Monthly Archives: March 2018

Word Choice for Character Strength

Elizabeth Essex

My favorite things about any book is always the CHARACTERS—I like Pride & Prejudice more than Northanger Abbey, because I like forthright Lizzie Bennet more than I like silly but well-meaning Catherine Moreland. But I love Persuasion best of all because I LOVE sweet, kind, thoughtful, long-suffering Anne Elliot.

That is why I believe every word in your novel should serve two purposes:

— to move the plot forward,

— and give greater insight into the characters

so our readers have an authentic and immersive experience—that is, a unique experience that they witness through eyes, ears, sensory experiences and emotions of our characters.

We can achieve this by using “power words,” “scene-themed words,” but more especially “character-themed” words.

Power Words give strong images & associations and drive up tension

Scene-themed words give us the vital information to tell us where and when we are in the story and what’s going on.

Character-themed words give us insight into the mind and thoughts of our characters

But the MOST POWERFUL WORD is one that does double or triple duty in combining all three of these concepts together.

In my first drafts, I give myself permission to write lazily—to give an easy, generic  description, or fall back into cliché—just to get the action of the story down on paper. But once I can see the through-line of the plot, then I like to go back and find opportunities to inject as much POWER, SETTING and CHARACTER into my work as possible.

Let’s look at six specific examples from my latest Highland Brides novel, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Marry.

 Ewan Cameron, 5th Duke of Crieff’s joy was a rare and pleasantly exhilarating thing, like the hot tot of strong Scots whisky he tossed back to celebrate the good news—he was going to be married.

In this passage the character-themed phrase is “hot tot of strong Scots Whisky.” I could have said “he took a strong drink,” or “tossed back a bolt of brandy.” But I chose power words that would also place us strongly in the setting—the highlands of Scotland—and tell us more about the hero’s character—he’s a strong Scotsman through and through.

Note also: I’ve made this phrase punch over its weight by adding rhyme (hot tot) and alliteration (strong Scots) for cadence.

He slitted one eye open to see an auld fellow wearing a weather-beaten face leaning over him, inspecting him like a gralloched deer on a game larder hook.

Our character-themed phrase is Our character-themed phrase is like a gralloched deer on a game larder hook. I could have said (and probably did in my first draft), “like meat on a butcher’s counter,” which was a good, vivid description, but did little to punch up the setting and make the circumstances unique to the hero’s world. You don’t even have to know the Scots colloquial power word “gralloched” (gutted) to get a very visceral, vivid picture that is specific to this hero’s life in the Scottish countryside.

Greer knew she was no conventional beauty—she was too ordinary, too sharp-jawed, too flame-haired to be considered bonnie anywhere but Scotland—but she knew she was loved. Which gave one a different sort of beauty—a beauty that came from confidence in one’s merits instead of solely one’s looks.

In my first draft, I had used the rather ordinary phrase “considered pretty anywhere but Scotland.” But I made the phrase work a little bit harder with the simple use of a setting and character-specific colloquial word, ‘bonnie’ instead. It was a small change, but one that deepened both character and setting.

The lass came over the lip of the ridge like the sunrise—sweeping the glen with light and warmth. Not that he had been watching for her, but the peregrine falcons high on the cliff tops had nothing on him for sharpness of eye.

I could have said ‘the girl’ came over the ridge, but I chose the more colloquial, scene and character-specific word ‘lass.’ And then to describe the way the hero had been watching for her, I visualized his world in the highlands of Scotland, and decided that the sharpest eyes in his world would be peregrine falcons, which are native to the highlands. If this book had been set in the slums of London, I might have said the “cutty-eyed kid men of Covent Garden had nothing on him for sharpness of eye.”

[He was] afraid he would startle her into flight like a deer at the sound of a gunshot.

This character-themed phrase is specific to this hero’s life and surroundings. If this were a contemporary-set thriller, I might convey someone’s startlement differently: “the backfire made her hit the deck faster than a combat medic,” or something that would convey an instantly vivid picture of the character’s world and experiences. And this image from the hero’s background—he has stalked deer in these mountains—gives the strong, power word “gunshot” at the end of the sentence foreshadows that very soon in the book, someone is going to take a shot at this lass. 

 Her heart leapt like a highland dancer.

I could have just said her heart leapt—that would have given me a good visceral reaction. But I wanted to go deeper, and convey that this was a joyous reaction, not a fearful one. So I chose “highland dancer’ to create an uplifting image—all that colorful, pointed elegance—that is specific to the characters and the setting of the novel.

Lesson learned: We use a great many words over the course of a full-length novel—but we want to make them do more heavy hitting, but doubling, and tripling their power by adding scene-themed or setting specific words along with character-themed words that are specific to the hero and heroine’s experiences in their world.

Think about your own work in progress—what unique experiences does your character have that you can use in your story to give your readers an authentic experience? Please use the comments to share an example of before and after from your own work!

If you have questions or comments, I’ll be around to answer them, or you can write me at elizabeth@elizabethessex.com, or find me on Facebook, or Twitter and Instagram as @essexromance.

Wishing you all happy, powerful writing!

