Leslie Malin on Nonfiction Writing and Why Your Ideas Are Worth Sharing

Nonfiction writing seems like a completely different bear than writing fiction. How do you gather your ideas and present them in a coherent, interesting way? And if someone else has written on the same topic before, should you even bother?

Nonfiction, to me, seems way more intimidating to write and, quite frankly, seems like dry work. It reminds me of textbooks and yawning through late nights in college.

In today’s article, Leslie Malin gives us some great insight into how she came around to writing her first nonfiction book and the lessons she had to learn along the way. And she reminds us that writing nonfiction requires some of the same skills as writing fiction: storytelling.

Nonfiction writing isn’t that different

After talking with this month’s interviewee, I realized fiction and nonfiction writing have a lot in common. Neither are boring to write (or read!) if you are passionate about the subject matter. Both require knowledge of story arc and characterization. Both are born from a passion for the topic and an urge to let others see your words.

And, arguably most important, both are written to provide something to the reader, whether that be an escape or a solution to a problem.

Today we’re talking with Leslie K Malin, LCSW, author of Cracked Open and the forthcoming The Work-Life Principle, about writing nonfiction.

Leslie has a forty-year professional career as a psychotherapist, Career-Life Transition Coach, human resources training and development specialist, non-profit executive in mental health and social service agencies, public speaker, entrepreneur, author, and painter.

You can find Leslie online on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or her current website. And stay tuned for her upcoming website dedicated to her second book!

Here’s how Leslie came about writing nonfiction:

Tell me a little about Cracked Open and what inspired you to write it.

This book emerged rather like a dream. I didn’t begin it with the intention of it becoming a book. I love quotations and found myself drawn to collecting quotations about failure, loss, doubt, hope, and overcoming challenges.

As my collection grew, it suddenly called to become a book. I don’t know how else to explain it. I reread each quotation and found myself writing a one-page “reflection” of each one, and kept adding. They became a meditation, a musing, a sharing of myself, a memoir of sorts.

This book became a calling for me to show-up authentically, honestly, and sometimes with a rawness that is not typical of me!

That sounds like an amazing experience with writing. Since this is so personal to you, how did you decide you wanted to publish it? What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading it?

This is an interesting question. Once it began to unfold more like a book I began sending out new sections to five friends who would read them and respond to assess if they found the writing and way of presenting the material interesting. I also joined The Write Practice and began posting my writings weekly to see how they fared in an environment of mostly fiction writers.

While, in truth, I didn’t get lots of feedback, what I did receive from three or so writers so more than encouraging and supportive. Ruthanne Reid, whom I had really grown to respect, wrote to me, insisting that I finish this book. The feedback showed me that my experience, while personal, was also meaningful and motivating for others.

What did I want my readers to come away with after reading it? As a psychotherapist and life-career transition coach and other roles I’ve had, I knew firsthand how devastated people can feel post-failure, how self-doubt can be crippling, and how fear to move forward can envelop one’s soul.

Cracked Open is for everyone. Its message is that being human guarantees failure, fear, and doubt and, rather than shrinking us, they can become the portal to discover an expanded awareness, an opportunity for unanticipated growth, and a gift of immeasurable value.

We have a lot of advice for fiction writers on this blog, but a lot of writers don’t realize writing nonfiction can be very similar to writing fiction. For instance, you have to have a problem in both types of books, and that problem must ultimately be solved. Can you talk a bit about the similarities between writing nonfiction and fiction?

I’ve never written fiction — although I’d love to one day. However, I’ve read a ton of fiction from the masters to summer beach reading. Given my professional orientation as a psychotherapist and career-life coach, writing about life, work, the highs of success, and the depths of failure, writing nonfiction seemed like a natural genre for me.

Actually, I have become far more familiar with the similarities between fiction and nonfiction as I am writing my newest book, The Work-Life Principle: Pathways to Purpose, Passion, Authenticity and Wisdom. I workshopped the first draft by joining the 100 Day Challenge. This structure created the discipline to finally write the first draft which has been inhabiting my mind for years!

After the Challenge was over, I opted to work with a fabulous Story Grid coach (still in process). She is teaching me that nonfiction also has characters that play an enormously important role in “telling the story” of the mountain climb to purpose, passion, authenticity, and wisdom.

These characters are real people whom I have worked with individually and in groups as well as conducting a number of interviews to go deeper into people’s journey, challenges, struggles, and arriving at meaning. Then, in the writing I can share their experiences, thoughts, feelings, disappointments and successes.

They make the nonfiction come alive. They are the essence of nonfiction, aren’t they!

I am also learning that the structure of nonfiction shares another common ground with fiction. It has to have an arc which builds, crests, and then resolves. While the reader knows from the beginning where we are heading, they have no idea of how we will get there, what successes and allies we will find along the way nor where the shadows and cautions to proceeding will appear. And, finally, how the entire “story” will resolve.

This learning has been significant. I can look at my work in an entirely new way. I now see it as a Dorothy in OZ journey — a hero’s journey.

Even though you don’t write fiction, do you think there’s anything inherent to nonfiction that’s harder to write than fiction? Or vice versa?

I am actually a bit frightened of writing fiction! I am not sure that I have ever believed that I have the imaginative capacity to develop a compelling storyline with meaningful characters.

Yet, there is this longing to try my hand at it, just to see what it will call forth from me. What I might discover about myself, to push through the “FEAR” and practice what I preach! Stay tuned.

What do you think is the hardest thing about writing nonfiction? 

To me, writing nonfiction has to have a specific issue or subject matter that matters to me and about which I have the experience, a point of view, and knowledge that can provide value to the reader.

Also, gaining clarity about who your audience is, forming an avatar of the perfect person who you are aiming your book towards can keep you on target and focused on the information that can most benefit as well as attract them. I have found that defining that avatar can be the most challenging piece of the process.

While I may believe that what I have to share could be valuable to many, it is definitely more compelling and relevant to some who may share an age or gender category, are at a particular stage in their lives and/or work, are in a similar socio-economic situation. It determines what kind of assumptions you may make, the kind of language you use, the stories you tell, etc. It doesn’t exclude others but it feels more of a fit for some.

You’ve mentioned before that you wrote your second book, The Work-Life Principle, in our 100 Day Book program. In that program, we focus on getting the first draft out on paper as fast as possible. Do you think that’s a beneficial process for writing nonfiction?

As I mentioned briefly above, one of the best decisions I made was to join the 100 Day Book program. Without that challenge, I wonder if this book would still be looping around in my brain!

The Challenge not only “forced” me to assign time to write, deadline and word counts to be accountable for, and helped me to just “put it down” on paper as rough and unstructured as it might be. The program taught me to let go of trying to be perfect and embrace what was to emerge.

It was a sort of brain-drain that would have time and space to be sorted out in the future. Once there is a first draft, there is a trajectory, a path, a distance and increased objectivity that I find to be invaluable.

You went into your second book with the full intention of it being a book, unlike the spontaneous emergence of your first. How was this different for you? Was the process more stressful?

The subject matter for The Work-Life Principle has been in my mind, some already written chapters, presented in an online seminar as well as in public speaking for many years. Its original title was “Finding Yourself on the Way to Work” as that is the essence of the book’s teaching.

