So it’s the writers turn to vote. Writers how important do you think reviews are?
At the end of November 2019 my father passed away after a long illness. When discussing what to put in the Eulogy with my sisters we all agreed on the legacy he’d left us – a legacy far more valuable and less easy to quantify than money or a house. A love of reading and storytelling.
Dad left school at 16 with a basic education – he was, apparently, rubbish at art, woodwork and behaving himself but excelled at English, maths and history. He was a born storyteller. Times were different then, and even had he wanted to continue in education it would have not been possible financially. He joined the army at 19, was wounded in action and left partially sighted after being hit by a roadside bomb. (Not much changes in war).
Despite this he still loved to read – mostly westerns and historical books – but struggled with the print size to the end of his days. Both parents encouraged us to read, and both read avidly. Often the sitting room would be filled with people – noses buried in books and there were always books in the house. A trip to the local library was a treat.
Dad told stories about runaway pork pies and mischievous sausages, not to mention household implements which rose up against their masters. I vividly remember the wicked saucepan that hit its owner when it was replaced, and a hosepipe that went on the rampage. All told with my father’s wicked wit and gleaming eyes.
He loved poetry, particularly Kipling, and even a week before his death was able to recite one of his favourites word perfectly (even though his memory was going, he was confused about most things, in pain and on a whole raft of meds). His whole face was aglow when he spoke poetry.
Cargoes – by John Masefield was one of his favourites. The first verses would be read with wonder and then the final verse – well that was read very fast and loud. Reflecting the beauty of the old, fine ships and the somewhat less elegant British ships…
Of all the things Daddy gave us – love, a sense of humour, a belief in ourselves, not taking crap from anyone, to me the love of the written word was the finest – and the most ensuring.
I’m a writer and a poet, both my nieces write, my sister teaches English and drama, and the other sister is an artist and loves history. We all love books, and have FAR too many in the house. The love of reading and storytelling will live on, and so it should. Storytelling is what makes us human, and it brings us freedom, adventure and emotion.
Thanks Dad, we will miss you.
This is one of Dad’s (and my) favourite poems Twenty Bridges from Tower to Kew
Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort?
Guest post by T. R. Robinson
I first came across character interviews here in Alex’s Library of Erana blog. There have been a couple elsewhere but the majority have been here. Now for a bit of honesty: My initial thought? ‘Silly and pointless.’ As a consequence, I simply glanced (not even sped read) through a couple and thereafter ignored them. I now feel a little ashamed. It is not usual for me to make such determinations prior to fully investigating the validity and seeking to comprehend people’s motivations. Why I did not do so in this instance I am not sure. I suspect it may have been I was new to authoring and probably, as most when first setting out on a new career, felt under pressure to complete a work and to interact in social media. Time pressure in other words: there never seems to be enough for all we want to do. Of course, this is no excuse but I hope it helps readers understand.
Character interviews appear to remain a rarity. I certainly see few. Nevertheless, I now take more note of them. One question that occurs: Who are these interviews for? The author or the reader? I would say both. I will consider them in reverse order.
Of what interest are character interviews to readers?
- (Perhaps with the exception of some self-help or scientific books, the majority of readers are looking to be entertained.)
- (Usually provide further idea of the character’s true nature, aims and goals.)
- (Provide some backstory details which will enhance the eventual read. Assuming they do go on to read the book the character is in.)
- (Build interest in and expectations for a story.)
What benefits do character interviews provide for authors?
- Display writing skill. (Readers do not readily pick up books by unknown authors. These free interviews provide them with an idea of what they could expect from the author’s books.)
- Avoid ‘padding’. (Able to fill-out character personalities with additional information that would not fit or be appropriate to include in the primary manuscript.)
- Know characters. (Authors are advised, for best results, to fully know their charters by writing biographies. Interviews go part way, probably a long way, toward this aim.)
- Refreshed mind. (Continuous writing on the same theme can lead to fatigue and some degree of stagnation. Writing something different usually breaks the trend.)
- Marketing/Publicity. (Done right, interviews may set a story’s scene and create intrigue and interest in it.)
