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Facts are Free, Opinion is Priceless

So much creativity used to be stifled by the publishing industry. Now, with self published book sales overtaking the more traditional forms, the publishing industry is being dragged kicking and screaming into a new world order for the 21st century. Sara Bain, this week's guest poster, discusses the implications for us all. When facts are freely available on the internet, informed opinion is priceless.
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Facts are Free, Opinion is Priceless

by Sara Bain

Sarah Bain opinion is priceless blog post graphicWith the likes of Amazon re-defining the concept of publishing and turning the industry on its head, more and more new authors are springing from the slush piles of traditional publishing houses to boldly go to e-book and print – a new frontier where quality is argued to be the victim of quantity.

The coming of the digital age brought many changes to many different business models. Some embraced those changes and survived, while others have come on board too late and are desperately trying to find ways to catch that proverbial boat sailing away without them.

The invention of the digital photograph didn’t kill the photography industry, it just altered it. Camera and lens manufacturers have benefited from the change and turned everyone into a happy snapper to the detriment of professional photographers. Print companies have learned to change the ways in which photographs are presented and make their profits by producing photo books, posters and fancy art boards.

“The newspaper industry has been hit hard by digital technology”

The newspaper industry has been hit hard by digital technology with many long established titles folding while circulation figures are making the shape of a depressing downward spiral. More people than ever, however, are reading the news. They are just not buying newspapers when they can find the same or similar information for free on their computers, tablets and mobile phones.

There is a similar pattern emerging in the publishing industry. E-book sales on Kindle have overtaken that of printed copies and now everyone and anyone can be a published author, much to the detriment of the established publishing houses and literary agents.

There has been a lot of recent hysterical debate over whether the absence of a quality watchdog undermines the value of the publishing industry. Many traditional houses as well as published authors, of course, believe that the quantity of poorly edited, badly written, inadequately produced books that are flooding the markets on a daily basis are somehow damaging the integrity of a business that has told readers what they should read for eons.

“In August, there were 6,000 new books produced on Smashwords alone”

For a new author, there is a virtual slush pile emerging that has already reached mountainous heights and continues to climb. In August, there were 6,000 new books produced on Smashwords alone. The number on Kindle would be considerably higher. Out of this vast wash of titles, most would never have seen the light of day had their authors gone down the traditional publishing route, for most would have been rejected: many by way of rude silence owing to the prohibitive costs of postage and time on limited manpower.

The coming of the digital era has caused a shift in the dynamics between author and publisher relationships. It is readers who are making all the decisions on what they would like to read rather than be told what they should. This has come as a shock to an industry which has played Pied Piper for centuries and now publishers are stalking Amazon to see which self-published author is selling well and offering them deals: like the mountain landing on Mohammed’s lap.

Quantity has not killed quality, it has just provided a new-found freedom of choice to readers and now every author can have a shot at glory: proving irrefutably that public opinion is dictating market trends. That’s priceless.

Sara Bain's debut novel, The Sleeping Warror, is available from Amazon now.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and this post with your friends, too!

Silas Champion dealing with rejection headshot

Keeping That Chin Up | Dealing With Rejection

Self published authors are truly on their own - long hours in front of the computer screen writing and marketing! Then along comes a troll and puts the boot in. This week's guest poster, Silas Champion, has a few tips on dealing with rejection.
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Keeping That Chin Up | Dealing With Rejection

by Silas Champion

Silas Champion self motivation headshotWriting can be a discouraging endeavor. A writer sits in front of a computer for months or sometimes years to create a very personal work of art. He or she then pushes this delicate art form into the wide world to face criticism. It can be a terrifying experience. It’s like an eagle pushing its baby out of the nest.

Every writer faces rejection. Publishers and agents reject our work. Self-published authors face bad reviews from readers or just difficulty getting anyone to buy their book. Many famous authors suffered a lot of rejection before they found success.

It can be difficult to deal with this rejection. Our work is personal; therefore rejection of our work feels like a rejection of us. Sometimes when we get that thirteenth vague form letter rejection from an agent, we just want to throw the laptop out the window. When we see a zero in our monthly sales on Amazon, we feel like chucking it all and living in a box under a bridge.

How can we avoid giving in to discouragement? How can we stay out from under that bridge? Well, first, we should step away from the laptop and put that big box in the recycling bin. The television reception is terrible under the bridge anyway. I think there are three ways to keep your chin up in the face of rejection.

Celebrate Small Victories

The first way is to focus on the positive. Keep that review from someone who enjoyed your book close at hand. Go back and look at a positive post about your work on social media. There are people out there who enjoy your work. This is one reason why we write. With all the rejection and discouragement, it is good to be reminded of this from time to time. I still remember the first review I got from a total stranger. Someone who didn’t even know me talked at great length about how they enjoyed my book. I go back and read that review occasionally, and some others as well. Even though some people will not like your work, others will. Don’t give in to negativity.