When the 100 Day Challenge was announced, I was thinking of doing another book in the series of Reflections of Cracked Open. However, The Work-Life Principle wouldn’t let go of me and I felt that until I tackled that and finally put it down as a book that I couldn’t move onto something else. It was unfinished business and the fact that its substance has been a companion for so long meant that it demanded to be birthed.

The process has been more arduous — still is as I haven’t yet finished it, because it required more research, reading scholarly papers on the topics of work-life satisfaction, changes in needs as people reach mid-career and beyond, neuroscience and its discoveries about the brain and changes over time, and the like.

During the Challenge I only wrote down what I already knew and had thought through so that I could nail down a first draft. The research continues as does my evolving clarity about how to present the material to have impact and clarity, as well as a story-line.

I’ve conducted many interviews with people in different professions and stages in their lives to enrich the book with real-life stories and feedback from others about Purpose, Passion, Authenticity, and Wisdom in their work and careers. The interviews have been rich and rewarding but have thrown me off track from the writing.

I am on the return to writing phase now as well as working with my Story Grid editor which imposes an important but new demand.

What is the most difficult thing about writing for you? Have you overcome that obstacle and, if so, how?

Stay consistent in showing up to write.

I have a sizeable private psychotherapy and coaching practice that takes three full days of my time. Often, on my first day off I feel that I need to down-shift and do chores, etc. I also paint one day a week.

My challenge now is to take the deep dive and finish what I have begun. That means re-establishing disciple and scheduled times to write. I am returning to my editor with some set accountability dates to move forward and to perhaps take a week off from my practice and just write.

I am thinking about checking into a retreat house where there is enforced quiet and just settling in. I’m hoping that will recharge my batteries!

What advice would you give to other nonfiction writers just starting out?

Let yourself lay down that first rough, often messy, or gap filled draft. That can become the foundation of what follows. It’s a brain drain and allows you to get the material out of your head and looping thoughts and become a concrete, if unfinished, reality.

Maybe you’ll decide to publish it, perhaps you won’t — it doesn’t matter as much as working through it and building your author chops at the same time.

It’s all about the story

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or memoir, remember that you’re telling a story. Your narrative must build, crest, and resolve, no matter the subject. This arc is what people are used to and expect. Most importantly it’s what keeps your readers turning pages!

Thanks to Leslie for agreeing to talk with me!

You can find Leslie’s first book, Cracked Open, on Kindle or in paperback now! The Work-Life Principle will be available winter 2019. Be sure to sign up for Leslie’s newsletter or follow her on social media to stay in the loop with publication news!

If you were to write a nonfiction book, what would you write about? Let me know in the comments!

By Sarah Gribble

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Overcome the Fear of Coming Out as a Writer

Are you nervous about coming out as a writer?

Maybe you just want to write for yourself and not share your words with others? It can be scary putting yourself out there.

I have that fear too – even after writing and publishing hundreds of posts and a range of books.

A short while ago, I heard something that totally changed my mind about this. Watch the short video below about the magic words I heard.

Click on the image to watch the video.

Source: writetodone.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How Joining a Writing Community Helped These 11 Authors Get Published

I recently reached out to several writers in our Write to Publish community to ask whether joining a writing community has helped them get published, grow their audience, and make progress on their journey to becoming bestselling authors.

Getting published is an amazing, exciting process. It can also feel a little mysterious, especially if you’ve never done it before. What does it take to publish? More than that, what does it take to publish successfully—to publish a beautiful piece of writing and share it with crowds of readers?

I’ve worked with hundreds of writers as they navigated the publishing process, sometimes for the very first time. In fact, I built Write to Publish, our platform and publishing program, to help writers master publishing.

The Fundamental Truth About Publishing

There’s one fundamental truth about publishing that many writers don’t realize. Here it is:

That may sound strange. There’s this stereotype of the great author secluded away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, writing all day and night in an isolated haven of inspiration. Eventually, he emerges with a genius manuscript, sends it off to a publisher, and publishes the next Great American Novel.

Personally, I believed that stereotype for a long time. But what I’ve found, and what the eleven writers I talked to have found, is that it’s simply not true.

On the contrary, if you want to be a successful author, you need other people.

Joining a Writing Community Can Help You Get Published

Some writers knew they needed a writing community around them in order to publish their writing. Rev. Jonathan Srock, an undelivered minister who shares his stories and writing about faith at jonathansrock.com, was looking for a writing community when he joined Write to Publish. “I joined the program so I could learn how to publish my work and be surrounded by a community of authors who understood what it was like. And I’ve made some great friends along the way!”

Others discovered along the way how important community is at every step of the writing journey. Imogen Mann, a recovering lawyer who writes fiction and business documentation at imogenmann.com, says her Write to Publish community shifted her thinking about collaboration. “I’ve learned that the writing process is just as collaborative and multi-tiered as the publishing process,” she says. “This was a bit of a revelation but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense — it’s the same in any profession.”

Pharmacist and novelist Kim Williams (birdsofafeatherbooktogether.blog), credits the community she found with helping her actually follow through on publishing her writing. “Being part of a community of like-minded people is worth its weight in gold,” she says. “Left to my own devices, I may not have pursued my passion.”

Psychologist Suzanne Ruiter, who writes children’s books and articles about education at suzanneruiter.com, enjoys getting to know other writers who “get it,” who understand the joys and challenges of publishing your writing. “We writers need each other to get there,” she says. “We are busy doing a difficult job with a lot of tasks we have to get familiar with, and the best people we can find to support us are people who are learning to do so too.”

Each of these writers have connected with a community that supports them at every step—and each one points back to that community as a core part of their success.

Joining a Writing Community Is the Secret to Finding Readers for Your Writing

When I talk with writers about the importance of finding your Cartel, of building a community to give you a boost in your publishing efforts, I always hear some form of the same question:

But I want to share my writing with readers, not other writers. Why should I connect with writers instead?

I get it. We all want to build an audience of readers who will buy all our stories and books and even share them with their friends.

But here’s a truth that might surprise you: the way to build your audience of readers is to connect with other writers.

“I need to build a solid author platform and I feel that the first and best way to do it is to belong to a community of writers,” says Jane Kavuma-Kayonga, who writes stories to change people’s lives at apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog.

Horror writer Iseult Murphy, who shares her writing at iseultmurphy.com, agrees. “I loved the emphasis [in Write to Publish] on putting together a team of writers who would support and encourage you, and you them, on your writing journey. Then, when it came to your work being published, you had a network of people to help promote your work. I loved this idea and thought I would get plenty of useful tips on how to get my work read, which I did.”

“Most writers want to be read and I can only do that by sharing and being part of a bigger community,” says author David Rae (davidrae-stories.com). “Being part of the community has made me a better writer and more professional and ambitious in my approach.”

“Actual publication is easy, but . . . getting attention to what you publish is hard,” says award-winning children’s story author Tamara Paxton, who shares her writing at tamarapaxtoncopley.com. “I learned that getting an email list, writing cartel, and reviews are everything.”

For Karen Bellinger, a creator of stories across multimedia platforms at thetimescribe.com, connecting with other writers was the difference between successful publication and shouting into the void. “This program has taught me that building a community and using it to help you craft your very best work BEFORE you hit publish is absolutely critical. Not just because it gives you the invaluable feedback needed to improve initial drafts, but because otherwise, your hard work risks disappearing into the internet ether, never to find its audience.”

When you connect with other writers, you gain access to a much wider base of readers. If you want readers to find your writing, reach out to other writers first.

