Short Fiction Secrets: Sell More Novels With Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: Sell More Novels With Short Stories

I’ve written about using short stories for marketing before, but since “can I really sell short stories?” is a question which keeps coming up, here are three more tips which will help. They may inspire you to make the most of short fiction; few authors do, so there’s a real opportunity here.

Something to keep in mind too — short stories help you to take advantage of the holidays to sell fiction. Christmas stories always sell. Consider that you can write a short story in a few hours, so short fiction is an excellent way to boost your sales.

In addition to Christmas, other holidays, like Halloween (spooky stories) and St. Valentine’s Day (romances) offer wonderful opportunities for you to sell more books.

Short stores are short: focus on the emotion

The big reason I love short stories is that you’ll learn things which you can apply to all your fiction. Such as:

  • Emotion is everything: deliver an experience;
  • Stop explaining, it weakens the story;
  • Tighten up: choose one word rather than ten.

“One word rather than ten” is a challenge for me. I tend to wordiness.

Here are the tips.

1. Use short stories to preview your current novel in progress

“I want to write faster…” There’s a trend at the moment with authors complaining about how slowly they write. The other side of the coin is authors bragging that they finished their novel in a week.

If you’re a slow writer, that’s perfectly fine. You write the way you write a particular novel. You may write your next novel in ten days, it doesn’t matter.

Short stories give you a simple and easy way to boost the sales of all your fiction. If you’re in the slow writer camp, consider writing a couple of stories to prequel your novel. Not only will that prime readers to expect your novel, they can pre-order it if you’re offering pre-orders.

2. Use short stories to test a new genre

I’m a ghostwriter. Occasionally someone will offer me money to write something in a genre that’s completely new to me. Unless I have an instinctive reaction like — no way, not with a gun to my head — I ask the client to give me a chance to test whether I can write in that genre.

If I find that I don’t like reading in the genre, and can’t come up with a mile of ideas after reading a couple of books, my investigation stops.

On the other hand, if I enjoy the genre, I try writing a short story of around 10,000 words. I can do that in a couple of days, and I’ll know whether I want to accept the ghostwriting commission.

3. Write short stories for collaboration marketing with other authors

Bundles of short stories sell well in various fiction genres, as well as in sub-genres of major  categories like romance.

Recently on Facebook, groups for author marketing collaborations with bundles have seen an uptick in members. I haven’t researched, but I imagine that if these groups are popular, there are assuredly others on Facebook, as well as on venues like forums and LinkedIn.

When you join a group, you’ll hear about bundles which are calling for submissions, and you can send off a story for inclusion.

Although I haven’t joined any of these groups yet, I’ve got it on my task list. Come October, I start writing Christmas short stories, for my pen names, as well as for clients.

Several authors I respect have told me that joining other authors in a bundle of short stories has worked well for them. They’ve gained subscribers, traffic, and sales.

How many ways could you use short stories in your self-publishing venture?

I hope I’ve inspired you to think of short stories as useful, and if you haven’t tried writing a story or two — write one today. 🙂

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99
Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Writing Fiction And Mindset: 3 Easy Tips To Tell Great Stories

Writing Fiction And Mindset: 3 Easy Tips To Tell Great Stories

Are you new to writing fiction? It can be a challenging process. Last week, I created a class for my students to demystify fiction. They’d managed to become so involved with techniques, genres, and marketing that they were writing little. They definitely weren’t enjoying their writing.

A couple of new authors said that they struggled to complete their novels. They ended up with thousands of words which went nowhere.

Here are some tips from the class; the class focused on mindset and imagination.

Writing fiction is a state of mind: free your imagination

The biggest challenge for new authors is finding a way to free their imagination. In today’s entertainment world, we allow others to guide our imagination via TV shows and movies.

We forget how to release our own imagination. My theory is that this accounts for the popularity of fan fiction. Writers kickstart their imagination with other authors’ characters and plots.

While there’s nothing wrong with that — E.L. James parlayed her love of Twilight into the uber-successful 50 Shades of Grey series — using your own imagination is more fun. And usually, more profitable. If you manage to create a memorable character, like Harry Potter, you’ve made your fortune.

Let’s look at some tips to help you to tell great stories.

1. Remember that fiction is stories which have a plot, and meaning

To outline or not to outline?

Much as I love pantsing short stories and novels, there are challenges if you’re new to writing fiction. You can end up with a story which isn’t a story at all. Or, you can end up with a mishmash: trying to cram three or five stories into one.

Neither is satisfying.

The biggest clue that you don’t have a story is that you can’t create a blurb (description). FWIW, here’s a definition of STORY: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. However, a story needs a plot: it has to mean something. Stringing meaningless events together irritates readers: they want meaning.

We need meaning in our fictional worlds. Unlike daily life, fiction needs to make sense.

Here’s an example of a “story” which isn’t a story. It has no plot and no decipherable meaning. An author sets out to write a mystery novel. He has a sleuth, and a dead body. The sleuth gets sidetracked into another crime. And another. His teenage daughter’s romantic challenges take up five chapters, and then… By this time, the readers that get that far (still hoping against hope that there’s a plot, coming real soon now) give up.

Not sure about plot? In your novel, or short story, something happens to a character. He has a problem, preferably one of life or death. The story’s plot is your character resolving the problem. Once the problem’s resolved (boy gets girl, sleuth gets criminal, spy saves the world) your story is OVER.

I occasionally suggest to my students that their fiction’s story is ONE thing, basically, not endless things which are never resolved.

2. Follow the emotion: what scares you? What do you love?

Have you ever had a nightmare? You wake up, suddenly wide awake as if you’re still in the dream… It takes a while for you to reassure yourself that you’re OK.

Powerful dreams have one thing in common with fiction: emotion.

Readers read for emotion.

There are many ways you can inspire emotion in your readers. Few have anything to do with events, such as serial killers’ blood and gore (thrillers, fantasy), or bodies doing things to each other in romance fiction.

You can use tone, word choice, characters’ thoughts…

Consider the opening paragraphs of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The first sentence is:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

(You can read the paragraphs via Amazon’s Look Inside feature.)

Consider the words du Maurier uses in those first paragraphs: padlock and chain; forlorn; supernatural powers; (nature’s) stealthy insidious way…

Those first paragraphs are a masterclass in using words to evoke emotion. With those evocative words, du Maurier sets the tone for the book — and she maintains it. Nothing much happens in Rebecca, but the emotions keep you turning pages.

Read du Maurier’s paragraphs, and if you haven’t read Rebecca, read that too, it’s a classic novel for a reason. Your local library will have it.

All competent authors know how to evoke emotion in readers. It’s a skill you can develop quite easily with a little study and practice.

3. Forget the words, tell the story

Which brings us to another challenge.

Words are important in fiction, definitely… BUT you need a story. Something needs to happen, and that something needs to have meaning.

Your story (what happens, to whom, how it happens, and why it happens) is more important than anything else in commercial fiction.

In your first draft, forget the words. Just tell the story. Tell yourself what happens. In later drafts, once you know what your story is, and what your story means, you’ll know what emotions you want to inspire in your readers. Then you can play with words as much as you like, because you know the effect you want to have on readers.

In fiction, your story (with its plot) is what counts

Get comfortable with your imagination.

Look on your imagination as waking dreams. Write the stories — and the emotions — your imagination presents to you — and have fun. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character

Thinking of developing a fiction writing career? It’s almost a decade since Amazon released the Kindle and changed publishing forever. Today, hundreds of thousands of authors are self-publishing millions of books; fiction writing is hugely popular.

I just checked Amazon. In the past 30 days, 114, 000 ebooks were published on the Kindle Store. Of those ebooks, 12,500 were romance fiction (romance is the most popular genre), and 5,500 were mysteries.

Intimidating, right?

Short answer: no.

Consider this: if books weren’t selling, only die-hard, starving authors would be publishing. The competition should excite you, because it means that readers are buying our books.

Let look at some tips on character creation, because the easiest way to start a novel, or a short story, is to start with a single character.

Fiction writing starts with a main character

In the article, Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines, we suggested that you start your fiction outline with an image:

Here’s another reason to start with an image: an image has built-in emotion – if you choose the right image. Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out. Or you’ll have a bunch of weird emotions tumbling around, which you can’t get a handle on… and the novel or short story fizzles out.

Some authors find that it’s useful to find an image for their main character, too. You can start with an image which appeals to you, or you can start typing.

I prefer the typing route — I look for images later. Usually the images I find most evocative are images for a setting.

An easy way to create a character

Here’s an easy character creation template:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Attribute
  • Primary external problem

Let’s look at an example: Jenny Caraway, 25, teacher, nervous, bullied by another teacher.

Here’s another one: Jim Rossi, 30, civil engineer, hot-tempered, fired from job.

I didn’t spend any time thinking about those characters. I just started typing. You can do this too. Use the template, and create a few characters. Keep going until one strikes a spark.

Jenny appeals to me, so I might do a little more work with her.

Show your character’s everyday life: the Primary External Problem disrupts it

Since Jenny’s main external problem is that she’s being bullied by another teacher, your job is to show Jenny at school. Your character’s journey starts in her everyday life. You must build sympathy and liking for your main character — readers need to get to know her, before they can care what happens to her.

At this stage, I like to create the character who’s the antagonist — the main character’s opposition. The antagonist is in many ways, even more important than your main character. You need a strong antagonist, otherwise your novel or short story will be much ado about nothing.

An antagonist… OK, Lola Fairfield, 45, new school principal. Her primary attribute is ruthlessness. Her primary external problem is Jenny — she hates Jenny because Jenny had an affair with her former husband. Lola intends making Jenny’s life a misery.

Poor Jenny. Her main attribute is nervousness; her antagonist is ruthless.

Fiction is all conflict, all the time: choose a genre

You may be thinking that Jenny is seriously overmatched by Lola, but this is a good thing. Fiction is all conflict, all the time. Your aim always needs to be to make your main character suffer. 🙂

Think about your favorite novels. My favorite novel is Gone With The Wind, where poor Scarlett O’Hara contends with the Civil War.

When you’re beginning your fiction writing career, fight the temptation to make life easy for your characters. Ramp up the conflict (without becoming melodramatic), and readers will love it.

Now’s the time to choose a genre.

Jenny’s story could be:

  • A romance: Jenny finds the love of her life, Lola’s mission is to destroy her romance, to make Jenny suffer;
  • Fantasy: the school is a school for wizards — shades of Harry Potter. Lola is a literal dragon;
  • A mystery: another teacher is found murdered at the school. Lola ensures that Jenny is the prime suspect;
  • A Western… Etc.

Once you have a couple of characters, and a conflict, you can choose any genre which appeals.

Outline, or start writing? Focus on the EMOTION

Will you start writing immediately?

That depends on you. Once I have a main character, a BIG problem for the character, and an antagonist, I start writing. I’m a pantser, pretty much. That said, I rely on my intuition. Should some good ideas magically arrive, I might outline the major plot points (beats) of the novel.

It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you outline or not, as long as you remember to focus on the emotion. Readers read fiction to escape, to experience an alternate reality. Your genre will tell you the primary emotions for which you’re aiming.

New authors often ask me about character questionnaires, and long bios. I’ve never found them useful. I don’t care about my character’s favorite movie, or favorite color. Characters are what they do, so it’s best to show them in action. Just remember each character’s primary attribute. Your main characters will change and develop as you write your story.

Give this easy character creation method a try — it’s a lot of fun. 🙂

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.