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

Fiction Tips: Kill Your Backstory

Fiction Tips: Kill Your Backstory

NaNoWriMo is coming up, so over the next few weeks, until November 1, let’s look at some fiction tips which will help you to write a successful novel.

Not ready for NaNoWriMo? Writing fiction is huge fun, especially since you don’t need to write novels to sell. You can write novellas and short stories. When you get around to writing novels, and enter NaNoWriMo next year or the year after, you’ll have a much better understanding of craft.

Info dumping of backstory is a challenge for new authors, and some established authors too. There’s a solution. Kill it. You’ll write a better novel.

Kill Your Backstory

“Backstory” is everything that happens before your story starts. Let’s say you’re writing a “woman in jeopardy” mystery. Your heroine wakes up in the trunk of a car, bound and gagged.

Good going: it’s exciting, you’ve started in media res, so your readers will keep reading…. if you don’t mess it up.

Resist the Impulse to Explain

New writers start off great. They get the woman in the trunk of the car (or create some other hot action which starts things off.) Then they feel they need to explain who the woman is, and how she landed in the trunk of a car. They go on for pages and pages. RESIST! Please do not do this.

For one thing, your readers don’t care. They’re in your story, because you’ve done a good job getting them to empathize with your heroine’s plight. They want to know what happens next.

So tell them. Her captors lift her out of the trunk and dump her on the ground. They’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s dark. What does she see? What does she feel, when her captors start arguing about her?

Your explanations are backstory. You need to know the backstory, but your reader doesn’t. You may have heard that you should start slotting backstory into your novel after the setup, somewhere after the first few chapters. This can work, but honestly? It still bogs down the story. You want readers to keep reading, so only tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Her captors slice through the cable ties on your heroine’s ankles. They’re still arguing. One guy punches the other. Your heroine takes off into the woods…

Do your readers need to know anything else at this stage? Maybe your heroine realizes who wants her dead, from what her captors said. Maybe she doesn’t. Either way, there’s no need to go into backstory at all.

At this stage, my students usually say something like: “Yes, but…” because they feel uncomfortable. Primarily, it’s because they haven’t prepared.

Here’s how to prepare. Write out your backstory, in a few pages. Summarize it. If you’ve been happily creating character bios, and other junk, stop it. Who cares what flavor of ice cream your main character prefers?

Remember, YOU need to know the backstory, but your reader doesn’t. He’ll pick it up as he reads. Avoid the temptation to dump information.

I like Jami Gold’s post on info dumps and how to eliminate them:

Move the Plot Along: Make the info dump relevant to the current scene and the characters in the scene—that way it’s not there only for the reader’s benefit.

Show two characters arguing about a point of information, a character realizing how some issue will affect them, etc.

Keep Telling Your Story: Move It Forward

So, our heroine’s running through the woods. She runs into a tree and knocks herself silly. Although her hands are tied, she manages to get up. She sees torchlight, and hears her captors blundering towards her. She knows she has to get away, or she’s dead.

Consider your reader. Has he stopped reading? Not a chance.

Moving it along: our heroine stumbles onward. She sees headlights, and reaches a road. She steps into the headlights of a car.

Keep moving it along: she’s rescued by _________ (fill in the blank), who takes her to ________ (fill in another blank.)

Keep it moving. If you want to explain something, don’t.

Read: How Do Other Authors Insert Backstory?

You are reading, aren’t you? If you’re writing, you need to read. Pay attention to how authors manage backstory in your genre. In some genres, like fantasy, you need to set up your world, so that readers know where they are, and what the rules are of this fantasy you’ve created.

However, don’t dump this stuff in. Show what the rules are, in action, and in conversation.

Here are the benefits of killing backstory:

  • Your readers keep reading, because they want to know what happens next;
  • You won’t get sidetracked writing material which bogs down your story;
  • You’ll write a better, more engaging novel (or short story).

Watch for more fiction tips to help you to get ready for NaNoWriMo.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Giggle: Funniest Novel Critique Ever

I’m glad I wasn’t drinking coffee when I start reading this blog post; it’s the funniest critique I’ve ever read.

Dear Dwight: A Critique Letter

“Your working title, All the President’s Beyotches: The Untold Story of Watergate, is intriguing and I know you’re very attached to it. Before you totally commit, I would suggest that you really hone in on who your audience is. I’m still struggling a bit with that. In your cover letter, you mentioned that you were targeting fans of historical fiction, fantasy, erotica, and fisherman. I wonder if you might be casting slightly too wide a net (no pun). Just food for thought.”

Love it. :-)

 

Book Plagiarism Pests: Be Aware, Be Safe

Book Plagiarism Pests: Be Aware, Be Safe

Book plagiarism… You’ve heard about it, but you never think it will happen to you. You’ve worked long and hard on your book. It’s published on Amazon, and the other book retailers. It’s available on the Kindle. Then someone tells you that your book’s been plagiarized.

It happened to Aubrey Rose:

Well, somebody stole my book. A kind fan pointed out that Clarissa Black’s book City Girl, Mountain Bear was similar to my novella City Girl, Country Wolf. Too similarThis “author” has taken my storyline and rewritten my book scene for scene, changing just enough to be able to get through Amazon’s plagiarism filters. Not a single sentence is the same, but the story is exactly the same. Check it out…

Thanks to The Passive Voice, for the link.

Rachel Ann Nunes’ book was plagiarized too. Rachel’s story is truly bizarre… When you read her entire blog post, you feel as if you’re in an alternate universe of the weird and insane. Kudos to Rachel for taking legal action — she’s running a GoFundMe campaign to help defray some of her legal expenses.

As Rachel says:

Plagiarizers know it costs authors time and money to defend their work, and they bet on us not having the resources needed to prosecute. So when David Farland (author of The Runelords series), approached me about creating a GoFundMe campaign to help with costs, I accepted his advice. Several other authors are also teaming up to spread the word.

Plagiarists rely on two things:

  • “The author will never know I stole his book” — huh. Readers are very, very perceptive, and they inform authors very quickly; and
  • “The author can’t do anything to me” — huh, again. You’d be surprised what an angry and determined author can do, especially with the help and support of others.

 Why do plagiarists plagiarize?

Simple answer: because they can, and because there’s money to be made. We live in a cut and paste world. It’s very easy to rip off people’s intellectual property, and make money doing it.

I visit outsourcing sites often, and you’d be amazed at the projects posted, asking for writers to “reword” something or other. This is what’s happened to Aubrey Rose. Someone’s reworded her book. Of course it’s plagiarism. I’ve no idea why the outsourcing sites allow such projects to be posted, and even less of an idea why writers demean themselves by taking on such gigs.

That said, it all comes down to money in the end.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Firstly, be aware that plagiarism happens. If it happens to you, don’t panic, and try not to be too upset. It’s challenging to keep your emotions in check, yes, but worthwhile. Try to be at least as cold, calculating and unemotional as the plagiarist.

Document EVERYTHING… it’s vital

Next, document everything. Save tweets, email messages, and everything you do from the moment you suspect plagiarism onwards. Create a folder on your computer. Take screenshots — use Jing, it’s free and very good.

Do you have a support network of other authors? Contact your network. No network? Do a search on Writers’ Cafe for authors who’ve been in a similar situation. Ask for advice. You’ll need to contact Amazon, and other book retailers where the plagiarist’s book is selling, so you can get it taken down.

Relax, relax, and relax some more. :-) You’re not the first author to be plagiarized, and you won’t be the last.

Again, to repeat: document everything you see online. This means where the plagiarist is selling his book, and anything you can discover about his identity. Take screen captures of everything, with the URLs. Stuff can vanish offline in a blink. So keep everything you find.

Start a log. Think ship’s log, with dates and times of action you take. To repeat once more… document everything.

Keep a cool head, and realize that other authors will help you. We all hate plagiarism. And if plagiarists become aware that they’re in for a world of problems when they plagiarize, they just might think twice.

Keep writing!

While you’re documenting, and kicking the plagiarist where it hurts, keep writing.

Focus on your current book. The big danger with stressful events is that you’ll stop writing. Keep working on your projects, as much as you can. Get lots of rest. This too will pass… Annoying as this event is, you’ll laugh about it a year or two from now, so try not to take it too seriously. Writing a book is what you do. You’ll write another book and another — don’t let the plagiarist take more from you.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Editing Fiction with Scrivener

Editing Fiction with Scrivener Editing fiction? I wrote about my editing process with Scrivener in my writing journal today.

Since I’ve also received questions about it, I’ll post the info here. I’m editing a novella. Unfortunately I got carried away, and wrote several thousand words more than I need. The novella’s rapidly rushing into novel territory. Not to worry.

By the way, this is my process, so if you’re new to Scrivener, please don’t think it’s the only way to edit. Scrivener’s endlessly fluid. You can use as many, or as few of the tools as you please. So if talk about Collections or Snapshots puts you off, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to use them.

Edit with Scrivener

1. Compile and read the project

Your project’s done. It’s time to take it out of Scrivener, to see what you have. I like to compile projects for MOBI (Amazon Kindle format) for a first read, but you can compile into PDF, or other formats. Your choice.

Why compile? So you can read without distractions, and can get a sense of the project as a whole. Stuff that needs to be cut will stand out.

2. Back to Scrivener: slash and prune

You’ve done your read-through. Now it’s time to clear away the undergrowth and prune. What needs to go? Go through it your novel or short story and slash everything you don’t need. Remember to take a Snapshot of each document before you wade in. You can take as many Snaphots as you like. Scrivener guru Gwen Hernandez on Snapshots:

A snapshot (Documents—>Snapshot—>Take Snapshot) is a record of the document as it is right now, that gets saved as part of the document’s meta-data. It’s a great way to keep track of different versions of a scene or section without muddying up your binder with versions. I rarely go back to an old version, but I like knowing I can find my original words, if necessary.

3. Oh, how sad… it’s a mess :-)

You’ll have a messy manuscript now. :-) Go through and add material as needed.  At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammar errors, or any fine tuning.

Fix holes in character development, and in your plot. Remember that you can split documents, to make it easier. I like to both split documents, and add new documents, so that I can add them to Collections.

I have a Collection for each main character, and for the plot. Here’s an article on Collections.

With Collections, you can focus on specific elements. You can create “automatic” Collections with searches, as well as your own Collections. Done deleting and adding? Check your character and plot arcs, in their Collections. You’ll need to add more material.

4. You’ve patched it all together

Final pass. Smooth out sentences, paragraphs and scenes.

If you’re sending your novel off to an editor, give it a final read-through. At this stage, fix egregious errors in grammar, but don’t go over-board.

There’s no need to get clever with word choices and phrasing — you may yet need to slash entire scenes, if not chapters.

You may not have an editor. If you don’t, and you’re doing the editing, go through the process above AGAIN.

This will be your second draft. Remember to take lots of Snapshots.

Whether you have an outside editor, or do all the editing yourself, you’ll know when the novel’s ready for your beta readers.

Forget about the novel for now — it’s time to start on your next novel, or write a short story.

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

photo credit: Rakka via photopin cc

Write a Novel, or a Short Story?

Write a Novel, or a Short Story?

It’s been decades since writers could make money writing short stories. Even then in stories’ heyday it wasn’t especially lucrative. Writers writing for pulp magazines had to be prolific to survive. Several writers have asked me: “Should I write a novel, or a short story?”

I wrote about writing and selling short stories here, on the freelance writing blog.

“Should I write a novel, or a short story?”

Short answer: write a short story. You can always turn it into a novel later:

I recently completed a short story that I could easily turn into a novel. The story has three main characters. We meet another couple of characters, and we hear about several other characters.

Without bending my brain too much, I could easily expand the short story. I’d just need to give the main characters more scenes with each other, and with the minor characters too. Everyone has an agenda, so the all the characters’ conflicts could be developed.

I’d need to add many scenes. We looked at the number of scenes in short stories, novellas and novels. Currently my short story has seven scenes.

Kindle Unlimited — a “market” for your short stories

I’m publishing my writing journal each day, and wrote about Kindle short stories this morning. I mentioned Kindle Unlimited: “Readers can download ten ebooks at a time. Why not download a short story? They can finish a story quickly.”

Kindle Unlimited is very new. No one knows what the ramifications will be for authors. However, it may well be that short stories become more popular.

As I said in Short Stories Sell, no short story you write is ever wasted.

Use short stories to gauge the market: consider a story market research

I’m not taking on any new fiction ghostwriting projects. I’m completing the projects I’ve agreed to do. Next year, I’ll be focusing on fiction — short stories, and novels.

Before I write a novel, I’ll test the market with a short story. If the short story gains NO interest, that’s useful to know. It’s never been possible for authors to figure out what will sell before they invest weeks and months in novels.

An example. I’ve been thinking about a series of historical mysteries. Before I start the first novel in the series, I’ll publish a long short story on Amazon. If the story sells, then it’s worth writing the novel.

Ideas are easy. Writing a short story is easy, when you compare it with writing a novel.

So, to sum up: should you write a novel or a short story? Write a story first. Publish it, and see what happens. You can always turn it into novel later, or my preference — write a novel set in that world, if the short story sells.

You can never guarantee the success or otherwise of any project. Short stories can give you a hint of what might be successful.

And also…

Stuck on a novel? Publish it as a short story

One of my students hit the wall in her novel. That often happens. However, she was totally dispirited. I looked at what she had, and suggested that she could turn her unfinished novel into a short story. All she had to do was insert a scene at her current midpoint, and write the ending. She did. It’s selling. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Writing Short Stories for Money: Series, Sales and Reviews

Writing Short Stories for Money: Series, Sales and Reviews

 

Thinking about writing short stories?

A new author asked me about writing short stories and self publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. We had a long chat; it was fun. I hope it helped. Some questions came up which writers often ask, so let’s look at them.

1. “I Started a Series, I’m Bored. Do I Have to Continue It?”

No! Start something else. You need to be able to write with some pleasure, otherwise you won’t do it. You may get fresh inspiration within a month or two for your series, after you’ve written other material. Or you may not get back to the series for years.

Nothing you write is ever wasted. I grabbed a short story I got bored with a couple of years ago, and used much of it for another project. You’ll use the material sooner or later, if you keep writing.

Get excited about what you’re writing. Then it won’t seem like work.

This kind of question often relates to erotica, which some writers can write brilliantly. Others can’t. Or they can, but they can’t write in “edgy” sub-genres, which make the most money. Erotica abounds in sub-genres which skate close to the line. “Monster” erotica used to sell well, then Amazon and other retailers lowered the boom on it.

If you’re pushing yourself to write something risky, and are blocking because you’re wondering whether Amazon will look at your ebook and send it back to draft, or whatever, start something new.

Keep writing. Write every day. I’m publishing my writing journal, so you can see that I just keep going.

Boredom is a warning. If your stories are boring you, they’ll bore readers too. :-)

2. “Help! My Stories Aren’t Selling.”

Firstly, how many stories have you written? If you’ve written fewer than 30, keep going.

Next, read. Authors publish their ebooks as freebies. Download them, and read. Here’s Amazon’s Top 100 Free in Paranormal Romance, for example. Read widely.

You’re not reading to copy anyone. You’re reading to improve your writing, overall, by enhancing your command of language and by absorbing story structure. The best novelists and short story writers understand people too, so read the THE 50 BEST SHORT STORIES OF ALL TIME. You’ll find the stories in short story collections in your library. Older stories are available at Project Gutenberg – here’s Chekhov, for example. I regularly reread his: The Lady With the Dog, it’s wonderful.

Lastly, make some of your stories free. Christmas is coming up, so start writing some Christmas-themed stories now. Write as many as you like. Make at least one permanently free. Your freebie should help to sell your other stories.

3. “A Reviewer Said…”

Don’t read reviews, if you worry about what people say about your material. I recently coached a writer who panics over reviews. I suggested that he ask his wife to screen his reviews. She can then pass on anything she thinks will help him in his writing. We worked a little on his confidence too. :-)

If you want opinions on your work, get some beta readers for your stories; make sure they’re people who read in your genre. Pay attention to what they say, because it will be useful.

Onward. Writing short stories is amazing for one simple reason: you can make money writing short stories. That hasn’t been possible for decades. If you love to write, write on. :-)

Write Commercial Fiction

If you’re struggling with your writing, trading your hours for dollars, maybe it’s time you considered something different: write commercial fiction. Once written, your ebooks will sell for years…

Write Commercial Fiction

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Become a Bestselling Author Now

bestselling author

You want to become a bestselling author. Is it just a pipe dream? Today, it needn’t be, if you’re prepared to learn your trade, write, and self publish. Almost anything is possible for authors today, if you’re prepared to WORK for it.

Read Michael Price’s How Barbara Freethy Became the Bestselling Amazon KDP Author of All-Time:

I knew I had the right look when sales took off. I was also able to release several books within one year, both backlist and new original work, which helped build my momentum. Once a reader found one book they liked, they had another one to buy.

Barbara Freethy is hard-working. People who succeed at anything are hard-working, so that’s nothing new.

Learn what’s possible, right now

I mentor writers, many of whom would love to be bestselling authors. However, they face challenges. Here’s their biggest challenge: a lack of belief in themselves. This self-doubt not only stops them publishing, it stops them writing.

Here’s the big advantage that an author like Barbara Freethy has over new authors. She’s traditionally published, so she knows how publishing works. She knows there’s no mystique in publishing. She knows that the books that leave a writer’s desk need editing. They need good covers. And they need promotion. Most importantly of all, Barbara knows the value of READERS.

From Price’s article:

How has the direct line of communication social media provides between you and your readers allowed you to grow as a writer?

This has been a huge advantage for me. I have more freedom in my content now because it’s just me and the reader! I know what my readers want in my books, and I can give it to them.

 

Barbara understands what’s possible.

New authors don’t. So how do you begin to realize what’s possible for you, and begin your journey from unknown author to bestseller?

Become a bestselling author, starting now

You write, and self publish. You learn the self publishing trade. Alternatively, you go the traditional publishing route, if you need validation. Many new authors do. They need help to believe what’s possible for them. There’s no disgrace in that.

Before the Kindle revolution, bestsellerdom was possible for very few authors. They needed luck. They needed to find not only a publisher, but also a literary agent who believed in them.

Their journey didn’t end when their book hit bookstores. It hadn’t even begun. Their book was on shelves for three months. Then it was remaindered. This was common for most authors.

Apropos of which, one of the funniest poems ever, for authors at least, is Clive James’ wicked ‘The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered’.

It begins:

And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs…

I love the final stanza, which begins:

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error–
Nothing to do with merit.

If you choose to self publish, your books will never be remaindered. And if you go the traditional publishing route, once it’s remaindered, you can get your rights back and self publish.

So, what are you waiting for? Your journey to become a bestselling author starts now, with what you do NOW.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Become a Bestselling Author: This Is Clever

Become a Bestselling Author: This Is Clever

You’re writing books, and you want to become a bestselling author. How do you do it? Most writers believe it’s just a matter of luck, but it can be a matter of a strategy too. I’ve heard of writers using what Hugh Howey calls the Liliana Nirvana Technique, but I don’t know whether I’d have the patience to apply it as-is.

Here’s what the strategy/ technique boils down to: you write several ebooks, and you publish them together – all on the same day. This gets you Amazon’s help to make more sales. Here’s how Hugh explains it:

Why does this work? I think it has to do with “impressions,” or the number of times people see a product before they decide to take a chance on it. (In this case, the product is your name.) It also has to do with recommendation algorithms and how new works are treated on various online bestseller lists.

Become a Bestselling Author With an Explosion of Titles

As Hugh says, this strategy – which Liliana calls her “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique apes what happens when traditionally published authors get control of their backlist, and shovel their titles onto Amazon:

They didn’t gain a massive following until after they regained rights to their backlists and self-published. When they did get those rights, they secured works that were already written and edited. They could do some minor tweaks, update cover art, and release those works in rapid order.

Fast releases seem to lead to fast sales and – providing that the books are good, of course – that can lead to bestsellerdom.

