Thanks to A. Katie Rose for allowing me to write a guest post for her blog. The post is called Ninja Author and is about how the writer inside of me has taken over my life without me ever planning for that to occur. It crept up on me just like a ninja.
Read it here: http://akatierose.me/2013/08/29/ninja-author/
Scarlett Van Dijk
The scales are tipping, but are traditional publishers finished for new authors?
Publishing your work has become easier than ever thanks to the Kindle. The relative ease of self-publishing your latest book in electronic format means you can say goodbye to rejection letter fatigue for good. However, the question remains, is it really better to self-publish, or should you try to get a contract with a traditional publishing house?
Both options have their merits as well as their downside. Although at the end of 2012, 27 of the top 100 Amazon eBook sales in the US, and 15 of the top 100 Amazon eBook sales in the UK, were self-published, and that's great news for authors! However, it also means that 73 and 85 of the top 100 eBooks respectively were not self-published. If you are determined to try the self-publishing route (and really, who isn't?), here are some of the pros and cons to consider.
Firstly, as an independent author, you retain full control over your work. This may not seem like a big deal when you have bills to pay, but consider how you will feel when an editor starts chopping and changing your work so that it is barely recognizable? If you are writing for more than just the money, think carefully before signing up with a major publisher. Another point to consider is the pricing. As an independent author, you control the price of your work and you can change it as the market fluctuates. You also receive the largest royalty available to you (70% for most Kindle eBook sales).
But this is the rub. If you take the traditional route and sign up with a publisher, then you have a far greater chance of making significant sales. Your book has a chance of being available in bookstores, as well as in electronic format. You will have an experienced editor guiding you from manuscript to publication. You pay no upfront costs such as advertising and cover design etc, and frankly, the publisher will have a much better idea of what to do than you will.
If you plan to make a living solely from your writing then a traditional publisher is the option that provides greater stability. That said, it takes a lot of luck to get a publisher to take you seriously and it can be stressful and it is not always a happy relationship. You may therefore find that you prefer the risk of self-publishing; if it means that you can keep your work the way you envision it. It also takes a lot of patience to work with a publisher. Manuscripts can be rejected over a hundred times before they are accepted, and even when one finally is, you still have to wait while it is sent from an agent to the publisher. Waiting is painful.
Overall, you’re probably going to know the best route for you, and it’s not as if you cannot change (albeit harder if you have a contract with a traditional publisher). I suggest, even if you choose the traditional route, you self-publish while trying, and if things go well this can even help a publisher to take notice of you. Remember that self-publishing gives you a lot of freedom and provides a relatively inexpensive way to learn the business of writing. The most important thing about self-publishing is that it gives us more power over our own work and provides us with greater choices.
About Miles Allen
Miles Allen is a full-time indie author living in the UK. He first published in 2010 after throwing caution to the wind and giving up his 30-year engineering career to become a fantasy author. Alongside his writing he now runs coffee groups to encourage and publish new authors, and recently expanded to workshops and coaching, editing and publishing first-time business authors.
And as he says, “The smartest choice I ever made!”
You can follow Miles on:
And business on:
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It is important to consider where the source of the magical ability lies. By creating such a source, you add to the believability of the ability. Is the source within the person or external to them? Does it lie within an object which they must keep close such as the Sky Stone from my own novel? Does the power exist in nature and the character need to be able to tap into that source?
Strength of Ability
It wouldn't be very realistic if every mage in your story had the same level of ability. However, if there are variations, what causes them? Perhaps strength is something you are born with or perhaps it depends on the strength of the object or device used as the source for the power. Could the strength be learnt or even triggered by emotion? Perhaps it depends on how much the character wants a result from their magic wielding, or how much they believe in themselves. Is their strength dependent on how much magic they can draw on from their source at particular time?
Every ability should have a counter-ability, something that can conflict with your characters power. When considering magic in the form of elemental control this is fairly simple. For example, my character Skyla has the ability to control fire, so naturally the most effective counter to her ability would be the ability to control water. If a person's power is based on their proximity to an object then if they are separated from that object their ability will lessen. What if there existed magic-nullifying objects or areas where the person's power is worthless such as the Stedding in Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series? The possibilities are endless.
As with all writing, it is all up to you, the author. Magic is not a reality but when writing it into your stories it is important to make the readers believe that it is. So make up the facts!
Scarlett Van Dijk
What magic or abilities have you given your characters? Please comment below.
In high school I knew early on what I wanted to do when I left school. I understood that is was essential to attend university, the necessary school subjects, and that I would have to work incredibly hard. Most of my class mates had no idea of what they wanted to do (some still don't). My path to becoming a radiographer wasn't going to be a walk in the park but I knew that was the direction I was headed.
As a young girl, like most, I aspired to be a ballerina. As I grew up I considered working with animals, deciding on either a zoo keeper or a pet shop owner. Once I realized I would have to clean out the animal droppings I left those ideas behind, moving on to greater ambitions. I had the notion to be a music composer before realizing the melodies I wrote were just a mish-mash of notes making a semblance of music. Eventually I realized that my real interest lay in science except that I couldn't work out what direction to take. Then, in year 10, my first year of physics, I discovered my direction.
The sensation was like being hit in the face by a baseball bat… the one I had been holding all along without realizing it. In the physics classroom I noticed a poster on the wall: 'Careers in Physics' or some such. My eyes scanned the shiny paper indifferently then rested on the word 'radiography'. I stared at the word before forcing my eyes to continue scanning. Soon I realized that my eyes continued to be drawn back to that word. That is when I knew and I haven't left that path since.
When I look back I now see the signs. As a young child I had a human anatomy book for kids, one with see-through pages that layered the organs, muscles, blood vessels and bones. I remember looking over that book multiple times as a child. I would watch ER on TV with my parents. I'm surprised my parents never realized how interested I was in the human body.
One of my main reasons for deciding on radiography is my respect for medical professionals, especially doctors. The task doctors have in diagnosing patients and then healing them, no matter what speciality they are part of, takes extraordinary skill and dedication. You need to be a special person to be able to cope with the pressure. I didn't chose medicine since I do not think I have the patience nor the ability to cope under such stressful situations however, I want to do my part in helping the doctors. Medical imaging is a crucial part to diagnosis and treatment planning for patients and with my love of anatomy, it was the obvious choice for me. This career path also requires a good knowledge of physics in this field, physiology and pathology, and a range of other skills.
And so I am now approaching the end of my third year of my four year bachelor degree in medical imaging. In three weeks I will have finished the theory component of my course with next year being completely composed of clinical placement in hospitals and radiography clinics. I feel as though my life is truly beginning!
Scarlett Van Dijk
How did you know what career was for you?
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I’ve been writing speculative fiction—fantasy, mythica, ghost stories and Sci Fi—for 5 years. Wrote the obligatory World’s Best Novel first, like every rookie writer does. At the time I thought it was brilliant; now I realize it was pretty lame (more on that below). During that frustrating interlude while I was vainly querying said novel, I stumbled upon a short story market with an interesting prompt. So I took the characters from my novel and wrote a short story, submitted it, and to my surprise and delight it was accepted for publication. A check for $20 and my first writing credit came a few months later, and I was once again blissfully patting myself on the back about my brilliant writing.
Unfortunately my brilliance was more like a blind squirrel occasionally finding a nut, as despite churning out a flurry of new short stories, none were accepted for publication. Oops. But, rather than throwing in the towel, I did a lot of research on short story markets and also bent my back to the task of writing better stories. So here’s what I learned.
Short story writing is much more of a meritocracy than novel writing
Unlike either the traditional publishing or the self-publishing path for novels, which both rely heavily on the author’s name, reputation and marketing skills, short story markets, for the most part, judge each manuscript on its merits. Which is not to say that name authors don’t make it to the top of the slush pile, but unknown authors get published every day in paying short story markets. Many read blind to the author’s name. The whims and biases of editors play a large role, but still a manuscript is judged on its merits, not on how many thousands of likes one has on Facebook.
There are a lot of short story markets
Regardless of genre, subgenre, and story length, there are a lot of short story markets, many of which pay (see below). I’ve yet to write short story for which I couldn’t find at least 20 potential paying markets. Some excellent sources of information on markets include www.duotrope.com and www.ralan.com.
