When you’re writing historical romance  (or anything historical), please research.

I’ve been writing Regencies, and the material on the Web which is available at a click is mind-blowing. To repeat… the material is available at a click. Yes, confirm information  from a few sources, but do try to get your facts right. You’ll make mistakes. As a reader, I’ll forgive a lot, but not a constant stream of errors.

I enjoyed this review, although I wager the book’s author didn’t:

“4) Here’s a few more – they are installed in the house owned by the Marquess, formerly belonging to his grandmother, and none of the society gossip-mongers wonders about this? And her mother’s old friend, Lady Caroline, offers to get them vouchers for Almacks? Not if she isn’t a patroness she won’t. And what is the deal with a bunch of men suddenly paying visits to the 5 women in their home? Without ever being introduced, since they had not yet been into society? I don’t think so. Just as they would have had a hard time being invited to the Duchess of Dorset’s ball without having been properly introduced and vetted for their acceptability into society first.”

My apologies to the book’s author for calling out this review. I haven’t read the book. For all I know it’s excellent,  but  I’m using the review to point out the importance of research.

If you’re writing historicals, read others’ reviews of books set in your time period. You’ll soon get a feel for the woeful mistakes which rile readers.

Here’s what annoys me about this kind of thing: the author spends a lot of time writing the best book he or she can. With just a tiny amount of care, the book could be so much better — and sell better — and one-star reviews could be avoided.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Writing a Novel: Pantsing Without Panicking

You’re writing a novel. Or you hope you are. You’re not sure, because you’re a pantser, and you know that at some stage your “novel” may fizzle. It’s happened before. Unlike plotters, we pantsers write, hoping for the best.

I’m a recovered pantser, because pantsing is impossible when you have deadlines. Nevertheless, I still pants at least three thousand words of each new novel. A beginning novelist who tackled NaNoWriMo last November asked me how turn her 50,000 words into a novel.

Here’s what I told her.

You only need two things for a novel to work as a commercial novel. (If you’re writing a literary novel, you’re on your own. :-)) You need: big trouble for your main character defined in a story question, and character arcs. Simple, right?

1. The story question: BIG trouble for your main character

Whether you follow the Hero’s Journey in your plotting or not, it’s useful because it reminds you that your main character starts off in his ordinary world. If you’re writing a New Adult novel, for example, your main character’s in college, or just out of college, and is worrying about getting a job, or hating her job.

You can’t spend too long in the character’s ordinary world, but you need to spend a little time there to acclimatize your reader.

If your readers don’t know your main character, they won’t care about her, and it won’t matter to them when bad things happen to her. So your first task is always to have your main character reveal himself.

Depending on your genre, you may not start your book in Ordinary World. Let’s say you’re writing a mystery, or a thriller. You want to start off with the killing. That’s fine. You have an opening scene in which the victim becomes a corpse. You’ll often see this initial “dead body” scene done as a prologue. In the next scene, we’re in Ordinary World, with your sleuth.

Next, we have the story question. As soon as possible, once you’ve had a couple of writing sessions in which you pants happily away, consider your characters, and brainstorm the story question. In the Hero’s Journey, the story question is introduced via the Call to Adventure.

In your New Adult novel, your story question might be: “does hopeless female nerd get hot billionaire?” In your mystery, your story question will be: “who killed _ (the corpse)?”

Keep your story question in mind. Once you’ve answered it, your novel is over.

Look at it this way. Once you’ve introduced your main character, and the ordinary world he lives in, you need a story question. Pantsers get in trouble either because they never latch onto a story question, or they have too many questions. They introduce a cast of ten characters, and 25,000 words later, they have a lot of good stuff, but can’t corral it into a story.

Your story question is essential. If you’ve pantsed 50,000 words, find the story question. Or choose one, and lose the rest. (Yes, it’s painful. But you must do it.)

2. Character arcs for your main character (or two of your characters, if you’re writing a romance)

So now you have some pantsed material, and at least one character. That character needs development. An arc. Veronica Sicoe has an excellent article on character arcs.

Don’t sweat it. Keep it simple. Here’s how I think of a character arc. The character has a flawed world view because of something which happened to him, or because he was born that way. By the end of the novel, his world view will be rearranged.

In most novels, you only have the space for one character arc. In romances, you have two, with your heroine having the fully developed arc.

Getting back to our nerd girl in the NA novel. She’s convinced she’s shy. She can’t believe hot billionaire is interested in her, etc. Start brainstorming how nerd girl develops. She changes, yes. Her nerd girl character remains the same, but her world view changes.