Source: writersinthestormblog.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How Long Should A Book Be? Word Count Guidelines by Genre.

A constant complaint I hear from agents, editors, writing teachers, and reviewers is that they see too many manuscripts with inappropriate word counts.

If you’re getting a lot of form rejections or simply silence from agents, reviewers and editors, this may be why.

Word count guidelines have been trending down in the last decade. Most editors won’t look at a debut manuscript longer than 100K words—a little longer if it’s fantasy or a non-romance historical. They were not so rigid ten years ago.

Now publishers—and many readers—won’t take a chance on any long book by an unproven author.

While readers will happily plunk down the big bux for an 819-page book by George R. R. Martin, they’ll turn up their noses at a book that long—even if it only costs 99c—if it’s written by Who R. R. You.

I know the “accepted wisdom” in the indie world is that if you self-publish, you can write whatever the heck you want and people will buy it. But that’s no longer the case. The wrong word count for your genre red-flags you as an amateur, and most readers don’t have time for amateurs.

Not when there’s so much professional-level stuff being self-published.

A decade after the beginning of the “Kindle Revolution,” too many readers have been burned by self-published bloated rough drafts. A reader is not likely to pick up a book that screams “I’ve been writing this in my spare time for the last 8 years and I refuse to rewrite and would never let an editor tamper with my genius.”

So don’t be that guy.

Word Count Guidelines By Genre

Word counts are generally agreed to be the count provided by MS Word’s “Word Count” tool. Some extremely old-school agents prefer that you use the formula of 250 words per page (double spaced, 12 pt. font) and calculate it yourself, which seems a silly waste of time, but always check agent websites for guidelines.

For debut authors, following these rules will seriously improve your chances of traditional publication and/or establishing a readership, no matter how you publish.

In other words, get famous first and break the rules later.

If you are a household name, you can publish a compendium of your shopping lists from the past two decades and your publisher will happily promote it and people will buy it.

Unfortunately, that’s not true for the rest of us.

Here is a summary of current word count guidelines. This is a composite taken from a number of publishing industry websites, so nothing is set in stone. Take these as target word counts.  Some publishers will accept longer or shorter books, so always check the website of an agent or publisher before you submit.

Note I say these are for “debut” fiction. Once you have a loyal fan base, you can break the rules with abandon.

Word Count Guidelines for Debut Fiction

Picture Books—text: 500-1000 words (32 pages is ideal.)

Middle Grade fiction—20K to 40K. (Yes, we all know about Harry Potter. And when you’re as famous as J.K. Rowling you can write MG tomes, too.) “Upper Middle Grade” can be a bit longer.

Young Adult fiction—25K to 80K.

Chick Lit—60K-75K.

Cozy Mysteries—55K-70K. (BTW, Agatha Christie’s mysteries sometimes came in at 40K words. I think we may be going back in that direction.)

Fantasy—90K-110K. Definitely down from the epic tomes of yore. Self-publishers can get away with more. Fantasy readers like big books and they cannot lie. 🙂

Historical fiction—80K to 110K+. (You can still wax verbitudinous in this genre.)

Literary fiction—65K to 100K, trending away from the higher numbers. “Spare and elegant” is the mark of literary chic these days.

Standard Mysteries and Crime Fiction—70K to 100K.

Romance—55K-75K. For subgenres of romance, check publishers’ guidelines. Word counts for specific romance lines can be very strict. Some historicals can be longer, although Regencies tend to be short.

Science Fiction—75K—100K. When there’s world-building involved a book generally needs to be longer.

Thrillers—80K to 100K.

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance—70K to 90K.

Westerns—50K-80K.

Women’s Fiction—70K-100K. The women’s fiction family saga has gone out of fashion recently, but they’re generally on the longer end.

Around 80K seems to be the magic number for most adult fiction. So if your ms. goes way over that, it may be time to put on your editor hat and get ruthless.

Word Count Guidelines for Nonfiction

Nonfiction books have shrunk drastically in the last decade. A study done last spring showed that the average length of a nonfiction bestseller has dropped 42% in the last seven years.

In 2011, the average length of a best-selling non-fiction book was 467 pages, but that dropped to 273 pages in 2017.

Nonfiction books get queried in the form of book proposals, so you don’t submit a complete manuscript (except for memoir, which you query like a novel.) That’s probably why word count guidelines for nonfiction are so hard to find. I’ve also found wildly different word count suggestions between agencies.

So treat these as word count “guestimates.”

Biography—80K-110K. These can be pretty long. Especially if your credentials are good.

Commentary—40K-60K. Not much info out there about word count guidelines for political and other opinion books. If you have appeared on cable TV news, you can probably get away with more verbiage.

Humor—20K-40K. For humorous memoir, follow memoir guidelines, and for funny novels, follow fiction guidelines, but for books like John Hodgman’s The Areas of my Expertise, Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys or the classic 1066 and All That, (only 128 pages and still in print after 80 years) keep it to 40K words or less.

Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction—40K-70K. You’ll probably want to prune a memoir if it goes over 70K. Books in this genre tend to get bloated without heavy editing. Remember you can write many memoirs about different aspects of your life.

