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Posts Tagged ‘being a better writer’

 

It’s the age old question. Just how the heck do you write with an 80 Lb dog in your lap?

Maybe you are on a deadline. It might be self-imposed. Or it’s the one moment in days you can carve out of your busy schedule for ‘you’ time, aka writing. It’s a rare moment. It’s that early morning you woke up despite your best intentions to sleep in on the one and only day you can all week, but your mind or body has other plans and you are up, wide awake, but OMG the house is quiet with everyone else sleeping, so you can actually WRITE. It’s the perfect time for it. Maybe it’s simply that the creative juices are flowing or your muse just bitch-slapped you with an idea that you absolutely must get down right now before you forget it.

And, naturally, at that very moment your dog decides life cannot go on without climbing in your lap, on your desk, on your keyboard, in your face, trying to force play time, squirming and wriggling and won’t take ‘No’ for an answer.

Maybe it’s not an 80 Lb dog. Cat? Baby, toddler, kid, teenager, or partner. Your squawking bird, hamster, pot bellied pig, or other pet. They all have the same goal, to have your 5000% undivided attention.

So, what’s a writer to do? Give them a few minutes of total attention and hope they are happy. Deflection. Here’s a toy, someone else to play with, cookie, boozy latte with extra whipped cream (please only try this with adult humans), send your dog outside in the back yard to, “Go find your rabbit” (just don’t tell them it only exists in the world outside the front living room window).

Meow at them or squeak the squeaky toy until they go mad.

Give them a craft, project, job, or anything you can grasp that might get their attention for five minutes or more.

It’s frustrating, yes. But ultimately you have to realize they are bugging you because they love you and are yearning for your attention like a puppy full of energy and starved for playtime.

In the case of the oversized purse-dog, I find the best solution is to exhaust her with attention. Give her some time of hard play, love, petting, tricks for a cookie, rabbit seeking, and ultimately hope it’s not the super hyper loud frantically playing with the loudest squeaky toy in the house while shrieking and riling the dog up under your feet and impossible to string a single thought together because of the hyper loudness kid who takes her attention next.

And, sometimes, you just have to resolve to having to try to single finger type around an 80 Lb dog in your lap because she really does think she’s the size of her head.

 

Above all else….

Keep writing, my friends.

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy photobomb):

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

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Photo by Rajiv Bajaj on Unsplash

While waiting in the car the other day, I watched an incredible display of nature.

The seemingly mundane and commonplace pigeon.

Not so special, right? Rats with wings, some unlovingly call them.

This particular flock of pigeons were hanging out in the upper tier of a two-level store roof. The decorative section. I’ve seen other birds do the same thing I am about to describe, but never particularly paid attention to pigeons before to witness it.

With some signal I was oblivious to, sometimes cued by a few taking flight from the far side out of my view, they repeatedly took flight in group, falling naturally into their predetermined places like a choreographed dance troupe. In perfect unison they swooped and dodged through the air, a single unit without any bird losing its place. They rose in an upward arc, cut a hard turn, swooped down, arced around again, always in a tight unfaltering formation.

The Snowbirds (the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, an aerobatics air show demonstration team) would have envied their maneuvers.

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

I had to marvel at the ability of (seemingly mere) birds to perform such a dramatic aerial synchronized acrobatic display. Does this somehow come naturally? How do they just know when to dive, dip, swoon, swoop, loop, arc, all in perfect unison? Is there some communication we are not privy to? Some telepathic communication? A joined hive brain?

Zoologist Wayne Potts’s (who published in the journal Nature in 1984) research suggests they anticipate sudden changes in the flock’s direction of motion.

Or do they spend hours training for this? Note: I did witness one bird appear to give another hell for getting a hair off their perfect formation when they all flew back onto their rooftop roost before taking off for another run. But, that interaction could have been for any reason. I watched for a good ten minutes while they repeatedly flew off into their routine and landed to take off and do it again over and over and over.

Observations like this can be turned into inspirations in building your literary world. Strangely luminous dust motes behaving in a very uncharacteristic way, mimicking these feathered air dances in an ethereal moment of bizarre clarity as a precursor to a discovery of something beyond this realm. A creature in your world taking on a behavior not natural to it, or one you created for your world that simply does this for reasons unknown to your characters.

Watching the world around is like foraging for story enrichments.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Observing people, how they dress and move, their interactions and speech. How they band together, or in the new days of Covid-19 ‘socially distance’ (I don’t like that term. It sounds so… socially isolating.). Like moms clustering on a Facebook group to revel over the awesomeness of each others’ offspring when one of them shares their achievements. Cliques that form in every organization, workplace, and extended group. It is also watching traffic and housing trends. Shopping and dining habits. Social media and news also give insights into how you can twist things in your fictional stories or reveal them in any genre.

It’s more than people watching. It’s observing with a clinical eye.

Nature is rich, too, in suggestions and inspirations for your writing. From watching dogs in the dog park, how the squirrel, rabbits, and birds interact with each other at your bird feeder, to wildlife clips and documentaries. The strange behaviors of birds like the flock of pigeons, or the infamous false Tweets of pelicans ‘cooling off’ by throwing their spines outside their mouths. (Actually, it’s just a yawn and that is their long neck, not their spine). Do, however, research these odd things before using them and deciding how much fact vs. fictional artistic license you want to take in creating your world.

 

 

The world everywhere around you is full of ideas you can twist and form into enriching your stories.

Keep writing, my friends.

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy photobomb):

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

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Photo by Anthony Cantin on Unsplash

A writer friend and published author once told me of how she learned about the power of three. Three times repetition. No more and no less. If something is important for the reader to remember, you should repeat it. Somewhere throughout the story, bring it to reader three times.

And there, I did. In the above paragraph, as an example, I repeated telling your reader three times. (This makes four and breaks the rule, so you can now forget with impunity that I ever said it .) Although doing it all so close together is highly not recommended in your story.

In teaching and learning, repetition again stands out. From teaching toddlers to learning yourself as an adult, remembering comes easier with repetition. Tell me your name once, and you can bet on my forgetting it. (It’s not you, it’s me. I’m atrocious for my inability to remember names, and no, I do not think people are unremarkable or unworthy of remembering. Quite the opposite. It’s just something I’ve always been very bad at.)

And as a parent, who has not found themselves repeating repeating repeating? And then perhaps secretly or unknowingly repeating again while talking to yourself? Seriously, it can feel like no one hears you otherwise in the hubbub of a household.

 

While your thrice said story development spread across your book can help lure the reader into that aha moment when the pieces begin to fall into place at the end of the narrative, revealing that what may have seemed irrelevant now seems obvious, repetition can also harm your story.

 

This is something I’m guilty of. Particularly in my earlier writing. It is also something another writer friend and published author pointed out in a review of one of my earlier books, which was a reminder I need to always be vigilant about it while writing and editing.

That thing is committing the blunder of bad repetition. Even in writing this piece, I catch myself repeating the same words in the same paragraph, and even in the same sentence. It is a terrible habit, and one that can be hard to break. I do it when speaking to people, repeating my words over and over (After years of having only small children to talk to all day?). I do it without even knowing as the words flow from my head through my fingers to the keyboard.

 

Regardless of the cause, and regardless of your actual efforts, It comes across as lazy writing, poor editing, and an oversimplification of the story.

See? In the above paragraph, ‘regardless’ shows its face twice in the same sentence. It might make sense coming out of your head, but on editing, this should be revised. You may mean the same thing, but change your wording, if only a single word.

Regardless of the cause, and in spite of your actual efforts, It comes across as lazy writing, poor editing, and an oversimplification of the story.

Marginally better.

 

The lesson here? If it’s important for the reader to remember, tell them three times over your 5,000 to 150,000 writing piece, and be ever vigilant of your word choices. (I way over-spoke the power of three references in this article. Yes.) Analyze every sentence, every paragraph, every scene and story bit for poor wording, less than ideal word choices, unnecessary and damaging repetitions, and the whole host of other writing pitfalls that can harm your work.

 

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Perchek Industrie on Unsplash

When is your story ‘enough’ of whatever it needs to be? When is it sci-fi enough? Fantasy enough? Enough romance, gun slinging, drama, steampunk; whatever the genre is?

 

On the surface the answer might seem easy. Toss your characters a few hundred or thousand years into the future and imagine a world with tech we don’t have now. Throw in some extraterrestrial planets and beings for good measure. Maybe push them back into the past in a historical setting complete with the lack of tech and medicine, period clothes and speech, and some historical drama. Invent a world with magic and mythological creatures and, wham bam thank you Ma’am, you have a fantasy story. Monsters, be they vampires and werewolves or other imagined monstrosities; seemingly impossible monsters or the all too real ones that thrive in some humans’ black souls, and you have a horror or thriller. Throw in a few more cogs, spaceships, dragons, kisses, gun fights, romantic drama, or car chases.

 

But it takes more than a future setting and space tech to make a science fiction story. More than dragons, magic, and various Fae Folk to have a compelling fantasy. Romantic moments and unrequited love alone do not make a romance the reader wants to read.

 

While the make or break of the story is and always will be a compelling storyline filled with rich characters, diverging strings of narratives woven throughout, and the roller coaster ups and downs of drama; that is not the complete picture. Science tech, fantastical creatures, love and romance, those are the things that categorize your genre.

 

But what actually makes the genre, and the story?

 

A good start is to get your head into it. Fully and completely; head, heart, and soul; into both the genre and the story. Weave that insidious web of treachery around your unsuspecting, or fully cognizant suspecting, characters. Push your characters to the brink, draw them back to safety, then push them a little further until they surely must break.

 

Even then, when do you know it is <insert genre> ‘enough’?

 

Is there truly an answer to this question?

 

Readers and writers alike of any given genre may feel they have the answer. I don’t. I struggle with the same question too.

 

I write dark fiction. Horror, thriller, things that don’t just go bump in the night, but may be the very stirrings of the nightmares that keep some awake in the dark. But is it enough? Is it thriller enough? Horror enough? Scary or gross enough?

 

Dark fiction is an encompassing realm that embraces all things dark and sinister. Twisted and deviant. It runs the gamut from shock and grossness to subtle whispers of fear. Fantastical or fanatical monsters imagined and real. Supernatural and remarkably, or unremarkably, all-too scarily human. It subverts all genres it infests into its peculiar twists of blackened souls and fears.

 

But is it enough? Is the story dark and twisted, terrible and traumatic enough? Is it too much? Who decides if it is dark enough? Thriller or horror enough?

 

I have yet to write something that scares me. So, is it ‘enough’? Will it, or can it, ever be?

 

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Write this scene, any feel, writing style; any genre. This is a rough draft writing practice.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

 

Paradise

 

The sun sparkling on the sea behind him in a dancing promise of hope fed into the lie that is the beach paradise. The breeze barely breathed on the softly swaying palm fronds. It was perfect. Each second we faced off it felt increasingly too perfect. Off.

This man, who refused to give his name, stood resolute in his defection from the normal. His eyes were narrowed in determination, or perhaps against the sun. His face held no real emotion. Not anger or determination. He just was.

“It’s all a lie,” he said. “Your world. The sea, trees, even this.”

He knelt and scooped up a fistful of sand. He stood again and held the fist out towards me as though I should take it. I could only stare at that closed fist. He waved it towards people in the distance, roaming slowly up the beach.

“They are a lie. Toxic.”

“They’re just people,” I said.

He shook his head slowly at my foolishness. He seemed saddened by my failure to see. This man, this stranger in a weakened paradise, thrust his fist toward me again.

“You would take strength from this… this false promise of a better tomorrow. It never gets better. It’s just another today. This earth,” he started letting the sand fall in a slow stream from his hand, “is weak. It’s is poisoned, pale.”

“It’s pale because it’s sand.”

He stared at me, pale sand trickling in a soft sieving from his fist.

My focus on his face and that falling sand, I did not see the twitch of his shoulder muscle preceding his body moving until it was too late. He had me by the shirt, fabric twisted in his fist as he yanked me off balance towards him, holding me up with seemingly impossible strength.

“I will show you then.”

My mouth gaped open in silent shocked protest; he rammed his fist at it. I was certain he meant to punch me in the teeth, but instead he was shoving sand into my mouth. I choked and gagged on the surprise of it, on its crunchy grittiness and the though in my head of its uncleanliness.

The sudden lurching of my heaving stomach felt like a gut punch. My eyes watered and my limbs felt weakened.

He released me then, letting me fall limply to the ground where I mewled and pawed weakly at the sand. The same sand that was inside my mouth, my throat. I coughed and it was sucked into my lungs, choking me with its grainy dust.

The burning foulness set in then, my tongue and mouth on fire, the sand eating through taste buds like dull acid.

Pawing at my mouth only made it worse. Mewling and simpering weakly in the sand, the granules clung to my hands and I only managed to shove more inside my mouth. My throat screamed with it and I moaned, gasped, inhaling it deeper into my tortured lungs. I couldn’t cry out. Could only gasp weaker as the strength and all of my feeble fight left me.

I lay in the sand softly moaning, stomach dissolving and lungs struggling. My nose was pressed against the sand, breathing in its subtle saltiness.

“If you are still here tomorrow you will be dead,” he said simply. “This place will poison you.”

He walked away and did not look back.

I would have swore I was already dead.

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Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

In the real world, the smart thing to do is to avoid conflict. Run away, go the other way; say no to indulging it and lead a peaceful conflict free life. Okay, pick yourself off the floor and stop laughing. We all know that too often human nature is to go against what is the smart thing to do.

 

 

 

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

 

 

Whether you are in grade school, high school, adulting at work, a news media, social media butterfly, or an author writing a story, what makes tongues wag is conflict, drama. The bigger the conflict, more intense the drama, the harder people dig themselves into its destructive black heart with a twisted glee or foreshadowing sense of impending doom. Why? You’ve got me. I have no idea. It seems kind of sick, really. But, people are inexplicably drawn to the tragedy of others. They mourn for others’ torment, fear they themselves could have been the victims, and are filled with a sick relief to have been spared. Perhaps it is born of an instinct for self-preservation. To protect yourself from an enemy, be it living or circumstance, you must know of its existence and understand it in order to protect yourself from it. Like knowing that crawling into a ceramics kiln might be your best chance to survive a raging fire (a guy actually did that in the 2019/20 Australia bush fires), how to avoid getting sucked down with a sinking ship (i.e. the dude from Titanic, although I don’t know if that would work in real life), going to ground in a culvert during a tornado, silver works against werewolves, and that fear of a deity more powerful than themselves may save you from a vampire.

 

 

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

 

As writers, we must embrace conflict. Seek it out, find insidious ways to secretly feed it, nurture it, and set it loose on our characters’ lives. It is what drives people and stories forward.

 

The challenge in creating conflict and building drama in your story is making it believable and fit with the story and characters. For that, you need to understand it. You also need to give it a purpose.

 

In both writing and real life conflict comes in different forms, within and outside of our control. At is basest level conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces; your character and what they want against an obstacle that is in their way.

 

 

Conflict creates tension, drives the story forward, and can be used to reveal weaknesses, motivations, and deeper meanings behind your characters’ actions. It can be internal (‘You’ – Joe Goldberg’s conflict with his own inner self wanting to be a better person vs. the inability to stop himself from stalking and killing again) or external (‘Alien’ – Ellen Ripley battling the queen bee alien to save herself and the little girl).

 

Although some will argue there are six or seven types of conflict, I have no doubt we as writers can collectively come up with well more than that. More as society and technology continues to progress. Here are some common types of conflict.

 

Types of Conflict:

Character vs. character

Character vs. extraterrestrial

Character vs. fate

Character vs. gods

Character vs. nature

Character vs. self

Character vs. society

Character vs. supernatural

Character vs. technology

Character vs. unknown

 

Your story will invariably involve one of these conflicts. It will probably have more than one woven together. Your main character may be torn by their own internal conflict, fighting their own inner demons while also pitting their beliefs in their god against their society they find themselves at odds with as they disagree with the people in their lives after learning of new technologies and sciences with the discovery of an extraterrestrial life that changes everything they thought they knew and threatens to bring destruction to the planet.

 

There, we have inner and outer conflict; character vs. self, character vs. god, character vs. society,

character vs. character, character vs. technology, character vs. extraterrestrial, and potentially character vs. unknown. With multiple main and secondary characters, protagonists vs. antagonists, you can have competing conflicts between various characters.

 

 

Photo by John T on Unsplash

Photo by John T on Unsplash

How do you keep all these conflicts straight? Your story needs to flow, one conflict feeding the next, complimenting with and clashing against each other without leaving the reader scratching their heads in confusion and wondering if you forgot what story you were writing. Like creating character profile worksheets, you can create conflict worksheets. There is no rule on the right or wrong way to set one up. Create it to meet your needs.

 

Conflict worksheets can help you keep multiple conflicts straight and with brainstorming how to make them happen.

 

If you are keeping your conflicts simpler, you probably have no problem keeping them on track without a worksheet. However, if you are going Game of Thrones epic complicated, you may need help keeping track of who has what conflict with who/what, when, how they intertwine, and where/how they will climax and resolve.

 

Creating a Conflict Worksheet:

Like building a Character profile, I would start with the basics of the conflict. The more complex the conflict is, the more complicated the details will be. Think of your 5 W’s from grade school English Language Arts: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and that oddball How.

 

  • Primary Character: Who is having the conflict
  • Conflict Antagonist: Who or what are they up against
  • Type of Conflict: What is the conflict
  • Conflict Location: where and when does the conflict happen
  • Secondary Characters: Who else is involved in the conflict

 

Build up the reasoning behind the conflict and the cause and effects.

  • Protagonist Motivation: What motivates the character to resolve the conflict
  • Antagonist Motivation: What motives the character/other to cause the conflict

* Fun note: the protagonists/antagonists of the story can be switched up in their roles in a conflict, the protagonist (hero) of the story being the antagonist in the conflict.

  • Character Strengths/Flaws: How does this drive or affect the conflict and its resolution
  • Internal Conflict: How is the character(s) affected internally, how they respond
  • External Conflict: How is the character(s) affected externally, how they respond
  • Character Development: How does the conflict change/develop the character(s)
  • Story Development: How does the conflict change/develop the storyline

 

With every great conflict comes a great resolution. How are you going to resolve it?

  • Who will resolve the conflict
  • How and when they will resolve the conflict
  • Character Affects: How resolving the conflict changes/affects the character(s)
  • Story Affects: How resolving the conflict changes/affects the story
  • Lead in: Does it lead to another conflict
  • Fallout: No good conflict is truly resolved. What are the lasting after-effects? This can also give you a lead in to new conflicts that drive the story forward.

 

Conflicts need to be fed. With the rise and fall of a story arc, your conflicts have their own arc. They start, build, climax, ease, build to a larger climax, and finally are resolved, devolving into the fallout and picking up of the pieces. You want to build up the readers’ expectations and give them a sense of resolution without leaving a lot of loose ends. This means you need to create a little chaos and order. Come up with ways you can compound and resolve the conflict. Make a list and jot down the details.

 

 

  • Action
  • Advice
  • Apologies
  • Complaints
  • Conversations
  • Death
  • Deflection
  • Departure
  • Discovery
  • Dishonesty
  • Empathy
  • Error
  • Honesty
  • Inaction
  • Inattention
  • Incentives
  • Information
  • Orders
  • Outside Help
  • Persuasion
  • Punishment
  • Questions
  • Reflection
  • Requests
  • Supplication
  • Threats
  • Urgency
  • Violence

 

 

If you have all of this, you are ready to go forth and work your conflicts into your outline. Or, if you write by the seat of your pants like me, you may be developing this worksheet as your story progresses as a reference to keep your details straight.

 

 

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What is Lulu?

Lulu Press, Inc. (Lulu.com) is a U.S. based print on demand printer and book distributor for electronic books, print books, and calendars. It is used by self-published authors and small presses.

 

Is it a ‘vanity press’? No. Lulu press, Inc. is a legitimate provider of services to small presses and self-published authors.

 

Is it cost effective to publish with Lulu? That depends. Their pricing model is based on the size of the book and volume of the order. Like other PODs, the printing cost per book is calculated on a minimum base rate plus a cost per page. So, with equal trim sizes, a 325 page book will cost more to print than a 300 page book. As the author/publisher, you can order copies for yourself to slog around stores and book events with to sell face-to-face. Like Amazon KDP, they charge a reduced publisher rate to you. You are not paying the retail rate you set for copies of your own book. Lulu does have bulk order discounts. They are more expensive than Amazon KDP for your printing cost per book if you are ordering smaller  print runs, but the good news is a search of those fabulous online click-bait coupon sites will probably produce a coupon code to reduce the cost. Comparing costs of Amazon KDP to Lulu, I only order books through Lulu if I have a coupon code. Otherwise, with shipping, the higher cost would eat up most of my small profit margin on face-to-face sales. (I use Couponfollow.com).