In our mystery, the sleuth is an alcoholic detective, a stereotype. Our challenge is to make him real, and to give him a before-and-after world view. Start brainstorming. It’s fun. You’ll know when you’re on the right track with your novel’s development when the characters start to feel real to you.

So there we have it, dear pantser. Pants as much as you like, but sooner or later, consider the story question, and your characters’ arcs.

Is it time to master self-publishing?

Become an indie with style and panache.

 

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Indie Publishing 2015: Write, Write, and Write

2015 Book Publishing Industry Predictions: Slow Growth Presents Challenges and Opportunities for Authors

Indie publishing has come of age, so it’s time to get to work. Take Mark Coker’s words to heart:
Back to basics: The bestselling authors in 2015 win with best practices – The formula for bestseller success isn’t rocket science. Success is all about best practices. For every well-executed best practice implemented by the author, the author gains an incremental advantage in the marketplace. What are some of these best practices? 1. The author must write a super-awesome “wow” book that takes the reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme (this rule applies to fiction as well as non-fiction)
 As we’ve said, it’s all about the emotions:-)

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Kindle Unlimited and Short Fiction

Kindle Unlimited and Short Fiction

Indie authors expected that Kindle Unlimited would damage ebook sales, and many are disgruntled because it seems that it has.

For some writers, things are bad. A New York Times technology article reports:

“Six months ago people were quitting their day job, convinced they could make a career out of writing,” said Bob Mayer, an e-book consultant and publisher who has written 50 books. “Now people are having to go back to that job or are scraping to get by. That’s how quickly things have changed.”

The article also points out that authors have taken the hint from Kindle Unlimited, and are writing shorter materials to suit. From the same article: “Serial novels and short stories are increasing.”

Should You Be Writing Short Fiction?

Consider this. If you write a novel of 70,000 words, you can write ten short stories of 7,000 words in the same stretch of time. Or three novellas of 10,000 words. Your payment for KU “reads” (ten per cent of the ebook) will be the same either way. So your choice is to write one ebook, and get paid just over a dollar for a borrow and read, or spend the same amount of time and energy on shorter fiction. With luck, you’ll make more money, because you’ll get more borrows.

A couple of my students have gone all-in writing shorter fiction. Another couple are expanding short stories into novellas, and six authors are writing and publishing two short stories a week.

That said, just as many of my students are pressing on with novels. One said: “I want to build a career out of fiction. So I’m not giving Amazon an exclusive.” Several of these long-form fiction students are making more money from other ebook retailers than they made at Amazon, so Select has never enticed them, because it means giving Amazon exclusivity.

Write What You Write: Keep Writing, and Promoting

In Blogging Your Ebooks: Visibility Sells, I said:

“Every author is different, and needs a different strategy. We’ll use Mavis as an example, so you can see what’s involved in developing a strategy to gain visibily, attract the readers who want to buy your ebooks, and make sales.”

It’s too early to believe that Kindle Unlimited has damaged ebook sales, and will continue to do so. Bob Mayer believes that the “glut of content” means lower sales.

Maybe so. Honestly, I don’t care. As I’ve always said, you need to market your books. If you market you can write short fiction, or long fiction. Write whatever you want to write, and develop your marketing skills. The days when you could put your head down, and write, and leave it to Amazon’s algorithms to market your books have long gone.

Going forward, authors who take a head-in-the-sand approach to marketing leave their fate up to Amazon. You don’t need to do that. Believe in yourself. MARKET. If you’re a student of mine, you’re encouraged to market. Even the most shy of my students gets the marketing bug eventually, and starts looking on marketing as fun. It is.

Take control. Get visible. In 2015, authors need to believe in themselves enough to market their books. Kindle Unlimited can be a boon to your career, if you take it as the marketing opportunity that it is.

Not Sure How to Market Your Books? Get Coaching

Here are my current set coaching programs. You can also get personalized coaching.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Selling Nonfiction Ebooks: Win With Series

When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, it changed publishing. In 2015, ebook publishing will become tougher for indie publishers. Here’s why. Writing nonfiction ebooks is one thing. Selling nonfiction ebooks is something else.

Take heart. Even though the competition is tough, and getting tougher, you have many opportunities to write and sell ebooks. One of the biggest opportunities lies in creating your own series.

Here’s why:

  • A series gives you a chance to brand a name;
  • A series increases your visibility;
  • A series gives you an opportunity to build a readership; and
  • with the right series, you can build a great income.