Self-Help & How-To—20K-50K. In the age of ebooks, these are getting shorter all the time. My publisher had me cut my book The Author Blog down from 40K.  (And these days some ebook how-to’s are only 3500 words long.)

Travel and Nature—40K-70K A lot of these books blur boundaries with memoir.

What if Your Ms. Doesn’t Fit Word Count Guidelines? 

With both fiction and nonfiction, it’s best to err on the side of brevity these days. To quote Chuck Sambuchino, editor of the Guide to Literary Agents:

“Agents have so many queries that they are looking for reasons to say no. They are looking for mistakes, chinks in the armor, to cut their query stack down by one. And if you adopt the mentality that your book has to be long, then you are giving them ammunition to reject you.”

If your word count goes over the limit:

  • Consider splitting it into two books.
  • Or a trilogy. You’ll triple your income. 🙂
  • Are the extra words in there for world-building? Consider cutting some details and putting them on your blog.
  • Do some ruthless editing. Are you repeating yourself? Can you say something with one word instead of ten?
  • Can you condense some of those conversations with indirect dialogue?

If your word count is under the limit:

  • For literary fiction: Flesh out characters.
  • Thrillers: Weave in another subplot.
  • Crime fiction: Kill off a few more victims.
  • Or…maybe you’ve got a novella.

Novellas are hot.

Yes, old-school Big Five publishers (and Bookbub) still aren’t much interested in novellas, and some agents will reject on low word count alone.

But readers love them! Jane Austen fan fiction authors have been practically minting money with 140-page or less “Pride and Prejudice variation” Regency novellas in the last few years.

And forward-looking agencies like Fuse Literary offer “assisted self-publishing” for their authors to write novellas in between big novel releases. Their Short Fuse Publishing produces digital-first novellas in a number of genres.

For more on the popularity of the novella, check out Paul Alan Fahey’s post for us on the subject. Next June we’ll have a post from actress and bestselling author Mara Purl on the difference between writing a novel and a novella.

What about you, scriveners? Do you have a problem keeping to word count guidelines? Do you tend to write over or under the standard word count? Have you ever turned a long book into two or three?

By Anne R. Allen @annerallen
Source: annerallen.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Create Convincing Science Fiction Technology

Technology is a vital part of science fiction. Even if your story isn’t about a technological change, differences in technology will define the aesthetic of the setting and the possibilities available to the characters.

So how can you go about imagining convincing science fiction technology?

Why Convincing Technology Matters

Before delving too deeply into this, it’s worth considering why convincing technology matters. After all, other genres get away with making up whatever they like, as happens with fantasy and steampunk. Even some science fiction glosses over the details of technology, apparently treating it as unimportant.

One reason to pay attention to technology is your readers. While there are science fiction readers who don’t care about the details of the science, there are also many who do care. They’re passionate about understanding the underlying principles behind the way a future world works. They have a decent grasp on science and technology, which they will use to critique your work.

You can ignore these readers, but you do so at your peril. They often sit near the heart of fandom and can be among the most vocal advocates or critics of a book. Winning them over will provide you with a valuable support base, and if they don’t like your science then you’ll see it in your reviews,

There are other reasons too, beyond pleasing pedantic readers, reasons that will help you with your writing.

The first is that technology brings the world to life. Think about how much laptops, smartphones, and cars define our modern world. In the same way, the right technology can help to make your imaginary world feel real.

Developing a convincing system of technology can provide great inspiration for your storytelling. The way characters travel can inspire chase scenes. The way they communicate can inspire situations where they become cut off. The way they relate to their technology can shed light on how characters view the world and what inspires them.

Even if the outline of your story is already fully rounded, knowing how the technology works will make it easier for you to tell the story. If you know what makes a spaceship works then you’ll know how it could break down and how the crew might try to fix that. Knowing in advance means that you don’t have to stop the flow of writing to work it out.

How to Create Convincing Technology

The process of creating convincing technology starts with understanding modern technology and science, which means research.

Read up on the state of technology in the area you’re concerned with. What’s out there. How it works. How it’s used. Find out about what’s at the cutting edge, where experts in the field think this technology will go next. Look at how it got to this point, so that you can understand the way it develops over time.

When doing this, it’s important to look at the underlying principles. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s award-winning Children of Time is grounded in the fundamentals of evolution, not just the principle of information being passed on in the genes, but the way that this shapes changes over time. Though the evolution is exaggerated, the changes it creates in an insect population are convincing because they’re detailed and grounded in science. The result is an evolutionary pattern that is fascinatingly different from our world.

For most technology, you’ll need to consider design as well as science. A car’s design is about more than just the way an engine works and what makes an aerodynamic shape. It’s about how many passengers are included, where to seat the driver, where to place controls, how the vehicle provides feedback to the driver on what it’s doing, and a thousnad other factors. The same applies to any piece of technology, from a sword to a smartphone. So think about the design of the technology in your story. What aesthetics have shaped it? What issues of practical use? There are dozens of different ways the same tool could be designed, so look for one that says something about the society it’s used by.