Of course, the above are by no means the full extent of what readers and authors may gain from these interviews. Everyone is different.
Worth the Effort?
Back to the original question.
Having now admonished and corrected myself, I may unequivocally state, as far as I am concerned, character interviews do have their place in the reading and authoring world. Now, with respect to Alex’s own books: Fantasy is not a genre I usually read, or if I am honest, really enjoy, at least that has generally tended to be my past experience. Nevertheless, I have read and reviewed Alex’s Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends and have to say I enjoyed it. That was in December 2017. I have not read any others since but admit some of the character interviews here have intrigued and inspired me to contemplate reading more in the genre.
So far I have not undertaken interviews for any of my own characters. This is primarily due to the fact I write in the memoir and biographical fiction genre where, most frequently, who the person is forms an integral part of the tale. However, in view of how much I have enjoyed Alex’s character interviews, I may consider undertaking a few for some of the fictional charters I have utilised to enhance the real events within the biographical fiction and short story collections. There, see, I have been inspired. From sceptic I am now a believer.
Thank you Alexandra for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers.
In addition to authoring T. R. Robinson provides free guidance, tips and ideas for both authors and readers.
T. R.’s Primary Website and Blog: https://trrobinsonpublications.com
T. R.’s More Personal Blog: https://trmemoirs.wordpress.com
One of the primary skills needed to sell your book is marketing. Many people don’t like pushy sales people – so don’t be pushy. If little and often works then go for it but if someone doesn’t want to buy your book then, they don’t. Don’t pester folks.
- Marketing (no one is going to buy your book if they don’t know it’s there. Many people don’t like the pushy salesperson (I certainly don’t), but there are ways and means. I took a course (Diploma in social media marketing) with Shaw Academy. This was a bargain – the course is usually a couple of hundred pounds but a friend put me onto Living Social which offers all sorts of stuff at real bargain prices. It has everything from weekend breaks, to courses, to laptops or whatever. As I understand it – they have a small amount at the low price and when they are gone they are gone. Check out these bargain sites – you’d be surprised what you find.
- Facebook – There are zillions of pages and groups on FB. Set up an author page (you can do this from your main account). If you have somehow managed to avoid FB then I’m sorry it’s a good idea to get an account. There are lots of groups devoted to blogging, genre books, author groups, writing groups, promo groups – you name it there will be FB group for it. Join a few – and CHECK THE RULES. Some let you promo, some let you promo with restrictions (once a week/once a day), and some are non-promo but good for advice and networking. Facebook really wants you to spend your money and buy ads. I haven’t as yet – and I have heard mixed reviews on whether it’s useful. But I understand you can spend a small amount to have a small ad. You can promote in some groups for free – but the reach is limited. Prepare to spend a lot of time on social media…
- Twitter/Tweetdeck – If you are going to use Twitter to promote then get Tweetdeck. It’s free and it makes managing your Tweets much easier. You can schedule tweets, add graphics, and see what you’ve booked in and when. You can attach more than one Twitter account to it. Does Twitter help? Probably – there are a lot of cross-tweeting groups, and many people follow there.
- Linked-in – This is more of a professional site – many employers look there. I’ve been contacted via LI more than once about jobs (all of which were utterly unsuitable), but it’s another forum.
- Pinterest – I love pinterest. I set up a page for all the interviews and promo from the blog, but mostly I use it for pics of animals, Phantom of the Opera, and random interesting stuff. Again there are reader and author groups.
There are countless others but keep in mind how many sites you’re going to have to manage. Even with Hootsuite (for FB, Linked in, Tumblr and Twitter) and Tweetdeck it’s still a couple of hours a night for me. That’s two hours not writing…
You could ignore the marketing, do less than I do and it MIGHT work, but then again it might not. Promotion of your book will get you sales. No one knows it’s there – no one buys it. Simple as.