Popular series: think Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup for the Soul was a early-1990s self-published book which turned into a bestseller. These days, it’s an entire conglomerate, which not only publishes books, but also sells pet food and makes movies. That’s what I mean by a brand. :-)

At this stage, very few writers think longterm. They think about the ebook they’re writing now, worry about their ebook sales, and think about the other ebooks they hope to publish.

Think Chicken Soup. If you hit the right series, you can turn it into an empire.

Is it easy? Heck no. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected many times, but Jack Canfield believed in the book. Over the years, there are endless stories about how tirelessly he worked to push Chicken Soup for the Soul. According to his website, there are now 123 million copies of the book in print.

Toss your hat into the ring: you never know what will succeed

As you may know, I coach writers. I love it, because I love writers and writing. However, it can be frustrating when I see writers make the same mistakes I made. Here’s one of my biggest mistakes.

Early in my career, I spent way too much time waiting for my editor and agent to get back to me. Finally I dumped my publishing house, and my agent, and struck out on my own. No, that wasn’t the mistake.

The mistake was waiting. I waited around for others to do stuff, instead of writing, and I listened to others, instead of believing in myself, and taking risks. These days, I believe in myself. I know that if I make a mistake, it’s just feedback on something that didn’t work, and the mistake is MINE. After suffering through others’ mistakes instead of taking control,  I’m proud to take the blame when things don’t work out.

Don’t wait. Write, and sell.

As soon as you finish one book, write another nonfiction book on the same topic. And then another one. And another. By the time your third ebook in the series has been published, you’ll have some idea whether you’re making enough sales.

Trust yourself: what do YOU think?

Let’s say you’ve written four books in a series. You’re selling ten copies a week. That’s not a huge amount. On the other hand, you haven’t done any promotion yet. Now it’s up to you. Consider that you have FOUR ebooks.

You could:

  • Create a bundle, so that you have FIVE books in the series;
  • Make one of your ebooks permanently free;
  • Create audio books out of the ebooks;
  • Create print books from your ebooks;
  • Buy advertising;
  • Create a mailing list…

I could go on, but you get the message. Once you have three or four books in a series, even if they’re only short ebooks, you can make a splash. If you want to…

On the other hand, perhaps you think that the topic you’ve covered doesn’t have an audience which is eager for your ebooks. In that case, let the series lie fallow for a few months. Do a little promotion, but focus on writing your next series.

A series gives you options that you don’t have when you write standalones

One of my students wrote 20 ebooks, on 20 different topics. When you write standalones, it’s a real challenge to build a following. I encouraged him to turn his bestselling standalone into a series.

Just three months later, he’s selling 100 ebooks a week. That’s not enough to make his fortune, but it’s showing him the value of writing in series.

If you’re selling nonfiction ebooks, keep writing in series in mind.

 Kindle Magic: take advantage of the new world of ebooks

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing can be your personal goldmine, IF you take advantage of the current opportunities. Kindle Magic shows you how.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Write A Novel: You Must Start It, and End It

Write A Novel: You Must Start It, and End It

If you want to write a novel, the novel’s beginning and ending are equally important. As the old saying goes, your novel’s beginning sells your book. The ending sells your next book.

I’ve been working with a group of new novelists, and each one has a complete novel. Sort of. I say “sort of” because their novels are buried amongst a lot of stuff which isn’t needed.

Each student’s novel is like a little treasure chest, buried in a pond. It’s up to the novelist to haul up the treasure chest, refurbish it, and polish up the jewels within.

Of course, these new novelists have lots of reasons they need the pond, but your readers aren’t interested in a pond. They want the treasure.

In other words, they want a story, with a beginning, a page-turning, suspenseful middle, and a good ending.

“This is the story of…”

If you’re currently writing a novel, or have just finished a novel, sum up the story in ONE sentence. Begin your sentence: “This is the story of…”

Just for a giggle, here’s Gone With the Wind in a sentence: Money-hungry Southern belle falls in and out of love; should’ve tried therapy.

Here’s the IMDB on Gone With the Wind: “A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.”

Can you sum up your story in a sentence? Of course you can. Write your sentence. If you can’t write a sentence, it’s just about 100 per cent certain that you don’t have a novel.

You may have a case of: this happens, then that happens, then something else happens, and something else happens…

That summed up the situation with my students. A lot of STUFF happened, most of that stuff wasn’t needed. They needed the treasure chest.

Got your sentence? Excellent.

Your Novel Begins When…

You have your story, in one sentence. Now think about when the story begins.

I’m currently rereading, for about the fourth time, Carla Kelly’s The Summer Campaign. The novel begins with a proposal, which the heroine, Onyx, accepts.

