Tag Archives: self-publishing

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips
Not sure how to start your novel? Perhaps you’re like my students, who procrastinate on their novels’ beginnings. I wrote this article for my students. If you feel that your novel’s beginning isn’t what it should be, I hope that these tips will help you too.

Your novel: who wants what, and why?

I’m a confirmed pantser; that is, someone who starts a novel as the mood takes them. I just start writing. However, I keep three things in mind:

  • Who is this person I’m writing about?
  • What does he or she WANT, and …
  • WHY does he or she want it?

Once you’ve settled on those three things you’re well underway, but you’ve still got a major nuisance… how will you begin your novel?

These tips will help.

1. Start after the beginning: start anywhere you like

Writing the first few pages of your novel is intimidating. I know that if I read page one of a novel while I’m browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon, and hate the first page, that’s all I’ll read.

You need to hook your reader on page one.

How do you do that?

Trust me, you’ll figure it out, but usually not until you’re well under way with your novel.

For years, I hated starting a new novel because of what I called the Page One Dilemma. Should I start right in the middle of the action (always a good thing) leaving explanations of who the characters were, and what they wanted until later, or should I:

  • Create atmosphere first;
  • Start with dialogue;
  • Make a foreshadowing statement…

I’d play around with beginnings day after day, until I got sick of myself and kept writing, figuring that I’d fix the beginning once I knew more about the novel I was writing.

Finally, I decided that any novel’s beginning was immaterial — all I had to do was BEGIN writing, and keep going. Sooner or later I’d figure out the best beginning.

And I always do. You will, too. 🙂

2. Frame your novel with a prologue

Prologues have gone out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

I think of a prologue as splashing something vivid onto the page. I may discard the prologue completely later, or I may incorporate it into the body of the novel somewhere, but a prologue gets you started with a bang.

Consider how “prologues” are used when you’re watching a movie, or a TV episode. Law & Order for example always starts with someone’s murder, or serious injury. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, you might begin with the murder too.

Think of your prologue as:

  • Setting the mood of your novel;
  • Foreshadowing a major event in the novel; and most importantly…
  • As something you write casually, which you may or may not use in the novel.

3. Writing the ending of your novel FIRST

I love writing endings first, because I know that the ending will change. So you can write the ending easily enough; there’s no pressure.

However, once you’ve written the ending, you’ll find that you’re on fire to start your novel. And you’ll get started, without thinking about it, because the ending is “done.”

Yes, this is a psychological trick you play on yourself, but it’s a good one, and it usually works.

Try this simple strategy if you’re finding that starting your novel is a huge challenge.

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

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

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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 →
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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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Book Marketing: Should You Blog Your Novel?

Book Marketing: Should You Blog Your Novel?

A reader contacted me to ask whether you should “blog your novel.”

That’s an interesting question. Before 2007, I’d have said yes.

Today, I lean on the side of no, if you intend posting complete scenes and chapters of your rough draft.

Times have changed. Years ago, author Kate Moss blogged her bestseller Labyrinth, and I wrote in 2007:

I love big historical novels, and was engrossed by Labyrinth, Kate Mosse’s bestseller. It also intrigued me that this bestseller was blogged, because I adore blogging, and recommend it to writers.

Today, I don’t recommend posting your complete novel. Amazon kickstarted the self-publishing revolution when it released the Kindle in 2007, and that changed things.

Use a site like Wattpad. Or you could upload the manuscript to Amazon’s Kindle Scout. Either of these options would provide a better book marketing option for a new author than creating a blog.

Of course, an established blog is valuable. If you’re an author with an established blog and following, jump right in, and publish snippets of your novel while you’re writing. You’d need to build an audience on Wattpad and Kindle Scout — why bother when you already have an audience on your blog?

My own preference, for book marketing today, is to publish to KDP Select.

Book marketing with Amazon’s KDP Select

Here’s why I prefer using KDP Select for book marketing, rather than blogging a new novel:

  • You’re marketing directly to your potential readers. Book buyers are on Amazon — or on Facebook, then on Amazon. Unfortunately Facebook has pretty much crippled the value of author pages (this was always going to happen… which is why I recommend blogging to authors);
  • You can market your other books in your novel’s back matter by providing an excerpt — or excerpts (but don’t overdo it.) Even if you’re a brand new author, you can market your mailing list in the back matter.

A couple of my pen names have well-established blogs, and followings, but I wouldn’t consider publishing a novel-in-progress to either of them. I’d rather publish straight to KDP Select for the above reasons.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Your author blog will stand you in good stead for years to come, so by all means create one. Over time, it will become highly valuable to you — it’s an ideal book marketing venue. Book marketing options come and go. You control what happens on your blog.

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

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You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell. More info →
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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 →

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Writing A Mystery Novel: 3 Tips For Starting Your Bestseller

Writing A Mystery Novel: 3 Tips For Starting Your Bestseller

You’re writing a mystery novel. Kudos to you. Mysteries are huge fun to write. They depend on skillful plotting however, so be mindful of the needs of your plot.