I love the idea of the strategy, because it uses Amazon’s database to gain traction. The more books you have for sale, the more Amazon can promote you, automatically.

Wonderful as the strategy is however, it depends on an author having an enormous amount of patience. Not to mention, the ability to write six books quickly. If it takes you six months to write a book, you’ll need to be patient for the next three years, and a lot can change in that time.

A Modification of the Strategy: Three Months to Release

If you’re anything like me, and your reaction to this strategy is, “not in this lifetime”, you can modify the strategy. No one suggests that you need six full-length novels. Why not five short stories (to act as teasers), and a novel, or novella, to act as your “1 in the hole”?

I’m considering creating a pen name to write a series of mysteries later this year, and I’m planning to use “5 down and 1 in the hole” using short stories and a novel. Short stories are quick. The novel will take longer. I should be able to get all six books ready to roll within three months. It’s a way of kicking off the pen name with a bang, so to speak.

Another Modification to Become a Bestselling Author

You can modify Liliana’s strategy in any way you choose. Release two novellas, and have a novel ready to release a month later. You can tinker with the strategy in any way which makes sense to you.

If you have the patience to write six full-length novels, to use the strategy as-is, more power to you. With great books, you’ll get the exposure, and you may indeed become a bestselling author.

Write Commercial Fiction

Writing fiction? Is it commercial? Get more info: write commercial fiction. Once written, your books will sell for years, and if they’re commercial, they’ll sell well.

Write Commercial Fiction

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

photo credit: via photopin cc

HarperCollins To Help Authors to Sell Books From Their Websites

One of the biggest benefits of self publishing is that authors can sell books directly to readers, via Amazon and the other ebook retailers. With the current kerfuffle between Hachette and Amazon, publishers are looking for ways to make more profit from books. HarperCollins is now selling books directly to readers.

More fascinating news from HarperCollins:

According to Publishers Lunch, this is just the first phase of a larger project to work with HarperCollins authors to sell books and ebooks directly to readers around the world:

Within the next couple of weeks Harper “will reach out to authors to make a concrete proposition” on how they “will be able to use the technology to sell directly from their own websites” with some simple code.

This is amazing news, and it’s about time.

Authors: make it easy for your readers to buy your books

Authors aren’t good at selling their books — big surprise. I have many favorite authors, and I’m constantly amazed that when I go to an author’s website, it’s sometimes impossible to buy the book by clicking through to Amazon, or wherever.

Yes, you can read the first chapter of an author’s new book, but authors don’t link to their books on the book retailers, so you need to copy the book’s title, and hunt for it.

It’s understandable that authors don’t know how to link to their books, but their Web developer does know. You’d think that they’d either teach the authors how to do it, or would do it for them.

I hope HarperCollins does make it easier for authors to sell from their websites. They’ll make more sales, and everyone will be happier. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

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

Ebook Publishing: Draft2Digital Now Does Scribd

Draft2Digital

Big news in ebook publishing. If you’re a self publisher, you can now distribute to Scribd via Draft2Digital. Wonderful, but I do wish they’d add Google Play Books as well. :-)

If you’re worried about pirating on Scribd, a KBoards member reports:

I am on Scribd via Smashwords, and the digital fingerprint thing works too if anyone is wondering. I had uploaded samples of my early books onto Scribd myself, and once my Smashwords versions went live, I got an email saying my content had been taken down because Scribd recognise the Smashwords version as the legit one.

Draft2Digital is an amazing service. On the freelance blog, we’re talking about publishing nonfiction this week, and if your ebooks aren’t on Scribd, you can now get them there simply and easily.

Consider formats,  as well as distribution

The more retailers — the wider your distribution — the more ebooks you’ll sell, all things being equal. You should also consider formats.

In my latest program for writers, I share the FORMATS secret with you:

* Discover the big secret of ebook publishing few writers use. Here it is – FORMATS;

* Add value to every ebook you write, and sell it for $4.99 and at many other price points too… Grow your ebooks and sell them for $47 and more;

* Write an ebook in the morning, and sell a version in the afternoon.

Too many nonfiction self publishers leave money on the table because they never consider publishing in different formats. Consider that you have a potential audience of millions around the globe. The more formats you offer, the more you will sell. Everything depends on your topics, of course.

