Jean Oram (.com)

Always Learning. Always Writing.
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  • The Helpful

    Posted on January 30th, 2013 jean 2 comments

    Come see what I built!

    I’m moving my writing posts over to The Helpful! That means the great posts you’ve come to enjoy here will now be found over on The Helpful But don’t worry if you have linked to something here, your link will still work as the archives will still be here, hiding, waiting to be snooped through.

    Come see what I've built

    Click here to read the latest post on How to Write a Killer Scene. And if you have subscribed to the posts on so you don’t miss one, you can do that over on The Helpful Writer as well!

    I look forward to seeing you there!

    Thanks for reading.

    Tweet the news: Jean Oram’s writing tips blog has moved to The Helpful!

  • Celebrate the End of the World With a Free Book (Giveaway) – The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse

    Posted on December 21st, 2012 jean 28 comments

    It’s the end of the world.


    It’s like a locker combination. A locker combination to doomsday.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever, right? I’m going to an end of the world party tonight to enjoy my last moments on earth… but in the meantime I had an idea.

    Celebrate the end of the world--death of a plant

    And yes, this plant started it all last Friday.

    And then (FINALLY!!) on Wednesday night (two days ago) these arrived at the local postal outlet:

    The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse print copies

    Want one?

    It’s easy. Really, really easy.

    As a thank you for reading my blog (even if you are new around these parts) I’d like to give one lucky reader (oh, okay two lucky readers–why not? The world is ending I can afford to be generous.) a copy of The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse. Either ebook or a print copy–your choice.* If you want to more than double your chances, check out Judy Croome’s Goodreads giveaway of The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse. She is giving away 20 copies! Whoa!

    What do you have to do? How many hoops do you have to jump through?


    Just leave a comment–even if it as simple as saying “count me in.” Be sure to leave your email address in the comment’s sign in box thingy so I can contact you if you win. (That way you don’t have to keep checking back–or better yet, subscribe on the right to the blog so my posts come right to your inbox. I’ll be posting the winner(s) on Saturday, the 22nd.)

    Since the world is ending today, let’s leave this book giveaway open until midnight tonight, End of the World Friday, December 21, 2012.

    And if the world really does end, well dang! I guess that’s it. It’s been nice knowing you and thanks for reading.

     ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

    What is The Fall about?

    (14 short stories by 13 authors.)

    What would the end of the world look like?

    What would end our civilization?

    Would it be a dark and scary place or would it be full of hope? (Hint: It is the latter of the two.)

    Find out in The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse

     ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

    P.S. Curious about The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse? You can buy copies on (print) or ebook as well as on ($2.88 for ebook). Proceeds go to charity. If you have already read it we would LOVE it if you dropped a review–even just a line or two–on your favourite online site whether your blog, Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, or… where ever! Thanks!

    * I am willing to send the ebook version anywhere in the world, but I ask that since this is a charitable project–all proceeds from the book go to charity–and I, like the other contributing authors, donated my story, Crumbs, to The Fall (as well as at least 80 hours editing the anthology) that only American or Canadian addresses request a print version as the shipping elsewhere will kill me! Er… no pun intended. Tee, hee.

  • Podcasts for Authors and a Giveaway Sneak Peek

    Posted on December 14th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Happy Friday everyone!

    Some good news for you and some good news for… well, you again!

    First you.

    I’ve discovered a great way to fill my writer’s brain with even more information about writing, branding, publishing, selling books and more. And it is so easy. And you can do it on the go. And it’s free.

    Know what it is? Podcasts. Yep. You can learn more about my top five favourite, must-listen-to podcasts for writers over on From the Write Angle today. Let me know what you think. Have you checked out podcasts? What’s your favourite?

    And the second bit of good news…

    I’m planning a giveaway. (Assuming my copies of The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse ever come… it’s been one mishap after another for the past 6 weeks. You’d think this book was about the end of the world or something. 😉 And seeing as the world ends next Friday, December 21, 2012, I’m giving away a copy of The Fall. Why? Just ’cause. I’ll tell you more next Friday.

    BUT, if you want to enter a contest right now… you can also enter the giveaway on Goodreads being held by Judy Croome (fellow The Fall author) by clicking on the nice little button over on the right. Click now. You’re free to go. Good news over. Clicky, clicky.

    Thanks for reading and have a happy Friday!

  • Turn Pages With Internal and External Conflict

    Posted on December 6th, 2012 jean 5 comments

    Characters working against each other, against themselves, and against events. That’s the heart of conflict.

    But how do you make your scenes come alive? How do we make them gripping? But most of all, how to make those freaking things cause our reader to keep turning pages long into the night?

    The answer?

    With conflict.

    Conflict Creates All Those Things You Want

    Conflict isn't just for drama queens

    Conflict creates tension.

    Conflict creates hooks that bring the reader in and make them want to know what is going to happen–i.e. how will this conflict be solved?

    And no, I am not saying your book needs to be one big conflicting piece of tension that overloads your reader. Because that’s no fun for anyone.

    Every Scene Should Have Conflict

    Yes. Every scene. Scenes without some sort of something going on get boring. Each scene needs something that either sets the character back, or moves them forward, but always causes a new problem, conflict, or set back. This can be miniscule, or huge. It can involved the main plot thread and story question, or it can deal with a subplot storyline. But it needs to have something that drives the reader forward.

    Why Conflict Works

    When you introduce conflict, it gives us readers something interesting to get involved in. What will the characters do? How will they handle this? How will this affect the outcome and help or hinder them in their quest for their goal? I must read on!

    Worth Stating Again: A scene’s conflict does not have to be major to draw the reader into your story. But conflict has to be present. <– Want to Tweet this? Click here.

    For example, this is part of something I’ve borrowed and compiled from the lovely Carol Hughes (from her Deep Story class–it rocks, take it. And she’s putting it out in a book in January–buy that too. No, really.) that I find really helps me focus in when I write and rewrite a scene:


    CHARACTERS GRAPPLE WITH PROBLEM PONDER DILEMMA: (The very thing that sets the scene in motion. What they need to accomplish or do. How are they going to solve things and move forward?)
    (What the character plans to do or does. And of course, you are not going to make it easy for them, are you?)
    (What is the purpose of the scene. What will be conveyed?
    EMOTION OF SCENE: (What emotion do you want the setting, word choice, etc., to convey to the reader? If you know it, it is easier to convey in the details, making for a powerful scene.)
    CONFLICT (WHO WHAT WHY): (who is having a conflict with who, over what, and why?)
    Conflict Internal: (Conflict going on inside of character–often different than the external stuff.)
    Conflict External: (Conflict going on outside the character.)
    DISASTER: (Uh oh. Set back. Things aren’t quite what they wanted… This does NOT have to be major.)
    CHARACTER REACTION TO DISASTER: (How do they react to the way things pan out?)


    If you use something like the above ‘reminder’s when working on a scene, it can help you stay focused and ensure that your scenes have conflict of some kind. A nice little effect of knowing what you are going for is that it becomes natural when you write to convey it to your readers–either explicitly or not.)

    An Example

    As an example, in Champagne and Lemon Drops (currently in rewrites) I have the ‘on break’ lovers Beth and Oz in a scene. They both want the same internal things–not to sell their once-shared home. However, Beth needs the equity from their home in order to get her own place and she tells Oz to sell the place–an attempt to force his hand thinking he will never actually sell it. He doesn’t want to sell it because he thinks they will get back together again and will want to resume living in their home, but he also wants to do right by Beth. If they sell the place neither will have a home to come back to and it will signal a finality to the romantic break that neither of them really wants. Neither of them are saying what they really want (which creates new conflicts)–each other and their home. Hello conflict! Either way, any action is a no-win situation for the characters as they will be set back in their long-term goal (getting back together) if they sell as well as their short-term goal (a place to live). And if they don’t sell, it will up the conflict between them.

    Here’s what it looks like:

    CHARACTERS GRAPPLE WITH PROBLEM PONDER DILEMMA: How is Beth going to get Oz back (romantically)? How is she going to get money to live off of?
    DECISION AND COURSE OF ACTION: This is the scene that plays out. She goes to Oz to talk to him about not selling the house but convinces him to sell.
    Beth tries to get Oz not to sell the place.
    EMOTION OF SCENE: Hurt. Both positioning themselves around each other not to get hurt.
    CONFLICT (WHO WHAT WHY): With each other. Beth doesn’t want him to sell the place, but needs the money from it. Oz doesn’t want to sell it because he thinks he will get Beth back once he gets his life sorted. But he loves her and will do what she wants him to do. It’s the least he can do.
    Conflict Internal: Doesn’t want any of things saying she wants. Doesn’t want him to sell, but she needs money. And she wants him to force a move in his life–hopefully towards her again.
    Conflict External: She wants him to keep the place, but can’t let him ruin her life financially or be unfair and keep everything. A little tit for tat going on.
    DISASTER: He is not reacting and she corners him, making him think and feel that selling the place is the only way to go.
    CHARACTER REACTION TO DISASTER: Gets a bit nasty. Raises the stakes for both of them. Regretful words and actions. Makes things worse.

    In this example, I hope the reader will feel the need to find out who ‘wins.’ Which won’t happen until many scenes down the road. And in the meantime I will introduce new conflicts, big and small which will… you guessed it–keep the reader turning pages.

    As well, this kernel of a conflict will gather other incidents around it and grow larger. It will become the elephant in the room in their future interactions.

    This is why some books are really difficult to put down and why action movies keep us on the edge of our seats. This go from bad to worse, to worse–and that is all due to conflict.

    Note For the Pantsters on Building Conflict

    Reading this you might be thinking, uh, no. Not for me. I like to write by the seat of my pants (panstster) with no outline or idea of where I am going. That’s fine. I don’t actually fill this out until I’m at least 250 words into a scene. I have to know what’s going on and where they are and what needs to happen before I can fill this out. When I go back to the writing, I can hone that scene in nice and sharp.

    The big thing with using conflict to your advantage: Your reader won’t put down the book until they’re ‘good.’ It’s your job to make sure that isn’t until the last page. <–Click to Tweet this.

  • Why EVERY Writer Needs an Author Website

    Posted on November 28th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Definition of Digital SharecroppingI’m lucky in that my dad purchased for me somewhere around a decade ago and hosts the site for me (he’s into web stuff). However, there is MUCH more than just convenience and happenstance when it comes to writers and authors needing their own author website. (Even for those who aren’t published yet or even soon-to-be published–having your own ‘home’ on the net is very important.)

    I know it is an expense, and in some ways terrifying. BUT if you are making connections with other people in the cyber world and want a place where agents, editors, readers, and other folks to find you it NEEDS to be your own website–or in other words: something YOU control. (I’ll dig into exactly why in a moment.)

    And we won’t even dive into how you need to begin building an audience and developing that precious trust and awareness in your own personal writing brand before you have a product (books!) to sell and that a website is the place to do so.

    But really, the big take-away in this post is this: An author website is important because it is that somewhere you can direct your time and energy and still have it be there next week. It is your home, not just the latest cool coffee shop (social media website or free blogging site) where you hang out but could close without warning–and taking all the poetry you pinned to the walls.

    I’ve felt strongly about writers and authors needing to be careful about what content they place on sites they don’t control as well as how much of their audience is solely connected to their social media account–don’t get me wrong, they are good, but you need to make sure you always direct your audience back to your website.


    Three Big Reasons You Need to Direct Your Audience Back to Your Website

    1. Your website will always be there. (Hopefully.) People move on from different social media sites. Also think Fail Whale (Twitter crashes) on a larger scale.

    2. You can sell products from your website–i.e. books. People don’t buy your book based on your tweets about it. You can show more about your books on your website and why it will give your audience something they need. You can also engage in ‘permission marketing’ also known as a newsletter or email list from your website.

    3. You can connect on a deeper level on your website. I might be able to give you soundbites on Twitter, but the ‘real’ content is always a link to a website or blog, isn’t it?

    Why Building Your Online Connections Solely on Free Sites Isn’t In Your Best Interests

    1. You can’t always do whatever you want, your way. That is, without getting in trouble. For example, you can hold any kind of contest on your website. (Although local laws might come into play if it is a ‘sweepstakes’ or something along those lines.) But if you are on a site like Facebook and decide to hold a contest or use Facebook to promote a contest being held elsewhere you are subject to some very stringent rules. What happens if you break them unwittingly or not? Facebook takes down your account without warning. Period. All gone. Hello, good-bye audience. I hope they know where else to find you–like your website.

    2. When you post content (poetry, photos, videos, or written what-nots) on the majority of social media sites you don’t OWN your content. Okay, you do. But so do they. A lot of social media sites, if you read the fine print, mention that they have the right to use your content as shared on their site–or even in modified form–(no matter what) in their own publicity WITHOUT compensation or credit to you. Who cares if you are a photographer or a writer sharing your first chapter on a site like Facebook? They can do whatever they want with it.

    3. I know this might come as a surprise, but not everyone who might be interested in your writing is engaged in social media. There are people out there without Facebook or Twitter or Google+ accounts. However, most people have access to an Internet connection. That means they can come to your website and blog and communicate and interact with you. Not so if you use social media for all your audience building and connecting.

    Social media is good for expanding your audience, websites are great for keeping it. <–tweet it

    4. Free websites and services can suddenly disappear. Overnight. What happens if one of those free sites breaks the law and the site is ‘seized?’ Then what? Or what if MySpace suddenly is dropped for Facebook? Like that’s going to happen. Oh, wait… And then Facebook is dropped for some other big new thing?

    5. The free websites and social media services you are using to gain followers could suddenly change the rules or the way you are allowed to interact and engage with your audience. For example, a lot of Mom Bloggers are moaning that their ‘likers’ can no longer see their page’s updates in their feeds unless they click a certain button. A button their audience probably doesn’t know about–but how do they let them know to click it? Exactly.

    6. It can be difficult to analyze your traffic on a ‘deeper’ level on some other sites compared to your own website.

    7. When people do a search for you online… what do you think they are looking for? Your website (homebase where they can learn more about you on a deeper level and gain an accurate impression of you) or your social media profiles?


    Google search. First page results. Top hits are

    A quick Google search of “Jean Oram.” First page results and a screenshot of the top hits–top two are from


    The Benefits to Having Your Own Author Website:

    1. As mentioned earlier–selling. You can craft your calls to action (specific requests like: buy my book now [LINK]).

    2. You can create landing pages. These are special pages on your site that you direct people to so they don’t have to surf around, get lost, and leave when you are trying to direct them to something specific. Such as a page where you can buy your books or download a sample of your work, or subscribe to your mailing list (permission marketing which is KEY to connecting with your audience and making sure they know when you have a new release), or even to your contest or media page.

    3. You control everything about your site from its look to the content. Even the arrangement of what you want to draw your audience’s eye to as well as how you choose to interact.

    4. Brand Management. You can also control the impression you make. Everything from style, to content.

    5. There is a certain legitimacy to having your own site and a well-made site can also lend authority.

    6. People know where to find you. Always.

    7. Branding. Because on your own website you can control the look, the brand, the interactions, you can also control the impression you make as well as your brand development. Not as much on social media sites where others can comment, weigh in, and friend or follow you.

    If you want to read more about the importance of building a ‘home’ online and why social media may fail you, I highly recommend this article from CopyBlogger: Read their article on digital sharecropping here. (Sharecropping being–you, the user as the ‘farmer’ and not ‘owning’ the land you are working (social media sites, for example), and also not gaining the profits. Plus, you could be ousted!)

    If you don’t ‘own land’ online (i.e. your own website) I urge you to start shopping around if you are actively building an audience or will soon have a product to sell (ex.–the next month). Building a great website can take months and you want to make sure you start sending your audience to a great place before you find yourself in a crunch situation.

    Do you have a website or blog? Share the URL in the comment section or your thoughts on this topic. I love hearing from you.

    P.S. Want to tell others and happen to be a Twitter user? Click here to tweet this –> Why you need an author website. It might be for reasons you don’t expect.