Essentially, mysteries depend on suspense, and your focus is on three characters: the victim, the murderer, and the sleuth.

A vital tip before we go on: focus on emotion. What are your characters feeling? What feelings do you hope to arouse in your readers?

Writing a mystery novel: the victim, the murderer and the sleuth

A mystery’s three primary characters are: the victim, the murderer, and the sleuth.

The victim won’t play an active role, but the novel depends on him, because the entire novel focuses on the crime, and the activities and motivations of your murderer and suspects.

Your sleuth is usually your viewpoint character. Be aware that in all novels, authors create two strands of a major character’s characterization:

  • Outer obstacles (in a mystery, your sleuth’s activities as he solves the crime);
  • Inner obstacles: your sleuth’s inner motivations — what personal flaws and failings must your sleuth overcome?

Your sleuth’s inner life can lift your mystery from straightforward genre potboiler status, into a more elevated “breakthrough” bestseller status. (We’ll discuss breakthrough novels in another article.)

Now let’s look at our tips.

1. Choose your genre and sub-genre with care: your novel’s sales depend on it

Before I start a new novel, I like to check Amazon. It’s important to understand Amazon’s current classifications (keep an eye on them, because they often change), so that your novel can be found by readers after you publish it.

Here’s Amazon’s best sellers in its top-level Mystery, Thriller & Suspense genre (category.) Click on one of the sub-genres in the left sidebar — and you’ll find more sub-genres.

This can get a little confusing. Some genres are more open to gaming than others, so you’ll find books where they obviously don’t belong. Please don’t try to game Amazon yourself, even though people do it. You want your book to sell for years, so choose your genres with care: you want to help readers, and guard against an Amazon purge if you try to be too clever.

When you click on the Mystery sub-genre, you’ll see another list of sub-sub-genres. Try clicking on one of these to explore the titles. For example, should you click on the Series link, you’ll find mysteries which are part of a series, as you’d expect.

My suggestion: make some notes about possible genres for your mystery, and compile a list of links to the sub-genres too, so that you can find your way back to them when you’re ready to publish.

Although you can only choose two categories for your novel, Amazon’s algorithm will add your novel to other genres and sub-genres. Not happy where Amazon’s placed you? Contact Amazon. Often, the kind people at Amazon KDP are happy to add your novel to any genres which you suggest would be appropriate.

2. Introduce your three primary characters as soon as you can

We said that in a mystery, your primary characters are the victim, the murderer, and the sleuth.

Therefore, many mysteries begin with an opening scene of the unfortunate victim’s ordinary life. He’s alive, and he’s about to meet his end.

Readers expect this type of opening. An episode of the Law & Order crime series for example always begins with the victim’s murder.

The victim is going about his or her day when the murderer (or the murderer’s agent) arrives, and the murder takes place.

Remember: feelings. Your novel’s opening is an opportunity to hook your readers, so don’t waste it. Your reader expects to be there, with the victim.

In some sub-genres, notably Suspense and Thrillers, you can go to town and indulge yourself in blood and gore. In others, like cozy mysteries, the murder is air-brushed. The murder happens, and it’s nasty, but readers read cozies for the mystery puzzle. They want to know whodunit; graphic details are unwelcome and unnecessary.

3. Focus on suspense in solving the mystery

On this blog, as well as on the Fab Freelance Writing Blog, I’ve talked about developing suspense in your novels. Suspense is important in all fiction, and in mysteries and thrillers, it’s essential.

It’s vital that you control what you tell your reader, and when. In our Write Fiction For Readers: 3 Tips For Narrative Drive post for example, we talked about controlling information, and about open loops:

Many novels use a rapid cutting technique of a series of cliffhangers — open loops. The author places a character in a tough spot, and leaves him there for a few scenes. When the author returns and rescues the character, he’s closing that loop, so he immediately opens another one.

Please be aware that readers read mysteries for the clues. So although you should be careful about what you tell readers, and when, you must play fair with them too.

Plant your clues and red herrings, and hide your clues as skillfully as possible… But don’t omit clues, or readers will hate you.

Writing a mystery novel is great fun, so happy writing — I’m looking forward to reading your next mystery. 🙂

124 Powerful Fiction Writing Tips: Win Readers And Fans, And Increase Your Sales Today

124 Powerful Fiction Writing Tips: Win Readers And Fans, And Increase Your Sales Today

eBook: $5.99
You want to write fiction. Perhaps you're a self-publishing author — or perhaps you're a ghostwriter, and want to offer fiction writing services to clients. Whatever your needs and dreams, this book, 124 Powerful Fiction Writing Tips: Win Readers And Fans, And Increase Your Sales Today, will help. More info →
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 →
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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
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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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 Angela’s books for writers.