Category Archives: Writing techniques

Writing To Sell: 3 Tips To Help You To Be Original

Writing To Sell: 3 Tips To Help You To Be Original

You’re an author and you’re writing to sell as many copies of your books as possible. However, you want to be as “original” as you can. That’s wonderful, because today, you can publish whatever you choose.

In days gone by, when getting published meant getting a publishing contract via an agent and an acquisitions editor, originality didn’t sell.

Publishers wanted “the same, but different.” If you insisted on originality, you were (everyone shuddered) a literary author, and everyone knew that literary authors cost everyone money, rather than making money.

An author asked me “how to be original” and I though it was a wonderful question. The short answer of course is: be yourself.

Writing to sell? Be yourself

Being yourself is more challenging than it appears.

Even Ray Bradbury (one of the world’s most original authors) had problems with it.

From Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing (a book that’s well worth reading):

It was only when I began to discover the treats and tricks that came with word association that I began to find some true way through the minefields of imitation. I finally figured out that if you are going to step on a live mine, make it your own. Be blown up, as it were, by your own delights and despairs.

Bradbury discovered how to be himself — an original — in his writing via word association.

So, let’s look at three tips you may find useful when you’re striving to be yourself, an original.

1. Try word association to discover what matters to YOU

According to the Collins Dictionary, word association is:

… an early method of psychoanalysis in which the patient thinks of the first word that comes into consciousness on hearing a given word. In this way it was claimed that aspects of the unconscious could be revealed before defence mechanisms intervene.

Word association works. So does listing things, without thinking about it too much. Whenever I get stuck in a manuscript, I make lists.

From Top 70 Writing Tips: Write More, Improve Your Writing, And Make More Money:

Whatever kind of writing you’re doing, listing will make it better and easier.

What kind of lists? Start by making a list of all the things you could list.

Pick one item from the list, and make a new list of what you could list about that.

Writing a report? Write a list of everything you need to mention in the report. Then write a list of what you should NOT mention.

Try it yourself. When you get stuck, make a list of words. Ray Bradbury made lists of nouns; I like to use adjectives as well.

2. Keep a journal: describe people, activities, places and your dreams

According to research, you can only keep around seven things in your mind at any one time — even though you can recall everything that ever happened to you. It’s all locked away in your subconscious mind.

Keeping a journal is a great way to rummage around in the attics of your subconscious mind to find stuff that you can use in your writing. Original stuff, because no one has, or ever will have, your experiences.

You can use a journal in many ways. For example:

  • Describe a problem you’re having in an area of your life. There’s no need to strive for solutions. Those solutions will develop, simply because you described the problem.
  • Take a moment to jot down a few sentences to describe people and places wherever you are — whether you’re in your office, in a store, or in your local park. Most of us have stopped seeing what’s right in front of us. Try sketching what you see, that helps to improve your observation skills too.
  • Write a sentence or two about any dreams you remember when you wake up in the morning.

3. Believe in yourself: write the truth, as you know it, and write fast

From Dr. Frank Luntz’s Words That Work:

… good communication requires conviction and authenticity; being a walking dictionary is optional.

Whether you’re a new author, or are a pro, write the truth as you know it, or perceive it to be. Trust yourself. Your authenticity makes you an original.

Write fast too. Stop thinking so much — do your thinking while you’re writing. Bradbury (from Zen in the Art of Writing again):

The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style…

When you’re writing to sell, being original takes courage

As we’ve said, being yourself is challenging.

It’s exhilarating too. Have fun. 🙂

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

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Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

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Writing Mystery Novels: 3 Dramatic Plotting Strategies

Writing Mystery Novels: 3 Dramatic Plotting Strategies

I’ve received some questions about writing mystery novels; specifically about plotting them. Over the years, I’ve developed my own little specialty in ghostwriting fiction for several clients, so this genre is near and dear to my heart.

Writing mysteries is huge fun, because you’re creating a puzzle for readers to solve, as well as developing characters who can be as weird as you can contrive them.

So, how do you get started writing a mystery?

Get started writing a mystery novel: start with the crime

The crime’s at the heart of your novel; without the crime, there’s no mystery.

Therefore, you have three major characters with whom to work. As we said in Writing A Mystery Novel: 3 Tips For Starting Your Bestseller:

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

New mystery authors spend a lot of time creating an unusual sleuth, especially in “cozy” mysteries. Over the past couple of decades in cozies, there’s been an abundance of hobbyist sleuths — the sleuth is a caterer, or a dog walker, or a quilter.

My students tie themselves into knots developing unusual sleuths. That’s OK, BUT if you settle on your sleuth before you’ve organized the victim and crime, it can lead to problems later.

My suggestion: start with the crime.

Why start with the victim and crime?

Several reasons:

  • It’s easier to plot your mystery;
  • There’s less chance you’ll write yourself into a corner;
  • You may write a page-turner which becomes a bestseller.