Set up an author website if you can – again if you aren’t very good at that kind of thing then look for a course or watch You-Tube. There is plenty of free/cheap advice about if you look. WordPress is fairly easy (and free for the basic package), Wix, Squarespace, Blogger etc are other options. Also, set up a blog. My website is the ‘official’ author site – it lists the books, about me and is updated when there is something new. The blog is more informal (and gets more traffic). You can blog about anything – books you’ve written, books you’ve read, your cat/dog/rabbit/degu, plants, recipes or whatever. It’s good writing practice – builds a network of followers who might check out your book(s) and it’s fun. I will say this – pick what you blog about carefully. If you want to go rant about some reviewer leaving your book a 1-star review on Amazon; politics; what someone famous has or hasn’t done then go ahead but keep in mind what goes on the internet stays on the internet. It’s easy for a reader to misunderstand a comment, and if you start bitching then someone will notice and it’s likely to end up with a slanging match – which is public. You’re the author, you’re the brand. Being a jerk can harm this brand. You can’t undo it. I’ve seen authors behave badly – slagging off readers who rated a book low, or making some derogatory comment about a reader’s opinion or intelligence. It didn’t end well. You have been warned.
I have been trying to think of useful and interesting posts to share in 2019. I love the interviews, and these will continue, but I’m going to try the ‘Adventures in Self-Publishing’ series of posts – detailing advice, pitfalls, highs and lows and upskilling.
When I read the KDP forums (that’s Kindle Direct Publishing – Amazon’s publishing system), it never ceases to amaze me the newbies who write a book (or occasionally scrape content from the internet, or upload a public domain book with barely any new changes) and then wonder why they aren’t the next Stephen King or JK Rowling.
I’ve posted up KDP advice before:
However there is a lot more on offer than just KDP, and a lot more to do that writing.
Most indie authors have little or no money to spend buying services or advertising – so the easiest way to get around this is to learn how to do these things yourself, network (really important), or trade skills.
I published my first book in 2012 (yep that long ago), and since then I have learned about many, many things.
Depending on your genre you may do research (I love research but I am easily distracted), but there is more to it. Unless you’re a wiz at everything (If so I hate you) then you’ll probably need to be proficient in the following:
Marketing, cover design, editing, networking, formatting. And that’s just the start. If you can write, then you can learn these things. It takes time, and patience.
Let me see in the 6 and half years since Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles was published I have learned:
Networking (this is really important); editing (currently editing for Perseid Press so I can’t be that bad); cover design (I’m learning Photoshop); marketing; formatting; how to convert to Epub/Mobi etc; how to produce audiobooks; how to format for paperbacks; MSWord; Calibre, Book bundles. Not to mention courses on creative writing, grammar, historical fiction writing, copyrighting and lots of other fascinating (mostly) stuff.
If you are on a low budget then check around. Sites like the ones below are useful.
- Living Social – offers bargain prices on courses. I got the Diploma in social media marketing and the Creative Writing Certificate for less than 20 GBP each, instead of several hundred pounds.
- Udemy – discounted online courses – currently using for Photoshop, and they have lots of writing/marketing based courses. You can pay full price but usually if you wait then a course will appear in the sale – for as little as $10 or $20. You can do them in your own time.
- Coursera – mostly free but you can pay for the more advanced ones.
And there is You-tube of course.
Much of it comes with practice, but it’s not a simple case of writing a couple of hundred thousand words down and whacking it onto KDP (not that writing is simple – I’m not belittling the craft). None of the publishing sites which let authors publish for free will edit/format or promote the book. That’s the author’s job. It’s a steep learning curve.
Look out for more posts on Adventures in Self Publishing.
Welcome to a day in the life of Gustavo Bondoni
Please give us a brief outline of who you are. I’m a novelist and short story writer from Argentina… or at least that is what I am by inclination. By training, I’m an engineer with an MBA who has always worked on the commercial side (sales and marketing) of companies varying from tiny startups to massive Fortune 100 enterprises.
My passion for writing came about because I love to read. And my selection of genre came about because Asimov and Robert Asprin and Douglas Adams were the men on the racks of my local bookstore when I was twelve and began to read adult fiction. With names like that, how can one not be hooked?