Sharing Your Writing Is Hard—And Rewarding

Publishing your writing is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. When you publish, you invite other people to read your writing. That’s a vulnerable thing to do—your writing is your personal creation, after all, and you never know how people will respond to it.

One of the best things you can do is to share your writing with a few writers you trust before you publish it publicly and send it out into the world. Supportive writers will give you the feedback you need to craft your best piece of writing.

Plus, the act of sharing in a small, low-stakes setting is great practice for sharing your writing with the wider world.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, for many writers, this was the hardest part of Write to Publish.

“[The most challenging part of this process was] shyness,” says David. “We’re all self-conscious shrinking violets. Sharing work and communicating to other people does not come naturally to me at any rate.”

But he says it was worth it to be bold and share his writing. “Almost always, sharing and reading comments on your work leads to improvement and to seeing your work move in exciting new ways. And really, what is better that having someone read and comment on your work?”

Imogen and Karen agree. “Having to collaborate and ‘expose’ myself online was hard. I’m naturally a self contained person, so working with people I didn’t know was initially uncomfortable,” says Imogen. “I’ve always had to do this in my work, and it never gets easier, you just get better at dealing with it.”

“The hardest thing for me has been stepping out of my comfort zone — not just writing my stories down, but releasing them into the greater world and soliciting feedback on them,” says Karen. “Necessary as both publication and critique are if we are to improve as writers, that’s really scary!”

Jonathan appreciates the feedback and support of his fellow writers, which makes sharing more than worth it. “Having others [look] at my work and critique it is extremely helpful. . . . The kindness of other writers . . . is both helpful and welcome. They make me a better writer!”

It’s Okay to Ask for Help from Your Writing Community

For some people, sharing their writing was the hardest part. For others, it was asking for help.

“The most challenging part has been learning to ask for help from other writers. It seemed impolite to ask,” says Cathy Ryan, who writes speculative and real-life fiction at cathyryanwrites.com. But, she adds, “writers need to help each other so our voices can be heard.”

Madeline Slovenz, who writes realistic fiction for children, young adults, and open-minded grownups at madelineslovenz.com, agrees that asking for help takes courage, and that it’s absolutely essential. “I have learned that it takes courage to ask for help, but unless we can step up and say, ‘I’m excited to tell you that I’ve published a story,’ our work will sit in a digital file that is unlikely to be found.”

“Dare to ask,” says Suzanne. “Make that first step with people who are in the same position: you are not the only one who is struggling. There are very warm, intelligent other writers who also try to find their way in this.”

When You Join a Writing Community, You Might Make Surprising Connections

You never know how someone might respond when you reach out.

Iseult knew before she began that she needed the support of other writers. What she didn’t know was how to connect with authors she admired — authors a few steps ahead of her in their careers, people who seemed inaccessible until she reached out.

“Because of this course I have approached successful authors I have read and admired for years and they have agreed to talk with me — something I would never have considered before taking the course,” she says. “I have learned a lot from my conversations with them.”

It’s intimidating to reach out to other authors. But many writers are far more accessible than you might imagine, and are happy to connect with another writer.

They know as well as anyone that building an author career isn’t a solo activity. We all need community to support us along the way.

The First Step to Publishing: Find Your Writing Community

Publishing your writing is an amazing goal. But before you publish, I have a question for you:

Have you found your writing community yet?

Who will support you in your writing and publishing journey? Who will give you feedback, spur you on when you’re discouraged, help you navigate unfamiliar challenges, and celebrate with you when you share your writing with the world?

And if you haven’t found your community yet, or if you want to publish but you’re not sure how to get started, I’d love to support you.

The next semester of Write to Publish is now open. Will you join Cathy, David, Iseult, Jonathan, and more in connecting with writers and publishing your writing?

 

Your writing is worth sharing. And if it’s worth sharing, it’s worth collaborating with other writers to share it.

How do you collaborate with other writers? Let me know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The Hero’s Journey: How to Leverage the World’s Most Powerful Story Structure

From Moses to Star Wars, the Hero’s Journey is the foundation of millennia of storytelling. How can you leverage it in your own writing?

Do you want your stories to “work?”

Writers work hard at their craft. They struggle to build a story that makes sense and delivers the goods on emotion and thrills.

And so often, even after months and years of labor, a writer can’t get their story to “work.”

There are a lot of reasons why a story might not work — why it confuses readers or fails to engage them emotionally — but one major reason a story doesn’t work is structure.

Thankfully there’s a structure you can use that has a proven track record of success. This successful record is so long, in fact, that we don’t know when it started.

That structure is called the Hero’s Journey, and it’s going to transform your writing.

What Is the “Hero’s Journey”?

Our understanding of this classic structure begins with American literature professor Joseph Campbell. Campbell was interested in the way mythology affects our lives today and began digging into myths — lots of myths.

In 1949 he published The Hero With a Thousand Faces outlining what has come to be known as his “monomyth,” a theory that all stories are, in fact, the same. That “same story” is the Hero’s Journey.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A girl from the middle of nowhere wakes up one day to find that things are horrible, and someone has to do something about it. But she’s scared, and can’t bring herself to stand up and fight back . . . until the village elder arrives and teaches our young protagonist the ropes.

The girl sets out to find the source of her society’s problems, forcing her to leave. Along the way she encounters new faces, some of whom join her as companions, others of whom try to kill her or steal her valuables. She suffers some loses along the way, learning some truly difficult lessons.

Then, she and her companions find the source of evil: some kind of mighty fortress. The heroes storm the fortress and come face-to-face with the villain. The hero and the villain square off and the hero is killed or mortally wounded . . . only to use her resources to recover and vanquish the bad guy for good.

The hero and her surviving companions return home triumphant and bestow some kind of blessing, like food, rain, or peace, on the community.

If you’ve heard a story like that, then you know the Hero’s Journey.

Here are some examples.

“I Know This Story . . .”

Have you heard the story of the orphan boy living in the cupboard under the stairs?

Or perhaps the story of the girl in District 12 (the crappiest District) who would not only survive an unwinnable deathmatch, but become a symbol of liberty?

Maybe you’ve heard of the baby boy who was going to die in a mass genocide, but whose mother put him in a basket and sent him down the Nile River . . .

If you didn’t catch those, here they are in order: Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and . . . Moses.

There are also variations of it, like the Anti-Hero’s Journey, a story arc for characters like Tony Soprano and Walter White. Either way, it’s still based off Joseph Campbell’s foundational research in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. 

So here’s the big question: Now that you know what it is, what do you do with it?

Hero’s Journey Step #1: Start Ordinary

We have Hollywood screenwriter and executive Christopher Vogler to thank for our condensed version of the Hero’s Journey. If you’re curious, his most notable credit is a film that makes explicit use of the Hero’s Journey: The Lion King. 

Fun sidebar: The Lion King and the story of Moses in Exodus have the exact same structure. Attempted rise to power, failure and flight, return and victory.

In Vogler’s simplification of Campbell’s theory, there are twelve steps to the Hero’s Journey (and I’m going to cover each one in-depth in this series, of which this post is the first).

The first step of the Hero’s Journey: The Ordinary World.

6 Common Features of the Ordinary World

Let’s take a look at the elements of the Ordinary World. Some of these are essentials, while others aren’t necessarily essential, but are common in the vast majority of Hero’s Journey stories you’ll encounter.

1. The Average Joe

Every story begins with an “Average Joe.” He or she is someone you could be, or could be near to.