While science fiction technology is mostly grounded in reality, it’s always going to depart from our world in some way – that’s what makes it science fiction rather than science fact. When deciding how to deviate from reality, it’s often good to work from the principle of the one big lie. This is one thing about the science of your setting that you’ve made up, like a form of psychic powers or faster than light travel. Readers will accept one or two big lies better than lots of little ones, as the one big lie and its consequences creat a coherent whole.

Work out the implications of your one big lie, including the different technologies that stem from it. Sell it well enough and your readers will believe.

Technology in Context

The way that technology is used is as important as the technology itself. Understanding how your technology fits into the world is vital to making it convincing.

New technology doesn’t start out as accessible to everyone. The Rocketpunk Manifesto blog has provided a simple, handy model for considering how it spreads and becomes more accessible.

First comes the experimental phase, in which the technology is unusual, unreliable, and only in the hands of a select few – think modern spaceflight. Then comes the government / megacorp stage, when the technology is mature and reliable enough to be replicated but costs so much that only huge organisations such as powerful nations can have it, as is currently the case for submarines. This is followed by a stage in which it’s accessible for commercial purposes and private ownership by the super rich, like owning an airliner. Finally the technology becomes available to private individuals, becoming ubiquitous, as smartphones have done in the past decade.

Understanding where on the spectrum your technology falls will help in understanding how it fits into the world you’ve created, how easy it is to access, and what challenges characters might face in getting hold of it. It’s also a useful way of setting limits on a technology, if making it ubiquitous would spoil your plot.

Once you’ve worked out the maturity level of the technology, think about who has it and why. What do they use it for? Why do they use this technology rather than something else?

Consider the consequences of the technology. For example, railways and the telegraph transformed western society. They made it possible for people, goods, and messages to travel at previously impossible speeds. The world became more connected, news travelled almost instantly, and the difference in power between nations with and without these technologies expanded hugely.

Technology can shape society in all kinds of ways. The need for precious metals for microelectronics has led to pollution and the mistreatment of miners in poor but resource rich countries. Those microelectronics have also allowed the internet, making most of human knowledge availalbe at the touch of a button. This has accelerated the pace of technological change, allowed dispersed social movements, fostered relationship between people on different continents…

You get the idea. The consequences of a technology can transform society on every level, and thinking that through makes your technology more real, as well as adding new story possibilties.

Case Study: Spaceships

Spaceship design, as discussed by Dr Nick Bradbeer in a presentation at Nine Worlds 2017, provides a great example of some of these principles.

Spaceships are currently at the experimental phase of maturity, though recent developments are nudging them into the national / megacorp zone. They’re very hard to make and get hold of, and they’re not entirely reliable.

The principles needed in designing a spaceship are similar to those in designing a ship. You have to take into account the ship’s role, its size, and its layout. The role will define what equipment is needed, such as weapons for a fighting ship or storage for a cargo ship. It will also tell you how many crew are needed. These parts together define its size, as there needs to be space both for specialist equipment and for crew facilities, incluing space for sleeping, eating, and recreation, as well as facilities to deal with waste, to create or make up for gravity, for people to do their jobs, etc. The layout is largely defined by finding the most efficient way to put these pieces together, inlcuding protecting people from the heat of engines and efficiently connecting different systems.

Design-wise, a spaceship can be pretty much any shape you want.  This creates freedom to make something that reflects the setting and culture you’re working with.

The big lie for spaceships is usually a faster-than-light drive. This is needed to connect together different places in an interstellar setting, and is such a common big lie that most readers will just accept it in some form.

So the research for spaceship design is a mixture of ship design and cutting edge space technology, combined with whatever design suits your vision.

Building Better Sci-fi Worlds

Whether you’re writing a vast space opera or a day-after-tomorrow dystopia, convincing technology makes for convincing science fiction. And along the way, it can provide you with the inspiration to make deeper, more interesting stories that engage your audience.

By Andrew Knighton
Source: refiction.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

15 Marketplaces to Publish Your Poetry

Since there are hundreds of publications in the US and abroad that publish poetry, finding the perfect fit for your verses may seem a bit overwhelming. If you’ve been writing and submitting for a while now, then you already have a list of publications on-hand. If you’re yet to publish your first poem or collection of poems, then you’ll want to start conducting targeted market research.

While you may want to aim for your favorite professional-level publication, sometimes it may take a while to get into its print – or cyber – pages. It’s important to remain positive and continue to focus on your craft by attending workshops, reading articles, creating – or joining – a critique group, and so forth.

The 15 Top Marketplaces to Publish Your Poetry

 

5 Markets for Mainstream Literary Poetry

5 Markets for Minimalist Poetry

5 Markets for Science and Speculative Fiction Poetry

What to Do Before Submitting

In general, many submission guidelines encourage you to send three-to-five poems at a time. So, once you have a completed file of poems to submit, here are just a few questions to ask before submitting your work:

  • Do you know the type of poetry this publication tends to publish?
  • Are you familiar with the editors’ likes, dislikes, and pet peeves?
  • Have you checked, double- checked, and triple-checked the guidelines and followed them to the letter?
  • Have you proofed and edited your poems? Read them out loud?
  • Have you workshopped the poems, and do they represent your “best” work?