As an interesting aside this was the eighties, and I still have the battered copy of Heroes in Hell I bought at Waldenbooks way back then. I assume it’s the only copy in Argentina.
You’re a writer – how is this reflected in your typical day? I’m a writer, and it basically consumes my day, even when I’m not writing. On the practical side, I’ll be obsessively checking my email for acceptances (or rejections, sadly), contracts, edits, or just about any other communication with the publishing world.
On a more interesting note, I’ll always be plotting the story or book in progress, or cooking up ideas for new ones. That doesn’t change just because I might be working on something else.
Do you have a family? What do they think of your job? Do they assist you? I have a family. My wife and I live with four children: two that are hers from another marriage and two baby daughters of our own (2 years old and one month old as I type, respectively). The older kids seem more interested in their tablets than in books, but my wife is amazingly supportive… although she does sometimes get annoyed at my habit of not even realizing that people are talking to me when I’m writing.
How do you fit in ‘real life’? What in the world is real life? Actually, I try to live a normal existence. Unless I tell them, most people can’t even tell I’m a writer. The truth is that I can fit my target wordcount (around 1500 words a day) into the slots between other tasks.
Do you have a particular process? The only process I really swear to is to write every weekday, and to try to get 1500 words in. Anything else is a bonus. Some people like to outline… I prefer to find out what my characters are going to do as they do it.
Are you very organised? I try to be. Life has a way of biting you… and also, my wife is the Mistress of Chaos…
What is your ideal working environment? My ideal working environment would be an office with a closed door. But this is sadly not possible at home… and right now, my corporate job is also home-based. But one can dream!
What do you eat for breakfast? Tea with lemon and a type of cracker that you can only buy in Argentina called cerealitas. Unlike most crackers, these actually taste good and are therefore probably bad for me.
Would you recommend your chosen craft to those interested in doing it? Wow. Loaded question. It’s very difficult to make a living from writing fiction. Anyone looking to write for that reason would likely be better served by becoming a journalist. However, I have found no satisfaction greater than receiving an email confirming that something you invented was judged good enough by an editor you’ve never met to be shared with others and paid for. That rush is indescribable. So yeah, on balance, I’d say everyone should give it a try.
Most popular novel: Siege
Spell It Out: The singular story of English Spelling – David Crystal.
Why is there an ‘h’ in ghost? William Caxton, inventor of the printing press and his Flemish employees are to blame: without a dictionary or style guide to hand in fifteenth century Bruges, the typesetters simply spelled it the way it sounded to their foreign ears, and it stuck. Seventy-five per cent of English spelling is regular but twenty-five per cent is complicated, and in Spell It Out our foremost linguistics expert David Crystal extends a helping hand to the confused and curious alike.
He unearths the stories behind the rogue words that confound us and explains why these peculiarities entered the mainstream, in an epic journey taking in sixth-century monks, French and Latin upstarts, the Industrial Revolution and the internet. By learning the history and the principles, Crystal shows how the spellings that break all the rules become easier to get right.
You can tell I’m a logophile (lover of words), as this book really appealed to me. I love the vagaries of English, the whys and wherefores, the ‘really – that’s spelled like that?’ and the etymology of language. This book is a great resource – it covers the history of the English Language, and the ‘rules of spelling’ – many of which get defenestrated at every available opportunity. Crystal explains why.
English is a very confusing language – and I’m a native speaker! Similar sounds – such as ‘ou’ or ‘gh’ can be used in a large variety of words with different pronunciations:
(Spelling in red) coff as in cough; ow as in bough; ruff as in rough; thru as in through; doh as in doughnut.
Thorough, plough, tough, borough etc.
And we have the one everyone knows – I before E except after C… unless … well Wiki has a whole page of them:
There are reasons – from lazy scribes to printers being things look nice, to foreign words being adulterated, to regional differences to text speak. It all makes sense (sort of).
Crystal keeps the book interesting, easy to understand and amusing. He knows his stuff, and it shows. I found it fascinating, and will definitely get the author’s other work. Mr Crystal – you have a new fan.
Recommended for logophiles, writers, and the curious.