Think about how simple or average Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are, at least at first. Yes, they both have something interesting about them (Harry’s scar, Katniss’s hunting skill), but neither of these things are earth-shattering . . . yet.

2. No Parents

Another notable trope of this step is a lack of proper parents. Think about it: How many heroes do you know of whose parents are either missing, dead, or nonexistent? Orphans abound in heroic journeys.

Harry Potter’s an orphan, and Katniss has to play the mother role. Moses’s father is a mystery and he is given up as an orphan. Luke Skywalker’s parents are . . . well, you know. And Rey, in the newer Star Wars movies, is obsessed with finding out the truth of her family. More on that to come in December 2020.

3. A Disadvantageous Beginning

This has a powerful effect of bringing these heroes low. They begin at a disadvantage. How many heroes do you know of with a rock-solid family and support structure in place? There are some, but they are few and far between.

Take Peter Parker/Spider-Man, another classic orphan. He’s been adopted by his aunt and uncle (RIP Uncle Ben) because his parents are dead/missing/who knows. Even Superman, with his adopted Earth parents, feels like a stranger because his true parents died during the explosion of his home planet, Krypton. Even these mighty superheroes suffer from a trauma that human beings know all too well: the destruction of family and community.

4. A Simple, Mundane, Boring Life

Many elements of the Ordinary World are obvious. Your hero’s life is simple, mundane, even boring. He or she is often from the countryside, or lives as a stranger in the crowded, soulless metropolitan bustle.

5. Low Expectations

Other elements are less obvious. One is that no one expects anything of the hero. He is assumed to probably amount to nothing. That is, by everyone except the Mentor character (coming soon in Step #4!). It will be the Mentor who recognizes the hero’s potential heroism and talent and coaches him into that role.

6. A False Sense of Security

Another element of the Ordinary World is a false sense of security. Everything should seem, at least on the surface, peaceful and well. But in the underbelly of this world — or lingering outside its boundaries — conflict and injustice rages.

I’m reminded of the tranquil peace of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings, embodied by the jovial mood at Bilbo’s birthday party. Yet that mirthful spirit is erased once Bilbo uses his magic ring — the One Ring of Evil, we soon learn — to play a trick on everyone. From that point forward, the Shire is no longer peaceful and safe, but a fragile domain whose borders are penetrated by wraiths and wild creatures in search of Sauron’s Ring.

This, of course, is the Inciting Incident, the step where you SHOULD begin your story (for the sake of hooking your reader). But that Inciting Incident, or “Call to Adventure,” must happen in the context of a quiet, seemingly peaceful world where your hero is a nobody who isn’t expected to do much at all.

3 Ways to Create Your Ordinary World

How does this apply to the stories you’re telling? Here are elements of the Ordinary World you can use to bring your hero low before they begin the climb to greatness.

1. Upset the parent structure

To keep things fresh, don’t just “kill them off.” Maybe one is missing. Maybe the parents are divorced and mom/dad remarried, while the other is off on some adventure.

A great example of innovation within this element is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, where Peter Quill’s journey (as an orphan, mind you) takes him back to his father with plenty of twists along the way.

2. Lower the expectations

In the beginning, no one can know how heroic your protagonist will be. Don’t fall victim to cheesy irony or heavy-handed foreshadowing. Keep your hero low, and bury him/her in the judgment of the community.

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The same can be said for the community, or “World,” itself. Often a community will expect nothing of itself because no one expects anything of it.

Think about that town you grew up near that was “trash.” Maybe it was your town. What effect does that have on its people?

3. Create a false sense of security

As the writer, you know conflict is coming. It has to come, either from within or without.

But the community, and possibly your hero, can’t know it yet. Everything needs to seem happy and fine. Remember that the effect of this false sense of security is suspense, a priceless effect you want to provide your readers whenever possible.

Let’s Get Ordinary

It’s time to start spicing and seasoning your storytelling with elements of this timeless and beloved story structure.

What are you working on now that could benefit from some of these archetypal elements? Why not try adding some elements to your current work-in-progress, or to a finished draft you’re struggling to revise?

And be sure to keep an eye out for my next article on Step Two of the Hero’s Journey!

What Ordinary Worlds can you think of in stories you’ve read and watched? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Poll Results: What Editors and Agents Look For In Social Media

In prep for my Social Media Masterclass for Authors and Illustrators at SCBWI-Midwest, I posted a survey for editors, agents and art directors and 25 responded. Only one freelance art director responded (feel free browse art directors’ responses in the similar poll in 2014, which also includes responses from editors and agents), but there were 11 responses from PAL editors, 10 responses from agents, and 3 responses from “Other”. For those that don’t know, PAL stands for “Published and Listed” and PAL Publishers are traditional publishing houses that do not charge money to authors or illustrators. You can find a list of PAL Publishers on the SCBWI website. Be aware that these industry surveys are informal, and are answered mainly by those who follow me on Twitter – I posted the link to my survey on Twitter, FB and Instagram. Most respondents chose to remain anonymous or asked me not to identify them publicly; I included attribution for those who gave me permission. Thanks to all who participated!

Summary and Takeaways:

Overall, the results were very similar to my poll from 2014. In general: when editors, agents and art directors look you up online, the main turn-offs include unprofessional behaviour and overall negativity. Before they commit to working with you longterm, they want to find out more about you. Make it easy for them to find out more information about you: keep your website updated and easy to navigate, make your portfolio (for illustrators) easy to find, make it easy for them to contact you.

If you read the comments, you will notice that different people are looking for different things. Don’t feel overwhelmed! In the end, you need to figure out how YOU want to use social media. What are your specific goals? What type of connections do you want to make? You will save yourself a great deal of time and frustration if you are working toward a particular goal (rather than “my publisher wants me to be on social media so here I am”). Jane Kelly recently interviewed me about social media on the SCBWI Wisconsin blog; feel free to browse for tips. And if you’re an up-and-coming illustrator attending SCBWI-LA this year, I encourage you to apply for the Social Media Mentorship For Illustrators Award.

MORE DETAILS AND COMMENTS FROM THOSE WHO ANSWERED MY SURVEY:

**** Also see comments from my 2014 survey.

In answer to the question “How important has social media been in your discovery of new clients / book creators?“, 40% said it was somewhat important, 36% said very important and 24% said not very important.

In answer to the question “When you are considering taking on a new client / author / illustrator, do you ever research them online?“, 84% said that yes, they always research them online. The remaining 16% said that yes, they sometimes research them online.

In answer to the question “If you do online research before signing on a client / author / illustrator, has your research ever made you decide NOT to sign them on?“, 52% said that yes, they have (at least once) decided to NOT sign someone on after online research.

In answer to the question “Which social media do you tend to use most often?” (check all that apply), Twitter came out on top with 96% (not surprising, since most of the respondents follow me on Twitter) followed closely by Instagram (80%), then Facebook (56%) and YouTube (32%). Also mentioned by a few: Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit. My advice: find 1-2 social media platforms that you enjoy – don’t try to be everywhere!

In answer to the question “When browsing social media, do you ever browse Stories?“, 28% said never, 24% said rarely, 20% chose “I have no idea what you’re talking about”, 16% said yes, all the time, and 12% said yes, sometimes.