Where you start your novel is up to you. Don’t start it too early. I love The Summer Campaign, but it started a little too early. Carla Kelly could have lost the entire beginning, and started it when the highwaymen attacked Onyx’s coach. The proposal was a lot of yada yada; we see what a horrible person the vicar is later in the book. He isn’t a main character, there wasn’t any reason to introduce him at the beginning. Onyx’s relatives aren’t that important, either. They appear and then vanish. The book would have been stronger without them cluttering up the first few pages.

However, it’s up to YOU where you start. As we’ve said, don’t start your novel too early. Start when the main action of the story starts.

Your Novel Ends When…

Your novel’s ending is always in the beginning. This is why I said: start when the main action of the story starts. It’s great if your ending refers back to the beginning, in some way: by location, by an event, or by something that someone says.

You can start your novel in any way you choose, but your novel’s ending ALWAYS meets the expectations of your genre. So, if you’re writing a romance, it’s a forgone conclusion that it ends with a Happily Ever After (HEA.) If it doesn’t your readers won’t forgive you. If you’re writing a mystery, your novel ends when your sleuth solves the mystery.

When you’ve got an ending, and a beginning, you’ve got your treasure chest. Now you can polish the jewels, and paint and lacquer the chest.

When you’re writing your first novel, you’re learning a lot about yourself, and about your writing. Find your treasure chest by writing a one-sentence summary. Then decide where your novel starts, and where it ends.

Want to write commercial fiction?

Commercial fiction now makes money. You can write under a number of pen names – this is advisable if you’re writing erotica for example – and your ebooks will go on selling for years. As you build your publishing catalog, and gain readers, you will sell more ebooks with every new story you write. Learn more.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Write and Sell Ebooks: This is How You Do It

Wondering how you write and sell ebooks? This is how. Thanks to Lindsay Buroker for the long, and informative post:

Pen Name Launch: First Month Earnings $3043 (what worked and didn’t for marketing)

Lindsay is beyond generous in sharing her experience. Read the article, and make notes, if you want to write and sell.

This stood out for me:

Even though having Book 1 free definitely helped me sell Book 2, I should point out that it wasn’t as effective as I think it would have been if Book 1 had left some things unresolved and 2 had picked up with the same characters. I am writing in a series, but all of the books stand alone and feature different main characters.

So, if you’re writing in series, leave some open loops for readers who want to see how to story continues. There are endless ways you can do this.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Write Kindle Short Stories and Ditch These 3 Myths

Write Kindle Short Stories and Ditch These 3 Myths

You want to write Kindle short stories. There are many reasons this is an excellent plan. However, information abounds on the Web, and everyone has an opinion. If you pay too much attention to opinions, you can be led down some strange pathways. Over the past week, I’ve been working with some students who’ve managed to latch onto some odd ideas. They’re myths.

Here they are:

  • Short stories don’t sell. Readers want novels;
  • You need a super-duper cover illustration for your short story, and if you’re going to pay big money for a cover, you might as well write a novel;
  • You need to pay for editing on a short story.

Let’s dispel these myths.

1. Short Stories Don’t Sell. Readers Want Novels

Short stories sell in many genres: romance (especially erotica), mysteries, science fiction. These are the genres which spring to mind. I’m sure there are more. Readers enjoy short stories because they’re short. They can read a story on the train, before bed, and anytime they have a few minutes to spare.

That said, you need to let people know what they’re buying. If someone’s bought your short story, and expects a novel, they’ll be miffed. Add the words “a short story” to your title. Add it to your description as well. AND add it to the front matter, so that when a reader samples your ebook, they’ll see “a short story” there as well.

Pay Attention, This Is IMPORTANT: You Need Volume. One Short Story Won’t Make You Rich and Famous

When you ask someone who proclaims that “short stories don’t sell” how many short stories they’ve published, the answer is usually two, or three. I haven’t done a study on it, but anecdotally, you need at least 30 short stories before you’ll see significant sales. It goes without saying that you’ve written the best short stories of which you’re capable.

2. You Need a Super-Duper Cover Illustration for Your Short Story

Cover-mania’s a pet peeve of mine. What sells is the BOOK, not the cover. As David Ogilvy, the master of advertising said; “What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.” Extrapolating that to books, what counts is what’s in the book. In other words, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. A $1,000 cover won’t help a book if the content isn’t worth reading.

I often work with big publishers. If a book doesn’t sell, no publisher says: “Oh no, we need another cover.” They say: “The author’s a dud, that’s the last time we publish one of his books.”

I’ve no idea why “most people” think the cover is all-important. That said, if the cover is totally hopeless, it won’t help. So use Kindle Cover Creator for your short stories. It’s free, and it does the job.

My own theory about why people carry on about covers is this — it’s easy. If someone’s complaining that their story’s not selling it’s just easier to tell someone that they need a better cover, especially if you haven’t read their novel or short story.

3. You Need to Pay for Editing on a Short Story

The first time someone told me this, I said: “You’re kidding, right?” My own rule of thumb is: if I can read it in under 30 minutes, I do the editing myself.

Professional editing is vital for a novel. You’re too close to it. You think you’ve closed open loops, and that your characters are acting logically, but… You need others to read your novel, and help you to shape the story.

If you want to pay for editing on a short story, go ahead. You can and should do it yourself, however. Here’s why you should: you need the experience. It will make you a better writer. By all means, get some beta readers, but professional editing for a short story? Only if you’re going to compile a bunch of them into a book.

So, there you have it. Three myths around Kindle short stories. I’m sure there are more, these are just the most common.


Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Can Be Your Personal Goldmine

Kindle Magic

In Kindle Magic, Self-publishing Mastery, we cover what you need to know to publish both fiction and nonfiction successfully. We also look at ways you can leverage your ebooks to help your writing career.

Enjoy. It’s my earnest hope that it helps you to overcome your blocks, and win the success you deserve.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Writing A Novel and Finishing It

Writing A Novel and Finishing It

You’re writing a novel. Perhaps it’s the novel of your heart, the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Or perhaps you got all enthusiastic and wanted to join friends doing NaNoWriMo.

That first flush of enthusiasm — I’m writing a novel! — has long gone. It’s dawning on you that finishing a novel is a challenge. Anyone can start a novel. Finishing it is something else altogether, and it’s hard.

Get a Strategy: Sit and Stay

Leo Babauta at zenhabits has some excellent advice, because all writers face the same problem. They want to run away:

Whether I’m writing an article or a book chapter, creating something new is not easy. I open up a new document, and instantly want to go answer some emails or clean my kitchen or read that long article on magician Ricky Jay.

Don’t run. The feeling doesn’t mean anything — we all get it. You need a strategy to deal with it. Leo gives you some good advice.

Here’s what I do. I sit. That’s all. It’s what Leo advises too: “Sit there, and look inside yourself.” I sit, and just breathe for a few moments. Slowly, I get back to myself. I can hear birds outside my window. Maybe a car drives past. I get in touch with my hands, my feet. My breathing deepens.

Maybe an idea for the novel floats into my brain. If it does, I’m good. I start writing. Maybe no idea appears. If this happens, I reread the last two or three thousand words I wrote.

Then, right in the novel itself, I create an entry in a character journal. It can be a major character’s journal, or a minor one, it doesn’t matter. You may or may not use the journal entry in your novel.

Here’s how it helps. Dropping right into the middle of your story gives you perspective. You’re writing about real people (real to you, and your readers), and they have problems. You should feel your enthusiasm rekindling, and you’ll write easily for the rest of your writing session.

If you don’t want to write a character journal, try…

1. Getting Clear on What’s on Your Mind

Maybe you had a fight with your partner. Maybe your child has problems. Just grab a pencil and paper — or open a new computer file — and start writing. Start with these words: “here’s what’s on my mind. How do I write anyway?”

2. Killing Off a Character (or Characters)

This often works, because when you’re writing the first few chapters of your novel, you create characters with abandon. They seem necessary, at the time. However, these bit-players clutter up your novel, and you lose focus. Your subconscious mind is well aware of this. Your resistance is the early-warning siren.

Let’s say you’re writing a mystery. You’ve got a crime, and a sleuth. You created the sleuth’s family. He has a wife, and three teenagers. The wife has problems, the kids have problems. Before you know it, the crime’s left center stage, and you’re writing a family drama.

Make a note to yourself that you’ll trim his family down to size, and get back to the point of your novel — the sleuth solving the crime. You can delete scenes later, for now, keep writing. Refocus.

3. Writing a Later Scene You Really Want to Write

If you’ve been writing chronologically, look at your outline. If a scene jumps out at you, write that. There’s no rule which says you have to write a novel from beginning to end. You can jump around as much as you like.

I often do this, because it works. It’s always easier to write what you really want write. Trust yourself. Your subconscious mind is wise. You may find that once you’ve written what you want to write, the answers to the scenes you’re struggling with magically appear.

So, there you have it — some idea to ensure that you keep writing, when you want to run away. Remember: sit, and stay. Don’t run. :-)

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

Readers asked for a basic short story template. On Fab Freelance Writing Blog, we’ve been talking about writing and self-publishing short fiction.