Find Community

Writing is a solitary endeavor. It is a very isolating activity as well. Isolation makes it much easier to become discouraged. Find some people who will lift you out of the slough of despair. Talk to a friend on the phone. Exchange emails with a positive person. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to find community. There are many encouraging and friendly writers on social media. They are facing the same struggles. You are not the only writer struggling with crippling self-doubt and discouragement.

Of course, there are plenty of trolls and negative people online as well. Ignore the angry trolls (unless, of course, it is an actual troll–then run away). Find good people and interact with them. Avoid those who constantly spew discouraging information. There are many writers out there who run down famous authors or just lament their lack of success. Reading for the umpteenth time how Amazon’s algorithms are stacked against you will drive anyone to drink. There are always complainers. Find positive people and push negativity away.

Keep Writing

One of the most exciting things that can happen to a writer is the new idea. There is a rush of excitement and energy that comes with it. A new project is full of possibilities. It is like an undiscovered country awaiting exploration. Keep yourself busy with this excitement and you won’t have time to wallow in self-doubt and pity. This doesn’t mean we should ignore older projects. Jumping from one project to another without finishing anything is counterproductive. That will lead to frustration as well. It does mean, though, that we should always be pushing forward. The new possibilities will motivate us to move past our self-doubt.

So stay out from under bridges (seriously, there are trolls there) and just keep writing. Keep going. Keep working. Don’t let your doubts and fears make decisions for you. Find positive people, explore new possibilities, and keep reminders of small successes. Go for it. Don’t give up, and seriously, throw that box away.

What are some things that I missed? How do you push past the obstacles of doubt and discouragement in your writing?

Silas Champion is author of the children's book Finbar's Fiddle, available on Amazon.

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Scintillating Dialogue

Ever felt your dialogue was not what it could be? In today's guest post, Fiona Carter covers tips for bringing your characters' conversations into the real world.  Enjoy!

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On Writing Scintillating Dialogue
By Fiona Carter

Dialogue is one of my absolute favorite parts of storytelling, and as a result, it’s a part I’ve put a lot of conscious effort into getting right. Like most authors, I struggled with that stilted feeling in my earliest attempts, and I’m certain I have plenty more to learn, but I’m proud to say that I’m often told now that my funny, sweet, and/or rip-your-heart-out scenes of dialogue are my greatest strength, so here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve figured out on the topic throughout my career thus far.

First, a note on stylized vs. realist dialogue:

These are not two different techniques so much as a sliding scale. All good dialogue is, by its very nature, stylized to some extent, just as all fiction is. Reality has lots of fluff that isn’t particularly meaningful or entertaining and never leads anywhere, both in and out of conversation.

Fiction conveys emotional truth by reflecting a distilled version of the emotionally relevant parts of reality, and dialogue is no exception. 100% realistic dialogue would have a lower frequency of memorable, resonating moments and be unreadably long-winded and aimless in places. On the other hand, dialogue that is far enough removed from reality that it no longer feels sincere has also failed at fiction’s goal.

Whether you aspire to be an uncanny realist or the novelist version of Quentin Tarantino, these tips should help give your dialogue the impact you’re looking for.

1: Listen to your characters.

Really listen. Hear what they sound like. All people, even people who grew up together, have slightly different speech patterns. Your characters should too. Depending on their life experiences and individual dispositions, different characters will use different turns of phrase, often turns of phrase you wouldn’t choose for yourself.

They’ll also verbally respond to situations differently. Some will have emotional outbursts at the drop of a hat, and some won’t. A volatile character who doesn’t react to a major occurrence will feel wrong (unless there’s an exceptional reason for it), as will a usually stable character having a meltdown over a minor occurrence (again, unless their unusual reaction is a noted plot point). If you need a tough character to have a meltdown, be prepared to arrange a plot that will convincingly push him or her over the edge.

That said, if you’re going to write a dialect dramatically different from your own, be careful. Study people who speak it, and err on the side of subtlety.

2: Write it from all sides.

Give all characters the dignity of speaking as if the scene is from their perspective. As writers, controlling all sides of a conversation, we have the power to tweak things a little bit to set characters up for better reactive lines than we’re likely to get in reality, but don’t abuse the privilege.

Every line spoken by every character, even the most minor of minor characters, must have some plausible, in-character thought process behind it. If a character only says something to set another character up for a line, or to offer exposition to the reader, the line will sound unnatural.

If you can’t find an effective way to rationalize it from the speaker’s perspective, find another way to slip in that exposition, or cut that great comeback you were setting up. Your work will benefit from it as a whole.

3: Remember that a scene is more than a script. It’s also a performance.