If you responded, “yes,” to the questions above, then submit your poems with a nice cover letter, when requested, and be sure to note the guidelines for these as well.

Keeping Track of Your Submissions

One way to maintain awareness of your progress and success is to create a submissions log. If you’re a prolific poet that submits work on a weekly basis, for example, then a log is a valuable tool. If you’re new to being published, then you have a visual and interactive display to note the cumulative results of your actions.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s a good to keep track:

  • You are aware of which poems are being considered and by whom.
  • You know when they’ve been submitted, which is particularly important when noting how long you need to wait before querying.
  • You don’t inadvertently simsub (i.e., submit simultaneous submissions).
  • You don’t resubmit a revised poem(s) to a publication that indicates not to do this unless invited.
  • You will be able to note which publications you’ve considered for your work, thus determining if it’s a good market fit.

While some people may use Excel or another type of software, I create tables in a Word doc. Here are the categories in my current submissions log:

  • Date submitted
  • Publication and poem titles
  • Date accepted and specific issue
  • Date rejected
  • Payment amount

Since I set up my tables to allow for additional information, I also make note of the editors’ names, website URLs, and other information, such as editor comments, which are always appreciated. In addition to my regular submissions log, I also have a month-to-month table where I track the total number of submissions, rejections, and payment.

Visualize Success

One of my favorite motivational sayings is this: “What we focus on, grows.” I keep this in mind when writing, and yes, when opening my email to an acceptance or thank-you-for-submitting-but-it’s-not-a-good-fit-for-us letter. It’s also important to stay focused when, or if, those rejection notes seem to pile up. One of my early writing mentors told me that while I may be a good writer, it would be my dedication to craft and persistence that would make a significant difference. He was right.

Here’s to your success as a poet or with any other form of writing in which you choose to engage.

By Terrie Leigh Relf
Source: freelancewriting.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Writing Resources: Telling True Stories

Human beings are built for story.

Story is how we perceive the world around us and how we understand ourselves and other people. Through story, we learn and make connections. We use stories to map the future and study the past.

Stories are the single most effective tools for education, communication, and persuasion, which is why they are prevalent in advertising and political campaigning. Marketers know the power of story.

Stories are powerful because we see ourselves in them. We put ourselves into the stories we read and experience things we could never otherwise experience.

Put simply, stories transcend. 

Telling True Stories

Telling True Stories is, foremost, a book on the craft of narrative journalism, which is the art of telling true stories while adhering to the standards of journalism. It’s a dense book (the paperback is 317 pages) filled with essays about reporting and writing, but its greatest value is the experience and wisdom shared by its authors:

“Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.” — Jacqui Banaszynski, Telling True Stories

This collection of essays features some of the most successful and prominent journalists and nonfiction authors who gather every year for Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories offers their best insights from finding the right topic to structuring a story, from ethical considerations to building a career.

Insights from Telling True Stories

In my experience, reading books on the craft of writing that are outside my form or genre is one of the best ways to gain a deeper understanding of the craft as a whole. If you’re a fiction writer and all you do is read fiction (and books on fiction writing), you’re missing out on the many nuances of writing that are not addressed in the realm of fiction. I have found that my studies of poetry have greatly enriched all my other forms of writing, from copywriting and blogging to fiction writing.

So I wasn’t surprised to find that, even though I’m not a journalist, there were plenty of wonderful nuggets of writing advice and insight that I could apply to my own writing. Some insights were new; others were welcome reminders:

  • The ending must bring a payoff. (p. 28)
  • Every deep story involves a subjective person slamming into an objective world. (p. 35)
  • The first draft takes the longest and is the most painful. (p. 53)
  • You start with an unformed, fuzzy idea, throw it into a funnel, and out comes a focused, purposeful story. (p. 55)
  • Writing is like scraping off a piece of yourself; people can see beneath your skin. (p. 100)
  • Every detail you select should help communicate your story’s theme. (p. 147)
  • The editor is the reader’s professional representative. (p. 197)
  • Successful rewriting requires a fierce sense of competition with yourself, not anyone else. You must be dogged in reaching for your personal best. (p. 205)
  • When a good editor or another reader gives you feedback, listen hard to everything he or she says. This isn’t a time to protect your ego; it’s an opportunity to re-explore your story and force yourself to delve even deeper. (p. 207)
  • One way to attract readers is to create an irresistible central character, one the reader truly cares about. (p. 219)
  • Every story contains an engine: the unanswered question that keeps the reader going. (p. 220)

This is just a small sampling of the wit and wisdom that I discovered while reading Telling True Stories. But this isn’t one of those books that you can’t put down. I found that I needed to read it in small chunks, which is unusual for me since I usually either inhale a book or cast it aside after the first few chapters. With Telling True Stories, I wanted to read a few essays, then chew on what I’d read.

It also made me want to write. Sometimes I had to put the book down so I could work on my own story, (which is not a true story, by the way). Like I said, I’m not a journalist, but I learned a lot about my craft from the narrative journalists who shared their expertise and experience in this wonderful collection of essays.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for writing resources that you can use to strengthen your writing skills or inspire fresh ideas. Telling True Stories will be a valuable addition to your collection.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Increase Your Income as a Fiction Writer in 2018

Today’s guest post is by Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.

