Category Archives: How to be an Author

Adrian King Writing revolution guest post headshot

Self Publishing: The Writing Revolution

Becoming an author is easier than it has ever been - we have something to say and now, with the advent of self publishing in all its forms, we are able to reach an audience through our own efforts, rather than relying on being noticed by an agent or publishing house. This week's guest poster, Adrian King, has some tips on how to take full advantage of the writing revolution.

The Writing Revolution

By Adrian King

Adrian King Writing revolution guest post headshotI consider myself privileged to be a writer living in one of the most extensive revolutions to ever hit the publishing industry. Authors have more access to their readers than any other time in history. We no longer rely on the decisions of a few publishing houses to determine the destiny of our work. Rather, we can look to our audience, and create our own success. The wide distribution of E-readers and more access to print-on-demand companies in the last ten years have transformed how our business works.

“Tweet something personal. Post a picture of your pets.”

So, how can a novice writer begin their solo journey to published author? This short guideline can help you begin a strong foundation.

  • Start by testing your work. Ask family and trusted friends to read your piece, and get it edited. If you can't afford a professional editing service, then seek out writer's critique groups. You have asked these people for their opinions, so be prepared when they offer them. Some writers become so attached to their work that they cannot accept constructive criticism. All they have done is ignored the fact that their work could be better. However, do not let anyone dilute your focus either. Keep an open mind about suggested changes and consider every option, but ultimately it is your name on the cover.
  • Build a strong author's platform.
    • Create an author's page on Facebook, and link it to your Twitter account. Once you link them, your Facebook posts will tweet, and your tweets will post as status updates on Facebook. Invite all of your friends to like your page. Be sure not to make your pages one long running commercial. Tweet something personal. Post a picture of your pets. You will be ignored if you bombard your friends and followers with commercials about your book. It is also important to grow your audience. Follow industry professionals, invite everyone you know to be your friend, and even include your Facebook and Twitter information on your printed materiel. It is common now for people to judge the reputation of artists, authors, and companies on their number of likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter. This is why many large companies have entire departments dedicated to their social media coordination.
    • Also, an author's website is a must. Have your complete bio available. Have descriptions of all of your available titles, along with a link to where they can be purchased.
    • Want to make two royalties for each sale? Amazon makes it possible.
      • First, make sure your book is available for sale on Amazon.com.
        Then become an Amazon Associates Member. This allows you to sell Amazon products on your author's page for a commission.
      • Finally, create links to your book at Amazon Associates and use them as the links to purchase your book. Now, when people click the link to buy your book, you will get paid a commission for the advertisement and the royalty for your book sale.
    • Start a blog. Your blog doesn't need to be about writing. Blog about something you love. Your family, travel, pets, anything. People who do not typically read Sci-Fi might buy the Sci-Fi title of their favorite travel blogger. You may not look forward to starting another regular commitment, but there are plenty of good reasons to get it done. You will get good practice writing, grow your audience, and provide content for your social media posts.
  • Choose your weapon. Choosing your printer and distributor is like choosing a relationship. Carefully define your budget, and then do your research. Createspace.com, Lulu.com, and iUniverse.com all have their pros and cons. You will need to choose a company that fits your needs and budget.
  • Get your name out there. When people search your name, you want them to find your book. There are many ways to get this done, but here are a couple of simple and cheap methods that I like.
    • I listed my book on E-bay. Most search engines will display E-bay results on the first page.
    • Next I created an author's bio on Amazon.
    • Become a guest blogger. Establish your blog and write enough content to show your expertise on your topic. Then, offer to write posts for other blogs similar to your own. This will not only spread your byline, but also help drive some traffic back to your own blog.
    • Finally, a blog tour is a great way to get your book mentioned on several websites in a short period of time.
“You are no longer just a writer. You are an Author”

All these things can help you build a strong base. Remember, how successful you become is completely up to you. You are no longer just a writer. You are an Author... Not to mention publicist, head of marketing, editor-in-chief, and designer. It is hard work to be your own publisher, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Useful tips there from Adrian King - there were a few I hadn't thought of! How do you let people know about your books? Use the comments below to share your thoughts - and the handy buttons to share this post with your friends, too.

Ed Kociela Your Way guest post headshot

It’s Your Story: Tell It Your Way

How many times have you been told that there are rules to writing and that your story should adhere to those rules? In today's guest post, Ed Kociela suggests that rules are all very well (I'm an apostrophe obsessive, myself!), but only if they don't interfere with your story telling.
[sendtokindle]

Tell Your Story Your Own Way

by Ed Kociela

Ed Kociela Your Story guest post headshot
There’s no lack of hints and advice available to the fledgling author.

The Internet is filled with tips on how to write the Great American Novel.

The problem? For every tip, there is a contradictory bit of advice about how to string words together in a coherent manner.

It reminds me of a creative writing class I once took in college. The professor was a stereotypical, Irish writer, down to the red-bulbed nose acquired from many years of imbibing copious amounts of Jameson Irish Whiskey to the tweed jacket with patches on the elbows and ever-present pipe clenched between his teeth.

Every sentence, he told us, must have a certain number of words. Every paragraph must have so many sentences. Almost every noun requires three adjectives.

Yeah, that kind of thing.

I was sailing through the class, adhering to his rules until one day when I raised my hand.

“Isn’t the point of writing supposed to be one person communicating their idea to another?” I asked.

“Well, of course,” he said.

“When we speak to each other, don’t we construct our thoughts in different ways, sometimes using many words, other times using very few?” I asked.

“Well…uh…yes,” he said.

“Then shouldn’t we, as writers, find the most appropriate way to communicate rather than over-burden our reader with all this flowery bullshit?” I said.

“Aye…do the next assignment your way. Let’s see whatcha got.”

And, the fight was on. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dylan Thomas, Robert Burns, and many others were brought into the fray until, finally, the exasperated professor unclenched the pipe from between his teeth, pointed the stem at me, and said: “Aye…do the next assignment your way. Let’s see whatcha got.”

I did, and when he returned the assignment, my grade was an “A,” with a lengthy scrawled note about his desire to teach us the rules so we could then know how and when to break those rules.

So, when I see these online tips about how to go about writing, I think of Professor Casey and the brash kid who, unbeknown to him, had been earning money through writing for four years before taking his class, working in a drab and smoky newsroom of a small, southern California daily newspaper.

I would like to think that by the time somebody decides they want to write a book they would have studied grammar, know how to punctuate, and have assembled a vocabulary that allows them ample words to precisely describe the scene and characters growing in their mind.

As writers, we are under-valued. We have all listened as that relative, friend, acquaintance tells us, “You know, I been a lot of places, did good in English, and people like my stories…I oughta write a book. At least that’s what people tell me.”

After the initial urge to strangle them, we are calmed when we remember that if you placed a monkey at a keyboard, sooner or later it would peck out a complete sentence. I know that for a fact because as a newspaper editor for more years than I care to count, I worked with my share of monkeys.

Just because you can turn on a laptop doesn’t mean you have the ability and discipline to put together about 100,000 coherent words. If you think so, I’ll be happy to buy you a bunch of bananas to sustain you while you pound away on the keys.

Because I have a couple books under my belt at this point – “plygs,” a journalistic novel about a fundamentalist Mormon cult that lives along the Utah-Arizona state line, and “It Rocked! (Recollections of a reclusive rock critic),” which is a memoir from my days as the rock critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner – I have had several writers contact me with questions about writing, from technique to fighting writer’s block.

“technique is a personal thing”

I always explain that technique is a personal thing and that writer’s block is something I know very little about because I have rarely experienced it.

I have read sample chapters, outlines, bits and pieces of thoughts and half-thoughts submitted to me by writers. I always encourage them to keep at it, to see where it leads, to hang on to some of the passion that inspired them to want to tell the story in the first place. As writers, we all share a certain amount of insecurity and, at times, need a little pat on the butt to keep going.

Other than that, I offer little else because I would hate to change the writer’s voice, inhibit their thought process, or interrupt the rhythm of their words. The best you can do is simply encourage them to keep moving forward. They will strengthen their words in the second or third rewrite.

A lot of writers make the mistake of emulating their heroes. The inherent danger, of course, is that there was only one Steinbeck, one Hemingway, one Mark Twain, one Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve seen writers who try to adopt the style of another. No good ever comes of it.

So, if there is one solid piece of advice I can offer, it would be, to borrow a line from Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”

“Know yourself, know your purpose, know your limitations”

Know yourself, know your purpose, know your limitations as well as your abilities, and tell your story as you see it, and not in the manner of somebody else or to please somebody else because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Write to please yourself. When you write to please others, you end up pleasing no one.”

It’s your story.

Tell it your way.

I am occasionally guilty of emulating my favourite writers - do you have to watch yourself and your writing the same way? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and with your friends, using the handy buttons!

Giulia Simolo Writers Multiple Lives post graphic

The Writer’s Multiple Lives

As authors, we often feel like we're multiple people living multiple lives. This week's guest poster, Giulia Simolo, explores this concept. How do you experience the Writer's multiple lives?
[sendtokindle]

The Writer’s Multiple Lives

By Giulia Simolo

Giulia Simolo Writers Multiple Lives post graphicIt was midnight. I could not sleep and my mind was wandering like a ship in the night, unsure of its destination but unwilling to throw its anchor overboard. That was when the voice came to me. It felt like that of an old friend, and yet it belonged to someone completely new and utterly fascinating.