Your readers can’t see or hear your characters the way you can. They can only see the words. Think about how many different undertones the word “okay” can carry, depending on whether it’s said grudgingly, cheerfully, or somewhere in between. Consciously look for any unintentional way the spirit of the words could be lost or misinterpreted, and make the mood clear. A single line description of a character’s body language can make all the difference.

4: Let characters say what they want to say, not what you want to say.

Few things are more obvious or damaging to suspension of disbelief than an author pushing characters into a sock puppet argument analyzing an issue. Characters can certainly express beliefs if they come up naturally and help to develop the plot or relationships, but those beliefs must believably belong to those characters and be expressed the way those characters would spontaneously express them. When dialogue begins to sound like a rehearsed, structured demonstration by a school debate club, it no longer belongs in fiction.

If your story has a message, trust the subtle, honest exploration of the world, characters, and events to communicate it naturally.

5: As in all things, show, don’t tell.

People rarely talk about how they feel in clear, clinical terms. Moments of startling honesty are great if they’re used sparingly and set up believably, such as when characters are under extreme pressure, chemically/magically/otherwise mentally altered, or in company they deeply trust, but often a point can be made much more effectively through how they say things and in what they don’t say.

Suppose your characters are making up after a big fight. A gesture of peace, a few brief words about the heart of the problem, or even a few words about some inconsequential detail of the fight if your characters are still skirting their issues, will take you much further than a whole chapter of them analyzing their psyches in marital counseling session levels of detail.

6: Finally, say it out loud!

Act it out, the whole conversation, back and forth, the way you intend it to sound, with the narration left out. It’s the most effective way to identify those last little awkward parts that need adjusting, reactions that don’t quite follow logically, contractions that need to be added or removed.

Happy writing, everyone, and may your dialogue sparkle!

Fiona Carter writes under the pen name J R TitchnellF.J.R. Titchenell and is the author of several short stories and her latest full length novel, Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) can be pre ordered from Amazon now.

Share your thoughts on writing scintilating dialogue below - and this article with your friends!


Procrastination

I think we all do procrastination in various forms - the oven that suddenly requires cleaning urgently, letters that need to be written and cats that must be played with before sitting down to write. In this guest post Amanda Scott outlines how she uses procrastination for character development.
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Character and Story Via Procrastination

by Amanda Scott

I always feel an uncomfortable twinge of guilt when leaving my work-in-progress to watch my favorite seasons of Doctor Who. This is time that could be spent writing. However, it allows me to combine my two great loves: writing and the BBC. Like many I think about my writing and its elements all the time. I’m always looking for new sources of conflict, listening to the dialogue of strangers, catching onto accents and dialects, or observing mannerisms and gaits. It was inevitable that my writing obsession would converge with my BBC time. For the next few hundred words I would like to justify the catalyst of procrastination.

“I become ridiculously attached to characters”

Doctor Who is a specific weakness of mine and I confess I enjoy the modern (2005-present) Doctor Who over classic. I will also confess that I become ridiculously attached to characters- the characters of my own creation, characters in books and the characters of my TV shows. I offer no apologies for this because, after all, isn’t the point of ANY story to create a character(s) that people will root for and find sympathetic? I love The Doctor character and adored the way David Tennant portrayed him. When the inescapable reality of his replacement drew near; I almost stopped watching the show because I was sure that I could never see anyone else as The Doctor. Behold! The next Doctor came and I found myself willing to believe this was the same man in a different form. When this happened my writer’s mind started deconstructing this conundrum (it was a conundrum to me anyhow.) I realized the character of the Doctor was so strong and so well written that everything I enjoy about him (confidence, humor, adventurous spirit, kindness, and a sense of wonder) was still intact. It is a testament to great writing to have a different embodiment and not lose the fundamental character. The reliability of the character makes you feel close to him; as if you actually knew him. This is how close I want my readers to feel to my characters. I’m sure you can say something for the actor as well but people talk about them enough already. We see this with Sherlock Holmes too, a character so strong that he transcends time and form (novels, movies and TV adaptations.) character intact. All the time showing that a reliable character does not mean a entirely predictable one and let’s never confuse a character’s arc with inconsistent character. See all the inspiration from procrastination? In fear of getting out of my depth I will not over explain the non-predictable yet reliable character. You will know it when you read it, which is why writers must do a great deal of reading.

“We always know what he will not do while still getting to wonder what he will do”

Although the Doctor Who character is written for television; which is different from novels, but all the elements of the story still apply and one of those elements is a character. Someone wrote this character so well that multiple writers, plots lines and actors have a clear idea of who this character is - his motivations, his driving force, his weaknesses and his inner demons. We always know what he will not do while still getting to wonder what he will do. So the next time you want to loaf in front of your TV you may call it research, enjoy your time, and then get back to work.