2017 was a wild year for authors.

We saw the rise of Amazon’s book advertising system, AMS, and the fall of most authors’ favorite publishing tool, Pronoun. We’ve seen more competition in Amazon, and even saw Amazon change some of the ways they do things, like the introduction of KDP print.

If Amazon wasn’t enough, Apple has promised to invest more in the book industry and Kobo has partnered up with Walmart, all in an attempt to take on Amazon, the current undesputed book sales champion of the world.

Plain and simple, the landscape is always changing.

That’s why it’s important for us authors to not only look to the future so as to improve our craft but also look at trends and ways in which we can earn more and thus gain a competitive edge in the new age.

More importantly, with the cost of successfully publishing and marketing our books rising, it’s becoming evident that we need to step back, look at our process, and see if there are ways we can get even more out of what we’ve already gotten.

It’s about increasing our writing revenue.

Luckily, there’s new information that can help us to not only market better but also gain more income in ways we may not have thought possible.

Here are three ways you can increase your fiction-writer income in 2018 so as to stay ahead of the pack and gain a new competitive edge.

1. Offer More Formats of Your Book

It’s amazing how many writers leave good money on the table by only offering their work in only one or two versions. With formatting programs like Jutoh, Scrivener, and Vellum, creating ebooks for all markets, and even print books, has never been easier.

But also, thanks to ACX, creating audiobooks is easy too. Audiobooks have become a major source of income for authors, and most analysts project this to only increase over the years.

But offering different formats has another big benefit other than direct sales—it pleases Amazon and the other book markets. One of the major factors as to why one book shows up over the other is conversion rate. Let me explain:

When someone does a search on Amazon, Amazon looks to see which book they ended up buying. If more people choose one book over another, Amazon’s search algorithm will make sure that that higher converting book will show up more—it seems to be the more profitable.

So, having all the different formats will give you a higher conversion rate and thus make Amazon show your book more often and in better rankings.

So, take a look at your titles and start offering your book in more markets and different forms. The future looks bright for authors who do so.

2. Monetize Your Email List Better With These

Many fiction authors have an email list, and if you don’t, you should definitely set one up as soon as possible.

However, most authors only use it to push their books, or network with other authors and email list share. Both of which are great uses. But there are more ways to earn a continuous stream of income and still provide for your readers—affiliate links to useful things.

There really are some useful ways to not only make an affiliate commission in your autoresponder series but also provide value. Below are a couple of the valuable offers any fiction author can offer to readers:

Audible Free Trial Offer: Through Amazon Associate, you can sign up to be an affiliate of Audible.  With that link, if anyone clicks it and signs up for a free trial, they get two free audiobooks, and you get $5. Basically, you can gift two free audiobooks and still make money. If they use their gift to purchase your audiobook, you get even more.

One important fact, though, is that with Amazon Associate, you can’t send the link via email (it’s prohibited). So, in this case, I write a blog post about it, and list my favorite audiobooks, and send an email directing my readers to that post.

Kobo Offer: Unlike Audible, you can email this link directly to your readers. If they click your Kobo affiliate link and sign up for a buyers’ account, they get $5 credit toward a book, and you get $10 credit. It’s not money, but what great writer doesn’t read a lot of books? This will help cut those costs big-time.

Scrivener Affiliate: You may be surprised that promoting a book-writing software like this helps. But in your fiction email list there are a lot of readers that truly want to one day write their book, if they haven’t already. So, getting a peek behind the scences on how you construct your book will be a great opportunity to not only connect with your readers but also make some affiliate sales as well.

If you haven’t tried Scrivener, be sure to check it out and sign up to be an affiliate. Also, you can offer your readers a 20% discount. Just go to a Scrivener discount website and find one, test it, and then send it out in your email. That will help get people over the fence on it.

As you can see, there are a lot of great ways to provide great value to your email readers and make some extra cash as well.

#3: Offer Side Services

Another way authors have been able to increase their revenue while still sharpening their skills is to offer writing or other author services like editing.

Many authors become editors in their genre not just for the money but also for the ability to keep up-to-date, improve their skills, and have an opporunity to network with other authors in their genre.

Also, if you decide to become an editor for a genre, and you have a website, contact us at Kindlepreneur.com and we’ll make sure to add you to our list of book editors. It shows up #1 in Google for the search “book editors,” so that should help you get some opportunities.

But editing isn’t all. Here are some ideas of side author services you could offer:

  • Book cover design
  • Ghostwriting
  • Proofreading
  • Coaching
  • Formatting
  • Book marketing services
  • Consulting for book launches

And more.

A new 2018 for Fiction Authors

As you can see, the world of book marketing and publishing is changing. But we don’t have to radically change in order to keep up. Just a couple things can help you not only stay ahead of the game but also increase your income as well.

Whether you add your book to more formats and markets, add affiliate links to your autoresponder email series, or take on a side author service, there are ways you can earn more, and keep ahead.

Which one will you put into use for 2018? Let me know in the comments.

