A Company of Writers: Organizing your story plot ideas.

companyofwritersIt’s a great time to be a reader. There are so many books out there, in every possible genre and sub-genre that it would take several lifetimes for you to read them all. It’s a great time to be a writer too. Every day more aspiring authors take the leap and follow their dream, only to learn that it isn’t as easy as it looks. There are many things that new writers need to learn if they want readers to keep coming back. One of the biggest obstacles is a plot that makes sense and that doesn’t veer off and away from the original story. I know a few writers who are ‘pantsers’ and that’s wonderful (each writer is different), but even a pantster needs to plot out their story for a synopsis, and so the idea for this post.

I’m an outliner. I outline just about everything for my novels. It helps to keep me on track, but it’s an organic outline; something that changes with a new plot element. There are writing programs that can keep things in order (like Scrivener) or if you’re like me, you have a dozen word files going for just one story.

I’ve put together a small list of online sites that can help you figure out just where you want to go with your novel. Some of these are for world building too.

Story Plot

Writer’s Digest:

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/how-to-organize-and-develop-ideas-for-your-novel

Life Hacker: (for Scrivener users)

http://lifehacker.com/how-scrivener-helped-me-organize-all-my-writing-1599446028

Write Non-Fiction Now: (specifically for non-fiction writers)

http://writenonfictionnow.com/12-ways-to-organize-your-book-ideas-before-you-start-to-write/

Snowflake Method:

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-how-to-use-the-snowflake-technique-to-write-a-novel/

99U:

http://99u.com/articles/6969/10-online-tools-for-better-attention-focus

Word Hunter: (story structure)

https://hunterswritings.com/2016/09/16/7-point-story-structure-resources/

(another link on story structure)

http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

 

Brainstorming Techniques:

Blog Entry by Tina Hunter:

http://www.tinahunter.ca/2011/10-resources-for-writers/

Women Writers: (useful article on keeping everything on track)

http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

 

Women Writers: (link on POV)

http://booksbywomen.org/whose-point-of-view-is-it-anyway/

As I stated earlier, every author is different and will have their own way of writing novels, but there’s nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone for a moment if things get stuck.

Of Writers and Prose: Putting ourselves into our novels.

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxI finally watched the last two episodes of THE CROWN. In the ninth episode where Churchill is having his portrait pained, he gets into a rather deep discussion with the artist about his work. Churchill, trying to find some fault with the man and his work, cajoles him on the bleakness of one print in particular. The artist agrees, stating that it was painted during a mournful time in his life; right after his infant son died and then retaliates by pointing out that Churchill has painted one particular scene a multitude of times; a pond located on his property. The artist says he sees something in the way Churchill painted the water; something painful; emotions that lay deep under the surface. Churchill clams that he paints it often because he cannot get the look of the pond just right; that it eludes him. After a fashion, the statesman acknowledges that he built the pond short after his own young child died, and realises his own grief may be the reason he constantly paints this particular scene. It’s a beautifully poignant moment.

As artist, writers pour their hearts and soul into their work so it’s not unheard of that pieces of our lives, emotions or experiences also end up in there too. Even our hobbies can be added to give our characters a more realistic feel to them and possibly connect with readers. Sometimes, like Churchill we unconsciously add details about our lives into our work. For example, I worked at several restaurants in my youth and therefore I understand that particular world and what goes on behind closed doors. Just about all my stories have a scene where the characters are eating or at a restaurant. Even my short stories have a brief moment of foodie love in them. These are easy references that I am knowledgeable about, so I have no problem including them. This is how we make our characters more ‘real’ or three-dimensional. Every writer has some real life experience they can include in their stories to bring their characters to life and connect with readers. Bad experiences as well. Last summer I got into a fight with a bus stop sign and had a nice trip to the hospital via an ambulance. You can bet that at some point, I’m going to use that experience in a story. Everything about that day it etched into my memory; the way I felt, the ride, even my experience in the emergency room is still fresh. My only regret is that I should have asked the nurse to take a picture. Apparently I looked like I’d been in a horror movie.

Life experiences can add a world of colour to our stories, no matter what genre you write. Don’t be afraid of including even painful experiences. Chances are you’ll connect more with your readers, and in the end isn’t that what we all want?

Of Writers and Prose: Promoting Yourself, Not Your Work.

[DISCLAIMER] First of all, I’m not an expert at this and I’ve never claimed to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Quill-InkI read a blog post a few months back claiming that Twitter was no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book. You can read the article here.

http://www.justpublishingadvice.com/poor-twitter-growth-is-bad-news-for-self-published-authors/

 

No shit. It never was.

What struck me about this article is that it equates statistics for Twitter with readership and author visibility, and while no new growth may be bad for Twitter, that doesn’t mean it’s bad for authors. I understand what the article is saying, but to compare Twitter with writers is LITERALLY comparing apples to oranges. As a writer, I know my books aren’t for everyone and depending on the genre, writers will have a limited audience. If you look at Book Bub’s genre listing, you’ll see that mysteries top the chart compared to YA, which agents are constantly looking for.

EXISTING accounts/readers are the ones that authors need to focus on. EXISTING readers tell other readers about your book; WORD OF MOUTH. Companies are notorious for offering sign up deals and discounts to NEW customers instead of rewarding their ESTABLISHED customer base. Imagine there were no freebies or low-priced books. What do you think would happen if an author offered a discounted price to ONLY NEW READERS? While you must look at your books as a business; this is where the business model for companies and the business model for readers MUST branch away. The approach cannot be the same.

So what’s an author to do?

Yes, we need new readers, and we find them by connecting with them via social media, but here is where I see a lot of writers going off the rail; they don’t connect with their readers, they talk AT them, instead of TO them. A while back I helped a writer from my writing group try and understand social media. He has a book coming out and his publisher is all over him about getting ‘out there’. Over the course of an hour or so, I explained how you can use social media to HELP sell your books; because that’s what it is – a TOOL (I’m pretty sure I wrote a blog post on social media tools, but I can’t find it).

Authors must keep one thing in mind when promoting themselves and using social media; it’s about being social. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your work, but like the linked article states; Twitter is no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book.

And it never was.

A Company of Writers: Kenneth Hoover

Shining a Light on Dark Fiction

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 3.33.07 PMI want to thank Darke Conteur for this opportunity to talk a little about the things I write, and why as a professional writer most fiction I’ve written is dark.

I’ve sold over 60 short stories (and articles) and several novels. Almost all are dark-themed. I concede this says more about me than the state of speculative fiction in general. So it begs the question: Why so dark, Mark?

The bottom line is it gives me an opportunity to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell. I don’t write dark stories because I’m trying to be edgy or ride a popular wave. Those tactics never work anyway. By the time you get around to doing exactly that the field has moved on. But when I tap into my creative self these lurking shadows beg to be let loose. Who am I to deny them?

Personally, I don’t like “safe fiction” which doesn’t challenge or call into question ideas about ourselves. To be sure, fiction which doesn’t challenge can be extremely well-written. But I have a sneaking suspicion the dark things stay with us longest because they are more often deeply buried.

It’s up to writers to bring them to light.

From Shakespeare’s tragedies, to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Deerslayer, to The Empire Strikes Back and many dark myths which have shaped our past and modern culture the power of darkness is lasting. You can come up with many more examples than I can, I’m sure. There’s a lot of darkness out there and it’s not going away.

People create it, and read it, and desire it, for a reason. Because it speaks to who we are as a species and what we want to avoid.

One caveat needs mentioning. Dark fiction doesn’t mean violent. Violence for the sake of violence doesn’t make a story dark. It makes a story clunky and gets in the way of more powerful themes trying to come to the fore.

For example, my dark western novel Quaternity (CZP, 2015) has a lot of violence. So does my novel Haxan (CZP, 2014), the existing weird western short stories, and Seven Devils, a new novel recently accepted by CZP. But it’s not something I dwell upon for the sake of its existence. I don’t describe violence in excruciating detail. That would minimize its power and what the story is trying to convey.

Anyway, that’s where your creativity comes in! Sometimes I’m successful in writing this way, sometimes not. But I’m always trying to find that perfect angle because it’s who I am.

There are lots of writers who tell all kinds of great stories. But you will find me crouched in my own little corner of the universe playing with matches, and trying to shed light on the darker things that make us who we are.

 

Kenneth-HooverKenneth Mark Hoover’s fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Frontier Tales, and others. He is a member of WWA and his  latest novel, QUATERNITY, is a dark western published by CZP/HarperCollins in 2015. You can find out more from his blog kennethmarkhoover.me or his website kennethmarkhoover.com.

Of Writers and Prose: To the market with your book. It’s Easy and Cheap. Trust me.

Quill-Ink[DISCLAIMER] I’m not an expert at this and I never claim to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Last month I wrote a rather long post on, well it was supposed to be on selling your book and the whole thing kinda got away on me. I’ll try to be more on topic this month. You can read the post HERE.

Marketing your book is easy.