 

What does it cost to upload my book to Lulu?  Nothing. Like other POD and distribution companies, they do have service packages you can buy if you want someone to do the work for you. I’ve seen mixed reviews on these. But if you do the work yourself, there is no cost to upload your books to Lulu.

 

But I want to buy Canadian and/or publish Canadian. Lulu is a U.S. company. However, being in Canada you would be going through the Lulu Canada store. Those books are printed in a facility in Ontario, Canada.

 

Does Lulu distribute the books to brick and mortar stores? Yes and no. Your book (eBook or POD print) must meet all of the distribution requirements in order to be available for sale beyond the Lulu online marketplace. This includes being one of the eligible trim sizes. If it’s available only on the Lulu marketplace then people can buy your book only through the Lulu site.

 

Why is my Lulu book only available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and not in any brick and mortar book stores? Because, under Lulu’s globalREACH program, you met the distribution requirements for those two online stores. Maybe you did not meet all the requirements for the global distribution program, leaving you with limited distribution. Also, globalREACH creates a listing with the Ingram Book Company, making it available to book stores to order it. But then it’s up to the book stores to actually order it. There is no guarantee they will and Ingram’s catalog is massive.

 

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Do I need an ISBN to publish with Lulu? Yes. Lucky for us, ISBNs are free in Canada and easy to get. You also need a different ISBN for each copy of your book. I.e.) you need a different ISBN for the book published through Lulu from the book uploaded and published through Amazon KDP (Amazon will provide ISBNs, Lulu does not).

 

Can I just upload my Amazon KDP book and cover files to Lulu?  No. While your trim size and page count don’t change, the dimensions of your book spine will. You will need to redo the cover. This is because Lulu uses a lighter weight gauge of paper (thinner paper), so trim and page count being the same, your book will be thinner.

 

How is the quality of Lulu print books?  I’ve heard mixed reviews. As with any POD printer, there can be variations from batch to batch. After all, they are completely resetting the printer for every print batch run for every customer. Some swear by their quality. Some have reported issues with the spine glue in the heat. I found covers that are lighter with more colors work better, but mostly black glossy covers did not hold up to minimal handling. The cover finish on black glossy covers rubbed off, marked easily, and chipped just transporting them carefully packed to and from book events, leaving the books unsellable. Amazon KDP books stand up better to transporting them to sales with the dark glossy covers.

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Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had to *fix* the formatting on a document that made me cringe, usually a work manual, formatted by a predecessor.

 

When you are formatting a book manuscript, simplicity and consistency are your best friends. Especially if you will be still writing and editing it. I recommend starting with the use of proper formatting. It will save you a lot of time later. And, if you are paying someone to format your completed manuscript, it will save them a lot of time and you a lot of money. The more time it takes them to format it, the more they will charge you. If you already started or finished the manuscript, you can still fix it.

 

First, work with only one manuscript. Don’t have one for each eBook and print version. You can do easy fixes to format for them for each later and do not want to have to do every edit fix on every manuscript copy.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Let’s start with a few basic ‘Do Not’s. All instructions are based on using Microsoft Word because that’s what I know how to use.

 

Spaces instead of tabs. Do you hit the space bar five times instead of using a tab to indent? Don’t do this. If you are doing this, I want you to go into your ‘Home’ tab at the top left of your Word document. Click ‘Replace’ in the top right. In the ‘Find what’ box type your five spaces. The ‘Replace With’ box should be empty. Click the ‘Replace All’ button. If it asks you if you are sure you want to replace all, yes you are sure.

 

Tab key to indent sentences. Don’t do this either. Especially if you plan to later format this manuscript for eBook.  Most eBook formatting conversions do not like tabs and it could look ugly in the book on the eReader. Do the same thing you did to remove all those unwanted spaces, only with your cursor in the ‘Find what’ box (after deleting those spaces), click ‘More’ and then ‘Special’. Select ‘Tab Character’. ‘Find what’ will fill in this: ^t. Leave ‘Replace with’ blank and click ‘Replace All’. If you used double or triple tabs to move things, you will need to run this replace all multiple times.

 

Extra line spaces at the top of the page. Maybe you want your chapter header to not cling to the top of the page. Print books often have them a few lines down. If you added extra ‘Return’ (Enter) blank lines at the top of your page to push your text down, this will be a problem converting to eBook later. Electronic book readers hate this. It looks weird and you might end up with random blank pages in the eBook. Go ahead and remove all of those the same way you did the tabs, using the replace all special multiple ‘Return’ characters with nothing. NOTE: don’t do this with only a single paragraph character in the ‘Find what’ box. It will remove all your paragraph returns for every paragraph. The ‘Undo’ button is magical if you accidentally do this.

 

Hyphenating non-hyphenated words. You wanted it to look professional with the too long words breaking at the right margin and carrying down to the next line with a hyphenation word break. So, you manually hit the hyphen and enter throughout your manuscript. You don’t want this. This is the thing that dwells in a manuscript formatter’s darkest nightmares. It’s old school from the days of manual typewriters before computers were a thing. Today’s word processors adjust spacing to accommodate the text without this, and, forcing end of line hyphenations is messy and not something you want to have to go line by line fixing throughout and entire manuscript. Regardless of manuscript perfection, if your document is not the right trim size for the published book, this will have to be fixed through the entire text.

 

Hard returns. It’s the difference of hitting the Return (Enter) key and holding down Shift button while hitting Return. They can cause issues with formatting, particularly if you are using justification and in some eBook conversions. Behind the formatting they look like this:

Return (Enter): ¶

Shift+Return: 8

 

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

 

 

Now, what should you do?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Formatting With Style. In other words, using Microsoft Word’s ‘Styles’. This is a cleaner and more reliable way of formatting your manuscript, and making global format changes to it.

 

If you are writing multiple books, inevitably you will have to reformat an entire book. Every chapter, paragraph, and line. Maybe you need to change the font type or size, or the size of the indented paragraphs. What you want is the ability to do a mass manuscript reformat with minimal effort, which means minimal errors. Ideally, you will be doing this anyway to convert your print book manuscript to eBook format – after the print book manuscript is perfected in writing, editing, proofing, and formatting, and is ready to publish. For this, you want to use Word’s ‘Styles’ to essentially hard code the typeset styles into your manuscript.

 

You are also less likely to run into strange formatting occurrences if you format using Styles instead of hitting the formatting buttons at the top of the ‘Home’ tab group.

 

Using Word’s ‘Styles’, you will want to set up a few basic styles for each section of your manuscript: interior chapter first paragraph justified, and rest of the chapter text first line indent; chapter headers, front matter centered, and title page.

 

I’ll list some basic formatting below. First, take a look inside some books produced by the big publishers at how they do it. In particular, look at books in the same genre as yours.

 

 

Chapter formatting. The whole chapter can be formatted in two blocks: the first paragraph, and the rest.

 

To create a new ‘Style’, select your ‘Home’ tab in the top left of your Word document. Then click the little downward angled arrow in the ‘Styles’. Or hold down Alt + Ctrl + Shift + S buttons.

 

Select the ‘A+’ (new style) button. Set your font type, size, justification, and other settings here. You want it justified and to use a font type and size common with printed books of your genre. Since you are initially formatting for a printed book you want to choose a very dark black font color, not automatic. (Note: you need automatic for eBook). If ‘automatically update’ is checked off, all revisions to one paragraph formatted to this style will automatically change all paragraphs in the same style in the manuscript.

 

Be sure to name your new styles something you will remember what they are for, like ‘Chapter First Paragraph’. You will need to make a few new styles.

 

Select ‘Format’, then ‘Paragraph’, and ‘Indents and Spacing’.

 

 

The first paragraph is generally justified across the page with neat margins and no first line indent, but not always, because there are no hard written rules in publishing. There is often a slightly wider line space after the end of the first paragraph to set it apart from the rest of the chapter. Again, there is no hard rule that it has to be this way. I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Justified

Outline level: body

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 0 pt

Spacing – After: 8 pt

Sine spacing: Single

 

 

The rest of the chapter paragraphs will take a minor tweak to the settings when you create a new style for them. Here, I removed the space after the paragraphs. Leaving it would spread your manuscript over too many pages. I also added an automatic first line indent. This is what I changed:

 

Special: First Line      By: 0.2”

Spacing – After: 0 pt

 

 

The chapter header style can be set up with a larger font size, centered, and changing the spacing before and after. Adjust the spacing before and after to set the chapter header where you want it. Do not use added blank lines in the document (That can mess up your eBook formatting later). I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Centered

Outline level: Level 2 *

* if you are using parts as well as chapters, each ‘Part’ would be level 1 and the chapters level 2

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 42 pt

Spacing – After: 40 pt

Sine spacing: Single

* Outline level is an extremely useful Word tool. Level 1 is the top level, then 2, 3, etc; and each number layers the levels down. It can help you navigate to a particular chapter (select ‘View’ at the top and check off ‘Navigation Pane’ to open a click-and-go table of contents on the side). It can aid creating an auto-created and updated table of contents in your front matter. And, you can move and rearrange entire sections (parts or chapters) by clicking and dragging them in the navigation pane on the left.

 

 

Front and back matter. The fewer styles used, the cleaner your manuscript looks, but some front matter is typically centered and some isn’t. Your title page, for example, may have a larger font than anywhere else, be centered, and spaced lower on the page, so will probably have its own ‘Style’. The title page is also probably the only place you might want to use a different font type. Beyond this, I use the first chapter paragraph justified style for justified text like the copyright ‘do not copy this’ blurb. I have a similar style set with the text centered instead of justified for the rest of the copyright information, and if I want a centered spacer (***) between scenes in a chapter. The about author and other back matter blurbs, I treat like another chapter.

 

 

Headers and footers should be used for the page numbers at the bottom and the alternating book title and author name at the top. Use the same font as the book text. Insert a section break before chapter/part 1 to separate the front matter from the rest to not have the headers and footers appear in the front matter. When you create your headers and footers in page one of the first chapter check off ‘different from previous section’, and check off ‘different odd/even pages’ in the header to have your name on one side and the book title on the other.

 

 

Editing Styles is not hard. Open the Styles panel. Select the paragraph text you want to edit. In the Styles box it should highlight the selected style. Hover over the Paragraph mark next to it and it becomes a downward triangle. Click it. Let’s say I want to change all ‘Normal’ text to my ‘Paragraph text’ style. I click ‘Select all’ under the normal style and wait for it to select all. It can take a while if there is a lot. Then click the ‘Paragraph text’ style. It should change all selected text to that style.

 

The ‘Modify’ button opens up the panel to modify the style if you want to tweak your style. If ‘Automatically update’ is checked off, it will automatically change all text in the document with that text style.

 

 

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

 

Formatting Styles for eBooks later will be simple if you followed these styles consistently. First, re-save the document to be safe. Remove all headers and footers. They don’t work in eBooks. Change your entire document page size to 8.5” x 11” (letter) with 1 inch margins all around.

 

 

 

Change all styles to:

– Remove the before and after paragraph spaces. At least minimize it to no more than 12 pt. in chapter headers and the title page.

– All fonts should be Times New Roman 12 point. You can get away with the title page and chapter headers being a slightly larger font size.

– All font color MUST be ‘Automatic’.

 

The other formatting fixes to convert to eBook are a little more work. They are finicky creatures, those eBook readers.

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Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

It’s the start of the new calendar year. Are you going into it wondering if you are ready to publish? Convinced you are definitely ready? On the fence?

 

Wherever you are sitting on that question, moving from writing and editing to publishing is a big step. So, what if you are ready? What do you do now?

 

First, is to make sure you really are ready to take that next big leap.

 

 

 

If you are writing shorter projects: articles, short or flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, etc.; you will likely find the rules on readiness for publishing less strict for some publications. Check their requirements before sending your piece in. And if it does not say otherwise, assume they want articles that are complete and edited to perfection, although that does not mean they won’t ask for revisions. Fiction submissions usually need to be completed work.

 

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

If you are writing a full length book, it’s going to take more work to make it ready for publication.

 

Pitching to a publisher with a book idea in the expectation of getting an advance to then write the book is almost certainly going to leave you lying flat in the depths of rejection. Unless you are Paul Sheldon (author of the Misery series in Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery, made into a movie of the same name), or some other movie or book character, this is unlikely to result in a contract.  Big name authors with a track record of best sellers may score that advance based on an idea they haven’t written yet, but for the rest of us this is not how it’s going to work.

 

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your best option is to send that advance-seeking pitch to an agent, not a publisher. A small publisher may indulge you with a smile and nod, but they are unlikely to sign a contract for an unseen unwritten manuscript by an author whose work they don’t know. And, if you want to get in with the big publishers, you need an agent.

 

As an unknown or little known talent, your best option is to write the book first, perfect it, get it edited, and then pitch it. This way potential publishers and agents can see the quality of your writing.

 

 

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

You wrote a book, but is it ready to publish? The answer to that is the answer to this question: is it edited to perfection? It is not enough to write a book. It needs to be written well, to hook and pull the reader in, make them yearn for more with the ending of each page. Editing and developmental errors can ruin this and your chance of being signed on with the publisher.

 

The book market is rife with editing mistakes from the big name authors at biggest publishing houses down to the smallest self-published author. They happen. People edit and people are fallible and let’s be real here, writing and editing a book are huge undertakings. You also don’t really know how much that publisher is actually investing in paid editing, so you want your book as perfect as you can make it before you submit it. Heck, I was published with a small press who claimed to have a paid editor. I suspect their editor was more fictitious than my characters; at least they have some form of life breathed into them through the pages of the books.

 

What kind of editing do you need?  All of them.

 

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

The four main types of book editing are (in the order they should be done):

 

1) Developmental Editing: This is a structural and developmental edit of . . . everything; including a critique of the essential elements of the story: plot, story structure, setting, timeline, characterization, pacing, and of course, presentation and marketability. You may have already rewritten your manuscript in whole or parts before this, but be prepared to have it stripped down to basics. You may do so again after the beta readers have read it and given you feedback. This is where you might find yourself re-ordering or rewriting events and chapters, reimagining characters, tweaking your story arc, and other major revisions. This will include line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, but does not replace those necessary steps afterwards. With the revisions that will be done, you will still need the following editing steps.

 

Note: at this point you should have or be enlisting beta readers to give you feedback on your story. You may have to go back to the developmental editing on parts or all of your book after their input.

 

2) Line Editing: Line by line edit focusing on the flow, tone, and style of writing. The goal is to clean up unnecessary verbosity, tighten sentences, and fix awkward sentences and paragraphs for readability.

 

3) Copy Editing: Essentially it is text editing. This is a word by word edit to find and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, language, syntax, typos, etc. This should be done after you are satisfied with the story structure, plot, settings, characterization, and so forth, and have no further changes to the story.

 

4) Proofreading:  The final editing of the book ‘proof’. This is the last look at the print ready book proof before publication to catch any missed typos and formatting gaffes.

 

 

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Your book is perfect. Now what? Now that you have let beta readers at your book and have done further revisions and had all the forms of editing done and maybe done again, your book is ready to publish. Now you need to decide how you want to publish. For some, the old school large publishing house is the only way they want to go. Others prefer the total control of self-publishing. There are also the in-betweens; small publishers, Indy presses, and hybrid options.

 

1) Large publishers. These are the ‘you need an agent’ publishers. They typically do not take unsolicited manuscripts, and by solicited that means coming from an agent who has already vetted the author and their book as something that publisher might be interested in looking at. They also are more likely to expect an instant best seller and less likely to settle for anything less. You write the book, and they put in all the expenses to publish it and take the risks of whether or not it will make money.

 

2) Independent presses are publishing companies that operate solo. They are not part of or operating under the umbrella of a large multinational or conglomerate corporation. These can be large or small publishing companies.