Writing short stories is an excellent strategy for any writer. Let’s look at some reasons:

  1. Money — you can sell your short fiction on the Kindle bookstore;
  2. Confidence. You can build your confidence that as a writer that you can finish and PUBLISH what you write;
  3. Promotion: you can publish short fiction as a lead-in to your novels, and build a fan-base;
  4. Fun. If your writing feels stale, writing a quick story can often rekindle your inspiration.

Plotting a Short Story: Keep It Simple

Fiction is about CHANGE. Change is uncomfortable, which is excellent. You want to knock your characters out of their comfort zone, and see what happens.

This basic template is from Fiction Fiesta: Write Short Kindle Fiction For Fun and Profit — WORKBOOK.

Basic Story Plot Template: Someone Wants Something, Overcomes Obstacles, and Gets It (or Not)

Here’s an easy step by step template for writing short fiction.

1. Someone — Your Main Character — Wants Something.

He wants to achieve a specific goal. He also has a hidden need. For example, your character, Fred, an accountant, might want a promotion at work. His hidden need is to build his confidence.

Write a page or two so that the reader gets to know and like the character. Are you familiar with the Hero’s Journey (HJ)? You can use various aspects of the Hero’s Journey for your short stories. The Hero is an archetype; using an archetype makes your story powerful, because unconsciously, your reader recognizes himself. We’re all on the Hero’s journey.

Here’s an outline of the HJ. Step #1 is your character’s Ordinary World.

2. Your Story Starts When Something Changes in Your Character’s Ordinary World.

This change is drastic: it results in changes in your character. In the HJ, this is The Call to Adventure.

In our example, Fred might make a mistake on a big client account. Not only isn’t he getting a promotion — he gets fired. This increases the pressure of his hidden need: it deflates the confidence he has, rather than building confidence.

3. Complications. In the HJ, This Is the Tests, and the Ordeal.

Fred goes through three complications. In a novel, he’d go through many obstacles and complications. In a short story, three are enough. Each complication makes your character’s situation worse, until the final complication, which is the Ordeal in HJ terms.

Brainstorm complications. Write down some “what ifs.”

In Fred’s story, complications could be:

  • His landlord tells him to vacate his apartment, because it’s being sold;
  • His girlfriend betrays and dumps him;
  • His mother comes to visit.

4. The Resurrection.

After the final big complication, your character wins through, just when it seems as if things couldn’t get any worse. Fred not only finds a new girlfriend, he also gets a better job than he had before — and he’s now building real confidence in himself.

Fred also “sees the light”: he understands himself better than he did before. This is the “ephipany” — your character, and by extension the reader — learns something about himself. If you can develop an ephipany, your short story will be very satisfying for the reader.

Want More: Get Fiction Fiesta Before It’s Withdrawn

Write short storiesAs the title suggests, Fiction Fiesta: Write Short Kindle Fiction For Fun and Profit — WORKBOOK is a workbook.

It has four step by step lessons. You’ll learn how to write and sell short fiction — and you’ll have fun doing it. :-)

It’s available until November 8, when it will be withdrawn. (We have new programs coming.)

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Giggle of the Day: Publishing Professionals

The publishing industry’s changing. And change is uncomfortable. Unfortunately for those people who liked publishing the way it was, there’s no going back.

I usually post my Giggle of the Day on Google+. But I’m posting it here because I want to keep it handy.

Joe Konrath’s wonderful when he eviscerates specious arguments. I laughed aloud when I read this:

The self-publishing movement, by definition, disintermediates many publishing professionals, including agents who aren’t savvy enough to keep up, and editors at legacy publishing houses. Naturally, this can seem threatening. If you own a dairy farm, and all the cows decide they can sell their own milk and no longer need you (and they’re treated better to boot), you’re in deep trouble.

Self-publishers: we’re not part of anyone’s herd

I’ve only got one quibble with Joe calling self-publishers “cows”. Generally speaking, self-publishers either were never part of the herd, or they broke free of the herd, and went their own way.

Lovely analogy though, between authors and cows. We sell our own milk, and we’re proud of it. :-)

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.

Write a Novel With 8-Hour Wins

Write a Novel With 8-Hour WinsYou want to write a novel, or you’re already writing a novel… Either way, you want to complete your novel. Not only do you want to complete it, you want to write a sizzling page-turner which has readers jumping onto Amazon to leave you 5-star reviews. (Yes I know… unlikely. But you can dream. :-))

You can do it in eight hour sessions, as we describe in 8-Hour Wins:

You want to write your novel as an 8-Hour Win. That’s impossible, isn’t it? Maybe not. Here’s all you need to do, if you can write 1,000 words in an hour — serialize your novel. Then write each episode as you would an 8-Hour Win.