Source: livewritethrive.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Poetry Prompts for Paying Tribute

Writers have been expressing their feelings through poetry for centuries. Rant poems release anger, melancholy poems reveal sorrow, and love poems declare affection. Some poems are meant to make readers laugh. Other poems make people think.

Tribute poems (or odes) express praise for the poem’s subject. Odes can be written to honor people, animals, objects, and abstract concepts. You can just as easily write an ode to your grandmother as you could write an ode to your imagination.

Today’s poetry prompts ask you to identify something or someone worth celebrating and then write a tributary poem honoring the subject you’ve chosen.

Poetry Prompts

Each of the poetry prompts below asks you to choose a different kind of subject. The prompts are designed to get you thinking about what matters to you and why and then inspire you to express your feelings through poetry.

  1. Someone you love: The most traditional odes are written to extol the virtues of a loved one. Whom do you love? Tell them why with a poem.
  2. Someone you admire: You don’t have to know or love someone to pay tribute to them. Write a poem honoring one of your heroes, someone who has, from a distance, made a difference in your life.
  3. An inanimate object: You can write a silly poem about how much you admire your toaster, or you can write a serious piece declaring the magnificence of an inanimate object with more meaning (something like a book, perhaps?).
  4. An abstract concept: Can you pay tribute to love itself? Write a poem honoring something that can’t be seen or touched: honor, passion, curiosity, or loyalty. Or music.
  5. Someone you despise or view as a villain: What happens when you look at your enemy and search for their merits? Can you see the good in someone you see as bad?
  6. A total stranger: Has a total stranger ever helped you? Have you ever thought about all the people in this world you’ve never met but who affect your life?
  7. A place: The beach, the mountains, the vast sea, and deep space are all great places for tributary poems. Write about the city you love, the town you call home, or your favorite vacation destination.
  8. Fandom: Write a poem to your favorite book, movie, song, or TV show.
  9. Satire: Turn your tribute on its head and write a tongue-in-cheek piece. Tell bad drivers, rude customers, and evil dictators how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Do it with a wink and a smile.

Do you ever use poetry prompts for ideas and inspiration? Did any of these prompts result in a poem? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Should Your Main Character Be Likable?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gotten the note: “Make your character less difficult. She’s not likable enough.” I didn’t do it on purpose; it’s just that my female characters tend to be complex, like the women I know. It happened when the female leads were opinionated. They had standards and held fast to them. They want. They railed against those who got in their way.

Should Your Main Character Be Likable 2

They were not compliant.

There aren’t that many female characters in literature or TV that can be considered difficult. Check out this list of unlikable characters from literature. There are female characters on there, yes, but the only female on it is Bella Swan of Twilight (a box I’d rather not open on this particular post).

Male characters with those difficult attributes are generally embraced by the public. Think Sherlock Holmes. A Man Called Ove. House. Sheldon Cooper. Nobody would ever call them compliant, yet they are beloved. Even those who may not be beloved (Dexter, Don Draper, Walter White) are still pretty darn popular.

What’s the Explanation?

Unlikable female main characters only seem to inhabit a limited number of genres. If you’re writing women’s fiction and not a thriller or literary fiction, you’re likely to find resistance with an unlikable female lead. Why is that? An editor might tell you that an unlikable female character won’t engage the average reader, and therefore not sell books. Upmarket fiction is a blend of literary and commercial: think generally the type of novel with a theme meaty enough for book clubs and enough plot to keep the average reader engaged. In this genre, I would bet that most female characters are likable.

Non-compliant women threaten to overturn our social norms. My guess is because although American society has made great inroads since women got the vote, it still hasn’t been all that long since women were considered property. Even those who consider themselves feminists are not always completely able to shake free of sexism. We don’t like it when women defy social norms. Celeste Ng’s terrific Little Fires Everywhere explores in part how the bourgeoise take down those women who defy unwritten cultural rules, fearing that their own lives will be called into question.

Also think of Elizabeth Strout’s character Olive Kitteridge. Nobody could call Olive likable. She’s thorny, with standards that others find it impossible to live up to. She messes up her relationships. And she doesn’t care what others think. Essays have been written about her unlikability. Same with Claire Messud’s Nora in The Woman Upstairs. Messud told Publisher’s Weekly, “If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?’”

Should Your Main Character Be Likable?

That’s up to you. Perhaps an unlikable narrator is just not right for your story. Or perhaps you’ve written a deliciously non-compliant difficult woman for a thriller, and you want to keep her that way. Whether or not your character is likable in the traditional sense, their actions must be borne out of a grounded place. And of course, even if your character’s unlikable, they must still be interesting.

But if it’s important to your story that the reader identify with your character and it’s bothering you that your main character is labeled difficult, then there are a few ways you could amend that.

What Makes a Difficult Character Likable?

Here are two TV examples of difficult women. Sophia in The Golden Girls is pretty crotchety, but hey, we can excuse her because she’s super old. And she loves her daughter, and her daughter’s devoted to her.

April Ludgate from Parks and Rec is also difficult. But she loves the resident doofus, Andy. And she secretly loves everyone. And by the end of the series, April has softened considerably.

