This is a short message to all those authors out there that keep only one copy of their manuscript. COPY IT! And make it snappy! Technology can be incredibly unreliable on occasions and you wouldn't want that one 'safe' place you keep your manuscript to suddenly shut down, would you? All those precious words you have slaved over for god-only-knows how long would be lost. So please keep multiple digital copies of your work.
I keep three copies of my manuscripts: On my computer hard drive, a USB flash stick, and on a cloud server. It would be incredibly unlucky for my work to be lost from all three simultaneously. After every writing session, I make sure to update every version. This way I can't go wrong.
As an added precaution, I make sure to save my work periodically as I write. It's as simple as pressing ctrl+s on the keyboard and the work's saved. I have had occasions where my laptop has shut down and all of my writing from that session is lost. The feeling of losing even that relatively small amount of work can be gut wrenchingly frustrating. However, by saving regularly, I have avoided this issue for a long time.
Happy writing everyone and know that your writing will be safe from the tyranny of technology!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of mrpuen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I was asked to give some writing advice, but I’m not sure if this is what was wanted or not. It is advice that I wish I’d been given long before I released my first book the Regency Romance, “The Fencing Masters’ Daughter” in late September of this year.
You have worked hard and have got your book finished? You’ve even found a publisher? You’ve signed a contract and are bathing in the anticipation of becoming a published author, novelist or poet? Or perhaps you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route? But hallelujah! The book is written and once you’ve agreed a cover and final proof, there’s not much left to do? The book will soon be prepared for pdf format and have an IBSN number, then all that you’ll need to do, is to put it on Amazon or Smashwords. Then you can wait for sales to come rolling in, while you get on with writing a second book?
That is the dream, the fairy story that all new writers want to believe. It is seeing the industry through rose-tinted spectacles. The truth is that writing the book was the easy bit. Even the rewriting, editing and other decisions before publication were simple tasks you sailed through. Now the real hard work and grind starts. If you’d had any forethought, you are already on Facebook, building up a large group of writing friends. You will need them. Your publisher or your friends might have advised you to join Twitter and build up a following, because you will need support when you start to promote your book.
So here is the news you don’t want to hear before your book release. Whatever preparations you’ve made to promote your book before it was released, will not be sufficient. Unless you have already got a fan base, or have made your name in some other field, few people are going to buy the book of an unknown new writer without a lot of advertising. The only other exception is if your book is very controversial, but even if it is; that information will need to be disseminated to the wider reading public.
Are you intending on offering the book for free for a limited period? That offer may be avidly accepted and push you higher up the ratings; but you will not be making any money. You’ve answered many author questionnaires from friendly bloggers and written follow up articles for them to post. Have you had a trailer made for the book or arranged to spend your own money for extra advertising? Review copies have been sent out and you wait in hope that the reviewers will be kind in what they write. You may even have your own blog in which you’ve been posting articles about your opus. Or possibly you held a give-away event and cover reveal before the book was officially released.
Getting a string of honest five star reviews may help you achieve some good sales but there can be no guarantee of sales. If you write because you enjoy writing, then perhaps that won’t matter to you. But if you hope your book will earn some cash; then you may well be disappointed. You have choices; continue to promote your book to the best of your ability, pay for commercial support to market your book or continue to write primarily for the pleasure of the achievement.
It can be disheartening to new writers, but in the long term the writers that will succeed will have tenacity. They will have learnt their craft, promoted hard and got a following of fans who appreciate their work. They will survive brief fashions in writing and have proven their value to readers. I hope that I’ll eventually be one of those writers and I wish many of you will join me in that claim.
About Giselle Marks
Giselle Marks has been writing for many years. She has written two Regency Romances and a Fantasy/Sci-fi series with erotic content. Her first published novel The Fencing Master’s Daughter was published by Front Porch Romance in September 2013. Her second Regency Romance, The Marquis’s Mistake, will be released by them in November 2013. Her Fantasy series, The Zeninan Saga, is currently being edited by Nevermore Press and should start appearing in the near future. Giselle is currently working on an erotic fantasy novella called Lucy, which she hopes will be available in the New Year.