Today we welcome Tanya Robinson – who discusses the following topic:
Who Do Authors Write For?
It would seem many authors and writers (authors to the extent they are authoring a product) forget they are not generally writing for themselves. Having said that, it has to be acknowledged there are a variety of different takes on the topic e.g. some feel it is only correct to write what they want without consideration of others; others say writing should be entirely geared toward the anticipated audience even compromising upon content to satisfy them; others suggest an amalgam of styles. Of course, in varying circumstances any of these, or a combination, may be appropriate. Nevertheless, this post is intended to be pragmatic and realistic.
When anyone writes, author or not, it is usually for others to read whether it be a book, letter, article, post etc. Consequently, authors/writers need to consider, phrase and frame their writing from the readers’ perspective. It is very easy for them to get so caught up in what they are doing as to forget who they are putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard for. This, for the readers at least, can often lead to uninteresting, dry and irrelevant narrative, commentary and dialogue which will do no one any favours. Fundamental to authorship, which is what is primarily being discussed here, is the desire for others to read the end product. The author who writes purely for their own entertainment is truly a rarity, an inspiration and a challenge to most.
Despite the above comments and observations, when it comes to books, though other forms of writing may be included, all should, at least in principle, be writing because it is what they want to do and not because they seek fame or wealth. Naturally most authors would love their books to become bestsellers but to only write with that motivation can lead to distorted, poor quality publications. Make no mistake, readers, on the whole, are not ignorant, foolish people; they will quickly note when something is below par. Nevertheless, despite all that has been said, it must be acknowledged, as a general rule, authors want their books to sell; scriptwriters want agents, producers and directors to take up their ideas; newspaper and magazine columnists want their articles read; letter writers want the recipient to comprehend all they have to say; etc. Consequently, though they may be writing out of a genuine desire to do so, most will also, inevitably, seek to formulate their writing to achieve their aim.
Regrettably there are books where it is clear the author has got caught up in their own thoughts. They understand what they are writing and expect their readers to have the same comprehension without giving thought to whether they have the same background knowledge or experience. It is really easy for authors to fall into this trap; to get carried away with what they know forgetting others will be approaching the work with different perspectives, knowledge and experience. People’s comprehension of a phrase, idea, concept or word is frequently subject to their background; social, cultural, national, religious. However, it would be a minefield to try and take in all the various possibilities. Overall, authors and writers should constrain themselves to writing within their own national understanding. It is more than likely, if a reader has chosen their book, they are either from the same national or cultural background or have a good comprehension of it.
Now to the nitty-gritty of the subject. It is not easy for an author to step back from their ‘baby’ and view it from an others perspective. Most just want to get on with ‘their’ writing and not be bothered by such distractions. Some may even be so arrogant as to consider the requirement to consider others, primarily the reader, trivial; hopefully those who think like that are a minority.
So what does it take to write for readers?
- Research what readers want, whether it be in books, films, blogs or even letters.
- Consider the reader’s background, if possible.
- Authors should be aware of how things they read impact upon them; what they like and what they do not and why. They need to learn from this.
- Erase or limit superfluous words, phrases and descriptions, which may make sense to them and their circle of acquaintances but are not in wide popular use.
- Treat readers with respect: give them credit for being intelligent individuals.
- If the writing is specific, bear in mind the age, and as far as they can know it, the knowledge and experience of the people they are writing for.
- Avoid narrative or dialogue that talks ‘down’ to the reader.
These are just a few thoughts. No doubt readers of this post will think of other aspects that should or need to be considered.
One observation, regarding fictional works in particular, though the point may be extended to other genres. A book will distinctly benefit if the author is able to view the story as a film in their head. Characters, dialogue, scenery, etc. can all be based upon what they see and as a consequence may be more discernible for the reader. This is not something all writers find easy, though most, if they relax, are able to gain something from such vibrant imaginings.
