Category Archives: Writing

9 Things Star Trek Can Teach You About Writing

9 Things Star Trek Can Teach You About Writing with Michael LaRocca

9 Things Star Trek Can Teach You About Writing with Michael LaRocca

1) Readers Matter

In the first STAR TREK film, Gene Roddenberry finally had the budget to create all the footage he wanted of ENTERPRISE just sitting there, looking real purty, and by gum he was gonna use it. While I don’t mind watching all those minutes, 22 or 187 or whatever it was, most folks think that’s too much. If most of your readers say something needs to be changed or added or deleted, listen to them.

2) Characters Matter

When the second pilot was filmed, it was pre-ordained that William Shatner was the star. Since Spock was the only character from the first pilot to also appear in the second pilot, it was safe to assume Leonard Nimoy was a costar. McCoy and the chemistry just kinda happened.

When I write, character comes first, and plot etc. unfold from there. Even if you start from some other place, character always matters. Nothing happens unless it happens to somebody, and that somebody is who your reader cares about regardless of species.

When you write, have some sort of plan, and have some control, but be flexible. If your story’s telling you to go in a certain direction, listen to it. That might be your characters talking to you. (And yes, I know you made them all up. Don’t bother me with details.)

3) Turn Weaknesses into Strengths

Why did the ENTERPRISE have a transporter? Because it wasn’t in the TV show’s budget to film launch and landing sequences for shuttlecraft on various and sundry new planets every week. This forced the writers to invent the transporter, and that’s some seriously cool tech. STAR TREK wouldn’t be STAR TREK without it.

4) Forget Grammar

Okay, not really. Spock used English with scientific precision and it wasn’t even his first language. Speaking as your editor, please don’t forget grammar. You can break any rule you want if you have a good reason. Never break a rule from ignorance. But if you’ve got a reason, go for it. That’s how we as authors change the language.

Why did Shakespeare invent 10% of the words he used? Because if he’d invented 20% or 50% he’d have confused too many of his viewers.

Meanwhile, the “rule” about splitting infinitives is totally bogus. “To boldly go” is a perfectly good English phrase. In Latin, it isn’t possible to split an infinitive because “to go” (for example) is one word. You can’t write “to boldly go” in Latin because “to go” is only one word. Someone decided English grammar should follow Latin grammar — that sounds like some of Noah Webster’s rubbish — and was soundly shouted down for being too stupid to live. Feel free to boldly split infinitives like James Brown split tight pants. Then jump back and kiss yourself.

5) Wishful Thinking Is Allowed

In the STAR TREK future, everybody quotes long passages of Shakespeare from memory. If I say it like that, it might sound hard to believe, but in the context of the STAR TREK world, it fits. It’s allowed. Dagnabbit, people should quote Shakespeare from memory. I taught a customer’s cockatiel to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy without warning the humans. I never could teach him context, though.

6) It’s Not About the Money

Okay, sometimes it was about the money. But in roughly two years of the original show and roughly ten years of Next Generation, it wasn’t about the money. In most of the films, including some of the stinkers, it wasn’t about the money.

I’ve always said that you should write what you’d like to read, then find readers who share your interests. Yep, that’s what Gene Roddenberry did. He believed in world peace, racial and gender integration, trying to shake off old prejudices to the best of our limited abilities, freedom of religion and non-religion, true equality for women rather than today’s lip service, gay rights, cooperation rather than killing, the Prime Directive of non-interference in viable developing cultures, war as a last and not a first resort, and seeing just how much political and religious commentary he could slip past the censors, who weren’t as bright as the average STAR TREK viewer. (I like to think the censors weren’t always as clueless as they pretended to be.)

7) Choose Your Battles

That’s what Roddenberry had to do every time he butted heads with TV executives. It’s what I do as an author when I disagree with my editor, and what I expect an author to do when I’m his or her editor. “I’ll say Starfleet pays its officers in credits if you let the white guy kiss the black girl.” Or whatever.

8) YOU Are The Writer

Remember when I said to listen to your readers? That doesn’t mean you have to always agree with them. When Gene Roddenberry’s vision put him at odds with the majority, he went with his vision. We should all do that. Such judgment calls are what separate the great writers from the merely ordinary. And to pull all that off within the confines of a 1960s TV show is nothing short of extraordinary. You could do far worse than to follow his example.

9) Posterity Matters

How long has it been since Captain Kirk first flexed those biceps and paused in funny places during his speechifying? It’s been over 50 years since Roddenberry started writing STAR TREK, and we’re still talking about it. That’s what we write for. I don’t want you to love my writing now and forget it tomorrow. A novel is not a blog or a tweet. Write something timeless. Something to annoy future generations the way it does your immediately family, something teachers can torture students with, something that just will not die.

Technical editing since 1991. Business editing since 2006. MichaelEdits.com

© Michael LaRocca 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




3 Reasons Why Reading Helps Writing

If you’ve ever wondered what sorts of writing courses you should take to become a better writer, this post is for you. Here are 3 reasons why reading helps writing in the most useful ways.

3 Reasons Why Reading Helps Writing

3 Reasons Why Reading Helps Writing

Why Reading Helps Writing Reason #1: You’ll Pick Up New Skills

In a recent guest post, one of PPG’s top guest bloggers, Michael LaRocca, talked about why he is a voracious reader. Here’s what he had to say:

I read voraciously, a habit I recommend to any author who doesn’t already have it. You’ll subconsciously pick up on what does and doesn’t work. Characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot, story, setting, description, etc. But more importantly, someone who doesn’t enjoy reading will never write something that someone else will enjoy reading. (LaRocca, 2019)

Even Stephen King agreed with this when he said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So, maybe you want to pay money for some writing courses. Fair enough. But, perhaps, your first step toward becoming a better writer is simply to pick up some books in your chosen genre and start reading. Start learning that way first.

Why Reading Helps Writing Reason #2: You’ll Be Inspired to Write

Whenever I get writer’s block (which we all get sometimes), I read something to cure myself quickly. In fact, writers who spend even as little as half an hour per day reading another person’s work often find that they are more creative during their own writing sessions.

It doesn’t even have to be another book or anything related to your topic matter at all; it can be an online article, magazine, newspaper, or blog. Sometimes, the least likely source can inspire the greatest creativity. The most important point here is to keep yourself open and aware of the infinite pool of ideas all around you. Whatever it takes to get that first sentence out, do it. From there, thoughtful inspiration can—and will—take care of the rest. It always does.

I think this quote by Steven Wright sums it up well: “It usually helps me write by reading — somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” So true!

Why Reading Helps Writing Reason #3: You’ll Have a Healthier Brain

Here’s an article you may find interesting: This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes.

Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they’re reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.”

I think we’ve always known this. But now there is scientific proof.

Creativity is similar to muscularity in that it will begin to atrophy with a lack of regular stimulation. Just as even the finest athletes have those days when they must dig a bit deeper to find the will to carry on, all writers will have the same experience. Reading will help you keep your brain healthy which, in turn, will help your writing.

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[Jeannette DiLouie] Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?

Jeannette DiLouie

Jeannette DiLouie

In this post, Jeannette DiLouie asks: do you really have what it takes to write a book? You may be surprised by her answer.

So you wrote a book? Congratulations! That’s amazing.

But do you really have what it takes? Are you a good enough writer to reach the audience you want without making a fool out of yourself? How do you actually know your writing is worthwhile?

Those are questions every single writer wonders at least from time to time no matter how many books he or she has written. Sometimes they pop into our heads on their own. Other times, they grow from a single negative review we get on Amazon or GoodReads or maybe in person.

In those cases, it doesn’t matter how many compliments we’ve gotten and how many positive reviews we’ve received. Our personal doubts or outside critiques – constructive or otherwise – can cut through our egos like chainsaws through butter.

The resulting mess is time-consuming to clean up, to say the least.

[Jeannette DiLouie] Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?

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But guess what? You have, in fact, written a book! So clearly you do have what it takes. You put in the time and effort necessary to start, continue and finish your manuscript. So the question you should be asking yourself isn’t whether you have what it takes. You need to switch gears completely by focusing not on approval so much but improvement.

What you really need to be asking is: How do I strengthen my current book or my next novel or my writing style in general?

Because there’s always room for improvement. Always. And it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just completed your first manuscript or you’re on your 25th. We writers never perfect our craft, only strengthen it.

Fortunately for us, there are a number of great ways to grow, mainly by seeking out other people’s opinions and advice. This could be by:

Finding a writers’ critique group: Just about anywhere you look, there are writing communities to be found. One might be offered through your local church or synagogue, on meetup.com, or perhaps posted on Craigslist. And if for some reason you can’t find one in any of those hotspots, then consider starting one up yourself! After all, if you build it, they could come.

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Getting a writing buddy: While it’s always nice to get multiple opinions about your work, a writing buddy has the potential to be more consistent than a writers’ group. With the latter, you might be able to submit a chapter every six weeks, whereas with a writing buddy, you could be swapping story segments every 10 days or less. Just be careful if you go this route that you’re getting just as much as you’re giving. There are some very selfish writing buddies out there that you need to be on guard against.

Getting beta readers: Beta readers are great resources to utilize if you know how to find them. These are random reviewers out there on the internet who will critique your manuscript for free. Though – warning – some of them can be pretty harsh. You asked them for their opinion, and believe me, they’re going to give it to you. While you can simply send out social media requests for beta readers if you’re up for this route, you can also find them on organized sites such as Wattpad and Scribofile.

Hiring an editor: Depending on how thorough of an edit you want, you can hire an editor for anywhere from $15 an hour to $4,000 for your whole manuscript. $15 an hour is going to get you a speed-read edit, so if that’s all you can afford, you’re probably better off just going with beta readers or a writing buddy instead. Though that’s not to say the $4,000 option is worthwhile either, since that usually gets you a read-through with grammatical and spelling corrections, plus a summarized edit. Try going for something on the cheaper side of the middle instead ($25-$35 an hour). And regardless, make sure to ask your editor what you’re going to get out of that investment in return.

One quick note about that last statement: When I say to make sure you know what you’re getting out of an edit, what I mean is to ask lots of questions.

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Will they be using track changes? Will they be adding in comments? Will they be looking for plot pitfalls as well as spelling and grammar? Are they going to look line by line, or are they simply critiquing the big picture?