COMMENTS (about turn-ons/turn-offs, what they look for, social media advice):

“I shy away from accounts that post mostly negative opinions, and anyone conservative-leaning. Other than that, humor and irony are appreciated, anything celebratory, positive or progressive, and cute animal pics. :)” – Agent

“I do like to see new work and process work as well as book promo. It’s tricky to balance but the best accounts also show personality and an awareness of other work being done in the field.”

“I primarily research new illustrators and like to see a illustration portfolio within a few clicks of finding someone on social media.” – Freelance art director

“Being inappropriate; someone who complains publicly about agents; someone who often leaps into heated arguments online; someone who is clearly jealous of successful people in the business.” – Editor

“I appreciate genuine engaged social media interactions and value authors that can do this with ease as it is incredibly beneficial for both buzz and sales.” – Jennifer Weltz, President of JVNLA, Inc.

“I look for professionalism.” – Emma Dryden, Children’s Editorial & Publishing Consultant, Drydenbooks

“I look for authors and illustrators who share their enthusiasm for what brings them joy, whether it’s a bird sighting or stumbling across an old comic book or sharing an esoteric fact in their research. I try to avoid authors and illustrators who are quick to “pile on” and express their outrage about the latest industry pariah (whether Junot Diaz, Kosoko Jackson, etc.)” – Agent

“Love when authors and illustrators interact with readers.” – Editor

“If people have a website or blog, it should be up to date. If it can’t be up to date, take it down.” – Erin Murphy, President of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

“We have to work together for a lengthy period. If you come across as difficult, rude, negative, or politically extreme it makes me think twice about working with you. There’s a lot of talent out there. Why would I put myself in that position?” – Editor

“For illustrators, extra work to see is good! For everyone, some evidence that you’re not awful and don’t just talk about writing is good, too. I just mostly want to know you are who you say you are.” – Editor

“I look for professionalism above all. I look for authors who are effectively engaging to promote their books without stalking editors by filling up their social media feeds. That’s a red flag for me. I also look always for evidence that creators are primarily focussed on developing their work and craft.” – Agent

“Writers get more of a pass on social media, but for illustrators I definitely want to see them experimenting with different styles. If the rest of their work is too hard to find, or there’s no link to a portfolio, that makes it harder to get interested.” – Agent

Source: inkygirl.com

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How to Refine Your Raw Writing Talent – by Jerry B. Jenkins

Discouraging, isn’t it?

You write a few blog posts and friends sing your praises. You dream, Maybe I’ve got what it takes to score a publishing deal.

But then you run your idea and your samples past an agent, an editor, or a published author, and the music screeches to a halt. You interpret their “meh” as a scathing critique and you’re rudely awakened from your dream.

Special Note: This is a guest post by New York Times Bestselling author, Jerry B. Jenkins. Jerry’s one of the most successful authors of our time with over 70 million copies of his books sold. Visit: jerryjenkins.com

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over and over.

Writers ask me for feedback. I believe they want real input, but when they see my suggested edits, their faces fall.

I know they were dreaming I would say, “Where have you been? How has a major publishing house not found you yet?”

They weren’t really looking for input—they were looking to be discovered.

You might have a boatload of talent—enough to tell compelling stories in fresh ways. But if you can’t accept criticism from those in the business, you’re not going to succeed.

I’ve written and published 195 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, yet I still need fresh eyes on my work. And I’ve had to become a ferocious self-editor.

Writing is a craft.

That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Writing is a craft. That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Regardless how talented you think you are, writing takes work. Many talented athletes never become pros because they believed raw talent alone would carry them.

That doesn’t have to be you, as long as you cultivate your skills.

3 Ways to Hone Your Talent

1. Read, Read, Read

Writers are readers. Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers.

Writing in your favorite genre? You should have read at least 200 titles in it. Learn the conventions. Know the rules you plan to break.

You’ll become aware of what works and what doesn’t. And you’ll likely see a vast difference in your writing.

2. Write, Write, Write

Dreamers talk about writing. Writers write.

Don’t expect to grow unless you’re in the chair doing it. 

Write short stuff first. Articles, blogs. Learn to work with an editor. Learn the business. Get a quarter million cliches out of your system.

3. Welcome Brutally Honest Feedback

The fastest way to shave years off your learning curve is to seek real input from someone who knows.

But be prepared. Your ego may take a bruising.

Yes—the red ink hurts. During my early years in the newspaper and magazine business, editors tore my work apart.

But it made me the writer I am today. Without that scrutiny I don’t know where I’d be, but it wouldn’t be on any bestseller lists.

Expect to be heavily edited and learn to aggressively self-edit.

Take advantage of every opportunity to grow. Assume there is always room for improvement.

I am still learning and trying to sharpen my skills, after over 50 years in this game.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

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Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – July 2019

By Amy Collins

So many authors launch their first book (or second) before building a list of readers and fans and THEN start working on attracting readers. They labor under the false idea that they need a book FIRST and then they can start building their readership. I mean, how ELSE do you build a base of fans and readers until you have a book?

Well, Nicole Evelina, the author of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy did just that. While she was working on her first book she decided to start drawing readers into her online “web.” This self-published author is now so popular with readers that when she has a new book coming out, thousands of rabid fans crash into each other buying her newest release.

So I asked Nicole to share with me:

  • What were some of the early steps that she took and found successful to help draw and attract readers?
  • How did she get started BEFORE she had a book?

What She Did

The first thing she said was that she blogged frequently long before the first book was out.

She is a writer of historical fiction so, like many novelists, had a lot of research from which to draw for her blog. According to Evelina, only about 1% of the research that she does for any type of book actually ends up in the book because she doesn’t want to bore her readers with all the details and stuff that makes up the backstory and fills the characters personality and experiences.

So for her, a blog was a great outlet for that. And to this day, her most trafficked pages on her website are some of those early posts where she wrote about Celtic life. She wrote blogs about the 12 types of Celtic marriage and another about the weaponry that that the Celts would have used. Another blog covered the way the Celts would cook…

That helped attract people to her that who were interested in historical elements and readers. She found that those interested in what they used to call dark ages, now call early medieval history, were often also interested in Arthurian legend because that’s the time period where it’s set.

She also actively encouraged those readers and blog subscribers to join her online in social media. By doing that on twitter and Facebook, she was able to reach out to friends and connections of her current online buddies. Her reach grew a little each day.

What She Does Now

ASK!

Just this week, I saw a post by Nicole where she said (in essence) “Hey folks, who’s got a blog, who’s got a newsletter, who can talk about my new book?” It was brilliant, she just ASKED! I watched a TON of people respond by saying YES.

Her book is now in the top 10 of historical fiction because these fans all jumped in and shared the posts, ads and recommendations she asked them to.

Because she has worked so hard to build a group of fans, she had a great response.

What We Should Do Now

We, too, can develop a team of readers who are willing to help us build our careers. This works for big-name authors and self-published authors alike…the key is ATTRACTION. There is no need to pound people over the head with a newsletter or offers to join a private fan group. It needs to be voluntary from readers. These readers/fans need to care about us and love us enough to want to support us.

Don’t be afraid of working this attraction angle…. I know every author out there has other authors that they love. If your favorite author asked you to read an early copy of their next book…. would you be willing to read it and post a review on, on a publication day or be willing to give it away on your blog, or share it on social media? Of course you would! So would your future fans. But they need to be ASKED.

