Wednesday, April 30, 2014
As I've mentioned before, I go looking for writing tips all the time. It never hurts to have help, and I don't care who you are. But there's one tip that I just keep on seeing, and seeing, and now I have to address it. Because everybody says you have to read, too. I'm going to tell you what's wrong in that tip.
When Enough is Enough
I'm not saying that the tip is wrong in entirety. Yes, you should read. It's very important that one understands the mechanics of a novel if one is going to write a novel, this much is clear. And I'll take it even further by saying that you ought to read books across several different genres. It's not at all a bad idea to read classics, mysteries, romances, YA novels, horror novels, fantasy novels and any other darned thing that strikes your fancy.
If you're a lover of words, you're probably going to do all of this anyway. And if you become an indie author, you're probably going to read self-published books as well. But here's where I draw the line: you don't have to read all the time.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Building suspense is truly a fine art. If you can master it you can craft thrilling stories. But you may also be running your readers around in circles instead. Are you actually building suspense...or are you wasting my time?
Writing in Circles
There is nothing more deliciously suspenseful than watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and knowing that something is about to happen. Sitting on the edge of your seat with your heart pounding, anticipation building and rising. But the thing about a Hitchcock movie is this: it's going to be over in 2 hours. So you know you're going to have to wait...but you also know the wait isn't going to inordinate. When it comes to suspensful novels, it's a whole different game.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Lately, I've been asking myself a question about books: does it need to mean something? Does a book need to have some sort of merit, a reason for being, or is it okay to simply tell a story?
What's It All Mean?
I feel that I've been on both sides of this argument. I believe that, for the most part, people read way too much meaning into books. Even having a certain book in one's possession may carry some sort of meaning. People have been killed, I'm talking about murdered, because of a book. That's taking it too far, and I often say that all books should simply be taken at face value. Quit looking for meaning, just enjoy the story.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
For some reason, the word manifesto has always had a bit of a sinister connotation to it, to my ears. But this time, I'm willing to give Smashwords founder Mark Coker the benefit of the doubt.
Coker has written what he calls the Indie Author Manifesto. In it, Coker identifies 10 beliefs and values that he believes characterizes the self-publishing boom.
Coker's most compelling point is a call to change the way readers and authors think about self-publishing. He says that once this was viewed as a last resort, someplace for failed authors to go. Coker thinks that needs to change, and he's hopeful that it is already changing. His prediction? In a couple of years, more first-time writers will want to self-publish than to traditionally publish their work. He says that indie authors will be "the cool kids."
Thursday, April 24, 2014
So, I love historical fiction. I don't know why; I always hated history in school. And while I do love it, I've noticed something wrong with it: many writers start lecturing their readers instead of just describing the story to them. And while I've noticed it with historical writers more than others, this is an attitude into which even the most skillful can slip. So how do you prevent it?
Blah, Blah, Blah
A novel should read a bit like a discussion. I should almost be able to hear your voice, and the voices of your characters, as I'm going through it. And that voice should have a natural rhythm, a specific rise and fall, a certain melody to it. It should not feel like a sermon.
Even the best writers can start lecturing, and apparently never really realize that they're doing it. There was a book series, once, that I loved. The books were enormous but that was okay because I loved the story so much, and the author took such pains to make it accurate. And I mean, she really took pains. She told me about the plant life, the animal life, how to hunt them and where to pick it, the bugs, the leaves, the blades of grass, the wind blowing...at a certain point, it got to be a real drag.
Not that I'm not into grass, or anything, but there was a problem with all this very rich description: it didn't have any interaction.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
With no effort on your part whatsoever, you may make a glaring grammatical error that you don't even recognize. At least, that's what happened to me recently. I was using a different word processing program than usual, and just like that it pointed out a mistake that I've made countless times. That's how I found out that I shouldn't be using with and no together. These words just can't pair up...because without exists.
With No Rules...
With no grammar rules, the world might be a better place...but unfortunately, the rules do exist. And as authors, we are compelled to follow them. So that's why I fully expect to be lambasted for using the words with no...because you're just not supposed to use it. Let me show you why.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
You've written a book, and you love how it turned out. You feel a strong connection to the characters, you know the setting like no one else. You've gotten some good reviews. So should you continue with the story? Should that book...become a series?
