Happy birthday to the Indie Author Group. Founded just as the trend of self-publishing took off by Valerie Douglas, and her co-founder Kai Viola, we are a vibrant team of writers and artists that look after one of the oldest communities for self-publishing and hybrid publishing on the Facebook.
It’s our birthday today! We’ll be celebrating next week though, so watch the blog, group and page! (or the blog page!)
To celebrate our 9th birthday, we’ll be overhauling, adding resources and doing a lot more, so watch this space!

How to write a novel

W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Instead, take the advice of the pros:

Just write

How do you learn to write? Learn from the best – Read

Read in your genre and out of it. Read everything. Learn to love words.

Anyone who tells you how to write is lying.

There are many people, writers of all kinds, who write books and blogs about how to write, but all they can tell you is how they do it. 

Only one person can write your story, your way, with your unique voice – you.


How and why to use Paper.li

For those who aren’t familiar with Paper.li it’s essentially a ‘newspaper’ about whatever you want to share and it’s easy to use. Simply go to the site and sign up. There are two versions – free and paid. (More on that later.)
Give it a title but think long and hard before choosing one. Don’t make the common mistake of naming it ‘YourName, Author‘ or ‘RomanticTitle Series‘, because using your author name is a giveaway for ‘buy my book’ promotion and if you go off that series track you have to remember to go back and rename your paper.li.  You want to consider it as part of your marketing plan but you don’t want to be obvious about it or no one will read it.
Since I write self-published fantasy, and that’s usually associated with sci-fi, mine references that. And, since no fantasy writer worth their salt shouldn’t also know something about archaeology (to ground their fiction in reality) and people are interested in that science, I reference that, too.
I’m also interested in giving back to other writers and educating them on the common mistakes many writers of fantasy make. Food, for example, was a lot harder to come by, you had to forage for vegetables and fruit, and it took a lot longer to cook. Say you have a character who takes down a bird or a deer. In some fantasy novels, writers roast them on a spit. A bird will take a fair amount of time. A deer is bigger than you think, it takes half a day to roast that way, with frequent turning.  As another example of a common mistake, do you know why ancient peoples used chariots? Because most early horses couldn’t carry a person. Centuries of selective breeding (evolution) created an animal that could. Even so, a horse will take a long period of time, even with its longer legs, to get from point A to point B. More so if hitched to a wagon. And they get tired.
So, back to Paper.li. You can give it certain parameters to search for and feature, but some come with it.

Editing 101 – Self-editing for self-publishers

In the first of a series of articles, Valerie Douglas talks Self Editing – we’re storing them on our pages, so they don’t flow away in the blog stream 😀

One of the first things they should tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel, it’s all about the action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way.) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. When self-editing do a search for begin and start.

Get this and more tips on the article.

Self-Editing 101

  1. Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
  2. One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
  3. Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  4. Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
  5. Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
  6. ‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
  7. Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
  8. *aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
  9. Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
  10. Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
  11. Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
  12. As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
  13. Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
  14. Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
  15. ‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
  16. Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
  17. Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use – http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm
  18. Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
  19. (Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
  20. Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
  21. Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
  22. Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
  23. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
  24. Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
  25. Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
  26. Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
  27. Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
  28. Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
  29. How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
  30. Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
  31. Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
  32. Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
  33. Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.

 

A Tale of Self-Publishing – How authors slayed the dragon

Once upon a time, there was only traditional publishing and in traditional publishing there were gatekeepers. A gatekeeper’s job was to filter out the unedited, poorly written dreck that opened not with action, but backstory or prologues. Then their function changed from being mere gatekeepers to arbiters/purchasing agents and so the reading public was forced to read endless variations of Twilight with its moody, angst driven hero and wistful, victim heroine to 50 Shades of Grey, to use a few comparisons we hear from readers of the current cookie-cutter genre (which is a whole other readership in itself). But some were dissatisfied. Writers were becoming discouraged. This made a lot of people very angry and was widely viewed as a bad move. Justifiably so, since it kept a lot of good authors out of publishing.

And then, lo and behold, there was born a new industry (resurrected really – though in a new format) called Self-Publishing.

In the beginning, there was Smashwords, run by Mark Coker. He wanted to democratize publishing, and so there was and is no cost, no frills, it was (and still is) a quick way to get your e-book into production and distribution, and you could do it in a day. It deliberately allowed writers to appeal directly to readers without having to deal with gatekeepers such as agents and editors. In keeping with this mission, Smashwords applies no editorial screening. (This has turned out to be not necessarily a good move, either. More on that, later.)