In this case your 8 hours would become 10 or 20 hours or more, but that’s OK. “8-Hour Wins” is a framework you can use to write anything you choose — just create the project, and keep track of your time.

Does This Mean You Need to Sit Down for 8 Hours at a Time?

No. Here’s how 8-Hour Wins works:

  • Hour 1: get your idea
  • Hours 2 to 6: create!
  • Hour 7: edit your creation
  • Hour 8: sell it!

The framework exists so that you have a process, and a limit on your time. If you read my writing journal, you’ll notice that I schedule everything. And reschedule, because: Murphy’s Law.

Everything takes longer than you expect, and things go wrong. All the time. That’s perfectly OK. You just go to your schedule, and reschedule stuff. And yes, some nights I do end up working late because I have things I need to keep on track, but it’s all doable, as long as you have a framework.

Let’s say that you have just 30 minutes each work day to complete your novel. That’s 2.5 hours over the work week. If you can manage eight hours in week on your novel, you’d need to make up the 5.5 hours on the weekend. Let’s say that you manage three hours on Saturday, and 2.5 hours on Sunday… done. If you’re writing a novel, you’ll extend that process over several weeks.

Estimate how long it will take you. Writing and editing will take you longest. Getting an idea will take you no time at all – try using the story-starter concept here.

Can you use 8-Hour Wins to complete NaNoWriMo?

This year’s NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Yes, you can use the process to get your novel written in a month. Keep the serial publication idea in mind. We talked about serial fiction strategies here, and said:

Each Episode Needs to Give Value: Create a Plot Arc, With Climax (Cliffhanger.)

Your challenge with serial fiction is to make each episode in the story satisfying. Yes, you want readers to read the whole thing. However, each episode has to deliver entertainment and value. So each episode has a throughline, with a setup, action, and climax.

The Magic Is You!

One student said the eight hour process was “magic.” There’s no magic. Just you, and a framework in which to work on your novel. As you start writing with the process, you’ll imagine that you have more time. Realistically, you don’t. But when you use the process, you feel as if you do.

Try it. More on 8-Hour Wins here.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Writing Fiction: Fast-Start for Stories

Writing Fiction: Fast-Start for Stories

Writing fiction is huge fun. Getting started on a story however can be a challenge. You want your story to be wonderful, and your story’s beginning to be irresistible. This means that you put huge pressure on yourself.

Take the pressure off. Look at it this way: it doesn’t matter where you start, you can always change it later. You almost certainly will change it later, so don’t sweat your story beginnings.

The easiest way ever to start your stories

Here’s the easiest way to start your stories, whether you’re starting a short story, or a novel.

Write a sentence. Kick the story off in any way you like. As I’ve mentioned in my writing journal, I’m writing an ebook of 25 Christmas stories. I want to experiment with several different genres, a few of which I’ve never written in before.

I’m writing the stories in my “spare” time, so I don’t have time to mess around, dithering about HOW I will begin the story.

I just start, without any goal in mind, or an idea in my head. I write a sentence, or two.

Examples:

Her first Christmas alone. Totally alone.

Devon hated her father.

Sheryl had no choice.

I wrote the above sentences off the top of my head, without thinking at all. The sentences have something in common; they arouse the reader’s curiosity, and my own. I have no idea where I’m headed, so I just keep going, accepting whatever pops into my head.

Story-starter exercise

Set a time for five minutes. Here’s a simple online timer. Write a list of story-starter sentences, as above. Just write your sentences down the page, one after the other. Write as many as you can in five minutes.

Now choose one sentence. Set your timer again, this time for 25 minutes. Close your eyes for a minute or two, with your story-starter in mind. Can you see an image? Whether you  can or not, start the timer. Now start writing, and keep writing. Don’t take your fingers from the keyboard.

Turn Your Story-Starter Into a Novel, or a Short Story

How did you do? You’ve now got at least one character. Maybe you have three or more. It’s time to use the fiction writer’s favorite tool – “what if.”

Warning: you can keep writing if you don’t want to play “what if”, right this minute. If you’re writing a novel, keep going for 5,000 words. If you’re writing a short story, keep going for 1,000 words. NO MORE THAN THAT.

Here’s why you don’t just keep writing: you can end up with a horrible mess. This happens with pantsers who do NaNoWriMo. They tend to end up with messes – convoluted “novels” which are parts of novels, rather than a coherent story.