It takes both quality writing and perseverance to get short stories published
I’ve written 25 short stories about ghosts and Martians, neodymium lasers and Valkyries. Eight of which have been published a total of 10 times (two were reprinted…). I have 2 more under contract and 154 rejection slips in a drawer (I blogged about my road to 100 rejections, see crhodges.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/rejection-countdown-to-100/ ). I’ve had stories selected on the first submission (see above) and on the thirteenth.
Writing short stories helps one grow as a writer
Now that I’m into it, I have found that writing shorts allows me to experiment with a lot of different voices, tropes, characters, styles and points of view. I’ve written in first and third person, past and present tense (particularly effective for shorter works). I’ve written male and female protagonists; I’ve written in Swedes and African Americans. I’ve set stories on Mars and in Sydney (I’ve never been to the former but I’ve spent a lot of time in the latter). Heck I’ve even written from a dolphin’s POV. I’ve experimented with disinterested and unreliable narrators; I’ve tried dark and also comedy (I’m better at the former). And because it’s faster to write, edit, submit and get a yea or nay on a short, the feedback loop is much shorter and I can learn what works / doesn’t quicker.
Short story markets pay, but don’t quit your day job
The definition of a pro market for shorts is $0.05 per word. Yup, that works out to $100 for a 2000 word story. And pro markets are really tough to get into (I only have one pro win). Semipro markets pay from $0.01 to $0.05 per word, and token markets pay less than $0.01 per word. So for me the average has been like $50 a story. But it is payment, and hundreds to thousands of people are reading each published story.
Short stories can be part of a writer’s portfolio
Even with my modest success in short stories, I’m still working on novel number two, a mythica piece, Ragnarök Willie. Which actually started life as a short story. As to my first novel, Gho, I’m retooling it as a novella (about 25K words) to take a swing at the blossoming Amazon Singles market. But all those short story credits should help in querying and even in marketing.
About Chuck Hodges
I live in Colorado, USA with my wife, three daughters, a dog, a turtle and no ghosts that I know of. Not being an idiot, I have a day job running a product development company with customers on four continents (including a couple of large projects in Australia). When I’m not working or writing I volunteer at the local hospice, play the euphonium (poorly), swim, hike and coach youth softball. I blog regularly on reading and writing at crhodges.wordpress.com and my Facebook haunt is www.facebook.com/C.R.Hodges.Author. Stop by and say howdy.
Many thanks to Scarlett for allowing me this soapbox.
Character creation is one of the fundamentals to any story writing. Without a main character there is no plot. There are many types of characters but the two biggies are the Protagonist and Antagonist. Many believe these characters to be a simple matter of 'good guy vs. bad guy', however this is not always the case.
Your protagonist is your main character/s. You follow this character through the story. There are a number of points to consider when creating a protagonist:
I'm sure you could come up with further character aspects. The above listed points can also be considered in the case of your antagonist and other major characters.
One of the main things to consider when building your protagonist is whether they are relatable. Your main character is going to require flaws; they can't be too perfect. Make sure that they have room to grow and change (which should happen throughout your story).
Consider the 'good guy vs. bad guy' statement from the opening paragraph. Did you assume that your protagonist is required to be a 'good guy'? It is true that in most novels the protagonist is seen as a good guy but when you consider the different aspects of that character you may realize they actually are not as virtuous as you thought. The character may believe that what they are doing is warranted but go about it in the wrong way. The other option is that despite your character thinking they are in the right, from another's point of view they are the bad guy. Confused yet? Let's consider the antagonist.
Antagonist Your antagonist is the 'bad guy' of your story (or are they?). The antagonist is created to oppose your protagonist, creating a force for your main character to battle against. When creating your antagonist you should consider the same points as listed above for the protagonist. Remember that even though the antagonist is believed to be doing 'bad' things, hindering your protagonist, they must have a reason for doing so. Likely, they believe that they are in the right; an antagonist should not be summed up as merely 'evil' in a nutshell with no real motive. Imagine what it would be like to write a story from the point of view of your antagonist (ie. Your antagonist becomes your protagonist). Interesting right? You should come up with a background story for your antagonist; why do they believe what they do? How have they come to oppose your protagonist?