Now authors who want to publish had a home.

The first to truly achieve success – by getting noticed – was Amanda Hocking. She virtually created YA – Young Adult, aka, what had once been known as ‘Coming of Age’, with a dystopian or paranormal twist. From that came NA – New Adult. Her sales took off and then a traditional publisher signed her.

(This doesn’t discount Chuck Wendig or JA Konrath or a handful of others, who were hybrid traditional/self-publishers and are now primarily self-publishers.)

Thus was created new venues – Amazon & Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook (not managed very well), Apple & iBooks, Draft to Digital and Kobo.

Now, anyone who wanted to write a book could…and many did.

At first, a decent author with a decent cover could actually make money from their work.

And then, the hordes descended.

Like any other Indie/Self-publisher I hate the idea of gatekeepers, yet now there are none and, increasingly, it shows. And, weirdly, self-publishers have turned into their own worse enemies. Writers actually insist that they don’t need editors or cover artists. (Every author does.)

As the creator/admin/mod of the Indie Author Group, I constantly hear ‘woe is me, my sales are non-existent’, and variations therein.  And while I have sympathy, I can see why – sometimes when I look at their book, the cover is awful, the editing is worse, or the books they’re writing are in the most popular, most glutted genres. I can’t, however, say that to them or face the wrath of the angry author. Suggest they try a new or different take and all the mods have come to expect fireworks. Suggest that they don’t write to the tropes – the ‘romantic’ motorcycle alpha male, the hero’s journey/quest, the hard-boiled detective – and you’ll get, as I did, the one-book wonder or instant expert who will object. Strenuously.  Then, that one book insta-expert tries to hijack the group entirely and things get difficult for all of the team when all we want is to do what we love – write and support.

Yet, that’s how the most successful writers did it.

When Stephen King started writing horror, they said there was no market, but he practically reinvented it. J. K. Rowling created fantasy novels for middle-grade to YA. Hocking gave YA street cred. Wendig does mysteries and science fiction. As much as Twilight gets bashed – the author reinvented the vampire story with her angst-ridden characters. And E. L. James ponied onto the back of that, to write a Twilight fan-fic without the supernatural and with a twist, and brought erotic romance from a niche into the mainstream. Hugh Howey recreated dystopian fiction, sold the print rights but kept the e-books (at first), creating a new hybrid market while he was at it. And Andy Weir recreated accessible science fiction.

Hocking, James, Howey, and Weir all started as Indie writers. All signed contracts with Big Five publishers.

Okay, so that’s the good news, here’s the reality. The self-publishing industry has to change. You can change with it or be left behind.

Some venues are closing or have closed, others are teetering. Despite the Amazon bashing, with its international reach it’s still the publisher of choice for most Indie writers, and with all due apologies to Smashwords, Amazon does require some editorial screening (although it can’t do much about those grammatical errors and really bad covers). Bad spelling, editing, and cover art harm all of us. Few of the other vendors offer any marketing/support assistance, which makes publicizing books there difficult. But Amazon DOES take onboard specific reports – we’re seeing more and more of these books that people say ‘I’m not selling’ pop up with a yellow triangle under its name that says ‘issues found’, then details reports they’ve received, and lets folks know that the publisher has been informed. In other words, Amazon is pushing for a bit of crowdsourced control and DO check before they flag things. It’s a gatekeeper in the hands of readers, in other words.

You, the writer, have to decide whether you want to stay a midlist writer and disappear like so many others, or innovate, try new things and find your niche.

StoryBundle – Writestuff 2016

We don’t often feature these products on the group blog, but this is one designed for indie authors, and it doesn’t have affiliate links AND you can donate 10% to charity, so we thought we’d see how it went.

Storybundle and HumbleBundle feature products in ‘bundles’ at a significant amount of money off, and if you’re looking to study or intake information, this bundle is a great one for at least one or two perspectives to give you something to think about in the indie author community. Plus, it’s something that the mod team talk about a lot – making sure that the advice we’re listening to isn’t from people just recycling information or not sharing from experience.