Was I going crazy?

“how do you explain the connection you experience with these characters”

To the world, you might feel that this would be labelled insane. Hearing voices? Seeing images of someone in your mind? You, of course, know that this is a character for your new story that demands being written on the page immediately. But to the world, the idea that someone out there is speaking to you could make people question your stability! Added to this, how do you explain the connection you experience with these characters, and how you feel loss when the story ends and they stop pestering you at midnight? How would you explain to a non-writer that you feel that the characters choose you instead of you picking them from your imagination?

And yet, these are the kinds of things that happen to a writer. Once you meet your character and he or she settles in for tea, you start building on that initial impression to ensure they are not a whimsical creature made of slivers of lace but actual three-dimensional beings. When tackling characterization, there are often tips and various forms of advice handed out to writers, such as that it’s important to have a full sketch of who your character is (and this should be very detailed) before you embark on the writing journey. Tips such as the above are helpful, however there is one aspect that no one can control and which must not always be reined in during this process: the writer’s mind.

“The writer takes on a role similar to that of an actor”

Award winning Irish writer Emma Donoghue once said, ‘[Writing stories] lets me, at least for a while, live more than one life…’ Through our writing we can experience various things, many of which are in contrast to our daily lives. For instance, we might put ourselves in the shoes of a protagonist who travels the world or is obsessively dieting, or a drug addict… The writer takes on a role similar to that of an actor: he or she has to play the part, explore it, invest in their imagination, and try to make it as real as possible. This experience in the mind will be different for every writer. Although one’s characters are essentially made up, the writer is spending hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes even years with them, constantly perfecting them and their stories. Through these characters, the writer not only explores their lives but their own life if they were the character - all inside their own head. It is a vicarious way to live out a different reality, which can be exciting and liberating.

We have been told many times that keeping a diary or journal can help us process feelings or situations. Writers take this idea one step further by allowing their characters to do the elbow work for them. If you cannot understand or surrender to a situation you find yourself in in real life, such as illness or heartache, it can be vastly therapeutic to allow your character to find ways to deal with the problem on your behalf. Turn your character into a sci-fi knight to slay your disease! Allow your character to be a tough-talking, independent woman who rejects the man instead of getting her heart smashed into pieces! Perhaps, if you feel you cannot do or say something in your real life, you can take your frustrations or solutions out on the computer screen, changing reality somewhat. The power that comes with the imagination! Allowing ourselves to live different lives on the page can transform our reality, helping us come to terms with our dilemmas, and offer the world an incredible story that will hopefully inspire readers who can relate to it. As the brilliant writer Virginia Woolf expressed: ‘Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.’

The reason I say one cannot, and should not, control the writer’s mind is that, as brilliant writer Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world knows.’ Every writer starts with a perspective, thought or idea that no one else would fully perceive. This is what makes every writer so unique, like a snowflake or fingerprint. Maintaining this state of being instead of feeling afraid of it is crucial to the writer excelling in his or her craft. However, the writer’s mind is at work long before any contact with the pen and paper occurs. It is as though characters are marinating in our subconscious before we meet them. They appear to us as though they are answering our private call in the small hours of the morning, and maybe they have been waiting for the right time to enter our lives. The most amazing part about characters is that they are really just ourselves answering our own calls.

“Meeting your story’s character is like meeting a part of yourself”

Meeting your story’s character is like meeting a part of yourself. Even if your character is very different when compared to you, they are a part of you. You created them, even if you didn’t realize you were doing this until they stormed in unannounced. Before pushing them out so you can get back to bed, ask them why they are there and who knows? It might just be the start of a wonderful story.

Is the writer crazy? Absolutely not. On this earth, we are all walking stories, made up of different ideas, contradictions, and sometimes feeling like different people. We change, sometimes from one minute to the other. All we are doing as writers is allowing ourselves to live out all those fancies and ideas in another realm. The beauty is when this reaches full circle: when a reader grasps onto the character and feels that they are mirrored in them, that they can survive another day or the character’s words echo the machinations of their own soul. That is when the writer’s so-called folly becomes beautiful fiction, the caterpillar of self-doubt transformed into the hopeful butterfly with wings constructed out of the most powerful material that exists on earth: words.

Giulia Simolo's book, Eat Your Heart Out, can be found on Amazon.

Some of us have many narratives all going on at the same time. What's your experience of this? Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and this post with your friends!

fiona Carter scintillating dialogue headshot

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!

[sendtokindle]

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.
[sendtokindle]

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.