 

3) Small press. The title basically describes what they are. These are smaller independent publishing businesses. They don’t have the large finances behind them, which also increases the risk of them going out of business in the tough world of book publishing. They are unlikely to offer an advance and that’s okay, because an advance is borrowing against future royalties you have not yet earned. It also means they don’t have the same corporate weight in getting your books into bookstores as the larger presses do. The good news is that you don’t generally need an agent to query them on your behalf. Small presses are usually quite happy to discuss publishing contracts directly with the author and are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author or book that does not fall neatly into the mainstream popular market. Like the bigger publishers, they pay the expenses and take the risks, but you are likely to sell fewer books.

 

4) Hybrid publishing occupies the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It runs in various models and is called by different names. Hybrid publishing is a newer variation on the publishing business and can involve a larger publisher, independent or not, or smaller publisher. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that it is a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing; a cooperative agreement between the author and publisher that involves some financial investment from the author. The author has to pay for some of the services to get their book published, generally in exchange for a higher percent of the royalties. The author will also have more control over their book than under a traditional publishing model. This should not be confused with a ‘vanity press’, a term for a predatory company preying on the author’s need to be published (considered ‘vanity’ long before modern marvels like computers and typewriters made being a writer easier).

 

5) Self-publishing is the do-it-yourself of publishing. This is all on you. The author is solely responsible for all the costs and risks of getting that book published. You are your own publisher. There are a lot of services out there available for everything from the four types of editing to typesetting and formatting your files for uploading both to print book and eBook. There are artists and stock photos, and the cover designers to make them into your book cover for you. You are also on your own to market your book or hire a company to market your book for you. Self-publishing authors often utilize POD (print on demand) tools and/or eBook publishing. Self-publishing is your most costly option as far as monetary investments go. It is also probably the hardest to find success at, since you don’t have the name of a known publishing house behind you.

 

 

Whatever publishing route you choose, make sure your manuscript is one hundred percent perfect and do your homework. Research the publisher or service you are planning to use. Look for reviews, Better Business Bureau complaints, and anything good or bad online. Check out the covers of their other books to make sure they look like professional quality covers. How easily found are their books? Are they professional in their dealings with you? And above all, never sign a contract without being one hundred and ten percent sure of it. If you are unsure of the publisher or the wording or a contract in general, the online writing community is an invaluable source of help. So is hiring a publishing contract lawyer.

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You’ve likely heard it, that you must build your platform. While a lot of us know what that is, not everyone does. In its simplest description, your platform is your (mainly digital now) imprint on the world. Don’t think of it as your ‘popularity points’. It is not you (and not literally, I hope) standing there waving your arms and shouting for attention. What it is, is what kind of a following you have.

 

Some will argue a platform simply is, but really it could also be argued that it takes multiple forms. Like weaving story threads together, all of these things and more come together to build your author platform. Each part of your author platform gives and takes support from each other.

 

When a potential agent or publisher looks at you, your platform is the likelihood of your book selling in the mass quantities that make it worth their while.

 

Your digital platform is your presence online and how likely new and existing readers are to come across your name or go out of their way to follow you. It is everything from your Facebook author page, Twitter, and Instagram, to your Amazon author page, Goodreads, your name appearing in Google searches, and your blog posts and website. Every like, share, and comment online is building your author brand.

 

Your product platform is the work itself that you do, your writing regardless of its form, or whatever services you are offering. This includes public speaking engagements.

 

Your professional platform is your level of professionalism and the quality of your work you put out there, and that doesn’t just mean your writing, editing, and book cover or the services you provide, although a high level of professionalism in those areas is a necessity. It is also the level of professionalism you show at every stage and in every face. It is how professional you come across online, in person, letters, socially, and, yes, in your actual work. This is also memberships in organizations.

 

Building a platform involves creating your author brand. It is what people think of you. Your contacts: who they are and how many. It is you connecting with your audience, both existing and building it larger.

 

Everything is an opportunity to build your brand and platform. If you are doing the circuit of craft markets and genre events (ie poetry slams, SciFi, fantasy, and other genre conventions … the list is endless), use every chance you have to schmooze. Meet people, talk business, be sociable and friendly, mention what you do, make connections both professionally and with your potential fan base. Have a stack of business cards with your social media author links that you can hand out to potential peers and fans so they can connect with and follow you. You can get cards made up for a very reasonable price with Vistaprint (they constantly have coupon codes for deals!) and other print on demand business product printers.

 

Hint: When you are making your own business cards, remember to increase the brightness and contrast if there is a picture. Like book covers, it will print darker than it shows on your computer screen.

 

 

Think before you post. One wrong rant can derail your reputation as a writer and a person. In social media groups and on your professional pages be courteous, kind, and respectful. The impression you give when you communicate in social media is your online brand.

 

 

 

Think about the ways you can build your author platform (this list is not inclusive of every means):

  • Figure out your target audience and cater to them
  • Blog
  • Build an email list and send out newsletters (but don’t SPAM them!)
  • Social networking / social media
  • Write articles or columns
  • Do guest contributions to others’ blogs and websites
  • Public speaking appearances and readings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Visit book clubs
  • Find places to do book signings (craft markets, conventions, libraries, stores, etc)
  • Schmooze and hand out your social media links business cards
  • Book readings
  • Put out more work. This is probably the most important. Keep working and putting it out there.

 

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