Let’s look at three plotting strategies which give you a head start on writing a dramatic mystery.

Ask yourself these questions.

1. Where does the crime take place?

The crime’s location/ setting offers the perfect opportunity to add drama to your mystery, so don’t waste it.

It’s a few years since I read John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers mystery, Bad Blood. I’m not likely to forget the novel because the murder occurs in a grain silo, a gruesome — and very unusual — setting.

2. Who discovers the crime?

The discovery of the crime gives you another opportunity for drama. Some authors do the “discovery” scenes brilliantly; P.D. James for one.

Please don’t skimp on this scene. It’s the heart of your novel, and sets up everything to come. Additionally, this scene may be the only time readers “meet” one of the main characters, the victim.

3. Whodunnit? Planting clues and red herrings

The charm of reading mystery novels is finding clues and red herrings. That’s the charm of writing mysteries too — planting the clues and red herrings.

When you start your mystery with plotting the crime, planting your clues becomes much easier.

A tip: keep track of your clues. It’s easy to lose track, and forget where you planted what, as well as who found a specific clue, and what effect it had.

Have fun writing your mystery… 🙂

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.

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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

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.

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Newbie Novelist: 3 Tips To Ignite Your Imagination

Newbie Novelist: 3 Tips To Ignite Your Imagination

You’re a newbie novelist. Although you have lots of ideas, you’re uncertain about shaping those ideas into a book. When you try to write down what’s in your head, your words seem flat.

Alternatively, you’ve written many novel beginnings, then run out of steam. You don’t know why you lose inspiration — you fear that you’re not meant to be a novelist.

Newbie novelist: forget the words — imagine

When you’re new to writing fiction, you focus on the words. That’s understandable: you’re “writing”. You’re self-conscious and tense. It can take years to get over that feeling, and improve your fiction, if you’re not aware of what’s happening.

Here’s the best advice anyone can give you — and I wish that someone had shared it with me. It would have eliminated years of self-doubt and misery… Forget the words, focus ONLY on your imagination. Get what’s in your imagination, and what you’re feeling, onto the page/ computer screen.

Any words will do. You can tinker with the words later, if your grammar’s shaky — but don’t try to pretty up the words and “write.” You’re a storyteller, so tell stories.

Three tips to ignite your imagination

Waiting for your imagination to ignite, and nothing happens? 🙂

Over the years, many adults lose the imagination they had as children. Everyday life takes over. Give yourself permission to play with characters and stories.

These tips may help.

1. Your imagination doesn’t take orders, relax and day dream

Imagining your stories is similar to dreaming. As with your night dreams, you can’t order your subconscious to deliver the day dreams you want on cue.

Stress kills your imagination. Some authors rely on alcohol or mind altering substances so that they can relax. Avoid these dangerous crutches. Instead, try playing music, or take long baths in a candle-lit bathroom.

Over time, you’ll be able to switch on your imagination as if you’re switching on a light, but this ability takes time to develop.

2. Where’s the feeling? Go with the emotion

Stories which excite readers need to excite you first. Although your imagination won’t take orders from you, it will take them from your emotions.

Try thinking something like… “Now, Bethany tip-toes into the room, she’s uncertain about what she’ll find there. She’s angry with Thomas. We want something surprising, and a little creepy…”

Feel those emotions — the character’s anger. Then feel surprised — and so on. Your imagination will deliver.

Yes, I know, this seems weird. However, your creative self is your illogical self; it’s separate from your rational, everyday consciousness. Try this exercise.

3. Surprise yourself: boredom is deadly

When you’re writing, you’re focused on getting the writing session done. You have a deadline (even if it’s one you set), so you want to write that day’s words, and get on with the next project on your agenda.

This morning I wrote a scene in my current historical mystery, and realized that I was bored. Oops

Watch your own emotions. Treat boredom as a big RED flashing warning sign, and STOP. Initially, this is hard to do because you make excuses for your boredom, like: “I’m not in the mood to write today,” or “of course I’m stressed, because…” Yada, yada… You’re bored because you’ve switched off your imagination.

I went back to my process and rewrote the scene.

Keep writing, and imagining

Onward. Keep writing. Before you know it, your imagination will become your partner. Writing novels will be fun for you.

Serial Fiction Bonanza returns…

Serial Fiction Bonanza: Get Readers, Get Fans — Make A Solid Income From Your Fiction FAST

We’re thrilled that Serial Fiction Bonanza is available again. If serial fiction intrigues you, it’s a good investment in your writing.

Learn more here, and enroll now; you’ll download the entire class immediately, and you’ll work at your own pace.

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

eBook: $5.99

Do you love your life?

If you don't ADORE your life, you can change it — more easily than you can imagine.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
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 Angela’s books for writers.