Here’s the blurb:

From curator Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Hundreds of writing books get published every year, and most of those books are written by people who have written…a book on writing. I kid you not. These people have a method or a scheme or they teach a writing class—even though I have no idea how they get those gigs. (Okay, I do. They get an MFA, which universities seem to think is more important than actual writing experience.)

Those writing books have nothing in common with the writing books in this bundle. Together, the authors of the books in The Write Stuff 2016 Bundle have more than two-hundred years of writing experience, and have contributed more than five hundred award-winning and bestselling books (fiction and nonfiction) to the world of literature.

We know writing, the writing life, and what makes a writing career. And we want to share it all with you.

You can grab your bundle here.  And keep checking back on the blog as we talk about the advice we’re working on for you guys ourselves!

Self-publishing 101

  1. Looks like a good bookWrite a good book and finish it. Do not even consider self-publishing until it’s finished, with good cover art and editing.
  2. Write at least two and up to five more books before releasing Book One, even if it’s in another genre – nothing sells Book One like Book Two, Three, etc.
  3. Give the first book to beta readers for evaluation – give them a time to return it to you with their critiques/evaluation.
  4. Hire an Editor (there’s a list in Files)
  5. Find Cover artist (there’s a list in Files). If money is tight, find an artist you like and see if they offer pre-made covers.
  6. If you’re not a geek, hire a formatter (A good formatter will prep for all sites.)
  7. Write your bio in something like Wordpad (text files are easy to copy paste.) Write it in the third person, as if someone else was describing you. Try to keep some of it light and a little humorous.
  8. Write the blurb for your book(s). There is no easy way to do one. Keep it concise – give hints to the genre, make it enticing, give a little information on your main character(s). The object is to entice readers to want to read your book, don’t give away the entire plot. (ex. Jack, an expert hill-climber, and Jill, a novice, are climbing a difficult hill, will they make it to the top?)
  9. When the book has been edited, the cover is complete, it’s time to set up promotion. (*grins* List in Files, but apply to Bookbub or E Reader News Today)a.) Set up a release date for at least three weeks in advance. b.) Decide whether to use Kindle Direct Publishing Select (recommended) or other venues. c.) Decide whether to do a pre-releasec.) Send out ARCs (Advance Release Copies) to other authors, bloggers, etc.d.) Decide which promotion sites to use (List in Files)e.) Do a cover releasef.) Set up an event page – with your blurb, the inspiration for characters – and offer a free copy as a prize for one of the people who responds.
  10. Post to Amazon KDP Select.
  11. Categories (genre/subgenre. See list of BISAC codes here in Files. Ex. Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and the subgenre – Fantasy *Urban* or *Epic* or Mystery *hard-boiled*) and keywords (special tags that describe your book – Fantasy – Epic – keyword Arthurian or Sword & Sorcery.)
  12. Use the Kindle Select free days – split 3-2. (Save the two spare days for a special occasion or to boost sales)
  13. Set up an Author Central page on Amazon.
  14. Set up a separate Facebook author page.

Take off the check-mark to automatically re-enroll in KDPS if you choose. Upload to other sites – B&N, Kobo, D2D, Smashwords when your Select days are finished.

Pinterest for Writers

Pinterest
First, remember that Pinterest is not a promotion or sale site, it’s simply another social media site except that it’s geared around pictures. For a writer, a Pinterest page allows readers to get to know the writer as a person, as well as your work. Your goal with Pinterest is to engage readers. So, with that in mind:
  1. Create a Pinterest page for you as a writer. Not your book or books, but something like John Smith Books or John Smith Author (but not Author John Smith – there’s a lot of pages that start with Author). Don’t create a page for your book, unless it’s a well-known series. It will also make you easier to Google.
  2. If given the option to add a “Pin” button, take it.
  3. Create a board of your genre or genres – that’s what readers usually search by. In that board, you’ll want to add your book covers and a short blurb with a link to where the book is available. Or go to the sites where it’s available, find the image of the book cover, and Pin should come up. Pin to the appropriate board.
  4. Suggestion: Create a board called Inspiration for your book title or series, and add pictures that evoke that book or series, or the characters. (I’d caution about the characters a little. As one famous quote says – “People will bring their own thing to your book”. That includes the characters. You might want to let them put their own image on the characters.)
  5. As a social media site, it’s a place for readers to get to know you, the writer. Create a Board of your favorite quotes, things you like or something you like or love – like movies you’ve watched, or your pets. Funny images are great, too.
  6. Update regularly. Give readers, other writers, etc. a chance to engage. Keep them coming back so when you release a new book, they’ll be used to looking at your page and see you have a new release. You can prep folks for that new release by adding pictures that are helping to inspire you.Pinterest can be a great social media site for interacting with your fans or potential fans. You can also add promotion for other writers you like.