For example, when I edit someone’s book manuscript, I take a holistic approach. That means I’m looking to make sure the dialogue is convincing, that details mesh together, characters are believable and the story flows well from paragraph to paragraph. So my clients get a thorough edit from start to finish, complete with a complimentary summary that highlights areas they’ve already sold me on as well as spots that need improvement.

Whatever editor you go with though, make sure you feel comfortable with them before you sign on. Don’t let them pressure you at any point.

And always keep in mind that you really do have what it takes to write a book. The rest is just practice.

 * * *    * * *    * * *

Where Can You Reach Jeannette DiLouie?

Jeannette DiLouie is the published author of 10 books and counting, and the Chief Executive Editor of Innovative Editing, a full-service editorial business with a special focus on authors and authors-in-the-making. You can find her writing insights and guidance at www.InnovativeEditing.com, and her books on Amazon.com.

© Jeannette DiLouie 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




How Timothy Ellis Consistently Sells 3000+ Books Per Month

Let’s talk about how Timothy Ellis consistently sells 3000+ books per month. Here’s the success formula he shared with me in May of 2017. You can use it, too.

Timothy Ellis

Timothy Ellis

[Timothy Ellis] Thank you Kim for inviting me to your Blog. I’m delighted to be able to talk about publishing novels, and what I’ve found works for me. I find myself answering a lot of author related questions on Quora these days, and the following represents a lot of merged answers. I hope some of this is helpful.

[Kim Staflund] How many books have you published? What genre are they?

[TE] I started writing in 2006, with a spiritual how to heal using meditation book, followed by a how to do Feng Shui book. Both were rejected by traditional publishers, but I must admit, I didn’t try very hard.

These were followed by 2 game handbooks for a PC space combat simulator style game. I’d been writing game guides for several years, before I suggested all the guides by everyone be put together into a handbook. The answer came back, your idea, you do it, so I did. It had 5 versions in pdf format over as many years, and now has 2 Kindle editions.

Once a long running thread on a spiritual forum vanished in a clean-up, I turned it into 8 Wisdom of the Ages books, based on questions and answers in the thread. The last three deal with Karma, Indigo’s, and Ascension, and include a lot of articles I’d been writing over the years, all brought together in one place.

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I was late to adapting to Kindle, somewhat accidently discovering how good it was to read in that format. Once I accepted it, I used the first of the game Handbooks to test how to publish this way, followed it with the spiritual and Feng Shui book, and then the 8 Wisdom of the Ages books. This was in 2014.

At this point, with practically no sales of anything but an occasional handbook, I started writing fiction novels. Even now, if I sell more than 20 non-fiction books a month, I’m doing well. So currently the count goes like this, if you break it down by genres.

  • 1 Feng Shui.
  • 11 Spiritual, including one 5 volume omnibus.
  • 18 Space Opera Science Fiction books, which includes 14 novels, 1 novella, 1 Christmas story,1 Companion book, and 1 short story which was included in one of the novels a year after I wrote it, but is still available on its own.
  • 2 Omnibus editions, covering 6 books.
  • 2 PC Game Handbooks.

So a total of 34 books.

Technically I have 4 series now. The Wisdom of the Ages in the spiritual non-fiction genre, the X3 Handbook in the PC Games genre, and The Hunter Legacy and A.I. Destiny series in Space Opera.

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The interesting thing is, only the 2 Handbooks do not have a spiritual connection. So while Space Opera is my main thing these days, I am still a spiritual author, mixing genres quite successfully.

The Space Opera is by far my best sellers. But because I chose to mix spiritual into Space Opera through a spiritual main character, several of my novels link back to a spiritual book, and there is a small feed of sales as a result.

[KS] What do you do in terms of promotion for your books?

[TE] The single best way of promoting any book is to release another book.

It’s not enough to write a good book. It needs to be visible, it needs to be findable, it needs to attract the eye, and suck the reader inside.

Visibility comes with rank. I can only talk about Amazon’s ranking system, and it is very cut-throat. The single most important thing is release day debut rank. You achieve this with a mailing list and social media presence, where you already hyped up your readers to expect the new book in some time frame, usually short.

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The more people who buy the book on day 1, and the more people who download it to read using Kindle Unlimited, (remember, I’m only talking Amazon here), the higher the book debuts in the ranking system.

The book gets a rank in the paid store in a number of places. The whole book store, the Kindle store, the main genre, and the sub-categories of that genre. For a lot of genres, the sub-categories happen because of the keywords you use, and especially for Sci-Fi, there are specific words which put you in specific sub-categories.

The better your rank in all of these, the more visible the book is. How well all your books are doing determines your author rank. Getting your author rank high in a major category makes you very visible, but it’s quite difficult to do.

After the debut, ranks begin to slide. About a week later, Amazon sends out emails to your followers, and this can spike you up again. But at about 20 days, you start being cycled downwards unless you have promotions which can hold your sales up. At 30 days you fall off the new releases lists. By 60 days, your book is gone into Neverland.

The best strategy is to release a new book, before the 60 day abyss comes along. It used to be 90 days, and this is still a major accelerant into the abyss when you get there.

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For me, with a main series of 13 books with 3 extra books, and now into a spin off series, each time I release a new book, I get a small back flow to the first book in the first series, as people go looking for what else I’ve written. Some of those continue on to book 2, and a slightly diminishing percent continue on through the whole series. So each new book I release, keeps a flow of people starting my first series, and as long as I keep releasing in timely fashion, all of my novels sell.

And this is how you make a living, once you have a series people like. With each book, your mailing list gets bigger, your social media presence is bigger, and you have a solid group of fans to buy each book on day 1. The visibility brings your book before new people, and these feed back into your older books. With enough visibility, each book doesn’t have to perform all that well to give you a decent income.

Visibility isn’t enough though. Once it’s been seen, your cover has to attract the eye, so it must be good looking, and be what the genre expects it to look like. With the eye drawn, the blurb has to entice the reader into the sample.

Bad covers and bad blurbs are where most people fail. Too many blurbs give backstory and a synopsis, which I recommend are never used. Backstory should be in the story. A synopsis always gives away too much, and once I’ve read one, I have no need to read the book. Blurbs should be about who the main character is, what their challenge is about, and what the stakes are, put together in a way which entices the reader into the first chapter of the book.

The sample is the first 10% of your book, and it is freely available both online and as a download. The object of the exercise is to make sure a reader gets to the end of it immediately wanting to know what happens next. But too many books start with backstory and info dumps, and a bored reader doesn’t finish the sample. The sample must also be formatted correctly, with no spelling mistakes, bad grammar, or typos. A common mistake is releasing a book which needed an editor or proof-reader, or both, and didn’t get either. Such things bounce people out of a story, and stop them buying.

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So the art of not needing promotion is to write stories people want to read, and present them to the highest standard you can, in a time frame where you don’t lose the momentum of the previous book.

The days of 1 book a year are well and truly gone. On Kindle, although it varies by genre, more than 6 weeks between the release of say 75,000 word (avg.) books means you lose the momentum of the previous book. At 3 months, you need to jump start things again.

When you can’t release inside the 3 month expectation, keeping a steady income happening requires external promotion. Of these, the freebie Bookbub ad is by far the best in terms of results, but also the hardest to get, since Bookbub are very limited in the number of places on their emails, have hundreds of books for each slot to choose from, and are very picky about the books they put on them.

Most of the main promotion sites are for free or 99c books, which means you get almost no return on downloads of your promoted book. Which is where the back catalogue of your work comes into its own, and where writing series really helps. You offer your first in series for free, and make your money from it as people read down the series. It’s when you have few books to your name, or they are all stand alone, that the freebie promotion sites are ineffective for anything except getting your name out there.

I’ve been submitting to Bookbub for 2 years now, and am yet to be accepted. This is normal and should be expected. Since my third novel took off, I’ve only had to use a freebie service once, when I was over 3 months between releases, and this worked well enough to keep me going until the next book was released. But all the same, it was my worst month since that first take off month.

The bottom line here is, you either choose to write enough to release within a 3 month period, or you promote. The first costs time, the second costs money. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to write enough to release regularly, and only needed to promote once.

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Bonus tip: The authors who release a new novel of a decent size every 4 weeks, never lose their momentum, and these authors make a decent income. It only takes 1 book to get the ball rolling, but you will never know which book it is until it happens. Once it does, a whole heap of things kick in to boost you up, and as long as you keep releasing, you can stay there and make a living from writing.

[KS] You’ve indicated you consider “3000 sales per month is a bad month” for you. This is phenomenal. How are you achieving this level of sales?

[TE] My first novel series was originally supposed to be 6 books. I started book 1 to get it out of my head. It took the longest to write, nearly 14 months, because of health issues, and the need to learn how to change from writing fan fiction and how-to books, into a novel writer. A lot of this was how to proofread and edit to a much higher standard, and initially being taught how by someone who used a great deal of red ink. It is worth the frustration of all that red to learn how to edit effectively yourself.

After release of book 1, I kept writing book 2. And the same with book 3. Book 1 was attracting maybe a sale every couple of days, with book 2 it became a sale most days, and occasionally two.

With book 3, I suddenly found the story wasn’t anywhere near finished, had taken on a life of its own, and 1 book turned into its own trilogy. So I was already well into book 4 before I completed editing of 3. And when released, 3 took off with 16 sales on day 1, much to my total amazement. This was enough, even without a mailing list at that time, to boost me into visibility range. Book 3 also had a much better opening hook, a substantially better cover, and people were reading it without having read the first 2. Then they went back to them, and between the sales of all 3, an upward spiral began.

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Now the key point here is book 2 was released about 5 weeks after book 1, and book 3 was about 4 weeks later. Book 4 was another 4 odd weeks after, and continued the momentum, with book 5 being 5 weeks later. So each one built on the previous one. Book 6 broke the momentum as I had a bad health period, and so it was released at 7 weeks, and was only a novella.

Book 7 was 5 weeks later, and hit the beginning of the 2015 Christmas book buying season, and I managed to get an author rank of 14 in Science fiction. It only lasted a few days, but this is the visibility you really need to do well. Being in the top 20 of a major category is where you have to be to do really well. I’ve never managed it since, but this was what gave me the biggest boost.

The series went for 13 books instead of 6, with diminishing returns after 9, indicating 9 books in a serial type of series is as far as you should go. But I’d locked myself into a time line by the time I reached book 10, and couldn’t stop.