It is, really.

Seriously, I’m not messing with you.

If you have your book on Amazon or Smashwords or one of the other ebook or POD sites, then you have a purchase page generated for your work. Guess what. That is known as the ‘MARKET’; the place where readers go to buy your work. If you want to ‘market’ your work, then you put it where it can be purchased.

It’s. That. Easy.

As I said in my last post, MARKETING and PROMOTING have become synonymous with each other when they are clearly two separate entities, and that’s where the confusion and frustration set it. Writers who say they don’t know how to market their book are really saying they don’t know how to promote it, and that’s another post altogether, but first we need to understand the difference.

Markets include brink and mortar bookstores and online retailers; it about how you get it into the reader’s hands and where the public can access it. Some writers like to keep it simple and have it on just one outlet. Others, like myself, have their book in as many places as possible. I believe the more places my book is found, the bigger my market, and with each new market I’m increasing my ‘potential’ audience. Some people call it ‘target’ audience or ‘target’ readers. I prefer to call them ‘potential readers’. Using the word ‘target’ denotes competition and despite what it looks like, authors are not in competition with each other. I’m not a target and I don’t like to be labelled as such. I doubt anyone else does either.

The biggest mistake I see with writers is not having any book links visible on their website. More than once I’ve clicked on a writer’s blog or website and all I see are paragraph after paragraph about their books, but nothing showing me where to purchase. If you have more than one book, you NEED to have them all on one page so a potential reader can view them all. Don’t put a link to one book on your Twitter account. Not even if it’s a free one. Make it as easy as possible for them to find ALL your work. Like this:

http://darkeconteur.weebly.com/books.html

All my books. All the markets. Period.

When you’ve piqued a reader’s interest, they’ll click your link and the first thing they see should be your books. I know Instagram won’t let me post the book page link, but I can post the web page link. Go figure. Make sure all the links work too. As savvy as we all like to think we are, mistakes can and do happen. Do this with all your social media sites. If you are solely on Amazon, make sure you have the links to all Amazon sites. The four main English ones are .com, .ca, .uk, and .au. If you do good sales on the other markets, say Germany (Amazon.de) include them also, and again don’t link to just one book. You should have an author page for each Amazon site with your books neatly along the top or down the length of the page. USE THIS LINK.

Remember, you’re trying to make this as easy as possible for potential readers. If a reader has to click more than twice to find a market with your work, he may abandon the whole idea altogether.

Of Writers and Prose: How the ever-loving $#%^& do I sell my book?

Quill-InkFirst of all, I’m not an expert at this and I’ve never claimed to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

A writing friend of mine wrote this blog post last month. I’ll give you all time to read it. It’s a very interesting read as it shows the frustration that every author, especially new ones, are experiencing with publishing right now.

https://loveslastrefuge.com/2017/01/06/i-am-the-poster-child-for-failed-branding/

I’ve known Nya/Diane for several years and I feel her pain. The genre she writes has taken a really big hit over the last several years with indie publishing houses closing and pirating. It’s frustrating to see all that time and effort you put into a book go down the drain, and to be honest, it’s made me leery of any publishing venture outside of doing it myself.

The biggest concern is that with all the new writers publishing books, the digital landscape has become congested. Clogged even. What’s a new author to do? Hell, what’s a mid-list author to do? I have six books out and I barely make enough to buy one of those expensive coffees you have to order in a different language, but that’s my fault. In the last year I’ve done next to no promotion of my work. I’ve been too busy with school and Job That Pays to give any attention to my writing career. It isn’t that I don’t know how to market myself, or that I feel it’s hopeless; I just haven’t put any time in to doing it.

Some marketing terms that are bantered around the industry leave a bad taste in my mouth. For instance the phrase ‘target audience’. I hear this A LOT, but to me a reader isn’t a target. They’re not to be hunted down and pummelled with links to Amazon sites. Readers deserves our respect, and we need to treat them that way. Instead of throwing book links at them, why not connect with them through hobbies or other interest. Many new writers only connect with other writers, and while that’s good for learning the ropes, it’s the connections outside of the writing bubble that we need to make.

Whatever way you plan to publish, make no mistake, it’s a business and must be treated as such but promoting yourself and your work isn’t, and it shouldn’t be viewed that way. Promotion is about you; making a connection with people. There is a difference between promoting your work, and marketing it.

Marketing: noun

  1. the act of buying or selling in a market.
  2. the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the        producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising,    shipping,storing, and selling.

Vs.