How to write a best-selling novel

King-on-writingFirst, read. Read a lot. (Stephen King, paraphrased – “if you don’t have time to read, you can’t write.”) Reading will teach you how to write, how to write well, and how to write compelling characters.

Corollary – read the genre you’re writing in, that will teach you the ins and outs of that genre, and it may inspire a story.

Second, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’ve tried to write several books but haven’t been able to finish (pantsing), try writing an outline (plotting). If writing an outline kills the story for you, you’re a pantser, stop outlining and write the story.

Third, every good writer has dozens of starts and stops behind them. Some were completed. Some died in the writing. None of them were published. They were learning their craft. Learn your craft. If this is your first novel, put it in a drawer. Read in that genre. Come back to that book. It’s okay if you realize it’s crap. You write crap to become a better writer. Really good writers like Stephen King, wrote a lot, and started early. His first book “I was a Teenage Grave Robber” was independently published while still in high school. His first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” was published in a magazine.

Fourth, writers create worlds that might exist, have existed or exist only in the imagination. If you have to ask how to write a particular genre, you need to read more, see more movies, and use your imagination. Other writers write their stories. You have to write your own.

Fifth, write because you love it, because you have to do it, because you care about the story or the reason behind writing that story. If you’re not doing it because you love it, if you’re doing it for fame or money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Most writers will not get rich writing. They might make money, but only a few get rich.

Corollary – if you can quit, if it’s too hard and reviewers are mean, if you’re not driven to write, you’re in the wrong business. Who told you this writing thing was easy? Whoever they were, they lied. If it’s too hard, stop complaining and quit.

Sixth – If you don’t feel it – love, heartache, joy, grief, whatever – your readers won’t. Care – about the characters, the story, and why you needed to write it. Tears in the writer, tears in the reader. Laughter in the writer, laughter in the reader. Fall in love with the character(s).

Seventh – who is/are your main character(s). What’s their history, what motivates them, what do they need, what do they have to overcome? (Think about your favorite novels and the characters in it.) Pantser know their characters, plotters learn them. Until the reader knows those characters and what they care about, they don’t know what the story is about, and they won’t care what happens to the people in it.

Eighth, write more books. The best writers in the world wrote multiple books. Some tried to publish their first ones and received rejection letters of varying types. The good rejection letters told them why it was rejected. Indie writers don’t have that, they have readers. If this is your first book, write at least two more, if not four more. Readers want to follow an author they love. Give them something to follow.

Ninth – If the story isn’t working ask yourself why you’re writing it? If you’re writing it for the money, or because it’s a popular genre, you’re writing for the wrong reasons.
Are you trying to force your characters in a direction the people you created won’t go? Then follow the logic. Every good writer has discovered a story where the characters say “oh, no, I am NOT going there” because it’s not true to or for that character. Always stay true to the characters you’ve created. A good guy doesn’t suddenly turn bad, there has to be a reason. A bad boy character doesn’t suddenly change his stripes in a novel any more than he would in real life.

Tenth, what’s the story you’re trying to tell? Why should readers care? What are you trying to say?

Eleventh, How do you write? There is only one way – Apply seat to chair and fingers to keyboard. Write the story. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the doubters, or your own insecurities (there’s no such thing as a secure writer, the best are insecure because it makes them question their writing). Just write.

Twelfth, show don’t tell. Characters do things. Show them doing, either by describing it, or have them say in dialog what they’re doing and why.

The story is done when the story is done, when the characters have said everything the reader needs to know. Don’t know the ending? Take a step back. Talk to your characters. Ask yourself how you want it to end. Write that. If you can’t, it’s likely that you’re pushing the story in the direction you want it to go, not the direction it wants to go.

More than anything else, though, write the story. Do it because you love it.  You’re the only one who can write that story. The story is the only thing that matters.

Is there a guarantee that it will be a best-seller? No. But a book(s) can’t be a best-seller if it’s not written.

 

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.