We need to build our own team of fans and readers… even BEFORE our books are out. The reason this works for Nicole is because she is so genuine and real online. She spends 80% or more of her time online sharing truly personal items or asking folks about THEM. She genuinely wants to get to know people. I see her wishing folks happy birthday or offering condolences when somebody’s pet passes away… that’s a human connection, and it’s the stuff that builds fans. What does not work is pushing your book over and over.

You have heard me say this million times over: “Authors are not your competition. They’re your community.”

Join and build your community. If you do not enjoy social media, you have to figure out a way to build your community without it or learn to love it. And if you DO enjoy social media, you will enjoy a great deal of success. This is what it’s all about. Not hiding behind a typewriter or word processor. It’s about getting out there and being part of your community.

There you have it…. You CAN build your readership and fan base before you have a book. Honest. (And, you should!)

Source: thebookdesigner.com

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8 Steps To Analyse A Successful Story

Bang2writers have been asking me how to analyse a story to help their writing. It’s something I recommend, because it gets us into the analytical frame of mind. This in turn helps us think about our own stories and what they need. You can read all my #B2WReviews here. 

But how do we get into this mindset? It’s worth remembering that emotion and anticipation go together. This means, the more you know (or thinkyou know), the more likely you are to be disappointed by a story. It’s just the way it goes.

Disappointment can breed negativity and that’s rarely productive for our writing. Analysing a story is neither about emotion or anticipation. Here’s the dictionary definition:

Analyse (verb): to study or examine something in detail, in order to discover more about it. 

There are some obvious key words there, in bold. Analysing a story is to look at all its parts and make a decision on how successful it is, based on the evidence available to us. Let’s go!

1) Empty Your Mind Of Preconceptions

If you want to analyse a movie, book or TV series effectively, avoid doing lots of research about it beforehand. Try not to watch trailers, or get into lengthy threads about it in advance. Empty your mind of preconceptions. Show up solely for the story and characters.

Obviously in the age of social media this will be more difficult for some stories than others. But don’t forget you can ‘mute’ key words and users. I do this all the time. I must have had about 100 social media accounts and sites muted in the months running up to Avengers Endgame being released!

2) Engage With It Alone The First Time

Lots of writers watch or read stories ‘for work’, then don’t actually do any work.! They let the story wash over them while they’re on the phones, talking, eating etc. They don’t give the story their undivided attention. OI, WRITERS, NO!

But we need to concentrate if we want to analyse. It helps then if you engage alone, at least until you get into the swing of analysing stories. If you really must go to the cinema or stream something with a friend or partner, make sure they know you’re working.

By the way, on social media watch parties, tweet-alongs and book debate threads are a thing. These are fun and the discussion they create can be really useful … IF you have watched/read the story before. Try not to do them the FIRST time, though.

3) Watch/Read In One Sitting

If you’re watching a movie or TV episode, this is obvious. Try and stay ‘in the moment’. That doesn’t mean peeing your pants if you’re desperate, but try not to leave the cinema or pause your Netflix.

The same goes for reading screenplays. Books are more of a challenge. Most need between four and six hours’ reading time, sometimes even more. If you can dedicate that amount of time, great. Do it. If you can’t, that’s obviously okay, but do try and keep your reading bursts close together so you can stay as connected to the story as possible.

4) Make Notes

I don’t mean write in-depth observations, just reminders. Stuff like:

  • Character names and role functions
  • Interesting and impactful scenes or moments
  • Genre or plotting conventions or twists you notice
  • Snippets of dialogue
  • When you feel bored

Whatever you like. The key is not to get carried away, just write ‘notes to self’ for later.

 

5) Initial Thoughts

With the story still fresh in your mind, take another look at your ‘notes to self’ from watching. Now is the time to write down  any strong emotions you feel about the story, positive or negative. I like to do this straight after finishing the movie, TV episode, script or book. Some people like to wait an hour or two. Try not to leave it any longer than this though, so it doesn’t affect the next step.

6) Revisit Those Initial Thoughts

Any strong emotions you felt about the story have probably dissipated by now. You may have changed your mind completely, or you still like or dislike it. You may discover you feel neutral. Ask yourself WHY your feelings may have changed, or stayed the same. Anything that occurs, along with anything else that may seem relevant now.

7) NOW Do Research

Now is the time to do some research on the story you’ve just watched or read. You may want to consider things like …

  • Craft. How does it bring concept, character and plotting together? Is it ‘good writing’? If so/if not, how do you know? What evidence can you provide? Maybe it is ‘bad writing’, yet it is still dramatically compelling or interesting. Maybe it breaks those supposed writing rules, but in a good way. Or maybe it appeals to some kind of universal ‘thing’ people can’t resist. What is it?
  • Who is this for? Perhaps you have watched or read something that is not ‘for’ you. But just because you did not enjoy it, does not mean it has zero value. So consider who it is for, instead. Why would the people in that target audience enjoy it?
  • Thematics & voice. What is the message, theme or point behind this story, do you think? Why o you feel this way? Is the writer well-known for a particular type of story, style or message and if so, why?
  • Production /Writing. Were there any problems in the production or audience reception of this story? If you liked it and others hated it (or vice versa), what were their reasons? Are these reasons backed up with emotion, or analysis? Were there any big changes or constraints that meant writers and filmmakers had to go another way from what they first intended?

8) Make Your Conclusion

Those who have taken B2W’s Breaking Into Script Reading course will know I believe there are two essential questions in script reading. These are ‘What’s working?’ and ‘What needs further development?’ I think this is a useful way of thinking about produced and published content, too.

With the above in mind then, I ask myself:

  • Do we know what this story is supposed to do?
  • Is it successful at what it’s supposed to do?
  • Why / why not?

I then utilise my ‘notes to self’ and initial thoughts and research to make my conclusion.

To Analyse = Evidence over Emotion

Obviously I am not saying you can’t get emotional about storytelling. As writers, we love movies, TV and books. It would be nonsensical to say we have to leave our emotions at the door. They are the lifeblood of all good storytelling.

But good analysis is about reason, not emotion. If you want to analyse a story of any kind, you must resist the urge to get angry or squee all over the place. Instead, you must collect the evidence and make a conclusion based on these things. Only then can you analyse effectively.

Here’s some B2W movie analysis to help you get into the swing of it:

25 Years Of Jurassic Park: What Can Writers Learn?

How Blade Runner 2049 Confuses All Its Critics

6 Important Writing Reminders From The Shape Of Water

How Wonder Woman Proves The Power Of Untold Stories

How IT Demonstrates The Enlightening Power Of Subtext

Why Paddington 2 Is The Best-Written Family Sequel, Ever

Good Luck!

 

By Lucy V Hay

Source: bang2write.com

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Editing a Book

Congratulations! You’ve finished your first (or second, or fourteenth) draft, and now your baby is ready for those polishing touches that will make it truly shine. It’s time to edit your novel.

Ah, self-editing. Some writers swear by it, some writers swear it will kill them first. Either way, it must be done. Or mustn’t it?

Should I Bother Self-Editing My Book?

If you plan to self-publish, the answer is, absolutely.

If you plan to publish traditionally, the answer is, definitely.

Here’s why.

Self-publishers:
No one can truly edit their own work. Spare yourself the 1-star reviews, and have your novel edited professionally before you publish it. However, self-editing your book first helps cut down on rates. The more you do yourself, the better quote you’ll receive.

Submitters:
Yes, you will likely be assigned an editor before publication. But in order to get there, you have to catch the publisher or agent’s attention. To that end, your manuscript has to be as clean as you can make it on your own.

Before we sit down to work, let’s go over the different types of editing a book might require.

Types of Editing

A lot of work falls under the word “editing” or “revising,” but it all comes down to three types: developmental editing, line editing (also known as copyediting), and proofreading.

It’s important to identify the types of editing your novel needs–and do them in the right order. Developmental editing, for example, will probably make you revise huge blocks of text. There’s no point proofreading before you do that, because all your effort and time will go to waste.

The correct order is as listed above: developmental editing first, then copyediting, and finally proofreading.

If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need all three. If you’re submitting your manuscript, all three should be provided to you at no cost by the publishing house.

Here’s what each of them means.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editors take a deep look at the novel structure. They look for plot holes, character development, pace and suspense, tight scenes, and other story-level details.

Self-editing on this level is almost impossible. It’s the Curse of Knowledge: you’re too close to the narrative, you know the facts too well, and you can’t imagine how new readers would perceive the story. Is it clear enough? Entertaining? Suspenseful? Engaging? You’re the wrong person to answer these questions.

You can find professional, hand-vetted developmental editors over at Reedsy.

If that option for editing your book is a bit too pricey for you, you can find developmental editors on non-vetted platforms such as Guru, Upwork, and Fiverr.

Either way, be careful to interview your candidates and make sure they are masters of your genre.

Developmental editing rates for fiction manuscripts run anywhere from $0.03/word to $0.90/word. Some editors quote by page. The standard page has 250 words, so costs are usually $7.50 to $22.50 per page.

For example, a YA Fantasy manuscript usually runs about 60,000 words. Be prepared to spend at least $1800 on developmental edits.

Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Oh yes. The right developmental editor can make or break your novel.

Line Editing / Copyediting

At this level of editing the manuscript, story is no longer an issue. Language is. But not usage and spelling issues. Copywriters look at your voice, word-choice, paragraph and sentence structure, readability, and so on.

This is something you can and should do on your own! Do it before you send your book to be professionally edited, and all the more before you submit your novel anywhere.

Expect to pay $0.012/word to $0.02/word. Per page, the cost will be $3 to $5.

For a 60,000-word manuscript, that’s about $1,020.

Proofreading

The last but not least editing pass will weed out grammar and spelling errors, typos, inconsistency in names, and the likes. It’s a language-only pass.

Expect to pay about $0.01/word to $0.015/word. That would be $2.50 to $3.75 per page.

The same 60,000-word manuscript would cost about $720.

Some professional editors will lump line editing and proofreading under the same service. This combined service should cost about $0.02/word to $0.03/word. That would be $5 to $7.5 per page.

Getting Ready to Edit a Novel

Four more steps before we tackle the checklists.

  1. Let your manuscript breathe. Put it aside once you finish writing it (Stephen King recommends 6 weeks). This pause will let you come back to it with a clearer view. Instead of remembering what each word should say, you’ll be more able to see what each word actually says. Then you can judge if it works or not.
  2. Arm your vision. Install Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or a similar piece of software to help you catch grammar and spelling issues. They’re not enough, but they’re absolutely a good beginning. (Both Grammarly and ProWritingAid have free versions, but ProWritingAid’s is more limited.)
  3. Arm your ears. Install or bookmark a text-to-speech service to help you catch spelling errors, typos, repetitive sentence structure, overly long sentences, and so on. Natural Reader is a good free choice, for example.
  4. Pace yourself. Don’t attempt to edit huge blocks of text every day. The more tired you are, the more issues you’ll miss. Then you’ll just have to re-edit your work on the next day. Take frequent breaks to stretch, close your eyes, or do some deep breathing. This will boost your efficiency.

Now that you’re ready, let’s get to editing!

Self-Editing Checklist for Line Editing (Copyediting)

  • In every scene, make sure the reader knows who the POV character is, what characters are present, and where the characters are situated in relation to each other. Don’t dump this information in bulk. Instead, sprinkle it over some dialog and action.
  • If you’re writing a limited POV (first person or third-person limited), stop after every sentence and ask yourself: Can my POV character know/hear/think/see these details? For example, a character cannot see the color of its own eyes or the expression on its own face. Edit out whatever your POV character can’t perceive.
  • When you write a description, make sure it plays on all five senses (unless your character can’t sense that way). Go for the unusual details: the smell of dust in the air of a construction site; the cool, dry air of a well-maintained library; the explosive taste of sun sugar tomatoes on a pizza.
  • For limited POV, ask yourself after every description: Would my POV character notice these details? Would my POV character care about these details? Edit out or downplay whatever your POV character won’t bother focusing on. For example, if your POV character is fashion-blind, he probably won’t notice someone’s blazer cut—he might not even know it’s a blazer rather than a jacket.
  • Also for limited POV, make sure you describe objects and places not the way they are, but the way your POV character would perceive them. For example, if someone at a café is working on a new laptop, a poor character wouldn’t describe its model and maker. She’d describe it as a sleek laptop she could never afford herself.
  • Make sure each paragraph has a single key idea. If there’s more than one idea in a paragraph, break it into as many paragraphs as needed.
  • Generally speaking, keep the page “airy” with white space. Huge blocks of text scare away readers. To avoid that, vary your paragraph length, and use large paragraphs sparingly.
  • In dialog, start a new paragraph whenever someone begins speaking. Different speakers should not be in the same paragraph unless they’re talking at the same time, kind of like this: “I know what you did,” Jeremy said at the same moment that Louisa said, “I don’t care.”
  • If your dialog runs long, break it up with action that reconnects the characters with their environment. Otherwise, you’ll get the “floating head” syndrome, where the reader loses all sense of the scene except for the dialog itself. Have your characters interact with objects around them as they talk. We humans rarely remain at complete rest during conversation.
  • Destroy all exclamation points outside of dialog. An exclamation point, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, is like laughing at your own joke.
  • Use varying sentence lengths. Keep most of your sentences short-to-medium, with only the occasional long, winding sentence in between.
  • Use varying grammatical structures. “He verbed” can only get you so far. But steer clear of the “Verbing, he verbed” structure (for example, “Sitting, he looked at…”). For one, it sounds amateurish. For another, if you use it a few times, it sounds conspicuously repetitive.
  • If you do use “Verbing, he verbed,” only do it when the two actions are supposed to happen at the same time. That’s what this structure means. If one action is supposed to take place before the other, use a different structure.
  • In 99% of all cases, use the active voice: “I ate the cookies,” rather than, “the cookies were eaten.” Apply the Zombie Test if you’re not sure—try adding “by zombies!” after the action. If it sounds right (albeit hilarious), that’s the passive voice. Change it to the active.
  • Use a word frequency counter to weed out overused words. Readers will start noticing these after a while, and it will throw them off. You can use a free online counter such as Word Counter.
  • Weed out most adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs. If he talked loudly, he shouted or called out. If she walked quickly, she strode. If he ate fast, he gobbled down the food. In addition to manually catching adverbs, run a search for “ly” and double-check those words.
  • Weed out weak words such as very, almost, nearly, suddenly, started to, began to, really.  They add little to the narrative.
  • Weed out weak sentence structures. Watch out especially for sentences that begin with “There was,” “There is,” “It was,” “It is,” etc. Use them sparingly.
  • Weed out filter words, such as “think,” “see,” “hear,” etc. when they are outside of dialog. Instead of “Johnny heard her scream,” use simply, “She screamed.” The fact that you mention it implies that Johnny is hearing it.
  • Weed out 99% of “that,” “things,” and “stuff.” Use precise words instead, unless you deliberately want to sound vague.
  • Watch out for “Saidism,” the excessive use of “said” synonyms. Use “said” or action tags most of the time. Only when the tone cannot be inferred from the words, consider using a different verb. For example, Nicky can say, “To hell with you!”  There’s no need to shout it, because the exclamation mark is enough of a shout.