This is a very brief post about character creation but hopefully it has been helpful to some of you fellow writers out there. If you have questions or have anything to add about character creation that you consider important please leave a comment below.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you wan't to know more about writing good antagonists or villains listen to First In Fiction's podcast on Villains
If you’ve ever read a terrible book – one poorly formatted or littered with errors – then you understand the important role editors play in bringing quality books to your ereaders and bookshelves. If you’re a new writer who’s never been edited, or an old pro who’s been burned, you might be wary about letting an editor near your manuscript.
But if you’re matched with the right editor, the editing process should actually be a relief, if not a joy. Finding the right editor is key, and it’s just as important to cultivate a good working relationship. Comparing your book to your baby is an old cliché, but I find it perfectly apt. Just as you would find the right babysitter for your child, you have to research to be sure you have the right editor for your book.
Finding the Right Editor
First, be aware of the different kinds of editing. Copy editing and proofreading aren’t the same thing, and there are more levels of editing than most people realize. Find out which kind of editing you need, and know that you may need more than one.
Second, make sure you ask the right questions to find an editor familiar with your genre and who meshes well with your personality and is sensitive to your style preferences. Many editors specialize, so find one with a background in your subject. If anything in your initial contact with an editor makes you uncomfortable, find a different editor, because you need to trust your editor for the process to run smoothly. Don’t forget to discuss style, because if, for example, you prefer the serial comma and your editor has a sparser punctuation style, it can easily lead to conflict.
Finally, be aware of how a professional editor should conduct their business and what you should expect. Knowing what to expect can help you avoid amateurs and scammers. There are plenty of professional editors’ associations, like SfEP, EAC, EFA, and their websites will help you search for pros.
Cultivating a Good Relationship
You know what kind of editing you need, and have found an editor you trust and who has the right qualifications, but you still need to make sure you and the editor understand your roles. Be sure to have a contract that lays out expectations, payment and deadlines.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the editing process, no matter how foolish you think they are. You will feel more comfortable knowing when you will receive feedback, how changes will be reviewed, what kinds of changes to expect and what the schedule is.
Remember that while good editors may seem super-human, they’re not miracle-workers. Mistakes happen, but remain professional and courteous. Stand up for your story when you disagree with your editor, but be willing to compromise.
As an editor as well as an author, I’ve been on both sides of the desk and have had fantastic edits and horrific edits in both roles. I’ve found that it’s important to trust your instincts, be prepared, and remember that no edit is set in stone. A good edit by a good editor is rewarding and empowering, so it’s worth the extra research and work to find and maintain a good match.
About Vanessa Ricci-Thode
Vanessa is a word sorceress working as both a fiction author and editor with a focus on genre fiction. She's been writing her whole life, and has been a freelance editor for three years, with active membership in the EAC.
Visit her website at www.thodestool.com for details.
I have been training in taekwondo for about two and a half years and am excited to announce that tomorrow I will be undergoing my exam to obtain my black belt! The path to become a black belt in any martial art involves much dedication, determination and discipline. It also requires a high level of fitness, physical strength and skill.
I have graded up to my black belt in the shortest time possible within my club (not that I am bragging or anything) and I attribute this to my past experience. Ballet dancing was a large part of my physical life for thirteen years. Ballet taught me valuable skills involving body awareness, balance and flow. Body awareness is an intuitive understanding of your anatomy and how your joints and body moves as a whole. This is extremely important for kicks in taekwondo, especially jumping moves which people often have significant difficulty with. From being driven to learn complex routines during ballet I have also developed the ability to absorb movement sequences with ease hence I am able to easily remember my patterns (known as poomse) for my taekwondo gradings.
Other sports I have participated in include athletics which I participated in for about three years, and soccer which I was part of for two seasons. I found that my ballet experience helped even with these sports and the skills they required despite occasional friendly teasing about my ballerina-like style. I was nick-named Twinkle Toes by a couple of my team mates at soccer.
Taekwondo teaches valuable skills. I have learnt self-defence skills and my self-confidence has also improved. I am proud of my accomplishments in this area. As an added bonus it has helped broaden my knowledge of what was required for particular scenes within my stories. My novel, Sky Stone, and my current work-in-progress, Guardian Core, both include a significant amount of fighting. Most of this is sword fighting but some unarmed combat is also included and I found my knowledge of taekwondo helped me write realistic fight scenes.
Thanks for reading. Wish me luck for tomorrow!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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