So, as soon as you can, play “what if”. Here’s a “what if” I could play with the Devon hated her father story starter.

  • What if Devon’s father is a ghost?
  • What if Devon lives in 1350, and her village is about to be engulfed by the plague?
  • What if Devon is an orphan?

Remember to carry on with your story-starter for 25 minutes or so, so that you have enough material to play what-if.

Here’s Neil Gaiman on what-if:

You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?

When you ask yourself questions, you can start to build your story people into real people, and you can slowly develop a plot.

You Can Use Story-Starters Whenever You Like

You ca use story-starters anytime you like. Just write a sentence, and keep going for 25 minutes.

Let’s say your story is rolling right along. And then your inspiration fizzles. You’re tempted to tell yourself that you’re “not in the mood” to write, right now. STOP! Load up your timer, and write a story-starter. Keep going for 25 minutes.

Now ask yourself some “what if” questions.

Just like magic, you’ll find that you’re inspired again, and are keen to keep writing.

Writing fiction is fun. Story-starters are a wonderful tool. Try a story-starter session today.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Fast Fiction Secrets: Outline for Emotion

Fast Fiction Secrets: Outline for Emotion

I’ve had some questions about how to write fast fiction: that is, how to write a novel or short story quickly, without ending up with a horrible mess. The answer: outline for emotion. If your story has emotional coherence, readers will forgive you almost anything because you’ve given them a wonderful experience.

The writers who’ve asked about this are doing NaNoWriMo in November, so I thought I’d share my response here. I talked about it a little in my writing journal entries.

Let’s say you’ve got an idea for a novel. Your heroine is an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. She wakes up one day to a complete nightmare. The house is empty, except for her personal possessions, her clothes, and her bed. Where’s her husband, and where are her children? This idea has hints of the movie Double Jeopardy, but whatever. :-)

Important: Think in Scenes

I like to write in scenes. I do a lot of ghostwriting of both fiction and nonfiction. Over the years, I’ve found that when I think and write in scenes, I can write well, and just get it done. :-)

So, once you’ve got your basic idea, start making a list of scenes. I use the cork board in Scrivener. A spreadsheet also works.

Outlining Your Scenes Helps You to Write Faster

It’s easy to shape an idea if you think in scenes. Fiction is all about emotions, for the writer, and the reader. Consider the emotions you want your reader to feel. Keep reminding yourself of the emotions as you write – this will soon become automatic. I’ve found that if I’m getting bored as I write, it’s always because I’ve lost the emotional thread. Throw in more conflict. Make your characters fight for what they want.

Tell yourself your story in a paragraph or two, then map the turning points. Your story will have several turning points, so you outline from point to point:

  • First turning point: after the setup (around chapter four, or scene four if you’re writing a shorter piece)
  • The midpoint
  • Three quarter point: you’re setting up the dark moment
  • The climax: the story’s final battle

Write quickly. Don’t think about it too much; you don’t know your characters yet. You’re just getting the bones of a story down. Think of this scene list as preliminary sketches. Nothing is set in stone.

Next, create character sketches of your primary two or three characters, with their emotional arcs. Each character starts off at point A. He ends his emotional journey at point J.

For example, in our story idea above, we’ve got our heroine, Madeline. At the beginning of the story she’s at emotional point A, the ordinary world if you’re using the Hero’s Journey. She loves her life with her family. She’s a little worried about her husband, Jack. He’s working long hours. In each scene, Madeline’s emotional arc develops a little more, as lies are exposed. Madeline’s lies to herself are exposed too.

When you’re creating character sketches, consider which events in a character’s backstory get him to emotional point A, and help him to build towards emotional point J.

Tip: forget creating character bios. No one cares if Madeline likes pizza. Focus on your character’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to know what they are, so you can build your scenes.

All Done? Outline a Scene Just Before You Start Writing

After you’ve developed some basic scenes and the turning points, it’s time to start writing. I outline each scene just before I write it. I decide what I want to have happen in the scene, and what I want the reader to feel — what emotions. (Write this down – making notes will help you later, in revision and editing.)

Then I write the first couple of sentences in the scene, and the final sentences. I zoom through the scene, writing as fast as I can. This usually means writing dialogue. Then I go back to the beginning and “paint” the scene. I build the scene up, adding as much or as little as I want to, in this draft.

Each scene will change your character’s emotions. Keep asking yourself what your character’s feeling, and then show the feeling. If a character surprises you with his reactions, that’s wonderful.

So, there we have it. You can write fast, and will create excellent fiction, when you outline for emotion.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc