Tag Archives: self-publishing

New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

“I’ve done everything I can think of — bought advertising, did a blog tour, gave away free copies… Why aren’t my novels selling?” My coaching student was in despair, and that’s understandable. If you do everything “right” it’s devastating when a novel doesn’t sell.

Today, every novelist faces huge competition. In 2011, a novelist who could string together 60,000 words could make a great income. Not so in 2017. Authors who quit their day jobs to write are going back to those jobs because their incomes have dropped.

“My beta readers love my novel — I’ve got five star reviews. But no sales…”

My student sent me copies of his novels. I opened the first one and spotted the warning signs of a fatal problem right on the first page. I speed-read through the novel — and yes, the novel was dead on arrival.

Which brings us to…

New novelist: your simple strategy to write a selling novel

Here’s the strategy. Your novel must have a point. All the screaming excitement of your novel can’t and won’t make up for it if there’s no point.

The point of a novel is often referred to as the “story question”, or “dramatic question.” Although the story question might not be stated overtly, it must exist for your novel to be satisfying to readers. In many genres, the genre itself offers insight to the story question:

  • In mysteries — will the sleuth find the killer?
  • In romances — will the boy get the girl?
  • In thrillers — will the hero save the world?

Oddly enough, when a novelist writes a novel which has no point, it’s often sadly plain right from the first page. I call these novel openings “much ado about nothing.”

My student’s novel started with his hero in bed, waking up. OK — a fine opening, as long as the room explodes, or there’s a dead body beside him. There wasn’t an explosion, or a dead body. Nothing, except a whole heap of excitement about… waking up in the morning.

Readers are smart. When they buy a novel, they want a story that’s a real story. In other words, they want novels which have a point. When a novelist generates false excitement about waking up in the morning, readers are turned off. No matter how gorgeous your book’s cover, nothing makes up for nothing happening in your novel.

3 vital tips you need to write a selling novel, starting today

Let’s look at some tips to help you to write a selling novel.

1. What’s your point? Who wants what? Why can’t he get it?

Your novel must have a story question, and your story question must be concrete — something you can kick. 🙂 It shouldn’t be: “love conquers all” or similar. That can be your theme, if you want one.

The easiest way to decide on a story question (even for pantsers) is: who wants what, and why can’t he get it? Think about your favorite novels. You can identify the story question easily. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, it’s who gets the “young man of large fortune from the north of England.”

You’ll usually find the story question in the blurb (book description) — here’s the story question from the blurb of the bestselling novel, The Night Manager:

At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information … backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine.

2. Write in scenes, and include the important elements of a scene to maintain suspense

In Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction, we said:

Scenes are the building blocks of your fiction

In the 21st century, every reader understands drama.

TV and movie stories are delivered in scenes. If you want lots of readers, you need to learn to deliver your stories in scenes too.

Readers are impatient. They just want the story. Deliver. Show, rather than tell. “Showing” means writing in scenes.

Want to write great fiction? Devote time to learning how to write scenes. Include these elements in your scenes to maintain suspense:

  • Setting;
  • Character development;
  • Sensory details — sight, sound, and more;
  • Plotting — movement on the story question.

3. STOP IT! Stop with the backstory junk already — readers don’t care about the past

In Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell we discussed the pitfalls of backstory (that is, the history of your characters, before the story starts.) We said:

Important… Don’t worry about backstory in your first draft. Just write.

Remove ALL backstory when you’re editing.

You can add backstory into your novel/ novella/ short story, very carefully after your “slash and burn” editing fury. Restrain yourself. Only a sentence or two at a time. And only if you must add it for the story to make sense.

Backstory stops your story dead. Readers DO NOT CARE about what happened before the story starts. Occasionally backstory is necessary, because it makes character motivations clearer, and reveals something that readers must know. At those times, drop in your backstory in a sentence or two… please.

“Does it make sense? Is it important/ exciting/ fun to know?”

One of the definitions of “novel” is interestingly new or unusual.

