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Posts Tagged ‘How To Be A Writer’

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

If you look inside the front matter of any published book you will find an ISBN number. If you don’t know, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.

 

The ISBN has nothing to do with copyrights. It simply is a catalogue number. If you are looking for a particular book, you can search it by its ISBN (catalogue) number.

 

An ISSN – International Standard Serial Number is the same thing as the ISBN, but is for periodical publications (ongoing series), such as magazines or a book series. You didn’t know you needed that for your book series? That’s okay. Not all books start with the intent of making them a series. With the wonders of technology, some sites will still link your series as belonging together. Just fill out that “series” box.

 

Now, if you’ve self-published with Amazon KDP, you might find they assigned you an ASIN instead of an ISBN. Oh, the horror. What have they done?

 

The ASIN (Amazon standard Identification Number) is the same thing as an ISBN, a catalogue number, only it is specific to Amazon. So, it only shows up in Amazon’s market. If you are publishing both a print and eBook at the same time, they will likely give the eBook an ASIN that is the same as the ISBN. Still, only the print book version with the ISBN will show up in ISBN searches outside of Amazon’s marketplace.

 

The EAN (European Article Number) should not be confused with an ISBN, ISSN, or ISIN. The EAN is a barcode. Think of it as the same thing as the others, but for products that are not books.

 

 

 

Breaking Down An ISBN – International Standard Book Number

The ISBN is broken down into parts.

 

  • EAN – Bookland country code. Apparently books live in a world of their own separate from ours called “Bookland”.  In the land of books, this identifies what country the book comes from.  Luckily for us non-book beings, the numbers also coincide with the countries of our own world.

 

  • Group – identifies the language the book is written in

 

  • Publisher – identifies the publisher of the book (aka the person or business who filed the ISBN number for the book)

 

* oddly enough, it seems that when a publisher exhausts its block of ISBNs, instead of receiving an additional block with the same publisher identifying number, they are given a new identifying number for the new block of ISBNs.

 

  • Title – identifies the book title

 

  • Check Digit – this is akin to a spell check for the people assigning ISBNs. If this number is not what they are looking for, then an error was made.

 

 

If you are being published with a publisher, they will look after your ISBN needs. However, if you are self-publishing, you need to do this yourself. And, you will probably need multiple ISBNs for each book.

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Why do you need multiple ISBNs for one book?

Because each format is a separate catalogue item. Every place you upload your book to sell, every print on demand printer, every eBook distribution, is a separate catalogue listing. Every ‘version’, i.e. trim size, paperback vs. hardcover vs. eBook, vs. audio book, is a separate catalogue listing. Every change that affects the description and quality of the product, like trim size or doing revisions to the book beyond fixing a few typos, creates a new catalogue item.

 

Think of it this way, each of these is a different catalogue item:

  • Print book on Amazon KDP
  • eBook on Amazon Kindle
  • Print book on Lulu
  • McNally Robinson pod printer
  • IngramSpark/Lightning Source
  • Kobo books

 

Also, each of these is a different format; therefore each is also a different catalogue item:

  • Paperback book
  • Hard cover book
  • Audio book
  • eBook mobi
  • eBook epub
  • Other eBook formats
  • Large print book
  • You uploaded your book in a new trim size
  • You uploaded a new edition (2nd edition, 3rd, etc)

 

 

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Getting an ISBN is not difficult. And, depending where you live, you might have to pay for it.

 

If you live in the United States, you have to buy your ISBN. ISBN’s are sold by a commercial company.  (They are cheaper in bulk!) After getting your ISBN, it is up to you to have it registered with RR Bowker, the US database for the ISBN agency.  www.bowkerlink.com

 

One of the things many large US based self-publishing companies like Draft 2 Digital, Smashwords, and Amazon KDP does to encourage authors to publish with them is they buy up mass volumes of bulk ISBNs and provide them free to authors and publishers publishing with them. Of course, that only applies to the book listed on their service. You still need ISBNs for anywhere else you upload your book to.

 

Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

The wonderful thing about being in Canada is that FREE ISBNs is one of the little ways the Canadian government supports the arts.

 

To get your ISBN visit the Library and Archives Canada website and create an ISBN Canada Account.

Once you have your ISBN Canada Account you simply login to request and update ISBNs. There is no cost for this service.

 

Once you have your ISBN and have published your book, it is recommended you submit copies of your books to the Legal deposit program with Library and Archives Canada (read the article on that for more information).