The crux of the matter is simple: authors and writers should make time to stand back from their writing and take an objective view, endeavouring to see it as a reader will. If they really find they cannot do this, they should get a friend, acquaintance, editor (if they have one) or a reader to have a look. If they do not have anyone they could try asking their ‘friends’ and contacts on social media, perhaps somewhere like Goodreads. There are usually several people willing to participate in, and assist with, such ‘beta’ reading i.e. this is similar to testing new on-line sites and systems but of course, in this instance limited to reading.
Naturally, as with anything, there are exceptions to the general rule. Some tales and stories need to be told in the author’s own style. The work may not become popular but it has to be acknowledged many interesting works would have been missed if some authors had not the courage and determination to write in the style they considered most suited their work e.g. James Joyce; William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac; etc. Sometimes a story has to be told in an individual style.
Whatever the circumstance, and no matter the style adopted, authors need to remember who they are writing for. They must avoid tunnel vision and accept, in most cases, they are not primarily writing for themselves.
T. R. Robinson is the author of memoir and biographical fiction. More about her, her writing and life may be found at https://trrobinsonpublications.com
This is a little cheeky as some of was taken from an old post (2013) – but have I changed my views? The origin post was written not that long after I started self-publishing.
So let’s revisit my old post – Old in RED, new comments in black.
Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?
New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!
Yep – it’s still true there is information overload. There is some great advice, and some lousy advice. Working out which is which can be a challenge. Indie authors, in my experience, support each other, offer advice and suggestions and understand the challenges. Listen to the advice, good and bad. After all if it hasn’t worked for one person that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. The bloody awful advice will become self-apparent. Free advice is always worth taking in. What you choose to do with it, that’s up to you.
Here are my top 6 tips:
1) Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.
Yahoo Voices no longer exists, but there are thousands of blogs/e-zines and groups who will happily take guest posts. Writing for anthologies – yes, I’d say it was helpful but as you get more experienced then you can pick and choose. The first few I did didn’t pay – and that’s a good way to promote yourself initially – but of course, most authors want paying for their work. Free has its place – don’t get me wrong – but it’s good to be able to pick and choose. There is also the consideration – anthology stories are varied in quality, length and style. Try and read some of the other stories, if that’s possible, or check out the author’s work. I’ve read (and been in) anthos where some of the stories need….more work. Make sure your own entry is good, well presented and not riddled with errors.
Research – yes, yes, yes. Post up on your blog, or share on forums.
2) Have a thick skin, you will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed. Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.
Still agree with this. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Shit happens. If you don’t want bad reviews – don’t publish. That said they can be helpful. Every writer thinks his or her work is the best thing ever. Usually it’s not (sorry – and I include myself in that). There is always something which doesn’t quite work, or could have been better – but that is generally true of life. And what that is depends on perspective. I like great world and character building, for example. I’ve read books with awesome reviews only to put them aside after three or four chapters because I didn’t give a damn about the characters. It’s a matter of opinion.
No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is ‘don’t comment’, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.
Don’t comment on reviews. Really. Not ever. Don’t bitch, tell the reader they are wrong, or slag them off on social media. Just don’t. That will do your brand FAR more damage than a bad review.
It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.
Agreed – to an extent. Personally, I don’t put that much store by book reviews – but I do write them. I’m odd like that. Partly I write them because I have a terrible memory and it’s a way to remind me of a book, but also because I like talking about books. People review for many, many reasons and in many many ways. All of them are right.
3) Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that. It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.
I’d rephrase this as write the book you want to READ.
4) Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even bestsellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However, if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.
If you can afford an editor, then get one. Ask around, there are various authors who edit, or know them. I found a couple of free/cheap online writing courses. Write, write, write.
If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.
5) Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a longbow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course, many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the longbow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!
Yep, pretty much. I spent a while looking up ancient Greek curses the other day, and I’ve researched flora and fauna, weaponry and armour, the potential airworthiness of dragons, whether salamandars are edible, poisons and herblore, giantism and all sorts of other things.
6) READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.
What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.
Princess of the Light Blog
Here is the first of the new 2018 Writer Wednesday posts. Today we welcome Debbie Mumford, a writer who has had a busy year in 2017. I have to say I’m envious, I plan to write far more than I do, and I have great respect for writers like Debbie who have the discipline to write as much as she does.