Check out Giselle's website here
I could scream with the anticipation of publishing my first novel, Sky Stone. Sky Stone is so close to being published after being so long in the works. I may be so nervous that a part of me wants to keep the words from ever being placed before the eyes of the public and yet there's nothing I want more than to share my work. I just want to send the manuscript off as soon as possible so that I can finally hold my book in my hands, smell the scent of newly printed pages, feel the brush of paper flicking beneath my fingers. The feeling is intensified now that I have a completed draft of the cover and the manuscript is with the editors. I feel like there is nothing more I can do until the manuscript is returned. However, I count myself fortunate to be able to accomplish things my own way.
I'm lucky that I have been able to carry out all the work for extremely little money. This was especially important to me as I am a full-time university student earning approximately $100 a week as a freelance social media marketer and desktop publisher. Those skills however, have helped me complete most of the work myself. I have carried out all of my own online marketing, designed my own website using Weebly, and created my own book cover using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. I have barely spent any money and even the editing being currently completed is for free.
How did I get my editing for free? Good question. The answer is: I got lucky. Unable to pay the fees for a professional freelance editor I contacted the Creative Writing school of my university hoping to be put in touch with a new graduate editor who would offer to edit Sky Stone for a small amount. I was ecstatic when I received a reply asking to use Sky Stone as the Advanced Editing student's semester project free of charge! I contacted the department at just the right time. Phew!
Many writers believe that self-publishing is a rather expensive endeavour but it needn't be. If you have a few extra skills, intuition and little luck, you can do it for little expense. Some of those extra skills can be easily learnt using online tutorials or messing around on programs, working out the features. Of course, if you want your novel to hit the top sellers list on Amazon you may need to put in a little more effort. However, if you're like me, and you want to publish your story for yourself, you can afford to be stingy with your money.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Some of us who have chosen to write fiction come from a variety of places. And by “a variety of places,” I’m not referring to a physical location; I’m referring to our writing experiences.
There are some of us who have enjoyed writing since we were children, and each year, by writing something in school, it improved. For some of us, it continued until we graduated college and began working. Some of us entered the work force taking jobs, which required us to write, whether it was procedures, handbooks/manuals, or news stories. But all of these are non-fiction, and each one has a set of “rules” that need to be followed to write something well enough to be acceptable.
As for myself, while my regular job did not require me to write, for eleven years I wrote articles [commentaries/viewpoints] of what was happening in my community and my feelings about it. When I started to write these items, my writing skills were not honed. I didn’t have my ideas organized in a tight manner, although my writing had been informative. By the time I’d written my last item, I’d become quite adept at it.
When I started to write fiction, I somehow drifted to writing a contemporary romance story with a paranormal element running through the storyline, but after almost 9 years I still hadn’t completed it. That is, until someone suggested I should write for a much younger audience, which is what I did, cumulating in my first YA Paranormal/Time Travel/First Kiss romance novel entitled I Kissed a Ghost.
Anyway, making the transition from non-fiction to fiction, I’ve had to learn a new set of rules on how to write. Most of these involved dialogue, showing not telling, where before I just told. I now had to learn about the use of tags. I had to learn not to be overly descriptive of something, but allow my reader to create the image for themselves in their minds. In the beginning I found it hard to break my old writing habits. Now I’m finding myself with these habits essentially gone. The biggest issue I still have and am trying to get a good handle on, is POV [Point of View]. Regardless of what’s happening or being said it has to be in one character’s perspective, and you can’t flip-flop between two characters within a scene. There needs to be a transition from one character to another.
All these things have helped me mold myself into the author I’m today. I’ve also learned there are additional rules within a genre, depending on the sub-genre you’ve decided to write in. These rules apply to the dialogue spoken, which needs to be true to the time period you’re writing in, as well as how your characters are dressed, and their titles, if any, as is the case with the regencies sub-genre of romance novels.
So as you can see, writing is not merely a string of words you put together. There are rules that need to be followed if you’re to be well received by your readers.
If you have any questions regarding the above, I’d love to hear from you.
About Robin Leigh Morgan
I’m a retired NYC civil servant who has been married for 19 years with no children. My first YA Paranormal/Time Travel/First Kiss romance novel is entitled “I Kissed a Ghost.” For my second romance novel I’ve returned to writing the untitled Contemporary romance I wrote about in my post.