Self-Editing Checklist for Proofreading

  • Start by running your manuscript through Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or the like. Don’t automatically accept every suggestion, but do consider every suggestion to see what’s unclear about your phrasing.
  • Next, run your manuscript through the text-to-voice software of your choice. Listen to the narrator closely. If you find it hard to focus on sounds while you read, put away the manuscript and just listen. If there’s anything that sounds even a bit off, pause the narrator and check your manuscript. Keep an ear out for overly long sentences, too.
  • Search for known trouble-makers:
      • Their (belonging to them) / they’re (short for “they are”) / there (that way, in that location)
      • Farther (more distant) / further (more advanced)
      • Affect (a verb meaning “to influence”) / effect (a noun meaning “a result”)
      • Who (like “he”) / whom (like “him”) / whose (like “his”) / who’s (short for “who is”)
      • Its (belonging to it) / it’s (short for “it is”)
      • That (refers to inanimate objects) / who (refers to people)
      • Then (“at that time,” or “next”) / than (used for comparison)
      • Lose (the opposite of “to win”) / loose (the opposite of “tight”)
      • There are no such things as “alot” (it’s “a lot”) and “infact” (it’s “in fact”).
      • There are many more. If you’re unsure about any word in your manuscript, look it up in the context of a sentence example to make sure you get it right.
  • Search and replace all double spaces. They are relics of a publishing world long-gone. In your word-processing software, start a new “Search and Replace.” In the search phrase box, hit the spacebar twice. In the replace phrase box, hit the spacebar once. Select “Replace All.”
  • Print out the manuscript and read it carefully. Highlight errors and typos. Write comments on post-it notes and stick them directly onto the relevant page.
  • Mind how you capitalize and punctuate dialog.
  • Keep your tenses consistent. If you’re writing the story in the past tense, present-tense verbs have no place in it.
  • Scene break? Use an extra empty line, or centered asterisks (* * *), or a single centered pound sign (#).

A Note on Editing a Book

Remember, no one can completely self-edit his or her own manuscript. You’re bound to miss things. That’s okay. Self-editing is not meant to replace professional editing by a fresh set of eyes. Its job is to increase your chances with traditional publishers–or to save money when hiring a professional editor for self-publishing.

And finally, learn to enjoy, or even love, editing. Think of it as a golden opportunity to squeeze the most juice out of every word you use in your novel, or to sharpen the arrow which you will fire into your readers’ hearts. Make the most of it, and it will make the most of your novel.

By Tal Valante

Source: refiction.com

 

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Want to be funny? Here are 5 simply ways to mix humor into your writing!

Creating content that puts smiles on the readers’ faces can be very challenging. Not only is humor very subjective but you also need to know how to use just the right dose. This doesn’t mean that you are facing an impossible task. It means that you’ll need to add a bit of strategy to your creativity.

Depending on the type of content you want to produce, there are different ways of incorporating humor. For some inspiration and motivation, the following five ways of incorporating humor in your writing will give you some helpful ideas.

How to do it without overdoing it?

What you need to understand about humor is that not everyone finds the same jokes funny. That is actually not your problem, but what can be your problem is if you cross the line and offend your readers.

So, how to avoid such an inconvenience?

Here are some don’ts that you should keep in mind before you risk getting chased with pitchforks and torches:

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Putdowns
  • Dark humor
  • Corny, used-up jokes
  • Bashing your competition

Now that we know what type of humor should be avoided, let’s get to the useful tricks.

1. The joke is on you

Show your readers that you are not a sensitive little flower and that you can handle a good joke. According to a study (HSQ; Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003), people who make themselves the butt of their own jokes actually demonstrate greater levels of happiness and self-assurance.

Self-deprecation is a safe choice, meaning that you won’t risk offending anyone and you’ll portray yourself as a confident individual.

Who knows you better than yourself? Take all those funny and cringy stories, stereotypes, and flaws and use them in your writing.

There is more to it than just making people laugh by joking about yourself. Readers will be able to relate and create a connection with you if you open up. It shows that you are honest and willing to accept your flaws.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable with this type of humor don’t force it. It is important that you truly feel good about yourself and are ready to share with the world some of your embarrassing stories and insecurities.

2. Are you ready to compare?

Those of you who have read Robert Schimmel’s book Cancer on $5 a Day (Chemo Not Included) might have noticed the following part:

This stupid hospital gown is riding up my ass. I try to pull it down and it snaps right back up like a window shade. I cross my legs and suddenly I’m Sharon Stone.

When using comparison it is crucial that you use situations that are generally known or popular. Like Robert did with Sharon’s famous scene in Basic Instinct.

Writers are used to using comparisons and metaphors in various styles so this shouldn’t be a difficult challenge.

Just think through what depicts the situation that you want to describe. Is it painful, sexual, embarrassing? Then brainstorm and wait until something valuable comes to your mind. It should just come instinctively.

3. Get playful with words

Jazz up your writing with simple word twisting or word tweaks. Whether you want to use the already existing ones or make something up, it is up to you. The choices are endless.

For example, what do you find to be funnier skedaddle or hurry? A promiscuous man or a mimbo?

Using simple but funny words will give a humorous tone to seemingly ordinary sentences.

You can even make some of your own word combinations. Go wild and come up with new words that can add that something extra to your writing. Who knows, maybe it will even end up in a dictionary one day. Dare to dream!

4. Go big or go home

A little exaggeration can’t hurt anyone, can it? This has always been a popular technique among comics and humor writers and for a good reason.

There are writers who base their work on exaggeration. Just look at the work of Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize winner for humor writing. He is the master of exaggeration, but don’t take my word for it. Let his work speak for himself:

  • Eugene is located in western Oregon, approximately 278 billion miles from anything.
  • I have been a gigantic Rolling Stones fan since approximately the Spanish-American War.
  • If you were to open up a baby’s head – and I am not for a moment suggesting that you should – you would find nothing but an enormous drool gland.
  • It is a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions. This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells … to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.

Is this enough to convince you?

5. Get down to details

Besides helping the readers to really picture what you are describing, including all the small details can sprinkle some humor on any situation.

Think about these two examples:

  • She was holding an old, rag doll.
  • She was holding what seemed to be an old, rag doll. However, it was more like a yellow ball of fabric with two black-ish patches for the eyes and a crooked smile (maybe it had a stroke, who am I to judge).

The more details you give, the scene will look more absurd and comical. Really picture all the little things that make that specific thing what it is.

I’m not saying that generalization can’t be funny, but when you really get down to specifics that is when things get spicy.

Joke ahead!

Hopefully, the above-mentioned tips have given you some inspiration and ideas on how to add that humorous effect to your writing.

It is up to you in which direction you will go, but as long as you don’t hold back, I’m sure that you will manage to create something great and worthy of every laugh.

What’s the funniest piece you ever wrote? Is it published on a website or on your blog? If so, link to it and share it with us in the comments below!

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

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