Promoting: verb (used with object), promoted, promoting.

to help or encourage to exist or flourish; further:

            to promote world peace.

2. to advance in rank, dignity, position, etc.  Education.to  put ahead to the next higher stage or grade of a course or series of classes.

4. to aid in organizing (business undertakings).

5. to encourage the sales, acceptance, etc., of (a product), especially through advertising or other publicity.

 

I put these two definitions up to show you the difference. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. Think of it this way, MARKETING is your Amazon or blog page with your books; the site where readers can PURCHASE your work. PROMOTION is the act of bringing readers to those sites. With the rise of digital publishing, these two terms have blurred. Yes, they are connected to each other and they may seem like they’re the same but MARKETING is not PROMOTING, and PROMOTING is not MARKETING.

I think this is going to require more blog posts.

It’s a WIP! [Un-named Adult Magical Realism Story]

Tim Roth has a funny quote; “The road to Hell is paved with works-in-progress”, and with that in mind I bring you an excerpt from my latest WIP, the as-of-yet-unnamed-magical-realism story.

Please keep in mind this is a WIP. There are bound to be error in grammar and what not. 😛

~~~~

It was another couple of days before the doctors released Jolene from the hospital. She still had the headaches, but after a several M.R.I.’s the doctors concluded it was just the result of a mild concussion, but it didn’t help alleviate the grief she still held on to. She lay on the couch and stared at the television. One of the afternoon talk shows that pitted mother against daughter, or something like that. Jolene wasn’t paying attention. She couldn’t shake the knowledge that his act of kindness toward her caused his death. If she’d just been sterner and insist he not do anything for her, he’d be alive. She glanced at the time on her cell phone. One-fifteen. They’d be talking over his usual bowl of soup and toasted cheese sandwich right about now, and then he’d leave her a toonie, tip his hat and go home. That’s what should happen. Not this. Not him in a grave. She rolled over onto her back and closed her eyes. The flashes of multi-coloured lights were still going off, but they weren’t as bright as before. She focused on the faint colours. It still relaxed her, made her feel good. Just like Mr. Nithercott used to do.

The sound of keys unlocking a door brought her around. Lilith strode into the small apartment with a plastic bag in her hand. Her long black duster was soaked and drops of water beaded off her shoulders and back and made a wet line to the galley kitchen.

Jolene caught the scent of food. “You brought food back from the restaurant?”

Lilith pulled back the hood of her sweatshirt as she placed the plastic bag on the counter. “I thought it would be nice to have, like you know, a wake for Mr. Nithercott.” She pulled out a medium size, round take-out container. “I got some soup from the cooks and a couple cheese sandwiches.” She turned to Jolene and her face dropped. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying? I thought you’d like this?”

Jolene wiped away the wetness from her face. “I do. I just wasn’t expecting it.”

Lilith pulled off her coat and hung it up on a hook by the door. “I thought, maybe if you’re up to it, we could put some flowers on his grave?” She sat on the far end of the couch. “We can catch the number seven there and back.”

Jolene nodded as she swung her legs over the side of the couch. “Thank you.”

Lilith shrugged. “I know you liked the old guy and it isn’t right that you didn’t get the chance to go to his funeral.” She paused before standing up. “Poor guy didn’t have many people there.”

“You went?”

Another shrug. “I thought someone from the restaurant should go.”

Jolene followed her out to the kitchen. “Did any of his family show up?”

“None that I saw.” Lilith poured some of the soup into a waiting bowl. “Just a bunch of really, nicely dressed people. “ She rested the take-out container on the counter. “Do you think he had money?”

Jolene opened the sandwich containers. “No idea. If he did, he never talked about them.” She froze at the sight of the sandwich. The white bread toasted to a nice light brown; small beads of ‘cheese sweat’ dotted the small portion that overlapped the bread and the slight aroma of grease floated up from the container. She stared down at the sandwich, remembering his smile, the way his mouth moved when he ate.

Her stomach growled and she picked up the sandwich. “I am so hungry.” She bit down into the toast, savouring the sharp flavour of the cheese. She took another bite, bigger this time and the third bite she was stuffing as much of the toast into her mouth as she could.

“Whoa. I thought you didn’t like Swiss cheese?”

“I don’t, but I’m so hungry.”

Lilith held open the second container. “I got them to make you a normal cheese sandwich. I was going to eat that one.”

Jolene stopped chewing and looked down at the remaining half. “You want it?”

She got an indigent look shot her way. “Half a sandwich?”

Jolene grabbed the food and headed out to the living room. “Too late. Times up. Mine now.”

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