Sequels and Whatnot
When it comes to extending a story and adding extra books, my answer is almost always yes. I can't even tell you how many times I've asked myself, and the Heavens, why Margaret Mitchell didn't write a sequel to Gone With the Wind.
Monday, April 21, 2014
I think every author dreams of being an international success, crossing oceans like J.K Rowling, becoming a household name like Stephen King. But before you can make it big, you have to start small. You have to focus on your local market.
For most, fame and fortune does not come overnight. As an author, you have to win readers over one at a time. When you throw your book into an ocean made up of books, yours can become lost. So try putting it in a pond instead.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
The ebook boom has touched us all, and the indie author more than most, but is all this change really a good thing? According to one study, maybe not. In fact, ebooks could be fundamentally changing the way we read.
A recent study of students showed both the good and bad side of ebooks. Students who were given ebooks wanted to read more than those who received print books, but the students who used ereaders comprehended less than those who used paper. It's because, one expert says, the device itself is a distraction from reading.
Your attention may be diverted from what you're reading if you're holding a device that can also shop, play movies and give you instant access to hundreds of other books. So is more information and wider availability in books really such a good thing, or does it only mean that books will have even more trouble standing out from the pack?
Saturday, April 19, 2014
I only watched the film Precious once, because it was just so powerful I could never face it again. It's a gut-wrenching look at the life of an underprivileged girl, but before it made Gabourey Sidibe famous it was a book called Push.
Push was the debut novel for Sapphire, and she wasn't messing around. The novel focuses on Claireece Precious Jones, 16, who has the deck stacked against her. She's obese, she's illiterate, and it shows. The novel is written in her voice, so at the beginning it can be difficult to read. Saying the words out loud,exactly as they are spelled, helps.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
When it comes to any type of writing, there's one thing all writers have to be: consistent. With very few exceptions, I post my writing tips to this blog Monday through Thursday, week after week. I do this because I'm consistent. Now I'm going to tell you why you've got to be consistent, too.
Consistent, Not Boring
Now, I'm not suggesting that you do things the same way every day or that you write the same book over and over again. When I say be consistent with your writing, I mean it only in very specific ways.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
I don't often wax poetic about the finer points of punctuation (or even, really, address them), because everywhere I look people are still using 's to pluralize words so I don't much see the point in it. However, the serial comma question keeps coming up again and again. So how are indie authors supposed to address it in their books?
Once, and for All
Serial commas are the kind of thing that only writers would ever think about. Most people don't even notice whether or not they're using them. Are you...or do you only think you're using serial commas?
If you list specific items such as books, ereaders, and tablets, you might be using a serial comma. I just did, in fact.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
So I'm cruising around the Goodreads forums the other day when I saw a post where someone was asking about a specific book, wanted to know if anyone had read it. I read a lot of books, so I decided to check it out. And then I saw the book cover...and shuddered. Yes, I recognized that book. No, I didn't respond to the forum -- because frankly, there just wasn't enough time.
You see, the poster in question was asking about The Chicago Manual of Style. And there's just no reason for me to discuss that book with indie authors...because indie authors don't need it. You don't need that manual of style, or really any other, and I'm going to tell you why.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Admit it: have you ever teared up over a bad review? Have you ever lashed out on Twitter, yelled at a beta reader or had a total meltdown in the forums? If you're letting the criticism get to you, it's possible that you're taking yourself too seriously.
Everybody Loves a Clown?
Everybody Loves a Clown?
As an author, you pour a lot of really personal stuff and a ton of emotion into every page. You sweat and cry and pace and wonder and edit, edit, edit until your eyes become blurry. Then you present your darling creation to the world...and the world promptly rips it apart.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Ever dreamed of having your self-published book reviewed by an authoritative newspaper? The Guardian is giving indies that chance.
Spotlight on the Self-Published
Working with Legend Times, The Guardian will review self-published authors in the newspaper as part of a contest for indie authors.
You have the option of submitting one novel a year to the contest, which is held monthly. Judges include members of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency, Lauren Parsons of Legend Press and authors Polly Courtney and Stuart Evers. The winning novel of the month will be reviewed.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Eyes on your own paper. It's the dire warning of teachers the world over, and it can still apply to you no matter how long you've been out of school. When you're an author, you can't worry about what other authors do.