Perhaps that’s the key—audiences like to see those difficult females actually do love certain people and transform. We know that Sophia’s not going to change because she’s too old, and her blunt snarkiness is key. But someone like April could change.

And this could be true with some of the male main characters I cited. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really love anyone deeply, except maybe Watson—and he still abuses the poor guy quite a bit. But we forgive him because he’s a GENIUS! And in the newer BBC series, we do see a little character development with him.

In A Man Called Ove, Ove’s backstory slowly unspools. We learn of his despair since he lost his wife, and how important she was to him. There’s a warm cast of characters who believe in him despite his gruffness. He changes, too. He also saves and then cares for a stray cat.

So if you want readers to like your difficult character:

• Make someone else see the good in them.
• Give them something to love. A plant, a pet, a sibling she saves from death (Katniss!), a lost love.
• Add humor. A difficult character with biting wit is more fun to read than one who’s not only difficult but humorless.

Has anyone told you to make your female main character more likable? Do you think the “likability factor” holds true for gender non-binary characters as well? Do you think an upmarket women’s fiction book market would support an unlikable female main character? What are your favorite books, films, and TV shows featuring unlikable main characters?

By
Source: writerunboxed.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Sneak Peek at Story Drills: Character Arcs

Today’s post offers a sneak peek at my forthcoming book, Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises for Building Storytelling Skills. This exercise examines character arcs. Enjoy!

Character Arcs

In storytelling, an arc is a path of transformation. A character arc is the journey that a character experiences throughout the course of a story, which leads to a significant change.

Changes can occur internally or externally. Characters can acquire or lose knowledge, skills, or emotional strength—or they can gain or lose relationships, material possessions, or status. Some of the best character arcs are a combination of both internal and external transformations.

A character’s arc can be positive or negative. Most heroes emerge from a story wiser, stronger, or better off in some significant way. However, some characters experience a downward spiral—they are on top of the world when we meet them, and then we watch them fall. A character’s arc can also wind through the story’s events—up and down—only to lead back to where they were at the beginning.

An arc is common—some say essential—for a protagonist, but any character in a story can experience an arc. In Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, the protagonist, Luke Skywalker, undergoes significant growth, but supporting character Han Solo also gets a meaningful arc that is critical to the story.

At its core, an arc signifies change and gives the events of the story deeper meaning—after all, stories are about conflict, and what good is conflict if it doesn’t produce meaningful change in our lives?

These changes range from deeply significant to superficial. Some characters will start out as store clerks and end up as store managers. Others will save the world.

Character arcs don’t appear in all stories. Stories with minor or nonexistent character arcs are usually plot driven. For example, police procedural series tend to focus more on showing the detective solving crimes in each installment without undergoing much meaningful personal transformation.

There are some common milestones that characters experience throughout an arc, especially the protagonist. These include establishing goals or realizing that they want or need something; facing conflicts and challenges; making difficult decisions; and experiencing the consequences of their decisions (good and bad). As a result of these experiences, the characters are transformed by the end of the story.

Study:

Choose a character from a story you know well and plot the character’s arc, noting the gains, losses, and transformations that the character experiences as the story progresses. Make sure you note the corresponding story event with the change that it effects in the character.

Practice:

Start with the following premise: A child’s mother dies while the father is overseas on a top-secret mission. The child is put in foster care for almost a year until the father returns. Make a list of five plot points and how each of these events changes the protagonist. Then write a short paragraph describing the protagonist’s arc over the course of the story. Feel free to come up with your own story premise for this exercise.

Questions:

Can you think of any protagonists that don’t change over the course of a story? Can you think of some supporting characters who experienced significant arcs? How does a character arc enrich the reader’s experience?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Stumped for Story Ideas? Try This One Tip

In a recent episode of Jane the Virgin, the main character, Jane, is stumped for story ideas. She already published one book, but that was inspired by her dramatic telenovela-like life. She’s convinced that she has no other story to tell.

one tip 2

When she shares her dilemma with her fellow writing-class students, they assure her that what she described is not a problem at all. She doesn’t need new story ideas. Why?

Because she can retell the same story.

Follow the Heat

Cheryl Strayed calls this “following the heat.” Her most famous book is Wild, a memoir about the hike that help her deal with her mother’s death.

But she wrote about that period of her life and the loss of her mother repeatedly. She wrote personal essays about it and fiction inspired by it. She told and retold her story as many times and as many ways as she could.

That’s following the heat.

There are so many examples of authors rehashing the same story ideas and telling stories about the same thing over and over again. Philip Roth is one of the most prolific American writers ever—somehow Newark, NJ manages to find its way into most, if not all, of his books. In the show, Jane’s fellow classmates astutely point to Jamaica Kincaid and John Updike and their tendency to return to the same themes or characters.

Tell and Retell

So, do you feel like you’ve already told your one great story?

No problem. Tell it again.

Tell it from a different perspective (e.g, a side character). Zoom in on a specific moment or zoom out to show how it fits into something bigger. Try telling your great story in a different format: perhaps a personal essay instead of a novel, or vice versa.

It’s OK to take the same story ideas and tell your story again and again and again.

Can you think of other writers who have told and retold the same story? Let us know in the comments.

By Monica M. Clark
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing