, by Best Selling authors buy, you know, high profile agents, by editors. And then there’s a back end, I like, hey, let’s publish the book that doesn’t look like anything else out there. I’m sure this will be fine. And, you know, because we were like, that’s the other piece of the puzzle is that we were bringing a new format to the market, we were we were calling something a writing guide. That was not a traditional format that people were used to. So it was a little bit of a gamble. But we had had enough feedback from people who visited our blog, who would write to us that, you know, like, this is so helpful that we thought, you know, what’s, what’s the risk, other than, you know, someone pirating it, which did happen, you know, we did have someone from the Florida association of writers ask us to come speak about the emotion thesaurus because they had a copy. And we’re like, well, somebody had turned it into a PDF, and they were distributing it. So obviously, that shut down very fast. But yeah, it was very intimidating for us to put ourselves out there as writing experts when, you know, we weren’t editors, we weren’t bestselling authors. We weren’t even fiction authors. Like we didn’t. I think at that point in time, we had, I had sold a few articles and magazines, and that’s all. And so it took a lot of there was a lot of imposter syndrome, I think we had to work through and, you know, worry, as we were kind of like putting our book on the shelf, among all these other, you know, really fantastic guides, but I’m really glad we did. I have no regrets. You know, it’s just been such a great experience. And it’s nice to have the control. And, and our vision is what’s on the page. And I love that. I love that part of self publishing. Awesome.

Mark Lefebvre 28:27

Well, I have to pop up a few more comments. Craig says I have most your books in print and someone says I request hardback copies and I’m putting in a please, please, my paperback copies are just battered, obviously, because they’re such useful resources. Any plans for hardcover editions? Or is that just extra work where you go, Oh, the work involved through remains, we can’t do this other thing.

Angela Ackerman 28:53

We’ve never actually, we’ve never actually talked about hard covers. I think at this point, it’s one of those things where we could take the time to, you know, to go back and distribute our books in hardcover, or we could probably put out a new book. And I think that that would be more helpful. I’m so sorry. And that’s again, where that whole, you know, trade off, having to prioritize what’s going to take time and what’s the what the benefit is going to be? Right?

Becca Puglisi 29:24

We need Close, close. If anybody has clones, let us know.

Mark Lefebvre 29:30

I’m not even going to talk about this comment about asking for spiral bound copies so that it can lay flat on their desk. Because again, cover is just different cover. You can use the same interior as the trade paperback, but let’s not go there. That’s logistics. Now you have so on top of these amazing books that everyone’s drooling over on top of the blog that you have and the resources you have I counted More than 15 free resources on your website that are meant to help writers out. Can you talk about talk about some of those free resources and why you put them together?

Becca Puglisi 30:13

Well, a lot of them are from our books like our books, they have not only do they have the teaching content that kind of goes over what is the most important stuff that you need to know about x topic, whether it’s setting emotions, whatever the topic is, and then the entries themselves back in AI, our, you know, our brain, our brains, kind of, we like to be creative and think about how, how to create tools that are going to help people digest this information better. And so every book usually contains a few appendix tools, where, you know, it just it takes that content, and it puts it in a in a way that people can brainstorm even more easily. And so we like to always make those available to people, after they’ve been published, we put them on the site, and we create blanks. So you know, if you have the paper copy, or you have the ebook, copy, obviously, if you have a ebook, it’s kind of hard to fill out. So you can just quickly download it, you don’t even need the books, and you can just download these things. And it’ll help you brainstorm those aspects of, of whatever the topic is. And I don’t know, it’s just, it aligns with who we are, we’re helpful. This helps people, why wouldn’t we do it? And so that’s how we look at stuff. I mean, there’s a ton of free stuff at writers helping writers just a ton of it. And, and it’s just because that’s who we are, you know, that’s just who we are. We just like to give this stuff away. So

Mark Lefebvre 31:41

awesome. Well, thank you for that. So we’re now in the last, within the last 15 minutes, I’m going to try and pop up some of the comments that have come in from our live audience. So Lexi says, I know I’ve absolutely know the pain of wondering how often I’ve used my go to character, micro actions. And so there are even some free resources that you have available. For some of those things I made a note of, I mean, I love the character arc progression, which is, you know, obviously very, very important. But there’s so many occupational speeddating, which is kind of cool. So you can try out different things for your characters. I mean, I love I love. I love how, I mean, you started with emotion, obviously. But I love how you have all of these multi layered dynamics that are really about creating more authentic characters and settings, which really lends to much better fiction. That’s just me rambling. While I’m looking for the next. The next question. Someone says, Thanks for your content, I use the emotion to source everyday, your urban and rural settings. That’s the story are far behind. What did that one come from the rural urban settings?

Angela Ackerman 32:56

We did. We did emotions. And then we both knew we wanted to do character traits, because characterization is so hard developing those realistic and well rounded characters. And so those were next and then we were again thinking okay, what, what do we need, and we we realized, you know, settings are, you’re kind of hard because they’re either over done and way too long, way too much description, and they’re really boring. Or they’re an afterthought, where you know that the author’s using settings that they personally think are really cool, but they don’t really have anything to do with the story, or they’re just grabbing, you know, whatever’s convenient. And that was why we decided to tackle settings. And there were so many that we decided we had to have two different volumes. And so we split them up into urban and rural. And we were really looking at, you know, all of the the importance of getting the descriptions in a multi sensory way. And so it’s not just what you see, it’s what you hear and what you taste and what sense there are. And so we actually visited as many settings in the book as we could to really do research and nail down what those different sensory experiences were, I remember taking my kids, we went to the Marina, we went to the train station, you know, we went to all these different places one summer. That was, I think, one of the funnest books for me in writing because it wasn’t really heavy and deep, you know, it was being able to get out and just just kind of experience on different places. The low point was when I took them to the liquor store, because I had to research that and I’ve got my three of my four year old, like, sit here by the door and just be cool. I’ll be right back. It’s for research, I


swear. But um,

Angela Ackerman 34:36

that was really where that came from was, again, recognizing settings. You know, that’s something that a lot of people struggle with, and they don’t even know that they’re struggling with it that their stories would be so much stronger if you just spend a little more time working on the setting. And that was the genesis for that.

Becca Puglisi 34:54

I got arrested for that one. That’s right. I did because one of those settings


is licorice. store?

Becca Puglisi 35:00

No, no, no, one of my settings that I was assigned was the backseat of a police car. Because we thought a lot of fiction, you know, takes place the characters in the backseat. So I needed to get authentic detail. And here, I knew a couple police officers and they were happy to put me in the backseat of a police car. But I wanted to be handcuffed. And they weren’t able to do that. Yeah, okay. Yeah. Cuz I needed to know, like, what does it feel like? where, you know, where does it pull? Where’s it pinch, because I want to be able to write this detail correctly. And so I found officers would handcuff me and put me in their vehicle, I found officers that would put me in the backseat of a police car and not Hancock B, but not anyone who would do both. And so I was I was heading to my relatives place up in Fort St. JOHN BC, to help someone move. And I was telling my, my stepmother, a lot of this problem that I had to she happens to be the mayor of a city up there. And I didn’t know this, but she’s like, Don’t worry, as well, we’ll get you set up. So we had went out for a family dinner. And after the dinner was over, I was supposed to be getting a ride with my step sister in law, to go to the jail to, you know, view the jail cells and all that kind of stuff. What I didn’t know is they had a false arrest for me where I was pulled over. And a police officer came and, you know, said, made this story of about a jewelry store being broken into in our car, you know, being the same make and model and that there was a warrant out for my arrest. And so right there on the side of the road next to a sleazy hotel, you know, he handcuffed me, and then I do the walk of shame to the police officers car. So I mean, it was awesome, because I really got to experience it all like even though I knew this was all fake. It’s amazing, like the anxiety you feel, you know, being handcuffed and then being put into the into the police car. And, and, you know, he was really great. He answered all my questions. The one thing that I said to him, was it I think, like one thing I’m confused about is it actually smells better back here than I thought. And he said, Well, this is because we don’t transport prisoners in this vehicle. Do you want to smell one that like is? And I mean, like that’s the conversation we’re having. So I’m like, yeah. And then that was more of what I expected. And then yeah, you can even sprayed pepper spray in a snowbank, so I could sniff it so that I could get that detail, right. Like it was great.


Not only are they surprised,


I have a line, I have a line for my accuracy. But yeah,

Mark Lefebvre 37:42

I love I love the authenticity. So I have, I have a good friend who’s a police officer locally here. And prior to the pandemic, there were a few times where we had planned on me doing an overnight ride along so I could just be with him and his partner, and just kind of witness so I can just get a better understanding, unfortunately, that there are often some restrictions with certain police forces where for public safety, they, they disallow it for a while, and then something happens and then they allow it again. So I was just waiting for that again when the pandemic hit. But he had told me stories about you are responsible as a police officer for cleaning out the back all of the things that happen in the backseat where and another friend of mine, who’s a resource officer for local schools, when we were there at the school doing an event together, she showed me the backseat in detail and the Regional Police Force. The seats are not actually a cushion. They’re just plastic, which may come hosing it down. Because there’s all kinds of bodily fluids. It just makes cleaning it so much easier. And obviously there’s no handles right? It’s all like this weird, smooth. Is that what you found when they threw you in? Oh,

Becca Puglisi 38:53

yeah. And the and what I was surprised by is how there’s no room. Like I would hate to be a tall man. Like, like it would be awful for you. So don’t get arrested, okay? Because they don’t give you any leg room because they’re purposely trying to restrict movement back there. And so, you know, I’m five, eight, but I was just like, wow, you’re really squished in here. I can’t remember. Imagine what it would be like for a larger man. So yeah, anyway, it was it was really neat and fantastic. And they were great answering all my weird questions. So that’s the best part about being a writer right is we can investigate weird stuff and we totally get a pass. Like,


she’s a writer.

Mark Lefebvre 39:29

Right? It’s all good luck. She says it’s for researches, the ultimate author excuse forever, right? That’s fantastic. I have to I have to pop up a few comments. Sasha says legends era view. That’s who you are. And you are legends. So thank you for that. What what are some of the because you helped so many writers and you’ve got the interactive stuff on your website and blog. What are some of the things that you wish beginning writers would would better understand that you’d love to help them understand? What are some of the things that you just say? Well, I really want writers to know this,

Angela Ackerman 40:09

I would say, I would just want people to have more grace with themselves, I think so many authors start out and expect to, you know, be able to write like, their favorite authors. And that obviously doesn’t happen. And it’s a, it’s a long process, you know, as you learn and grow and, and study and practice. It’s, it’s a long slog, and I think that a lot of people give up too early. And so I would, you know, just want people to know, it takes a long time. And that’s okay. Because every word that you write, every book that you work on, every idea that you explore, is part of the learning curve, you are growing, you are learning as you are exploring all of those kind of different steps of the process, you know, people get really upset about having to cut material out of their draft, because, you know, I wrote this and you know, it’s a waste of time know that there’s actually value in learning what to keep and what to cut, you know, I mean, there’s just every, as you are writing, and revising, and doing whatever you’re doing along the way, it’s all a learning experience. And if you can just look at it that way. And soak it all in, it’s a lot easier, it doesn’t, you know, feel like it’s taking so long. So that would be my advice is just to, to recognize that it’s just, it takes a while and that’s okay, it takes everybody a while.

Becca Puglisi 41:29

I love that. And I totally agree. And I think the big thing to tie on to Becca is, is to not be in a rush. Like, I see so many writers just trying to rush their learning process rush to get a book out, rush it through editing, you know, and rush to get it up on different sites. And for me, you know, then I also see the frustration, oh, it’s not selling this that the other thing and it’s just, I mean, in a lot of cases, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of factors that that could be involved in that it could be a bad cover, it could be a bad blurb, you know, it could be not understanding who wants audiences and how to find them, and, you know, position your book properly. But a lot of times, it’s the writing itself, because it’s been rushed, and just not publishing shouldn’t be a race. And we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t get wrapped up in that mindset of looking at everyone around us that are, you know, publishing books and publishing books. That’s their journey. And that’s awesome for them. But we need to think about our journey and what’s best for us, and how to put the best book possible out. And I think that’s why Becca and I, you know, really are so passionate about what we do is we understand there’s a huge learning curve, we’re always learning more stuff as we go along, and we love it. But we want to shorten that learning curve for other people as much as we can. Because we understand that there is this incredible pressure to sort of publish. And people really need to just sort of, like Becca said, give themselves some grace. You know, take a breath and realize this is a process if we want to write really strong fiction, it is going to take time and practice. And that’s okay. It doesn’t need we don’t need to publish immediately.

Mark Lefebvre 43:19

Fantastic. I love that. I love that. I’m going to come back to one final question from from the live audience. So Greg asks, going back to fiction do write the same genre. When you get back to fiction? Do you think you guys may co author fiction together, which may only work if you weren’t writing the same genre? What were the genres you were working on before this happened?

Angela Ackerman 43:42

it well, Angela was writing mostly middle grade and I was writing young adults. I wrote historical fiction we both wrote fantasy. She wrote, you know, things that tended to be a little bit creepier. In a good way. But as time goes on, I mean, when we do get back to fiction, I am uncertain that our kind of preferences will have shifted, you know, and that we will not be writing the same exact things that we were writing before. So I don’t know. You know, it’s anything’s possible.


Oh, noes. Yeah, I

Becca Puglisi 44:16

kind of agree with Becca, like, I, I know so much more now than I did back then. Which makes me excited to write fiction again. Because I just understand storytelling so much more and a lot of things that were intuitive. Now, I have the knowledge behind why I did certain things, which is always exciting.


But yeah, I

Becca Puglisi 44:36

kind of what I worry about when we go back to fiction is the pressure. You know, okay, now we’re writing experts or you know, that’s what people think of us. So we can’t screw up. We can’t, you know, it has to be perfect. And that kind of pressure is going to be awful. So I suspect that probably when I go back to fiction, I might try something just for Angela in a totally different genre that I’ve been never written in, just to get myself back into the flow and cut myself some slack so that I don’t feel all this pressure that it has to be perfect. And just, you know, fall in love with the process again and enjoy what I applying what I’ve learned as a co author, and I think it’d be awesome to co author a book with Becca, but I guess we would have to see, you know, we’re kind of where we land as far as what we want to write. And if we think that that could work, I don’t know. So

Angela Ackerman 45:26

it would be a totally different process, co authoring fiction, and then in the nonfiction, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot more of the creative decisions that would have to be made that you know, I may be really excited about this. And Angela may be really excited about that, you know, as an author, you kind of feel ownership over so much of in the fiction story and the creative choices that are made and I would guess there would be a lot more potential for you know, friction or or just Yeah, not seeing eye to eye with that. There isn’t nonfiction.

Becca Puglisi 46:02

Yeah, non fiction, you can kind of split it and go your separate ways and get your stuff pounded out. But yeah, when you’re writing a story, I mean, each decision you make on the go, it’s going to impact everything else that comes or what came before. And so it would be more tightly woven collaborative process. I guess we would have to study what other people do and and pick something that we think would work for us.

Mark Lefebvre 46:24

Yeah, awesome. Well, I have to say this last comment from Jodi says, Love Your vibe ladies are really enjoying the conversation. So thank you so much for sharing your experience. Thank you for writers, helping writers dotnet and thank you guys for watching live. Just want to remind people to subscribe if you’re following us on YouTube, just click that little subscribe and and we do often have on Thursdays, maybe once or twice a month. Fantastic conversations with insiders from the industry to help inform and inspire you in your writing journey. You can follow us over on Facebook as well and check out draft to digital comm slash live. Angela, Becca, thank you again so much for spending the time with me here today. All right, you know that’s concludes this episode of self publishing insiders. Thanks, ladies. And thank you guys for watching live and have a great afternoon.