This particular definition is a good guide to knowing what to write about in a novel. Keep it interesting, above all. For a new novelist, a big challenge is “writing” their novel. Bestselling novelist Elmore Leonard said:

My most important rule (for writers) is … if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

A very good rule. Be wary of anything you think is “good writing.” New novelists tend to fall in love with words, and that leads to horrors like writing about their characters waking up in the morning. There’s nothing interestingly new or unusual about that.

Keep your wits about you. When you’ve written a scene, or are about to write a scene, ask yourself if your idea for the scene makes sense. Logic counts.

Wondering about my coaching student? He’s fine. He’s happily rewriting, after we developed story questions for each of his novels. He tells me that he feels a lot more confident, and knows that his revised novels will sell.

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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A Simple Self-Publishing Process: Write Well, Publish Faster

A Simple Self-Publishing Process: Write Well, Publish Faster

“How do I know that I’m doing it right?” This concern underlies every question my writing students ask about self-publishing. I respond with a variation of “if you published your book, you did it right. Fix it later if there’s a problem.”

It might be useful to share a VERY simple process I’ve developed over many years of writing books; I teach it to my students.

Firstly however let’s look at the biggest challenge facing self-publishing authors.

Self-publishing today: your biggest challenge is YOU

Sadly, you’re your own worst enemy.

We all are. I’m not immune — I find new ways to torture myself and procrastinate each and every week. I tell myself about things I “must” do, but most of these “musts” are simply new ways to procrastinate.

We all have 24 hours in each day. Depending on how long you’ve been writing, it may take you between an hour and two hours to write a thousand words. But a thousand words of new content every day might not be possible for you. Perhaps you can only manage 500 words, or 200 words. That’s OK.

Set a word count goal for yourself. Keep the count low. You should be able to achieve this goal even on your worst and busiest day.

Self-publishing in six steps

Here’s the process.

1. Get an idea, write a blurb (description)

As soon as you get an idea for a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, write down your idea. Expand on the idea to 300 words. Look on this description as a mini-outline. It stops you wandering off-track later, once you start writing.

You may or may not use parts of this initial blurb later, when you publish.

2. Expand on the blurb: create a quick list outline (or two characters for fiction)

Without thinking about it too much, spend five minutes writing a list of what you intend to cover in the book if you’re writing nonfiction.

Writing fiction? Create two characters — just a job, and an attribute:

  • Bored accountant — for the mob;
  • Self-confident female surgeon.

You’ll find that the job plus attribute quick character-creation process sparks ideas. I had no idea that the “bored accountant” would be working for criminals, that just sprang to mind.

3. Write, while developing a more extensive outline

Start writing. When I write fiction, I focus on the major scenes; I want to know what these big scenes will be by the time I’ve written 10,000 words.

With nonfiction, avoid doing research until you know the slant/ angle you’re taking on your topic.

4. Create a title, order a book cover, research keywords, start marketing

Do these basic self-publishing chores as soon as you can. However, avoid letting any of them cut into your writing time.

Tip: use premade covers unless you’re writing a series. (They’re cheaper.) When writing a series, get good covers, and make sure that the covers will identify your series instantly, at a glance.

4. Revise: re-vision — promises kept?

Your biggest challenge is ensuring that your completed book lives up to the promise of your blurb.

For example, let’s say you’re aiming for a Lee Childs/ Jack Reacher suspense novel. Read what you’ve written. Did you achieve that goal? If not, start revising. 🙂

With nonfiction, have you differentiated your book? Does it serve its audience? If you’ve written a “me too” clone of other books on the topic, revise.

5. Send to beta readers: edit, and edit again

Once your revision is done, and you’ve done some light editing, whip the book off to your favorite beta readers. While you’re waiting for them to get back to you, start your next book.

Then take your betas’ comments on board, and edit. Twice.

Edit once to ensure that there are no boring bits. The second edit is to make sure that there are no stupid bits. Fact-check yourself.

Do a final proof, and…

6. Publish it — ready or not

Upload it to Amazon. Going wide? Upload your book to the other major book retailers as well.

Start your next book while you’re revising/ editing etc your current book

Write your next book, following the same process, while your current book’s being edited.

Here’s why you need to do this.

If you’re enthusiastic about the book you’re currently writing, you won’t be overwhelmed by comments from your betas — or by your editor, if you’re going the traditional publishing route.

In your first few years as an author, even the kindest comments can throw you off track. Aim to be so engrossed in your new book that you’re insouciant about the book being edited. Eventually your “it’s done, I don’t care” attitude will be real.

Use this simple self-publishing process. Keep moving forward, and have fun with it. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

How To Write A Book Without Trying

How To Write A Book Without Trying

You want to write a book but you have challenges. Maybe you have no idea how to start your book. Perhaps you can’t decide what to write about. Alternatively, you’re in the middle of writing a book, and say that “I can’t finish my book.”

Here’s the solution to each and every one of your challenges: stop trying.

Write a book the easy way: just write

Several times each week I suggest to a writing student:

  • “You’re over-thinking this…”; or
  • “You’re getting in your own own way…”; or
  • “Just start…”

Nothing happens until you stop thinking, and start writing.

It’s a lesson I learned many years ago, but here’s the thing: you (and I) need to learn this lesson over and over again.

The only way to get out of procrastination hell is to DO: right now, this minute

Procrastination masks itself so it takes time to wake up to what’s happening.

For example, I was happily procrastinating on a book I’m ghostwriting for a client. I kidded myself that I was doing research. It took the danger of the imminent deadline to metaphorically slap my face and wake me up. I was forced to realize that my so-called research was just over-thinking and procrastinating.

Let’s look at three ways to break free of deadly over-thinking and procrastination and write a book the easy way.

1. Break out a stack of index cards: one card equals one thought

This is my favorite method of getting out of my own way; it primes the pump for writing.

This method works well if you’re not sure what you want to write about, or if you’ve stalled out on a book.

Grab a stack of index cards; the 3 x 5 size.

Without thinking about it, write five thoughts, one per card.

Put those five cards away, and put 20 blank cards in your pocket, or in your purse. During the day, and before you go to sleep, write another thought on each of those 20 cards.

First thing in the morning, grab your stack of 25 cards and read them.

Today, you write.

Before you start writing, read the 25 cards again, and then just start writing. Chances are that a sliver of inspiration has managed to break through, and you’ll write easily for an hour or two. (Or whatever time you have: ten minutes, half an hour — the time you have isn’t as important as sitting down and writing.)

Keep using the index cards if you find them useful. If you don’t, just write.

Write nonsense if you like, but write. Within a couple of days, you’ll be inspired to write your book, or complete your book if you’ve already started.

2. Write the final scene (fiction) or final chapter (nonfiction)

I love this method.

Oddly enough, when you want to write a book but can’t get started, writing the end before you write the beginning helps. I have no idea why it works, it just does.

Sit down at your computer, and without thinking about it write the ending of your book. Accept whatever comes.

One of my students had been contracted to write a photography book for her client. She wrote the final chapter, and was shocked when it was the final chapter of a memoir. Not quite what she expected, but it was OK. Once she’d got that off her mind (she wrote an outline of the memoir in an hour after completing the final chapter) she started on the client’s photography book.

She told me: “I wrote my client’s book quickly — it just flowed. The client’s thrilled. She’s recommended me to a friend, and I’ve just committed to writing an ebook for the friend.”

Occasionally when your creative self needs to get in touch with you, the only way is to block you. With this method, you’ll unblock, and all your writing will flow.

3. “Today I finished my book — here’s what it’s about”

This method is quick and simple.

Set a timer for 20 minutes, and start the timer.

Write “Today I finished my book — here’s what it’s about”, and keep writing, without lifting your pen from the paper, or fingers from the keyboard, until the timer sounds.

Then start writing your book, or keep writing if you’ve already started.

Which method will you use? Use your intuition

Which of the above methods to write a book should you use?

Use whichever method appeals to you. Which method seems easiest, or most fun?

You’ll notice that none of the above ways of writing your book call for you to grit your teeth with determination, or force anything. They unlock your creativity and inspiration. Remember them, and use them.

Have fun. 🙂

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

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing
You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day? More info →
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