I then began a spin off series, using the most loved secondary character as the main character, in a completely new setting, but directly following along from the first series. I’m finding the new series is feeding people back into the original series, even though it’s been designed to be read stand alone.

So at the moment, I’m getting the benefit of a new release in a second series, which is feeding back into the old series enough readers so all my books are selling consistently at a rate where the accumulation boosts me past the 3000 a month mark.

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I should also point out this 3000 a month includes Kindle Unlimited full reads. Amazon’s subscription service pays less than a sale, but in money terms, it generates more income than sales do. This has dynamically changed the eBook market place, and it works for some authors and not for others. It certainly works for me, and early on I had reader feedback they wanted my books in KU from minute 1. What this does for me is day 1 is almost all sales from my mailing list, Facebook Group and Facebook Page, and day 2 is mainly made up of the KU reads from day 1 appearing on the day 2 report.

There are 3 parts to a monthly income. The release that month, the flow-back from that release and its subsequent ripple down the back catalogue, and the base sales and reads from each book’s own rank and visibility sending people to book 1. From book 1, people can directly find all my books in order, from the links in the back-matter of each book, where I put both cover thumbnails, and the direct links. The months where I’ve had 3000 or less sales/reads, were when I didn’t release a new book in the previous 2 months, and was in freefall into the abyss.

The most important thing for sales on day 1 is the mailing list, and the link to it should be in the back of every book. You also put the links to your Facebook Page and Group if you have them, from which your fans will buy on day 1, sometimes before you even know the book is live, given you announced the upload as soon as it’s done. You also include links to your Amazon AuthorCentral page, where people can follow you, which gives you a boost a week after launch. You should also include your Goodreads page, and Bookbub page. Each of these helps people find your book rapidly after release.

[KS] What advice do you have for the other authors who aren’t selling anything right now?

[TE] Write. Write more. Write faster. Write more often. Keep writing.

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Making a living from writing novels requires you treat it like a job. You allocate a time each day to write, you write for a set amount of time, and nothing interrupts you. It becomes a habit, and the people around you learn to leave you alone.

How much you write every day is less important, but it determines how much momentum you can keep in the rankings.

The biggest comment people make is how long it takes to write a novel, with the assumption it has to take a year for a decent book. But it doesn’t have to take very long, if you look at it on a constant daily basis.

3000 words a day for 30 days writes a 90,000 word novel in a month. Plus editing and it can be released in 6 weeks.

2000 words a day for 40 days writes an 80,000 word novel inside 6 weeks, and you might get it out in 7, depending on its editing needs.

2000 words a day for 30 days writes a 60,000 word novel in a month, and gets it out under 6 weeks.

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1000 words a day takes 2 months to write a reasonable length novel, and you can get it out in 3 months before you fall off the 90 day cliff.

How long it takes you to write 1000 words is a different thing, and everyone is different. But if you do it daily, you can release a novel on a regular 3 month basis. A novel is 50,000 words or more, and while in some genres this is way too short, in others this a good length. Know your genre and its expectation. But also try to be consistent with book length so your fans build an expectation you can deliver.

What matters the most is writing something every day. Establish the habit, and try really hard not to break it. The habit will keep you going, when other things try to put you off. The habit only needs to be what you can do consistently. Even 100 words a day will write a book in a year. A small book, but still a book.

One thing I keep writing about on Quora is motivation. Anyone who goes into writing novels thinking they will write the next best-seller straight off, is delusional. One of the most often asked questions on Quora in the books topic is a variation on how do you write a best seller. You don’t! You write a book, get it out there, and a whole heap of hard work, circumstances and luck, might make it one. But so many things have to happen exactly right for this to occur, and most of the time, it only takes one thing wrong to make it certain it won’t. It can be the best book ever written, but just one wrong thing will doom it to the abyss. Unfortunately though, those who think their book is the best ever, are generally blind to reality. Sorry to be blunt. Blind and delusional are very common these days. Do yourself a favour, and don’t be. The advice you will need is out there, seek it.

I’ve yet to write a best seller. I’ve had books below 500 in the Kindle store a couple of times, and I usually debut below 1500. This is Woohoo territory, but it doesn’t make a best seller. To have a best seller on debut requires 1000’s of sales on day 1, and no drop off in the weeks following. It means debuting below 100, and keeping on going down. Once you get below 500 in the Kindle store, the sales curve to go lower is almost exponential. You can’t do this on a first book without having the movie first or pumping in serious money. And yet, this expectation is very common. Do yourself a favour, and don’t even think about it.

CLICK TO BUY NOW

It’s important to go into writing with the right attitude. You are writing the book because you love writing, you need to get the idea out of your head, and your characters are driving you to tell their story. You are writing a story in the hope someone will read it and like it, but the writing is the important part. Write it, edit it and proofread it as best you can, get as good a cover as you can, write an enticing blurb, and get it out there. Then forget it, and go on with the next one.

The authors who give up are the ones with unreasonable expectations. Any given book not only might not sell, but probably won’t. So give it the best launch you can, and then forget it. Even if this one does the rocket, you still need to finish the next book.

Pay attention to what the successful books in your genre are doing. That means reading them. It means looking at which sub-categories they are in, why they are there, what the cover looks like, how the blurb reads, and how they convert a sample into a buy. There is no real competition in eBooks. The competition for rank and visibility is major, but the average reader finishes a book inside 2 days and spends the next 30 to 45 days waiting for your next book, by reading someone else’s. Some people read multiple books a week, all in the same genre. So there is plenty of room for you, as long as you write what people want to read. And being the number one also-bought on an author doing better than you, is really helpful to sales, and you achieve this because your readers read everyone else. So your main competition is also your best friend, especially if they do better than you, but all your readers read them too. The flow-back from your book on the first page of another author’s performing book’s also-boughts, can be exactly what you need to boost your book.

In some genres, it’s common to write in trilogies, long serials, or a series of stand-alones with the same characters. Series are great because once any book in it takes off, the series itself will take off. And this is what you want. Any one book which converts into series sales, gets you the momentum to make a living. The trouble is, you never know which book it will be.

CLICK TO BUY NOW

My recommendation is to write in trilogies. Leave the door open for sequel trilogies, and spin offs, but see how it’s received at the end of the first one. Build a universe, and start filling it. So first trilogy is world building around a story. The spin off extends it with new characters. The sequel extends the original and maybe merges in the spin off. When you get to 9 books in the same universe, assuming the books are liked, you should have a fan base. If you use a Facebook Group to talk to them, they will tell you which way to go next.

If the first trilogy doesn’t work, start work on something different. But here’s the thing: Always complete your trilogy. Nothing annoys readers more than a trilogy which isn’t finished. In fact, a lot of people won’t start reading a trilogy until book 3 is out, just to make sure it is completed. I found a lot of people didn’t read my 13-parter until it too was complete. Breaking your covenant with your readers is a sure fire way of losing a reader forever, and by announcing this is book 1 of xyz series, you are making a covenant with your readers to finish it. So make sure you do.

A trilogy which doesn’t sell is not a waste of time. It’s part of your back catalogue. This converts to dollars when you finally have a book take off.

If you can, and you take longer to write than 6 weeks a book, hold off releasing book 1 until book 3 is in editing, and then release all 3, 30 days apart. This gives you the most momentum. On book 1, you include the series list for the other 2, noting they are forthcoming. You update each book as you release the next.

If the first series isn’t successful, as I said, it’s now part of your back catalogue. Get on with the next. And the next. And the next. When you finally get the surprise of your life when one book takes off, people will go back and look to see what else you wrote. And it’s how the whole catalogue performs rather than any single book, which defines income. What do trad publishers do when a new author hits the best seller list? They relook at their last decades’ writing, groom it, and then release it while the next book is being written. In eBooks, they are already out there, just waiting for the jump start. Your next book might be it.

CLICK TO BUY NOW

The last big thing to talk about is sample conversion. You have a good cover, an enticing blurb, the reader opens your sample, and what? When the reader reaches the end of the sample, they should immediately click on the book and buy it. But will they? This depends on you, and how you write the front end. The best way to do it is genre specific, and I can only talk about Space Opera. In Space Opera, you need a big hook. Your words need to reach out of the book, grab the reader by the throat, and drag them inside their own reader device. Way too many books in Sci-fi and Space Opera start with back-story, world building, and boring conversations. Somewhere around chapter 5, some action happens. WRONG! You lost your reader already, and didn’t get the sale.

If you have action, start with it in the first paragraph, and keep writing it until it’s over. Hit the reader in the face, and then keep on hitting them. Somewhere around chapter 3 or 5, you can slow down, go back, and show the reader how you got there, and start filling in details. But up the front end of the book, never explain anything. Drop the reader into the action, and carry it to its conclusion.

There are some very successful exceptions to this, but the main reason is two words. Bookbub ad. Forget it. You’re not going to get one as a new author or so far unknown author, so let’s get the reader hooked on the first page, and simply don’t let go. Yes the backstory is important, the world building is important, the info dumps are important, but they are no use if the reader gives up on page 1, or is bored at the end of the first chapter. By the time they end the sample, you want them invested in knowing what happens next, to the point they click the buy button without thought. Only the really established authors with very large mailing lists can ignore this.

Learning the craft of writing novels isn’t easy, but there is a lot of help out there. There are writer forums and groups, where it’s safe to ask questions. You won’t always like the answers, or the way they get delivered. But the people who do well, learn the lessons the successful authors are happy to teach. Sad to say, the ego driven people who ignore all the advice available, are the ones who crash and burn, then give up. So find a place you like, read everything posted there, and start asking intelligent questions. Someone will give you something which works.

CLICK TO BUY NOW

Bottom line on being a writer though, is to keep writing, and keep releasing. You can only get better with each new book, and at some point, something has to work.

There is no waste in not selling now. Stephen King’s worst books were the ones he wrote early on before his first trad published book was accepted, which all were released later on, and because he now had a name, they still sold well.

You are building a catalogue, and one day, it will pay off.

Stay positive, and keep writing.

As Douglas Adams once said on a totally different subject, “Go to it, good luck.”

The Hunter Legacy series Amazon Page:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01I8EAL1C

The Hunter Legacy series Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/TheHunterLegacy

The Hunter Legacy series Facebook Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheHunterLegacyUniverse/

The Hunter Legacy universe mailing list:
http://eepurl.com/bqMgVz

You can also follow me on:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HRTTIJG.
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/timothy-ellis.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8020436.Timothy_Ellis.