I Kissed a Ghost is available on Amazon at:
If anyone would like to read several UNEDITED SNIPPETS from the book you can find under the category of “GHOSTLY WHISPERS” on any my blog sites:
http://www.mypennameonly.blogspot.com or http://www.mypennameonly.wordpress.com
You can also find me on:
FaceBook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Leigh-Morgan/188704634571191
The plot of a Fantasy novel can take many forms. It can twist and turn in so many directions it may be difficult to stay on track. The first thing you need to keep in mind that most novels will have the same basic frame: Introduction, Main Issue, Solution, and End. You will find that there is much more to a plot than just those four points. You will find that you'll add secondary issues, all of which need solutions, and events that lead to the growth of your protagonist.
The introduction is exactly that. It introduces your protagonist, your world, and the feel of the novel. It will likely be a very descriptive section of your novel however, it is important to not overload the reader with information. Doing this can get tedious to read and may confuse the reader with details that may not necessarily need to be told. Your readers are not stupid; they can work some things out for themselves. Remember your first chapters are the most important of the entire final product, you need to make them something special and intriguing. You don't need to give all of the required information at once. Keep the reader wondering to an extent. Don't worry too much about getting this right first time as I have said in my 'Writing the First Draft' post. You can change this later. Trust me, you will change it.
Main Issue and Solution
Your main issue provides the foundation for the plot. The main line of you story needs to revolve around how this issue hinders your protagonist then eventually how the character deals with the problem. Depending on the nature of your novel your issue could be romantic, life-threatening, political, or endanger existence itself! Before you commence the writing of your manuscript you need to know what your main issue is and how it will be resolved. Does an evil villain kidnap your protagonist's loved ones? Is the world about to be destroyed by a natural (or unnatural) phenomenon? Does you protagonist make a dire mistake which he will struggle to correct? The ideas are unlimited. Try to come up with an issue that will require quite creative measures to overcome.
So you have your main story line but it's not much fun to read a novel that merely follows an unchanging character from start to finish without any detours. Everyone knows that in reality, nothing would progress that smoothly. Your character may change and grow either for good or for bad. A character can't do this without trials to force their change. Perhaps they find love or lose it, discover a weakness or a strength, or are suddenly placed in a life-or-death situation. All of these events may change the character in some way and give the story a more natural course. The important factor to remember when adding these detours is whether they will add to the entertainment value and course of the novel. If they don't improve the novel then let them go.
Let the Protagonist Take the Lead
Many authors will find that even with a structured outline prior to writing their first draft their protagonist will begin to take over. If you have created your protagonist well with a background and believable personality, events will pop to mind and write themselves. Don't try to stop this from happening. Quite often you will find the character grows on their own. Just because events don't occur exactly as you planned doesn't mean that they won't work. Worry about that later.
As you come up with your plot it is quite helpful to outline, jot it all down and see how it ties together. Read my last post 'To Outline or Not to Outline' for more about this. Happy writing everyone!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My first children’s book, Mysteries of the Red Coyote Inn, was released just this August. While I have been an educator for the past thirty-six years and a reading specialist for twenty, I was in business to know not only what children crave but teachers also. I had received so many sample books from new authors and only wishing they had come with a lesson plan or some enrichment activity. I usually ended up designing something myself to accompany the book.
As a children’s reading specialist I wrote my novels to target middle grade to young adults using low readability and high interest. I knew how hard it was to find interesting material to use with middle grades without turning to a very limited supply that was available at the time and way too juvenile for my students.
While I was waiting for my novel to be published I set to work designing a comprehension enrichment for my novels since I know how big an issue reading comprehension is among readers. I knew it would help to increase my sales. Yes, I had a market. I also signed up for Authors Who Skype and offer free lessons for classes.
I have the enrichment worksheets available on my site. I had designed them for both novels. Jonathan’s Locket will be released very soon.
If you are a children’s author I would highly suggest designing an enrichment activity or packet to accompany your book as a bonus. Not only will the children benefit, but teachers will be more apt to order your book. It could be something as little as a fun activity to an all comprehensive unit study for older children.