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Registration Deadline: 1 May 2020

Sign up for the program or register new titles and editions. Registration runs Feb 15th to May 1st.

 

The Public Lending Right (PLR) Program sends payments annually to creators whose works are in Canada’s public libraries. Check out their website for more information on eligibility, payments, and to register: https://publiclendingright.ca/

 

 

The Dry on the PLR:

The PLR (Public Lending Right) Commission was established under the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) in 1986 to oversee the PLR program.

 

The PLR Commission is an elected body of writers, translators, librarians and publishers working together with non-voting representatives from the Canada Council for the Arts, Department of Canadian Heritage, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, and Library and Archives Canada. (Read the article on ISBNs to learn more about what Library and Archives Canada does).

 

‘Public Lending Right’ is your right as an author to be paid for free public use of your works in libraries. The basis of payment varies, but more than 30 countries around the world have PLR programs. In Canada, an annual survey is done one titles in public library catalogues. Payments to authors are based on the presence of their title(s) in the survey results.

 

 

Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash

The Juicy News on the PLR:

As a writer, you worked hard on what you’ve had published. It’s only right to want fair compensation for that work. Libraries that stock your writing, whether it is in print or eBook, are lending it out free to multiple users who don’t need to buy it to read it. That translates to lost sales for you in the name of providing free public access to hundreds of potential readers.

 

 

This is what is behind the US libraries’ boycott of Macmillan Publisher’s new eBook releases. Basically, because more library lending equals more readers who do not have to buy the book to read it, Macmillan sought to boost initial sales of new eBook releases by limiting the number of copies libraries can buy and lend out in the first 8 weeks after a new eBook is released. Now that was a mouthful. Macmillan has been trolled and vilified for what boils down to an economic business decision. The nerve of them wanting to make sales revenue on their investment to the detriment of faster access to that new release to all those readers not paying for it.

 

I get both sides of that argument. If I want it, if I’m excited about it, I want it now. I don’t want to wait 8 weeks to get on a waiting list to get it. And if I don’t have to pay for it, I win. Heck, most of my adult life I couldn’t afford to buy books new. I still can’t afford to fill my reading needs with the prices publishers charge. I live on books I can read free (leaving a review is an excellent way to give back to the author for that!), reduced price books, and used books. At the same time, taking a risk on that book, on that author, and publishing a book is a substantial investment for publishers. Just because it’s an eBook does not make their costs inconsequential. And it is a business. They are not producing books out of the kindness of their hearts. They have overhead and staff wages to pay. And their investors want to earn money on their investment. And, that’s not even including compensation for the author’s time. Okay, let’s get back on topic…

 

 

This is where the Public Lending Right (PLR) Program comes in.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

You write the book. Whatever means you take, it gets published. Libraries buy it, or maybe you donate it to a library. All those people borrowing it from the library, reading it without paying for it, are sales that won’t happen. They probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway, but they are getting to enjoy your book and you get no compensation for that.

 

Wrong. The PLR is another small way our government supports the arts. You sign up, and if your book(s) comes back in their annual library survey, you get paid compensation for the potential loss of sales from those library books.

 

Registering is not a guarantee. And they need to verify your book(s) eligibility. Libraries need to actually stock it and then it has to be picked up in the annual survey. Then you get paid.

 

It might not be enough to cover all potential lost sales earnings, but it’s something. And in today’s book market, there are no guarantees on how those sales will go.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do you do when you just don’t know what to write?

 

It happens to all of us. Okay, maybe not to Stephen King (but it probably has at some point even if he won’t admit it), however it happens to the rest of us. You sit down to write and . . . your mind is blank. That’s where I came up with the idea for this subject. I couldn’t think of anything, so I decided to write about that.

 

But if you really wanted to write, you would just sit down and write. Right? If only it were that simple. The reasons for the blank mind syndrome are as varied as we writers trying to write are.

 

 

Perhaps the biggest culprit is self-doubt. Who hasn’t faced off to that one at some point? You might not even recognize this is the problem because self-doubt can be a sneaky thing. It is the anti-muse of a thousand wicked faces. You don’t know if you can do it. You question how to start, what to write. Will it be garbage? Will anyone like it or are you wasting your time? And those are only a few easily recognized symptoms of self-doubt.

 

No one is going to want to read it. No one will like it. Will even you like it? You doubt you’ll ever be published anyway, or find that ever elusive agent you need to get your work considered by the big publishing houses. You can give yourself any of thousands of excuses that all boil down to one simple thing . . . self-doubt.