Tips

  1. Turn procrastination into inspiration!
  2. A good character is worth their weight in publishing contracts (or gold. Whichever you like).
  3. Writing is a maneuvering of paradoxes and Time Lords.
  4. Videogames. Yes, you read that right, the age of ‘videogames rotting brains’ is over. Like it or not; video games are created by writers and artists, and therefore is an art form.
    • Assassins Creed- Character, visuals, plot
    • The Elder Scrolls- Especially for fantasy writers
    • Minecraft- for landscapes and creative stimulus
    • Halo Reach (my preference.) Scifi, teamwork, plot, and guns.

This is such a small list and these are popular games that I love and have found helpful. Go to your local gaming store or online (I recommend STEAM). Ask or look for something that fits your work in progress. I am working on a paranormal romance that involves traveling through Dante’s Inferno. Guess what? There is a game for that! You can also find the soundtracks to these games on YouTube. They are beautiful and inspiring.

Stories are everywhere and in everything. Happy writing and happy procrastinating.

What a great post, Amanda! What do readers feel about using procrastination as an engine to drive character and story? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and share with your friends.

 

Self Editing

Most of us think of editing as a job for someone else - and dread it! This week's guest poster, Milissa R Bailey, makes a persuasive argument in favour of self editing. Enjoy!
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She Devil She Is – Self Editing

by Milissa R. Bailey

Milissa R Bailey self editing guest post graphicInvading my nostrils with bitter, acrid stench I knew without a moment’s hesitation the bane of my literary existence was within reach. Her penchant for deftly reaching into my work, ripping from it the very heartbeat of the message and snipping it into little pieces of pabulum was an art known only to the most wretched of life’s ambassadors of doom, better known to most authors as self editing.

I write for the passion of telling a story. And when I write, like so many of my fellow authors, we want to paint that picture as accurately as possible. We want the reader to see, breath, taste, yes even chew the story. But in this birthing process, where words flood, gush, sometimes rush to the surface, we find ourselves overloading the reader, sinking our own proverbial ship of synonyms. Then it comes to pass, you glance back upon your handy work and it is time to take scalpel in hand and edit.

“Does this scene contribute to the story?”

I will be the first to admit when I gaze upon my handy work I think, “How can I remove such a wonderful scene?” The work that went into the intricately woven fabric of character banter, posturing and laying of groundwork promising to build to a fabulous crescendo... But alas.
[h3]Making the Story Better[/h3]
However, the secret many of us discover after our first significant purge… almost without fail, the story becomes, well, better. I know, I know, hard to admit as it is the question you need to ask yourself, “Does this scene contribute to the story?” Or is it just a beautifully written sideline only sustaining your desire to be eloquent?

Self editing, she devil that she is, has actually become a “freeing” experience for this writer. No, I have not been seduced into the dark side. But rather gleaning your work also frees the reader to take in what you truly want them to in your written world. You’ve heard it before, you don’t need to “spoon feed” your readers. Giving a reader “just enough” is the key.

Granted some will say hitting the reader over the head with the obvious story line, beating them into the ending has made for some very successful authors. That I cannot argue. But as an avid reader and one who loves trying to solve the mystery ahead of the words on the page, the tease, hint, promise of what I’m reading between the lines is much more enticing.

“when slicing and dicing a scene, I tuck it away, both mentally and physically”

Okay, I will admit, when slicing and dicing a scene, I tuck it away, both mentally and physically (what do you think copy and paste was meant for?) Justification for said act? I may use it in another venture, or glean from it later. Plus is makes things a little less painful.

One of the biggest traps I find myself in, falling in love with secondary characters. And with that comes the nagging desire to tell the reader about them. I’ve overcome this addiction by allowing myself to write said detail and then moving the excess baggage to another book. Cheating perhaps, but whatever it takes to get the flow going, I’m all for it!

Yes, there have been times where it has been a near death experience to strip the flaws and foibles of a beloved character from the pages. “How could anyone reading this book not want to know this?” Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully the “no pain no gain” has worked well. The cast offs have spurred storylines never thought of before, causing this author to take pause. True believer in the mantra “everything happens for a reason,” I take solace in someday the she devil’s handiwork will be for the greater good. Dramatic, yes. But as many a writer will tell you, this casting off of sorts can be physically and emotionally draining.

Take the leap; embrace your inner editor

Step one: The sentence reads fine without all the “extras” DELETE
Step two: The scene is fluff, not that it isn’t beautifully written, but, you’re not making a quilt here. You’re weaving a story!
Step three: Breathe, you’re doing great!

Self editing - Necessary Nemesis.

Milissa's latest book, Gracier, can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

What are your thoughts about editing - self or otherwise? Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and with your friends, using the handy buttons!