Timothy Ellis ranks (paid store), as at writing time (which was May 17, 2017, on the original guest post):
1853 in the Amazon Book store.
1023 in the Kindle store.
180 in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
79 in Science Fiction.

© Timothy Ellis 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




The Ins and Outs of Outlines: Plotters Versus Pantsers [PART TWO]

Jennifer D. Foster on Pantsers

Jennifer D. Foster on Pantsers

What an honour it is to be able to share this article from
Jennifer D. Foster, freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. This content was originally published in 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published. There is so much information here that I’ve split the article into two separate guest posts. This second one deals with what Jennifer describes as “pansters.” Enjoy the read!

* * *   * * *   * * *

Behind every successful novel or short story is an outline, right? Maybe. Some authors swear by a detailed plan (they’re known as “plotters”), while others, namely those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants  writers  (known as “pantsers” or “SOPs”), despise outlines. New York Times best-selling author Joseph Finder, for example, believes that “writing without an outline is like doing a high-wire act without a net. Some people can do it, but wouldn’t you really rather have a net? I would.” New York Times best-selling author J.A. Jance, however, says she “met outlining in Mrs. Watkin’s sixth-grade geography class in Bisbee, Arizona. I hated outlining then; I hate it now. I do not outline.”

What exactly causes this great divide?

By examining this question of process via authors who do and don’t outline—and why—and via key insights from a selection of those working directly in the world of publishing, including authors, agents, writing instructors, editors, and publishers, we’ll get front-row seats to this age-old debate. For those looking for practical how-tos, tips on creating an effective outline will help send you on your writerly way.

PLOTTERS VERSUS PANTSERS: THE GREAT DEBATE

Pantsers: The Cons of Outlines

For those who love to hate outlines, the writing process is viewed as more organic and free-flowing. Weiland believes many authors are “so talented and so able to hold the entire novel in their heads. They simply don’t need the tools that help the rest of us achieve that same end product.” Key West, Florida-based Meg Cabot, a number one New York Times best-selling author, is one such writer. “Because writing a book, to me, is like taking a trip. I know in my head where I want to go. I just don’t write out an elaborately detailed itinerary. Because the fun part—to me—is figuring out how I’m going to get there, and checking out the interesting sites I see along the way.” Author Harlan Coben is another New York Times best-selling writer with a similar mind-set. “I don’t outline. I usually know the ending before I start. I know very little about what happens in between. It’s like driving from New Jersey to California. I may go Route 80, I may go via the Straits of Magellan, or stop over in Tokyo … but I’ll end up in California,” he says. In an interview for the U.K.’s The Telegraph, he clarifies further: “E.L. Doctorow has a wonderful quote on writing where he says that it is like driving at night in the fog with your headlights on. You can only see a little bit ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. I concur, except that I know, in the end, where I’m going.” And, interestingly enough, for Coben, “there is no ‘why’ I don’t [outline]—you just do what works for you as a writer.” Sims believes that memory plays a role in why some writers, like Coben, don’t outline—they can hold seemingly endless amounts of material in their heads before turning it into a book. But she muses on the impact time may have. “I sure wouldn’t tell him to change, but I wonder how that method will work as he gets older and the brain cells get a little less efficient!”

Pronovost looks at it this way: “Instinctive writers sometimes hold a book’s architecture in their mind—essentially, the outline for them is something private, maybe even sacred, and speaking it out loud or commit- ting it to paper can feel counterintuitive or even rigid.” Deborah Grabien, author and editor at Plus One Press in San Francisco, California, is in full agreement. “As  both a writer (eighteen published novels and music journalism) and an editor of other peoples’ work (two anthologies of short fiction), I loathe outlines. I find working with an outline the functional equivalent of trying to dance in a straitjacket or having sex while wearing a suit of armor. My mantra is, ‘A writer writes, period; just tell the damned story.’ An outline is rigid and, for me, unworkable.”

Embracing the Serendipity

Many writers simply love the serendipity and unpredictability of writing that comes without an outline. They don’t like what Finder calls being “constricted by the steel girdle of an outline.” Hiyate agrees. “The biggest flaw is, you can write yourself into a corner, and the characters are fighting where you want to go with them. Or, because you’ve planned too much, some of the spontaneity—and suspense—might be lost.” Cabot concedes: “Story ideas don’t come along often, and when they do, you have to treat them with care. Outlining them too thoroughly—even talking about them too much over coffee with a friend—can actually ruin them, because it can make you feel as if the story is already told. And when that happens, if you’re like me, you’re dead.”

MacKinnon explains it this way: “Some authors might be less inspired to start writing if they think they have the story all figured out. They find the story as they write it. Maybe they need the excitement of finding the characters’ motivations and the plot as it unfolds to them as well.” J.A. Jance is such an author. “I start with someone dead or dying and spend the rest of the book trying to find out who did it and how come. Knowing what the end will be would make it impossible for me to write the middle,” she says. “I think if I knew what the ending would be, my motivation to write would disappear, as would the sense of discovery. I write for the same reason people read—to find out what happens—and I have never read the end of a book first.” Her reasoning? “This way, I discover the answers at the same time the characters do. This morning, at 60 percent of a book, I just found out that a character I thought was dead isn’t. If I had written an outline, would that even have happened?” Finder, a big fan of outlines, agrees in this case: “That’s just the kind of unpredictable twist you want, because if you didn’t expect it, your reader won’t either.” And that’s exactly why, says Cooper, the biggest hazard of outlining comes to those who refuse to deviate from their meticulously plotted course. The story may have decreased energy or mystery or sense of surprise—for the reader and for the writer. Writing without an outline or with only a loose outline ideally allows the story to unfold like a movie as it’s being written.”

Sims, who has worked on both sides of the outlining fence, can relate to Jance, Finder, and Cooper. With her Rita Farmer mystery series, she’s had to put together a very detailed outline for each book for her agent. But, she says, “the more detailed I got while outlining, the more frustrating the process, because my natural inclination is to figure out a lot along the way. Things come to me, answers to difficult plot questions appear as I write chapter after chapter. And, of course, as I develop characters, I get to know them better and better, and they themselves suggest action, plot points, resolutions, and so on.”

Remaining Surprised

For Black, despite her attempt, outlines do not work. While she’s not against them and “envies” people for whom they do work, for her “they are a little deadening,” and here’s why: “With the first novel I wrote—one I wrote, sold, and then withdrew because I saw its failings all too well—I used a pretty detailed outline. But I found that my ‘knowing’ what was going to happen took out some element of something like a romantic, if rocky, relationship with the book. I wasn’t intrigued by it. The process was a bit like paint-by-numbers for me, and finally I realized that the product was a bit that way as well.” So for Black, spontaneity and what she calls “openness” are imperative. “One of the great benefits of winging it—or making it up as I go along—is that I feel fluid not only about such things as what is going to happen but also about the deeper meaning of the story. I like being a little stupid about my own work as it’s in process, so I don’t fight too hard against its natural process of evolution.”

Green, a creative writing professor at Western University, cautions against outlines in terms of their relationship to the organic processes of change and revelation inherent in writing. “If one is a micromanager in terms of adhering to the outline, the pleasure of discovering that your character is going to do something that you didn’t know he or she was going to do (like a real human being, your character is unpredictable) seldom happens, and formula fiction often rears its head this way. If writing is discovery (and often self-discovery), the fully outlined and adhered-to story can become a ‘product’—albeit a professional one.” When it comes to writing, Green has “found it more valuable to keep a charted summary of each segment or chapter after it’s completed than to try to chart it in advance (like a journal of the novel; Steinbeck did this).” The purpose? The summary “lets me review it each morning and see clearly what has gone before and what I should be addressing next. Then comes the actual writing that day, and often (in best case) the sense of wonder at what has been created at day’s end. And repeat the next day. And the next. In that sense, it’s a kind of reverse outlining and progression, tied into what has come before.”

In her book Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True, Chicago, Illinois-based, New York Times best-selling, and award-winning author Elizabeth Berg says, “there are two kinds of writers: those who start with a plot and those who end up with one. I am one of the latter.” Berg says the few times she tried to plot a novel, “it was as though the book rebelled—it went another way entirely, and then all those notes I’d taken to follow the ever-so-neat sequence of events I’d planned were in vain.” Like Jance, Black, Sims, and Green, for Berg “part of the joy in writing fiction is the surprise of it, the discovery of things I hadn’t known were in me or that I wanted to say, or, more likely, the way those things chose to be said.” Berg starts her novels only with a strong feeling of something she wants to say and/or understand, and the novel helps her do it. “I find almost nothing more enjoyable than to be working on a novel and wake up not having any idea what’s going to happen that day. It keeps me interested. It keeps me excited. If I had to write what the plot told me was ‘up’ next, I’d be bored—it would feel too much like homework.” Like other pantsers, for Berg “the magic in writing fiction comes from taking that free fall into the unknown and, rather than making things happen, letting them.”

Mockler, who outlines depending on the project, shares Berg’s overall sentiments: “I’m not a fan of obsessively outlining every scene because, for me, it kills my desire to write the story. Writing is a process of discovery, and you can miss great nuggets and details if everything is pre-planned. Too much focus on the structure and not enough on the characters and details and themes can make the writing seem formulaic and flat.”

FINAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The reasons why some writers outline and some don’t are as vast and varied as the creators themselves. Bottom line? Use whatever structure, or lack thereof, works best for you, without judgment. “Explore and experiment, and figure out what best unleashes your creativity,” says Weiland. Writing is a highly individual and personal process, a journey of finding balance and what works best. And the tools and techniques that work best for each writer are always based on “personalities, backgrounds, and circumstances,” emphasizes Weiland. If you choose to go the outline route, then remember, she says, that outlines are “about discovering your story and organizing it, so you will then have an accurate road map to follow when writing your first draft.” But, stresses Wiese Sneyd, remember not to become too attached to your outline. “Outlines need not be written in stone, but in sand. And don’t buy into the idea that an outline is essential to writing. It’s not,” she stresses. “I know many writers who sit down every day and write into the dark, so to speak. They allow the story and the characters to carry them rather than relying on an outline to do so.”

Regardless of your path to the finished product, keep this quote in mind, from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, for inspiration: “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

* * *   * * *   * * *

Watch for Jennifer’s feature in the upcoming 2018 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market in mid-September 2017.