 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Time is not on your side. We all get that. Life is busy. How many things are you juggling in your daily life? Full time or part time work; maybe both with two jobs. School, maybe both school and working; homework, studying, meetings, and volunteering. Family, extended family, friends, and pets. Household and life chores, running errands, and meeting your own basic needs.

 

Before you know it day after day has been sucked away and you haven’t had a chance to even think about writing. And, we all still need a little downtime to catch that favorite show, read a book, and just have a little bit of fun and time to unwind from the hectic everyday.

 

In the constant whirlwind of life it’s too often the just for you things like writing that get pushed back and left behind.

 

 

The story has stumped you. Fiction or nonfiction, prose, essay, short or long, whatever it is, sometimes it just stops us dead and can’t move forward. You can stare blankly at it all you want, but that inspiration just won’t come. Maybe you feel something is off, but cannot pinpoint what.

 

I always find that for me if it feels like something is off, then it turns out something is off. Maybe I need to delete the entire beginning, or it might work better moved much later in the story. Something somewhere is off track so the pieces just aren’t fitting together right like trying to force in puzzle pieces that don’t go there. Scenes need to be moved or removed, details expanded on, and bridge scenes created to fill in gaps in the story.

 

Twice I have taken the drastic step of actually tearing up and deleting an entire story, scrapping it completely because it was going nowhere. They still haunt me.

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You’ve been away from writing for too long. It can be hard to get back into it after not writing for a while. You’ve been hit by the lack of time, and now it’s compounded with self-doubt. Or maybe life just got in the way and you sidelined writing. Whatever the reason you took an extended break, you feel like you haven’t written in so long that you forgot how.

 

Or maybe writing has been that dream you wanted to do, but just have not managed to actually start yet. Does that mean you are not a writer? No. In the dry technical term of the definition, you do actually have to write something to have written. But self identity is a powerful thing and is what drives you to be a writer. Think of the age old saga of the chicken and egg. The chicken must lay the egg to birth the chicken, but the chicken came from an egg laid by a chicken, so. . . Are you a writer because you felt like a writer and were driven to write? Or because you wrote, which you would not have done had you not been driven to it?

 

 

Regardless if you are having an extended dry spell, have yet to dip your toes into your dream of writing, or are facing off against the inability to make the words flow, the result is the same . . . you are not writing. So how do you get back into it? Or start in the first place? Let’s explore some tips.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Getting back into writing can be like riding a bike. You never really forget how, but you can feel pretty rusty at it and need to get back that sense of balance and relearn the comfort zone. That takes time and practice.

 

It doesn’t have to be good. Not everyone can write a carefully thought out perfectly planned and executed word by word draft of perfection. If they did, odds are pretty good they actually wrote and rewrote it over and over in their head before committing it to the proverbial paper. The magic of editing fixes all . . . later.

 

 

There is power in small. This is one of my favorite project tools. It’s the same trick I used when overdue schoolwork snowballed out of control for my kid in grade school, or when one of my kids is overwhelmed by the size of a large project. I also use it when I just can’t think what to write when trying to work on a novel, although it probably works better if you actually outline first. I write mostly long fiction. The whole project can be daunting.

 

It is also an effective tool to combat writer’s block in all its forms. Where to start? Start small.

 

Pick a scene. If you have to number scenes and draw a number from a hat, then do it. If it’s something more epic those numbered scenes can be a mix of scenes, locations, characters, peoples or creatures; or anything else. Whatever you picked you must write. Block out everything else to do with the story, write it and own it. Put everything you have into it and make it the best little piece of writing you can. If it doesn’t fit, you can fix that later with editing. You know you’ll be editing and revising it anyway.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

 

You don’t have to write chronologically. So what if you can’t think of what to write in the next scene? Is it better to not write and mope over the next scene or keep writing? If you can write something, anything, then do it. Maybe you are on chapter two and the only inspiration is chapter 32. Go write that chapter 32 scene. The rest will fall into place in its time.

 

 

My favorite rule in writing is ‘break all the rules’. There is an overabundance of so-called ‘writing rules’. From the ‘proper’ writing rules of formal writing handed down by the generations before our time to new rules being invented on the fly, rules are everywhere. The one thing they all have in common is that in writing no rule fits every single situation.

 

Sometimes it’s our own perception of what the rules we are supposed to follow are that holds us back from writing. That ingrained fear of breaking a rule. What would our grade five English Language Arts teacher think of us? What would our mothers think? Oh, the horror.