A Writer Welcomes the New Year – A Guest Post by Debbie Mumford
2017 was a good year for me. I achieved some goals and failed spectacularly at others, but all in all, when the year ended I was pleased to find that I’d failed forward!
A large part of that forward motion is due to my yearly review in late December and the goals I put in place for the coming year. Stretch goals, not easy ones. Goals I’ll have to work to achieve, but goals that will carry me forward even if I fail to meet all of them. And I’m realistic enough to know that some of them won’t be met.
An important part of this process is recognizing what is and is not a goal. I’m not talking about resolutions. Everyone makes those in early January … and most people have forgotten what they were by February or March. I’m talking about really, truly GOALS.
I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are, by definition:
- Specific: Goals need to be specific, not some loose, vague, impossible to quantify statement. “I will write better this year″ is not a specific goal. “I will write 2 pages a day” qualifies.
- Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. Again, a concrete goal is far better than an amorphous wish. You need to know whether or not you achieved it! “I will write for 45 minutes a day” is a measurable goal.
- Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by shooting for the moon. “I will complete the first draft of my 90,000 word novel in 6 months″ is much more achievable than “I will write a 90,000 word novel in January.” Also, as I mentioned above, make sure your goals are within your control. “I will write the first draft of my novel” is achievable and within your control. “I will become a NY Times bestselling author” is not.
- Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. Evaluate your time and your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic for who you are and how you live.
- Time-Bound: Goals need to have a time frame. Lots of people dream of writing a novel…someday. But without a deadline, a time pressure, there’s no reason to do anything today. Put a date on your goal and then get started on it today. When you reach the specified date, you’ll know whether or not you accomplished your goal.
One of my goals for 2017 was to publish 18 new titles. I write under two names for two very different audiences: Debbie Mumford writes speculative fiction, often with romantic elements, for grown-ups, and Deb Logan writes contemporary fantasy for middle grade and teen readers, so my actual goal read something like this: “During 2017 I will publish one title a month as Debbie Mumford and one title every other month as Deb Logan.“
That qualified as a SMART goal. It was specific – one title (short story, novella, novel, collection) for Debbie every single month and one for Deb every other month; it was measurable – at the end of the month, I knew whether or not I’d accomplished the task; it was achievable – I had a backlog of published stories where the rights had reverted to me plus a selection of new work that I was ready to release into the wild; it was realistic – I knew I could create the covers and run the manuscripts through Vellum (my formatting tool of choice) in a timely fashion; and it was time-bound – everything would happen in the 2017 calendar year.
I achieved that goal, plus a little bit more. The final breakdown for 2017 was 14 short stories (9 of Debbie’s + 5 of Deb’s), 3 collections (all Debbie’s) and 1 novelette (Deb’s) published digitally, plus 3 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 collections released in print. (The print titles were already available digitally, so they didn’t count toward the actual goal, but the print release was a task that needed to be accomplished.)
I also had a goal in place to grow my newsletter lists. I didn’t put a specific number on this goal, but I did record a starting number for each list and I had a plan in place as to how I would accomplish the task: by searching out and taking advantage of promotional opportunities on Kobo, Amazon, and Instafreebie. I’m pleased to say that I accomplished this goal as well – each list more than doubled in 2017.
Where I fell down, rather spectacularly, was in my production goals. I intended to write at least three novels in 2017 and as many short stories as I could squeeze in. Since I’m still working a full-time day job, this goal probably didn’t qualify as SMART – it failed the “realistic” test. Still, I managed to write a short story a month in addition to all the publishing and promoting, so I failed in the right direction.
So what’s in store for 2018? Recognizing that life happens and the day-job must be done, publishing will take a back seat to production this year. I’ll be published in 2018, but it will be in anthologies and magazines rather than under my own imprint … at least, that’s the plan!
How about you? Have you mapped out your intended journey for 2018? I hope your destination will be grand and glorious. I’m sure I won’t end up exactly where I’m planning to go, but I’m positive the journey will be amazing!
Debbie Mumford’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/a2q5l8
Deb Logan’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/s1c9o3