Finding a Market
A lot of authors have no doubt dreamed of writing the next Twilight or Hunger Games, but that's not how it works. You can't force lighting to strike, and you can't make yourself write within the confines of a specific outcome you want to achieve. In short, what I'm saying is this: you can't worry about finding a market for your books. You can't worry about what other authors are doing.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I've always been the sort of writer who has a one-track mind. Once I commit to a project, that's it. That's what I'm working on, and I'm working on it until I'm done. But lately, it hasn't been like that. I've recently found myself working on two different books at once, and I'm weirdly synced up because they're both on the same chapter right now. Have you ever been undecided while writing your books?
One Way or Another
Focusing on a single story has always been my habit. I think about it when I'm not writing it, I worry over it when I don't really need to, I go back and reread it way too many times. But I realized, after a particularly poignant moment, that I have a habit of getting way too involved. And that's not good for me.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
There are times when you need inspiration to strike, when you have to wait for the right creative mood to hit you. And then, there are times when you just have to sit down in front of the keyboard...and force it to come.
More than any other trait, I think writers have to be disciplined. It's incredibly difficult to sit down in front of a screen for 12 hours at a stretch, making little black characters appear on a white screen. Your family will be all around you talking and yelling and asking questions. Intriguing stuff will show up on TV, and weird questions will appear in your mind to tempt you into using Wikipedia. Twitter will beckon, emails will arrive, phones will ring and at some point you may wander off to go get a snack. Discipline is the only thing that makes it all work. But discipline isn't just about ignoring the TV show or telling your family to hush up. It needs to go much deeper than that.
Monday, April 7, 2014
If you're like me, Google is your homepage. You refer to it constantly to look up words, find information...and sometimes, figure out the name of that person in that movie who's now in the TV show that's driving you crazy. But Google isn't just there to lead you on weird Wikipedia trivia hunts or help you find that particular Family Guy clip you've got to watch again. In fact, as an indie author you may not be Googling enough.
Are You There, Google? It's Me, Jade
I use Google to take a look at maps, learn more about trees and figure out if I'm really using further the right way in that sentence. It's always open on all my devices, and I've asked it any number of insane questions. But there's something else I always do with Google, and all other indie authors should as well: I check all my titles and names. Do you?
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Regular readers of the blog know that I've written posts about countless ways to market your indie titles. I've written about social media and finding book bloggers, trading reviews and using forums. And today, while doing my regular online chores, I saw something that managed to catch even me by surprise: an ad on Craigslist.
No, Not Literally
No, I haven't been living under a rock and yes, I've been well aware of Craigslist for many years now. I used it once during a brief stint where I played editor and had to hire a couple of freelance writers. I tried using it to find a cover designer for Justice, which didn't work out too well. But I never even considered using it to get reviews...until I saw someone else doing it first.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
If you're a self-published author, it's because you failed in traditional markets. If you're an indie, it means you're struggling just to get your words read (because who really wants to read an indie?). If you're not a well-known author being published by one of the Big Six, you're just not worth reading. These are just some of the misconceptions that people have about indie authors...and I'm here to debunk all of them.
Never Less Than
It has come to my attention that some people think self-publishing is some sort of last resort for authors. After years of desperate struggle and rejection, they finally turn to self-publishing because this is the only way for them to be heard. And naturally, because they are amateurs, they flood the market with substandard material.
To play Devil's advocate, this story probably rings true for some authors and some books that are currently available at Amazon.com. But for a great many of the authors who go the indie route, it doesn't. I've found that many self-published authors are being plain misunderstood by readers, even by book bloggers.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
As an indie author, you will spend most of your time doing things other than writing. It sounds strange, but it's true. You will spend more time editing the book than writing it, and more time promoting it than you even want to think about. But don't try to do everything. Don't try to be on every site or promote every book on the same day. If you do, you'll find you don't have time to do anything else.
Burning Both Ends
How many times have you logged into Twitter or Facebook to check out one thing, and suddenly an hour has passed? Social media is time-consuming, just like book marketing. That's why you have to focus your marketing, because you just don't have time to do it all.