 

Be a rebel. Get reckless. Break the rules. You are not writing a business letter to the CEO of your company or formal fifth grade essay on a book you don’t understand. You are creating literature art. Feel it and let the rules go. Nobody even has to know or read it. It can be our dark little secret. You decide when you are ready to let someone read it.

 

 

Schedule time to write. Ten minutes here, fifteen there, or multi-task it during waiting time. Everything else you do daily has at least a loosely planned schedule. You get up at a certain time to go to work or school. Meals are eaten around a certain time. Maybe you don’t really have anything to do during a spare or coffee or lunch break. Do it while you are waiting for the bus or during the bus ride. When I’m waiting for an hour during my kid’s boxing class, I’m sitting there writing or editing. Maybe you decide lunch on Tuesdays will be your writing block. Once you schedule it, stick to it. It becomes easier when it is habit.

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Use writing prompts. They are useful when you want to write but don’t have a specific project. A prompt is a tool to get the writing juices flowing. There are scores of writing prompt tools online; everything from random title generators to first lines to subjects or pictures to write about.

 

The point of a writing prompt is to make you write something, anything, about something random. If you can’t get going, start by describing it in great detail, down to every last scuff, scratch, and imagined imperfections that may be hidden beneath the surface. How it must feel in the hand, its heft and balance. How it smells. How it makes you feel to look at it. Imagine who might have conspired to create such a thing; what might have motivated them. Who might have labored to build it? Who would buy it? For themselves or someone else? For pure purposes or mischief? How did it come to be right there in that spot, in that condition, perhaps abandoned or lost, or intentional?

 

 

Edit your work. So what if you haven’t finished writing it? Who cares how long it has ‘collected dust’? Just pick it up and start working through editing it. You have to anyway. Research any little thing. This gets your head back in the game and on the story or poem, or whatever you are writing. This trick doesn’t always work for me the first time I sit down to edit. It might be the third or fourth time, but inevitably the new story ideas start to flow.

 

 

Write something else. If you really are stuck, move on. Work on writing something else and keep that writing momentum going. Your nagging sub-conscious will probably be worrying at that other piece in the background. Go back and revisit the work you are stuck on. I have multiple WIPs going all the time.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet writing hat

Create a writing trigger.  You are entering dangerous territory. Really, you are. Call it a writing trigger, focal object, behavior modifier, your process or routine; or your ‘writing hat’. Anything that works goes, within reason. Let’s keep it legal. The point is finding something that flips that writing switch on, naturally or trained. Like a bedtime routine for toddlers, it switches your brain into writing mode.

 

Maybe it’s going through certain steps to settle in to write, using a particular object, or a certain place you write. Learning to flip that switch will turn on the writer’s brain and its creative juices on command.

 

The problem with this is dependency on an object, routine, or place. Whatever you trained yourself on, if you make yourself too reliant on it, you risk being unable to write without it. Like George Stark’s Berol Black Beauty pencil (Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Half’). Thad Beaumont was an anxious writer, so he invented the pen name George Stark and the writing switch (and Stark’s author ‘thing’ to make him famous), the Berol Black Beauty pencil. Without that very specific pencil, he could not be Stark and could not write like Stark. Unfortunately, because it is a Stephen King story, the fictional Stark became real and sought to terrorize and murder his creator, Thad. Hopefully your writing trigger doesn’t do the same. Fortunately, the Berol Black Beauty pencil does not exist today.

 

 

Get an accountability buddy. Also called a ‘nag’. I’m my own best and worst nag. It could be as simple as marking a deadline on a calendar or making a phone alert; it could be posting promises on your social media, or someone who will regularly ask you about your writing progress. The point is having that niggling in your head droning on at you, “Write . . . write . . . write.” How embarrassing to always have to say, “yeah, sorry. I didn’t write again this week.”

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Just write. There is one tried and tested way to get out of that blank mind no writing funk. You have to find a way to write. It doesn’t matter how or when. It doesn’t have to be good. Just. Write.

 

Force yourself to sit down and write something. Anything. The more you make yourself write, the easier it will come. By making yourself write you can spur ideas. I started with *(blank)*, literally. I banged my head on the desk a few times (figuratively), tried to force an idea, and finally settled on, “Fine, I’ll right about not being able to write anything.”

 

I started writing that and as I did, ideas for other things came to me. Reasons for the mind block beget ideas. Thinking of how to break the cycle of being stuck beget more ideas. And now I have a list of other possible future topics. And whatever you are writing, when that other inspiration strikes note it down for later.

 

 

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 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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