I am toying with the idea of offering a service for children’s authors where I will create supplemental educational materials to accompany their novels.
Here I go again, always coming up with new ideas to motivate our children.
About Lorraine Carey
Lorraine Carey is a passionate Children’s Reading Specialist, Author, Teacher and a Book Reviewer .
Years of teaching experience in different states, has given her a vast background knowledge of different cultures and teaching modalities as well as a deep understanding of children’s reading needs.
This, combined with her love for Paranormal stories, inspired her to start writing her own books, which now inspire many students around the world to dream, imagine and create .
She currently lives on Grand Cayman with her husband and their dog, Matty. She is a part time reading specialist for a small private school on the island. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, beach hopping and boating around the island on their boat, The Angelica.
Outlining. A word that excites some authors but makes others cringe. It is the first physical step in a long journey from idea through to completed manuscript. Some authors will not outline. This is fine if it is what works best for you. Every individual is different. However, you cannot start a story without at least a plan in mind.
As I have said previously, my first novel Sky Stone, was written without an outline. Before this endeavour I had only before written short stories and poetry. A mental plan was good enough in these situations where I could write out a draft in a single day. However, as Sky Stone progressed, the story began to take unexpected turns, some of which needed serious rectification. The good part about writing without an outline was the excitement of wondering where my characters would take the story. I didn't previously know what was going to eventuate. Sure I knew what the main scenes would eventually be, but what happened in between was a mystery. The bad part of not writing an outline was that on occasion the story became clichéd and predictable. I wrote whatever my mind came up with first, letting the words flow from mind to page.
When I began writing Guardian Core I had a basic outline written. It wasn't an in-depth, step by step outline, just a list (like a timeline) of major events that would occur and how the characters would progress. As I wrote, my ideas continued to develop, but I was able to determine more clearly how those ideas would benefit the story. Overall, Guardian Core has been coming together in a much cleaner manner. For me, outlining hasn't taken any of the fun out of the writing but instead has made the process more fulfilling.
Every author outlines differently. Some authors will write pages of notes depicting exactly how the story will come together. Others, like myself, write on the most important assets then let the rest grow and mature as the imagination sees fit. A story the length of a novel requires many details, especially when considering speculative fiction where world building may be required. I personally believe that it is more productive to allow the mind time to mull over the main plot and create the added flourishes. I find the best of these ideas come to me while already writing.
Outlining, like many aspects of writing and creation of art, can be done in many ways. Those ways will come to each individual through experience. These ideas are from my own experiences and what I have learnt works for me. It doesn't matter how someone tells you to do things. Take on that information then discover your own method from there. In the end, your writing is your creation and you should approach and nurture it in any way you think is best.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
According to the date on my first ever manuscript, as of next week, I will have been writing for 14 years. It’s not as impressive as it might sound. I was in the third grade at the time, and that “manuscript” is a four page picture book about a girl winning a footrace against her parents. Nevertheless, you’d be hard pressed to do a thing for 14 years and not acquire at least a few nuggets of wisdom, many of which would have been just as useful to know that first year as they are now. I certainly could have used some trade secrets when I undertook my first major project, writing my newly released novel Cerberus, in year seven. To save any young writers out there some frustration—potentially years of it—I thought that to celebrate my writerversity, I’d give you the top seven things I wish I’d known about writing seven years ago.
#1 Perfection can wait.
Even now, the words look blasphemous on this page, but I assure you they’re true. It’s very easy to get caught in the trap of editing the same chapters over and over trying to get them just right and to feel very industrious while you do it. Nevertheless, it is a trap.
Taking a step back from your writing is vital to revising it properly. After a certain amount of time spent with a single piece of writing, you no longer see what’s on the page but what you expect to be on the page. Things start running together. You rephrase so much that you don’t realize you’ve written the same sentence three separate times.
That’s not even the real issue, though. The biggest problem with perpetual editing is this: how can you ever finish your novel if all you ever do is edit the first three chapters?
I know it’s hard, but you’ll be much better served to just get the words out and then edit once the book is finished. That way, you’ll be sufficiently distanced from the first part of the novel, which will make your editing more effective. Fresh eyes are observant eyes.