When you write and sell nonfiction, the possibilities for publishing in various formats offer immense potential. So consider formats, as well as distribution.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Characters in Fiction: Love Me, Love My Flaw

Characters in Fiction: Love Me, Love My Flaw

How many people do you know who are perfect? No one’s perfect. We all have flaws – many of them. So characters in fiction need flaws too. Creating a flaw which works can be a real challenge, especially if you’re new to writing fiction.

While all characters are based on aspects of their creator, if you’re a new writer you’ll create characters who are Mary Sues or Marty Stus: idealized people, representations of yourself, and your counterpart of the opposite sex.

To avoid this, focus on a character’s flaw.

Tip: in your first draft, just write. A flaw may emerge naturally from the character – he’s hot-tempered, speaks without thinking, and is dismissive of others’ emotions. She’s too self-centered: she sees everyone in terms of herself.

If your flaw doesn’t emerge naturally, create one in in your second draft.

The Younger Your Character Is, the Easier It Is to Create a Flaw Which Works.

Rita Henuber writes:

I feel the younger the character, the more they have to learn and the more flaw possibilities. Consider the cattle baron’s only child, a daughter, comes home from her first semester of college and announces she is now vegetarian and the family are murderers. What’s her flaw? She’s immature and wants to fit in with her college boy friend’s group who are anti everything.

The older a character, the harder it is to make him/ her sympathetic despite a flaw, because that flaw is part of the character. Few people change in any fundamental way once they’re in their 30s and beyond. Their character is set: that’s just the way they are.

Your readers can empathize with a man who’s hot-tempered in his 20s, and gets in trouble because of that. Once he’s in his 30s, that flaw probably won’t work, unless he’s well aware of it, and is actively trying to change.

Characters in Fiction

Consider my favorite character, Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett has many flaws; she should be a deeply unsympathetic character. When Gone With the Wind begins, Scarlett is just 16. She’s engaging, and readers forgive her flaws. By the end of the book, readers forgive Scarlett again – why? One reason. Scarlett never, ever gives up. She’s the ultimate in strong characters, and readers love strong characters.

Scarlett has a lot in common with Thackeray’s Becky Sharpe – both are strong, deeply flawed characters.

Character Flaws in Genres: Be Wary of Creating Stereotypes.

I read a lot of romance fiction, especially Regency romances. In Regency romances, the rake is a staple. He’s young, he’s wild. Readers forgive him this flaw because he had a horrible childhood, and never knew love. The heroine teaches him to love, and he’s suddenly reformed, because of his love for the heroine.

In mystery fiction, you have the flawed detective. He’s a sensitive soul, who drinks because he’s seen too much of the dark side of life. If you make your character an alcoholic, he stops drinking for a reason. Something means more to him than alcohol. Make sure that he stops drinking by around chapter three, after you’ve set up your plot.

What are common character flaws in the genre in which you’re writing? Read. You’ll soon spot them. Be aware that if you choose a character flaw which is common in your genre, your character may become a stereotype. Brainstorm, and find ways to avoid that.

Choose Your Favorite Flaw.

Here’s a list of character flaws on TV Tropes, and a list of good flaws, and bad flaws.

Try to make your main characters and their flaws complementary. Consider the characters of David Huxley and Susan Vance in the old movie, Bringing up Baby. David’s a calm scientist, Susan is energetic and confident. They’re pretty much opposites – he’s struggling for money, she’s wealthy, and so on.

Play a series of “what if” games, if you can’t decide on a flaw, or if one doesn’t emerge naturally.

Character Flaws Are Fun to Write.

Character flaws can make your short story or novel. I enjoy creating cynical, snarky characters, and characters with a short fuse. Think about your favorite story characters, and their flaws.

Your characters’ flaws make them memorable too.

Consider Tom Ripley. Lovely man, shame he’s a murderer. Or Walter Mitty, who lives in fantasy. Or David Brent, of The Office fame. David’s totally oblivious to his effect on others.

In summary, characters in fiction need flaws. Flaws are fun to create, and they can make your characters truly memorable.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.