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto, Canada-based freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. She’s been in the writing and editing business for two decades, and her company is Planet Word. Jennifer’s clients are from the book and custom publishing, magazine, and marketing and communications fields and include The Globe and Mail, Art Gallery of Ontario, D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, Greystone Books, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Canadian Children’s Book News, Dundurn Press, Ontario Dental Association, and Firefly Books. When she’s not busy spilling ink for her first novel, walking her greyhound, Aquaman, or reading, Jennifer enjoys travelling, antiquing, gardening, camping, and yoga. She’s a long-time mentor to novice editors via Editors Canada and novice writers via the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Jennifer is chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series. Find her online at lifeonplanetword.wordpress.com.

© Jennifer D. Foster 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.




The Ins and Outs of Outlines: Plotters Versus Pantsers [PART ONE]

Jennifer D. Foster on Plotters

What an honour it is to be able to share this article from
Jennifer D. Foster, freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. This content was originally published in 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published and has been republished here with permission.
There is so much information here that I’ve split the article into two separate guest posts. This first one deals with what Jennifer describes as “plotters.” Enjoy the read!

* * *   * * *   * * *

Behind every successful novel or short story is an outline, right? Maybe. Some authors swear by a detailed plan (they’re known as “plotters”), while others, namely those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers  (known as “pantsers” or “SOPs”), despise outlines. New York Times best-selling author Joseph Finder, for example, believes that “writing without an outline is like doing a high-wire act without a net. Some people can do it, but wouldn’t you really rather have a net? I would.” New York Times best-selling author J.A. Jance, however, says she “met outlining in Mrs. Watkin’s sixth-grade geography class in Bisbee, Arizona. I hated outlining then; I hate it now. I do not outline.”

What exactly causes this great divide?

By examining this question of process via authors who do and don’t outline—and why—and via key insights from a selection of those working directly in the world of publishing, including authors, agents, writing instructors, editors, and publishers, we’ll get front-row seats to this age-old debate. For those looking for practical how-tos, tips on creating an effective outline will help send you on your writerly way.

PLOTTERS VERSUS PANTSERS: THE GREAT DEBATE

Plotters: The Benefits of Outlines

Elizabeth Sims, Florida-based author of the award-winning Lillian Byrd crime series, says her favorite method is to “jot down some basic ideas for a plot, focusing on what I call ‘heart-clutching moments,’ then work out the rest as I write the book. Beyond that, I’ll often look ahead two or three chapters and write a paragraph for each one that simply says what has to happen in that chapter.” And she prefers to use the term story  map, disliking the word outline. “The term outline seems to connote rules and distasteful work. Story map brings to mind discovery, adventure, and getting somewhere,” emphasizes Sims, who’s also a contributing editor for Writer’s Digest. Lynn Wiese Sneyd, owner of LWS Literary Services in Tuscon, Arizona, refers to outlines as “tracks,” and Mary Lou George, a Toronto, Ontario-based mainstream romance novelist, likens them to a “road map,” stressing that her willingness to “prepare them is the only thing that separates me from the animal kingdom.”

Regardless of what they’re called, outlines, for those who prefer them, are a godsend. “For me, the outline is crucial,” says George. “A good outline helps me plot and pace the work. It can keep me on track and help me identify weaknesses in my story. I can see where I’m going to run into trouble before I start writing, and I can structure the story accordingly.” How does an outline help her? “I map out what’s going to happen in each chapter. If my story involves a mystery that needs to be solved, I highlight the clues, misdirection, etc., just to keep track. I list each scene. That way, I can get a feel for high-tension points in the story and pace accordingly. Once I’ve mapped everything out scene by scene, I know where I want to introduce a love scene, a confrontation, some mystery, or a funny bit, just to keep them wanting more. I get a feel for whether it’s all going to work to my satisfaction.”

Sims feels that “an outline is well worth the trouble when writing a mystery.” So does Kathryn Mockler, Toronto, Ontario-based publisher of The Rusty Toque (an online literary, film, and art journal); senior editor at the literary magazine Joyland: A Hub for Short Fiction (Toronto); and creative writing lecturer at Western University in London, Ontario. “If you are writing genre fiction or screenplays, you pretty much have to have a tight structure, and outlining can be helpful for that.” Nita Pronovost, editorial director at Simon & Schuster Canada and a former senior editor at Penguin Random House in Toronto, Ontario, agrees, adding: “Often, genre writers have more practice using the outline as a technique and tool that guides their creative process rather than stifles it.” Jennifer MacKinnon, a freelance editor in Newcastle, Ontario, and a former editor at Scholastic Canada, concurs. “Mystery novels need to have very specific events happen for the story to work in the end, [and that’s why] it may help writers work out some plot holes and structural and pacing issues beforehand, which would mean less editorial revisions later.” Finder feels the same holds true for his novels. “Thrillers have too many moving parts. They’re all about plot. They’re almost always too complex to write without doing some sort of outline in advance.” For his novel Power Play, he took his writer friend Lee Child’s advice and “brazened” his way through it, sans outline, which “wound up taking me several months longer than usual, simply because I wasted a lot of time on plot and on characters that I ended up cutting out.”

Unleashing Creativity

No one knows how long the controversy over outlining has been around, but it’s a bristly debate with deep roots. One thorn of  disagreement stems from the notion of creativity: Plotters feel outlining is advantageous and part of the whole process, boosting creativity. Pantsers feel outlining squelches their creative flow. “If you feel like you need an outline in order to write or feel that an outline releases your creativity, then you should use an outline,” says Wiese Sneyd. MacKinnon believes that “even with an outline, the author has thought creatively about the story and the plotting and the characters.” And Toronto, Ontario-based award-winning author and freelance editor Janice Weaver stresses that new writers should be mindful not to “adopt the mind-set that the outline is somehow the enemy of creativity.” George agrees, adding that an outline is “there to help me, to enhance my creativity. That’s its reason for living. I don’t look at my outline as written in stone. I created it; it’s mine to morph into whatever I choose. It’s as adaptable as I want to make it.”

Sims says, for her, the greatest benefit of a story map is “anxiety reduction. You get up and grab your materials, and you can start that next chapter knowing at least basically what you have to get done in it.” Wiese Sneyd concurs. “As you venture into the storytelling and the manuscript, an outline can ease the anxiety of creating that which has never been created: unique characters acting within a unique story. It can shed light on a writing process that otherwise takes place in total darkness.” Philadelphia-based non-outliner Robin Black, author of the novel Life Drawing and the short story collection If I Loved You,  I Would Tell  You This, expands on this notion. For her, one of the downsides of not outlining is that “it is definitely a less secure process—emotionally, I mean. When I wrote my fully outlined novel, I knew what I was doing every day. … I enjoyed the lack of panic that nothing will occur to me next, or that I’ll take some giant wrong turn.”

Taking Control of the Process

Another benefit of outlines, according to plotters, is being in the driver’s seat. “It partly has to do with control. It feels good to know ahead of time where the story is going and how it ends. The blank page can feel very unsettling,” says Wiese Sneyd. “I’ve heard some authors say that their out-line consists of a beginning and an ending. Their job is then to fill in the middle.” For Wilmington, North Carolina-based Wiley Cash, New York Times best-selling author of A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy, “the greatest benefit is that it offers you the chance to see the totality of your idea. I’ll typically outline a novel once I know who the main characters are, so that I can get a sense of how I see their lives unfolding and how their lives will flow with and against the narrative.” His rationale? “Each character has a tiny plot evolving inside him or her, and it’s important to keep that in mind before you try to develop the arc of the broader narrative.” Cash says he won’t look at the outline for months while he’s writing, “but it will always be there in the back of my mind. It’s like the map in the glove box that you’re hesitant to get out and unfold because you think you may recognize a landmark around the next bend in the road. But the map definitely gives you some peace. It’s there if you need it. For me, outlines are the same.”

Pronovost also agrees with the outline-as-map benefit. “The initial outline is a kind of map. I can sometimes spot narrative problems right from the outline, which means that the author is saved the aggravation and time of falling into a potential black hole in the story.” For her, outlines provide “clarity of thought, organization, direction … an architecture to a story, and it helps the author (and editor) retain a kind of muscle memory of the framework long after the outline has been put aside and the work on scenes and chapters begins.” And, she says, “what an outline can do, especially for new writers, is save them from becoming too involved in the journey and becoming lost in the maze of superfluous narrative.” Weaver concurs: “Outlines are especially important for new writers, because those are the people who sometimes lack the discipline or the critical distance needed to see the problems with their manuscripts.” Pronovost also stresses that “the outline provides a way for the author to think from the point of view of the creator and from the point of view of the readership.” How, exactly? “The outline creates awareness in the writer of the techniques they are using to tell the story: what each chapter covers, what the main actions are, how each segment opens and closes, where the major turning points occur, and so on. That’s taking care of the reader’s experience, something an author should always consider.”

Treating the Outline as a First Draft

Scottsbluff, Nebraska-based K.M. Weiland, author of Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and the fantasy novel Dreamlander, has an interesting theory about the pros of outlining. “Many authors who don’t use an outline are actually using their first drafts as an outline of sorts—from which they then figure out the story’s problems and use it as a template to write a better second draft.” So, she says, “outlines are my rough draft. And then when I actually go to write the first draft, it’s actually the second draft. Since I already know what’s going to happen, it’s where I get to fine-tune those ideas, smooth them out, and explore them further.” For Weiland, “outliners do most of the major revising in the predraft process, which allows for much faster (and, dare I say, more fun?) first drafts and much less revision time afterward.”

Karen Wiesner, genre author of more than one hundred novels and of First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel, agrees. She used to be a pantser, but after writing sometimes twelve drafts of a novel to finally get it right, she decided to give outlines a try. “With the right preparation, you can create an outline so complete, it actually qualifies as the first draft of your book and includes every single scene of your book. You can see your entire novel from start to finish in one condensed place. An outline like this … contains every single one of your plot threads, unfurled with the correct pacing and the necessary tension, culmination, and resolution from beginning to end.” For Wiesner, the outline is “the place to work out your story settings, plot conflicts, and in-depth characterization before starting the actual book. This allows you to focus on scenes that work cohesively together and advance all of these. Additionally, tension, foreshadowing, dialogue, introspection, action, descriptions, etc., can best be done within the outline, building strength while adding texture and complexity.” The best part? “Creating an outline like this puts the hard work of writing where it belongs—at the beginning of a project. If you work out the kinks in the story in the outline, you ensure that the writing and revising are the easy parts.” Wiesner’s analogy cements her argument: “When I write a book based on a ‘first draft’ outline, pure magic happens because I watch the skeleton—the framework of the book contained in my outline—putting on flesh, becoming a walking, talking, breathing story.”

Like Weiland, Pronovost, and Wiesner, Weaver believes an outline can save a writer both time and frustration. “Ideally, it will force you to think through the events of your novel before you ever put pen to paper, and in doing so, it can reveal potential pitfalls, uncover creative opportunities you hadn’t considered, and give you a broader perspective. An outline can condense that process and minimize the wrong turns, and that makes it more likely that you’ll finish what you started.” Sally Cooper, Hamilton, Ontario-based author of Love Object and Tell Everything and creative writing professor at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario, agrees with Weaver’s thoughts. “A good outline helps me think through the story ahead of time, so I avoid writing myself into an unresolvable corner. Outlines also create direction, signposts, or goals to look forward to and meet.”

Kathy Lowinger, Toronto, Ontario-based author and former publisher of Tundra Books, says that, “oddly enough, a detailed outline can be of most use to those who write beautifully. For them, it is easy to write a great sentence or paragraph or even several pages without benefit of a good skeletal structure. Eventually it becomes apparent that the plot isn’t well thought out, but good writing can hide the plot flaws for a long time.” She also believes that for writers who claim to be smothered  by an outline, “I always think that they don’t understand what an outline is. It can be changed if it isn’t working, but,” she cautions, “the author has to understand that a single change should be looked at in the context of the whole work.”

Speaking of the whole work, Weaver has a fitting metaphor regarding outlines. She likes to compare a manuscript to a jigsaw puzzle. “Your job as the writer is to make all the pieces fit together to form a complete and pleasing picture in the end. The outline is the photograph on the puzzle box—it’s a guide to remind you what picture you’re ultimately trying to create. Sometimes you’re contending with a puzzle that comes with extra pieces that don’t quite fit. A big challenge for most writers, in my experience, is recognizing that those extra pieces don’t belong, and having the courage to let them go. An outline can relieve you of some of those decisions by making it clear when something doesn’t fit.”

A Word to the Wise for Plotters

Even pro-outliners caution against following an outline blindly. “If you get extremely detailed and rigid about the outline process, you can rob yourself of the chance to stumble upon something awesome,” says Sims. “An outline can and should be fluid. Be okay with throwing an outline away and starting over or slicing and dicing and adding in new stuff—even if you’re halfway through your book. If you get a gut feeling you ought to try something drastically different, give it a go.” MacKinnon concurs. “The outline is just a written guideline. Most authors I know would never let an outline get in the way of a good story. If inspiration hits in the middle of writing, and the characters or story seems to be going in a different direction, they follow their instincts and go with the story rather than the outline.” Cash holds the same theory, stressing that “the greatest drawback is that there’s always the risk of being shackled to your outline. Trust me, you won’t disturb the universe if you don’t follow it.”

Pronovost feels the same. “Just because a writer has a plan doesn’t mean she has to dogmatically stick to it. There is always room for creativity in any structure, including in an outline. A rough, flexible, dynamic outline—one where change can occur throughout the drafting process—is a very practical tool.” Kevin Morgan Watson, publisher at Press 53 in Winston–Salem, North Carolina, agrees. “An outline should be, to borrow a phrase from the movie Ghostbusters, ‘more of a guideline than a rule.’ A writer should always be open to new ideas that present themselves during the writing process. When that little voice says, ‘What if my character does this or goes there instead of following the outline; I wonder what would happen?’ I think writers should listen to that voice and take the detour.” He cites the “wise words” from American poet Robert Frost as further evidence:

“No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Shaping the Story

For Sam Hiyate, literary agent, president, and co-founder of The Rights Factory in Toronto, Ontario, “outlines are essential for helping shape a story. You wouldn’t start building a house without blueprints. Why start a novel without one?” For Hiyate, who’s also a creative writing instructor at the University of Toronto and a publishing instructor at Ryerson University, “the most important thing is to write an outline at the level of detail that makes you comfortable. Some writers might have one [outline] that is two pages, whereas some might want ten to fifteen pages. If you have it in bullet points to start, you can still enter a chapter or scene with a lot of possibility, as long as you know where it will quickly go.” For him, it’s all about “writing with the level of detail that will keep your writing spontaneous and fresh.”

For number one New York Times best-selling author John Grisham, outlines are the Holy Grail of productivity and structure. “The books are carefully outlined before I ever start. Chapter by chapter, from beginning to end. And usually tedious and boring and even painful—but it’s the only way to make sure the story’s going to work. Usually the outline is fifty pages long. And the longer the outline, the easier the book  is to write. I have started several books and put them aside—and a couple of times I’ve gone back and been able to finish them.” This level of planning for an outline on the part of the author could be an example of what novelist and short story author Terence M. Green refers to as “the micromanager, who plans the whole story out in advance before the actual writing. I think it’s fair to say that the writer who benefits the most from the micro-planning is the one most concerned with plot, and plot intricacies and twists.”

George sees an outline as a life-enhancing literary safety net. “If you run into trouble, it’s never too late to create an outline to help you along. It can be as detailed or as sketchy as you’d like. Sometimes, when I’m having a crisis of confidence, I will hone the outline in order get reassurance that my story has merit. That, alone, can get me writing again.” And George stresses that the outline may be for the writer’s eyes only. “Remember that no one else needs to see the outline.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to update it or stay faithful to it—it’s so unlike a spouse in that way. In fact, my relationship with my outline is probably the best I’ve ever known.”

Best Tips of the Trade

Looking for some writerly inspiration not only to create but also to nail an effective outline?
Our industry experts weigh in with these helpful tips.

“If your book were divided in pieces, what would they be called? How many pieces
(acts or parts) would there be? What would happen in each segment? Summarize in
only a few sentences, not in a thousand pages. Does your outline have a climax? If
not, why not? Does your outline have a clear beginning, middle, and end?” —Nita
Pronovost, editorial director at Simon & Schuster Canada, former senior editor
at Penguin Random House

“Don’t confuse your outline with a summary of your novel. Keep your outline brief.
It doesn’t even have to be comprised of complete sentences. Don’t be afraid to
change it or move things around, and consider putting it away once it’s completed.”
Wiley Cash, New York Times best-selling author

“Know your characters. Think in terms of scenes, like a filmmaker. Include thematic
and symbolic beats, not just plot points, and be open to throwing the outline out the
window if the story takes a promising turn.” —Sally Cooper, author and creative
writing professor at Humber College

“Outlines are a great way to think through a story, to envision a story, much like a drive
across the country or a family vacation: You can plan it down to the hour of every day,
but it’s in the detours along the way where the better story, the better adventure,
may be hiding. And what’s the harm in taking a detour to see what is there? If you
work from an outline, make it a loose guideline. Give yourself permission to veer off
course and explore.” —Kevin Morgan Watson, publisher, Press 53

“The outline is simply a tool; don’t let it intimidate you. Use it as an aid to pace your
novel well. Read it over from time to time. Your outline can help you identify slow
points in your story. It can remind you that you’ve forgotten something and, if so,
then how necessary is that something? Or maybe it was key, and you can’t neglect it.
The outline will help you make decisions.”—Mary Lou George, romance novelist

“Be flexible. Think of an outline as a collection of puzzle pieces. At first you think a piece
might fit well here, but then you see it fits better there. Keep moving the pieces around.
Don’t be afraid to toss some and add new ones.” —Lynn Wiese Sneyd, owner of
LWS Literary Services

“Think of your outline as the bird’s-eye view of your manuscript. It’s meant to show
you the best path to take—and to reveal any roadblocks long before you get to them—but it shouldn’t prevent you from taking the odd side road on your way to your destination. An outline can take many different forms, and if one technique is too restrictive or makes you feel too constrained, try another. One bad experience with outlining doesn’t mean all outlines are bad.” —Janice Weaver, award-winning author and freelance editor

“Don’t be afraid to make a mess. Writing is like life: glorious, unpredictable, full of
passion, woe, and joy. Be okay with ambiguity as you map your story; you’ll figure
it out. And be open to making parts of your outline rough and other parts very detailed.
Don’t worry about following any particular form.”—Elizabeth Sims, award-winning
author and contributing editor for Writer’s Digest

“Start out with what your central quest is; give your protagonist a series of trials of various
flavors (by that I mean level of difficulty, mood, etc.) to overcome; and put the resolution
in the protagonist’s hands. And make sure that the protagonist is marked by
each trial in some way. This holds for almost every novel, whether the quest is something
intangible like acceptance or tangible like the Holy Grail.” —Kathy Lowinger,
author and former publisher of Tundra Books

“Use the outlining phase as an opportunity to build story structure. The single most
important factor of a story’s success and salability will be the strength of its structure.
The outline is the place to start figuring that out so you will be able to place the important
plot points and other structural moments at exactly the right place to allow
them to achieve their utmost power.” —K.M. Weiland, author

“When writing a short story, I’ve found it useful to take a sheet of paper and divide it
into three (usually Intro, Body, and Conclusion, the Body being the substantial part
of the page). By filling in these sections with ideas and details, the story can come to
life in a general way. The actual writing of the story is where it can come to life in its
particulars. For a new writer of fiction: Know the ending of your story. If one has this
in mind, the goal is clear, the path straightens itself.” —Terence M. Green, creative
writing professor at Western University, novelist, and short story author

… to be continued

Watch for Jennifer’s feature in the upcoming 2018 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market in mid-September 2017.

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto, Canada-based freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. She’s been in the writing and editing business for two decades, and her company is Planet Word. Jennifer’s clients are from the book and custom publishing, magazine, and marketing and communications fields and include The Globe and Mail, Art Gallery of Ontario, D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, Greystone Books, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Canadian Children’s Book News, Dundurn Press, Ontario Dental Association, and Firefly Books. When she’s not busy spilling ink for her first novel, walking her greyhound, Aquaman, or reading, Jennifer enjoys travelling, antiquing, gardening, camping, and yoga. She’s a long-time mentor to novice editors via Editors Canada and novice writers via the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Jennifer is chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series. Find her online at lifeonplanetword.wordpress.com.

© Jennifer D. Foster 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.




Finding the Best Way to Write

Finding the Best Way to Write with Michael LaRocca

I read voraciously, a habit I recommend to any author who doesn’t already have it. You’ll subconsciously pick up on what does and doesn’t work. Characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot, story, setting, description, etc. But more importantly, someone who doesn’t enjoy reading will never write something that someone else will enjoy reading.

I don’t write ‘for the market.’ I know I can’t, so I just write for me and then try to find readers who like what I like. I’m not trying to whip up the next bestseller and get rich. Not that I’d complain. Nope, I have to write what’s in my heart, then go find a market later. It makes marketing a challenge at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When you write, be a dreamer. Go nuts. Know that you’re writing pure gold. That fire is why we write.

An author who I truly admire, Kurt Vonnegut, sweats out each individual sentence. He writes it, rewrites it, and doesn’t leave it alone until it’s perfect. Then when he’s done, he’s done.

I doubt most of us write like that. I don’t. I let it fly as fast as my fingers can move across the paper or keyboard, rushing to capture my ideas before they get away. Later, I change and shuffle and slice.

James Michener claims that he writes the last sentence first, then has his goal before him as he writes his way to it.

Then there’s me. No outline whatsoever. I create characters and conflict, spending days and weeks on that task, until the first chapter really leaves me wondering ‘How will this end?’ Then my characters take over, and I’m as surprised as the reader when I finish my story.

Some authors set aside a certain number of hours every day for writing, or a certain number of words. In short, a writing schedule.

Then there’s me. No writing for three or six months, then a flurry of activity where I forget to eat, sleep, bathe, change the cat’s litter… I’m a walking stereotype. To assuage the guilt, I tell myself that my unconscious is hard at work. As Hemingway would say, long periods of thinking and short periods of writing.

I’ve shown you the extremes in writing styles. I think most authors fall in the middle somewhere. But my point is, find out what works for you. You can read about how other writers do it, and if that works for you, great. But in the end, find your own way. That’s what writers do.

Just don’t do it halfway.

If you’re doing what I do, writing a story that entertains and moves you, then you will find readers who share your tastes. For some of us that means a niche market and for others it means regular appearances on the bestseller list.

Writing is a calling, but publishing is a business. Remember that AFTER you’ve written your manuscript. Not during.

=====

I’ve been paid to edit since 1991 and still love it, which has made people question my sanity, but they were doing that before I started editing. I got serious about my writing in 1978. Although I’ve retired more times than Brett Favre, I’m revising my 19th book. Learn more about me at MichaelEdits.com.

© Michael LaRocca 2019

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




How Liz Schulte Failed Her Way to Massive Success as an Independent Author

In this guest post, you’ll learn how Liz Schulte failed her way to massive success as an independent author. One thing is for sure, she’s humble about her level of success. To learn more about how I met her, download this book for free: Profitable Publishing Today.

Liz Schulte’s Story

Liz Schulte

Since starting my publishing career about seven years ago, I have been fortunate enough to speak with and learn from many other authors. These individuals come from a variety of backgrounds, writing styles and professional careers. One thing that we all have in common is that we wrote a book. It doesn’t matter if the book is insanely successful or still looking for its market, writing a book is a major accomplishment. At the risk of sounding cliché, writing is a journey. A journey that is a little different for everyone, but not one you have to do alone.

This journey is the reason I am talking to you today. You see, I found myself traveling down this road to becoming an author without ever knowing it was where I wanted to be. A lot of writers knew they always wanted to be an author—I am not one of them. I wanted to be a lawyer then I was toying with the idea of forensic psychology. I never considered writing because it wasn’t a “real” career.

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However, after a fair amount of prodding I set out to write a book. Little by little I wrote bits and pieces as I had time, never breathing a word to anyone about what I was doing. The book wasn’t for other people, it was for me. I used every single idea that came to me. I remember thinking I would never be able to write another book because I used every good idea I had. In the mornings, the book was the first thing I thought about and it was my last thought as I fell asleep at night. Finally, I made it to the end. I was overwhelmed by the immediate sense of accomplishment that was quickly followed by sadness. My journey had ended.

After a few days, I started to read this book that I had poured so much of myself into and it was … awful. It was slap in the face. I grew up reading twelve books a week. How could I have written something so horrible? My first thought was to delete it, but something stopped me. Maybe it was the countless hours I poured into it or maybe I knew I couldn’t simply delete an accomplishment because it didn’t fit the narrow definition of what I wanted it to be. I finally decided I needed a second opinion. I confessed to my best friend that I had written a book and it wasn’t very good. She wanted to read it and I kind of wanted to hide under a rock. However, I did the brave thing and let the book go. A few days later, she finished reading it and told me something I wasn’t prepared to hear. She liked the story.

The next several months I devoted to making the book better, more like it was in my head. I tweaked and fussed until it was something that resembled what I wanted it to be, though it still hadn’t quite gotten there. By this point, I had already started another novel in a completely different genre. I made a folder for the first book and tucked it away as I fell in love with a new group of characters.

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I had no clue what to do with the first book. The extent of my plan was to write a book. I hadn’t thought beyond that. After much discussion, I agreed to query some agents. I sent out ten letters and received ten blandly polite form letters in return—though one did have a nice hand written note directing me to someone else, but I didn’t contact him. You see I loved writing and no one was going to steal that joy from me by telling me they didn’t like my books. I was happy just writing them.

This attitude brought me to a crossroads in the journey. I could keep writing just for myself, or I could find a way to share my stories. That’s when I received my first eReader as a gift. I promptly downloaded several books and read one that was really cute. I went in search of who her agent was only to discover she had self-published. It was an option I didn’t even know I had. I sent her a nervous email asking about self-publishing and what it required. In less than a day, she responded with a very long email telling me about her journey as a self-published author. Though I had no idea at the time, the woman I contacted just so happened to be one of the early Kindle millionaires.

I chose my path. I was going self-publish my books.

However, being a reader didn’t help me when it came to marketing or even the finer writing points. I began to devour as much information as I could. I saved my money and went to conferences, joined online writing groups and indiscriminately read everything my Google searches brought me to on the subject. Those early times were fraught with floundering blog posts trying to figure out what in the hell a brand was and whether or not I had one already.

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The first book released to lukewarm sales. I determined it was because I had done everything wrong. At one conference, they told me that flashbacks were bad—my book had them. At another conference, I was told that dreams were the worst—yep had those, too. It didn’t matter though because I had another book and this one was going to be different. This time I would do everything right. The new genre was hot and surely everyone would immediately snatch it up and Joss Whedon would want to buy the movie rights.

The second book came out, and much to my horror, it did worse than the first. What was I doing wrong? Marketing. Obviously, marketing was the answer. I would just market the hell out of the first book and then they would read my second book, never mind that I had written in two different genres. I set up blog tours, bought advertisements, set up some free days and did absolutely everything anyone had ever suggested about marketing. The first book started to sell. It had momentum, but guess what? The sales never transferred over to my other book. Instead people wanted to know when the next one would be out. I didn’t have another mystery. I was in the midst of writing a paranormal romance trilogy that wasn’t selling. I hit yet another crossroads in my journey: should I throw over my trilogy to write another mystery?

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Part of me wanted to follow the money, but I followed my gut. I wanted to write the trilogy so I did. And I couldn’t have made a better decision. After a fairly mediocre year, I released the third book in the trilogy and I used what I had learned marketing that first book to market the first book in the trilogy. The month of the release I made $12,000 and realized for the first time that maybe writing really could be a career.

I did a lot of things wrong along my journey, but I also did a lot things right. If I had to narrow it down, I would say these were the more influential decisions I made:

  1. I believed in myself.
    No one has ever told me I don’t have confidence in myself. I wrote a book and never once thought that I shouldn’t try it or it might be too hard. I simply wrote it because that’s what I wanted to do. That same confidence gave me the courage to undertake the overwhelming task of self-publishing and it helped me believe in my stories enough that I didn’t give up on them.
  2. I never stopped learning.
    Twenty-four books later, I am still learning. I still read about the industry, writing and marketing. Now, I am a bit more discerning about who I take advice from, but I still actively seek out new information. Recently, I heard the term influencer marketing. I didn’t know what it was so I read every article I could find on it until I started getting ideas about how I could apply it to what I do.
  3. I treated writing like a business.
    Yes, writing is a creative pursuit, but publishing is a business. I set deadlines and went through hell to keep them. I made professional connections and respected other people’s expertise and time like I would my own. To be a good self-publisher you have to be prepared for both aspects of the business.
  4. I did everything wrong.
    This is my favorite point to make. I didn’t do any of the things the blogs and speakers told me to do. I listened to them and respected what they had to say and where they were coming from, but this journey was my journey, not theirs. All the well-meaning advice in the world will not get you further down the road. If you are writing a book and you want a prologue in it, then put it in. You are the writer. Even if I rewrote my first book today, I wouldn’t touch a single one of the flashback scenes. They are just the way I wanted them to be. It is a part of that story and just because someone else got sick of them, doesn’t mean that I can’t use them. Always be true to your creative vision first. If it doesn’t work, cut it in editing, but trust your characters and let them have their own voice.
  5. I didn’t listen to the fear.
    I didn’t tell people I knew in my daily life that I was writing and publishing books until I had multiple books released. Even then, the thought of people I knew reading my books made me feel sick. It was ice-cold fear. I still have it. When people I know read my books I wait for them to tell me how much they hate it or everything I did wrong. I feel sick to my stomach when I send each book to editing, always fairly certain this is the book when they take away my laptop and tell me no more writing. The fear is everywhere and all authors have it. Had I listened to the fear I would have deleted my first book. I would never have let my friend read it. I wouldn’t have emailed that first author. I wouldn’t have joined and been active in author groups. I wouldn’t have tried self-publishing. I wouldn’t have put so much into promoting a book that wasn’t selling. I wouldn’t have finished my trilogy. I wouldn’t left my day job. The list can go on and on. Fear has long been the killer of dreams and I simply wasn’t willing to place mine on the chopping block.

Liz Schulte’s Marketing Plan

So that’s my story about how I got to this place where I can be a self-supported self-published author. Kim also asked me to tell you about my marketing plan. I am going to do this as a bulleted list in the order of importance:

  • The book
    Great marketing might sell one book, but it doesn’t make a career. The story, especially the ending, is what makes loyal readers. This is part of the reason why I am always learning. Each book is a chance to hone my craft and tell a better story so I always try to produce novels I can be proud of—stories I would like as a reader.
  • The quantity of product
    This was a mistake I made, but it was a lesson well learned. I focused a large amount of money and time on marketing one novel when I didn’t have a backlist. It worked, the book sold, but there wasn’t the return on investment that I should have had. If one book is all you ever plan on writing, then market it as much as you want. But if you are planning a series, wait until you are at least three books in to start ramping up marketing efforts. You will get more return on your investment.
  • Advertisement
    The best way I have found to get word out about my books isn’t plastering social media with “please buy my book” posts. It is forming a strategic marketing plan for each book. First, I submit my book that will be on sale to Bookbub. If they choose my book, I will then form a strategy around that post. Bookbub still has the best reach of any of the book mailing lists, but they are also very selective, so don’t get discouraged. If I don’t get that ad, I select my sale period and will systematically go through the various sites stacking as many ads as I can for a period of a week to two weeks. The more exposure I can get the better. I will also set up targeted Facebook advertising for the period and send out my newsletter.
  • Networking
    Writing can be solitary, but don’t shut yourself off too much. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there from your fellow authors. Make friends, help others and accept their help. The indie community is kind and embraces new authors. Be respectful of other people’s time, but don’t be scared to ask your questions. Also, attend conferences. Meet authors, writers and publishers. Talk to them and share about your own experiences. Those connections will come back to reward you.
  • Social engagement
    I love social media — maybe a little too much. However, keeping in contact with your readers helps you, as an author, stay on their mind. Remember that you are there to be social, not to sell. Be yourself and only do the platforms you like. If you don’t like any social media, then don’t use it. Set up an email and website where readers can reach you. The idea is to make a direct connection between you and your readers.

That’s it. That’s my entire marketing strategy. There aren’t simple answers or easy solutions. Working hard and believing in yourself is the only way I know how to make a book series successful. I wish each of you the best of luck and would love to hear from you.

Liz

Liz Schulte is a self-published author in mystery and paranormal romance with more than twenty novels, multiple short stories and audiobooks. She is a member of RWA and her local guilds in Missouri, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers of America.

Though success in publishing didn’t happen overnight, like she envisioned it would, the journey has been worth the trials along the way. Liz became a self-supported full time author in 2013 and wouldn’t trade her hard begotten knowledge or the wonderful friends she has made along the way for anything.

Liz has a degree in psychology from the University of Missouri and a minor in philosophy. She has taken numerous forensic courses and writing classes as well as attended several symposiums on writing. She speaks on subjects ranging from self-publishing to marketing and social media.

Website                    Facebook                    Twitter                    Pinterest

© Liz Schulte 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




Ash Borodin Discusses the Writing and Editing Process

I want to thank Ash Borodin and his editor, Elisa, for providing this unique guest post about the writing and editing processes for the PPG Publisher’s Blog. I smiled all the way through the below dialog and found myself nodding “yes” through much of it.

The creative process of writing a book takes on many different forms, as Ash discusses below, and the editing/ghostwriting processes require much patience and collaboration between two willing participants…

Ash Borodin on The Editing/Writing Process

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My name’s Ash and my debut novel is called The Jealous Flock. It’s about the parallel lives of unique individuals struggling to define their values and identity in relation to the major culture clash(es) the world is experiencing right now.

My name’s Elisa and I edited the Jealous Flock

Ash: Everything I do is experimental, including this interview (which we are collaborating on live through Google Docs). I can imagine I’m an editor’s worst nightmare…

Elisa: Yes, you can say that again.

Ash: Can you elaborate on that… On second thought, actually don’t. Well, give us a rough idea of one of the challenges.

Elisa: Well for starters, having the chapters written in no particular order, so I couldn’t really make sense of the story. And using speech to text didn’t always give the words you intended, so I had to guess what they might be.

Ash: Ah, yes, I’d forgotten about that. I think I had this general master plan in my head for what the final book should be but I had no idea how to weave it all together. So initially it was more just a bunch of short stories. And then I gradually wrote some bridging stories to connect the others and from there more changes had to be made. It really was a mess. I still think it was a pretty good mess, from my point of view, it was like a band improvising, each person takes a solo and the others fit in and react.

Elisa: I also found it strange to read when it was initially in present tense, and I told you it sounded like a play.

Ash: Well, in a sense it was. And when you said that, I thought – alright I’ll make it a play then. But that was more stubbornness than resolve on my part. I think it could easily be adapted to work as a screenplay and that’s something I keep in the back of my mind if the opportunity ever arises.

Elisa: I think it might lack the beautiful descriptions you have put into the writing though, and perhaps make it more bland.

Ash: Yeah, and in part it was vanity that spurred me on to rewrite the whole thing in past tense. I didn’t want to lose my poetic vision, my voice. But finding some way between the two extremes was a real challenge for me as a writer, this being my debut novel especially. Because I wrote a lot of it live – I method acted the lines through a voice-recorder – it had that zeal, the immediacy you only get from the spoken word and some of the intimacy of conversation. To then put that into past tense, well it felt like prostitution of my passion at first. I was really adverse to it.

Now I tell people the importance of having an active reader (or an editor, really) from the beginning. Because writing is one thing, but storytelling is really a higher level of writing and that involves connecting, relating to your audience.

Elisa: Yes, it is, but it’s a hell of a difficult thing to try and convince an author that he needs to make a change like this. Authors really don’t like criticism of any kind.

Ash Borodin

Ash: Not naming any names, of course….

Elisa: None at all. And by the way, just so people know, I’m editing your writing as we speak. That’s why there are no spelling mistakes.

Ash: Ha! What people don’t know is that you just wrote ‘smelling mistakes’ and I saw it!

Elisa: Yes, okay, you caught me, but I did fix it immediately.

Ash: I think if we were to work on a book again it would be much easier this time because we’ve both mellowed a lot. For those who came in late, Elisa and I are married. And in the 3 years since we wrote the book we’ve been through a lot personally and as a couple, and I think though we blow up at times under great stress, we are generally able to plan ahead for stress and compartmentalise it a lot better.

Elisa: Sometime a good yelling match is exactly what you need to release it all.

Ash: I know, yesterday’s was great. We called each other unprintable names. A good time was had by all…

Elisa: So, back to editing… another thing that was difficult to get a handle on was that each character used first person, which was really confusing during the editing.

Ash: I think I would do that differently now, but surprisingly no-one’s complained about it yet. Yet….

Elisa: I think it actually works… now.  Now that we have each character’s name in the title of each chapter (thanks to me).

Ash: Yeah that was a necessary evil I was forced to accept as well. I was trying to be so clever in my writing that the reader would intuitively know who the character speaking was – that this was now their perspective. But it was too high a bar for me and maybe an unnecessary bar at that.

Elisa: You can’t expect the reader to do too much work themselves.

Ash: Well that was probably the final thing I relented on. I wanted it to be more work than it eventually was – for the reader. I wanted them to really pay attention like one would with a textbook or work of philosophy. But in the end the need to relate overcame the desire to be very serious.

Ash Borodin’s book is available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NAPZWB8

http://ashleyborodin.weebly.com

© Ash Borodin 2017

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.




Learning How To Write with Michael LaRocca

Learning How To Write with Michael LaRocca of MichaelEdits.com

As a student of Spanish, my goal was to think in Spanish. Skip the word-by-word translation so I’d have the necessary speed to speak and listen. I know words in Spanish that I’d be hard pressed to translate. Usually profanity, I confess. Chingow!

For years my students here in China have studied grammar, and know it better than you or I. They read. They write. But speaking involves moving faster than that. In conversation, we don’t have time to write it first and make sure it’s all grammatically flawless, then read it aloud, perhaps after a bit of rehearsal.

So, I try to give them a chance to practice putting words together on the fly, rules be damned. The rules they’ve internalized will kick in and keep them comprehensible, which will build their confidence in their ability to keep creating conversation that way.

Learning How To Write

This is not unlike what we go through as authors. First we study rulebooks, perhaps take some classes, and conclude just about everything we’re is doing is wrong. So many rules to memorize. We might dread sitting down to write with all those constraints.

But really, it’s not about memorizing rules at all. It’s about internalizing the rules, following them (or not if you prefer) without being consciously aware of what they are. They’re there, but in the background.

The story’s what matters. You’re supposed to be having fun, not “working.” At least not during the creation phase.

We don’t always take the time to say, “I’ve written ten active sentences in a row so maybe I’ll whip in a passive one now” or “I need a beat for every X lines of dialogue.” I published four novels and edited dozens more before I learned what a beat was. (It’s a pause so the reader can catch his/her breath.)

And, of course, since it is writing and not speaking, we can always go back and revise later. Then rely on editors to catch what we missed, or at least make us wonder why we wrote it this way instead of that way.

Some authors aren’t even consciously aware of “the rules.” They’ve never taken a class, never read a book about writing. They’re simply avid readers who one day decided to write. But they’ve internalized the rules. It comes from reading.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you want to write, you must read. If you don’t like reading, maybe writing isn’t for you. It’s not about writing because you want to say, “I am a writer.” It’s about writing because you enjoy writing.

And, it’s really nice when you’ve been writing for a long time to go back and read a book about how to write. You might find one or two things to tweak in your technique, as opposed to a daunting laundry list of flaws. It’s much easier to internalize one or two new rules than 50 or 100.

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I’ve been paid to edit since 1991 and still love it, which has made people question my sanity, but they were doing that before I started editing. I got serious about my writing in 1978. Although I’ve retired more times than Brett Favre, I’m writing my 19th book. Learn more about me at MichaelEdits.com.

© Michael LaRocca 2019

All https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com guest posts from before 2017 were included in Diary of an Indie Blogger VOL 1 which can be downloaded from AmazonKobo, or E-Sentral free of charge. All other guest posts from the original PPG Publisher’s Blog have been moved here: https://polishedpublishinggroup.com/category/guest-bloggers/.
You might consider syndicating this content on your own blog. If you do, make sure to attribute the original source so neither of us gets dinged on the SEO front. You can do that by including this line at the bottom of the article: This content first appeared on the PPG Publisher’s Blog and has been republished here with permission.