#2 Finishing the book is the easy part.
I was shocked and appalled to discover the truth of this. After all, creating believable characters, crafting realistic dialogue, organizing a compelling plot, and seeing the entire thing to its 75,000+ word completion is by no stretch of the imagination easy. It takes time and effort, and it’s easy to expect all that effort to be instantly rewarded. After all, you’ve now got an awesome manuscript, a winning personality, and a willingness to set out on your book tour as soon as you’re asked. Why shouldn’t you succeed?
The answer is simple: in order for your book to succeed, the right people have to know it exists. This goes for both indie authors and those pursuing traditional publishing. The fact of the matter is that there are literally millions of books that look just like yours: they are typed in black ink on white paper in a standard font. It doesn’t matter that the words are different or that yours is the best manuscript out there if the book doesn’t stand out from the sea of other manuscripts for sale on Amazon or in an agent’s inbox.
And making your book stand out takes work. It takes getting out of whatever shell you might be in, relentlessly pubbing your work, posting it to forums, paying money for promotional materials, cyberstalking industry professionals, or stalking them in real life if you’ve got that type of proximity and are unbothered by the potential for restraining orders. It takes resilience against all the rejections and rebuffs. It takes work and a level of mental and emotional fortitude writing never required.
That said, there’s no feeling quite like finally getting that acceptance or making that sale, especially when you’ve worked for it. As my favorite platitude goes, “No one said it would be easy. They only said it would be worth it.”
#3 Plan ahead—one thing at a time will leave you way behind.
To make things easier on yourself after your book is finished, it would behoove you to start researching and marketing beforehand. Create a web presence and post excerpts, book trailers, and other goodies. Do what you can to generate hype and get your name out there so it will ring a bell when your completed manuscript winds up in front of an agent or reader.
#4 Good Writing + Good Story ≠ Publishing Deal
It’s a sad, disappointing truth, but you have to remember that while books are art, publishing is business. It’s not enough to write a good story; it has to be a marketable one. It has to be something some suit in New York thinks can sale copies, spawn movies, and just in general be the next big thing. I’m not saying that can’t be you, just that a lot of people might not think it is, and any rejection letters you receive are probably because of marketability and not your writing ability. Remember, rejection letters are a part of life. Everyone gets them. Everyone. J.K. Rowling can tell you so, as could John Steinbeck if he wasn’t dead. And obviously, Rowling and Steinbeck weren’t rejected because their books were no good. Your story just may not be exactly what the person to whom you submitted it is looking for. And with so many stories coming across their desks, they can afford to choose only exactly what they are looking for. You just have to develop a thick skin, learn what you can from each rejection (which unfortunately probably won’t be much because it’s likely going to be a form rejection), and move on. There are more than 7 billion people in this world. Statistically speaking, at least one of them has to like your story.
So, you have an idea for a novel. You have an outline. It's time to start letting your novel grow. It can be a daunting process, beginning a novel. It's going to be over 50 000 words of awesomeness. At least… that is what you hope it will be.
The first line. How should you start your novel? There are so many dos and don’ts out there that it seems every line you come up with hits a snag. Should I start with a prologue? A monologue? A setting? Action? My advice: Pick something and roll with it. The writing process is a long journey but only you can make it arduous. Your first line, likely even your first page, may change completely once you look back over it after finishing your draft. Your first page may end up becoming a scene you wrote later in the book. Yes, the first page needs to be able to hook your reader but right now just concentrate on writing. Let the words flow.
It is the same scenario for every chapter. Write the words down on that paper or screen and worry about the details later. Your first chapter should be about allowing the story to grow. This is when the plot comes together, characters are born, settings are created. Your first draft is probably not going to be a masterpiece. You may even cringe when reading it back. Worry about those mental checklists later when you write draft 2, 3, 4, until you have a complete manuscript (then worry about it some more).
My advice is: just write and enjoy the journey. Allow your characters to pursue adventure, fall in love, fight, cry, laugh, save the world. Be dazzled by the brilliance that is your imagination. Editing is the next step. Editing polishes those words into something amazing. But… that comes later.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of anankkml / 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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