Friday, July 31, 2015

Back To The Basics

Yes, there was a time when reading the classics was required reading. Not for the writing skills, but for the wonderful stories the author's weaved. 

Books like Moby Dick and To Kill a Mocking Bird were all the rage a long time ago and became a part of our nation's curriculum in schools. The main reason - get your kids to enjoy reading.

Reading is fundamental. It helps a child become a thinker and hopefully well-educated. But there are some drawbacks to reading the classics - the writing skills are horrible. Which leads to people, unfortunately, believing that's what a book is supposed to read like. Since the dawn of these books, writing has come a long way. There have been changes implemented that help to create novels that are tight, clean and worthy of reading.

Learning creative writing skills are a bonus for the writer. Your books flow so much better and keep the attention of the reader. Now that's a benefit we can all reap. Isn't that what you want? To hear positive reviews from fans?

I know staying within the skill parameter can be difficult, but it's worth it in the long run. There is a lot to learn, but once it all sinks in, it becomes second nature. And readers aren't left feeling like you were too lazy to do revisions and just published your rough-draft.

I have tried to teach the basics the last couple of years to not only help my writer friends to write better, but for the reputation of those of us who self-publish. It will help your sales. Although I'm not the greatest at social marketing (which is another great way to sell books), I do try. In fact, I'm always open to those of you who are good at marketing to give me some hints.

But when it comes to the basic creative writing skills, I know them pretty well and love to share so that your book becomes the next great read!

I do believe we all need to go back to the basics and work our way to the professional writer we were born to be. Even the greats should have gone back to the basics, but that was a long time ago. 

Are there any writing skills you have trouble with? Do you have any great hints for social marketing? Leave me a comment and help me out and I will be sure to return the favor!

Love, Lisa

Friday, July 24, 2015

Whose Point Of View am I in - Mine Or My Character's

A subject I haven't posted about came to my attention while working with one of my student writers. And it's a good one to discuss - Author Intrusion.

I can understand where there would be confusion as to when you're in your character's POV or when you're in your own. But there is a difference.

Author intrusion is when you are in your own POV instead of your character's experience. There are a few ways to prevent this. I will share them here and hope they help you.

1. Author intrusion can be subtle or very noticable 

     When the character's know more than they should. For example, types of plants, flowers, the description of a place they've never seen. If your character grew up in New York City, what would they know about life in India if they've never been there? Or if they are suddenly in a strange place, how would they know the types of foliage an environment they've never experienced? Are they a botanist? Did they research this before going there? This is not only author intrusion, it doesn't ring true to your reader.

      Do all your character's have the same belief systems and politics as you? If so, you've intruded into the story.

2. Author word choices

     In other words, does your character fit the language you are using for them. What I mean is, if they always use big words, or fancy words, then by all means continue to use those in their dialog. But if they speak in common, normal and everyday speech and you decide to have them speak as though they are a diplomat or professor, then the author has intruded. This can throw the reader off and maybe even cause them to close the book.

3. Narration and Research

     When your character is coming into an area they've never been to, you need to describe the scene as they see it, not two paragraphs of description before the character even gets there.

      Example : The city of light brightened the eerie forest that surrounded its outskirts. It's diplomatically run government gave the people a sense of community and purpose. Life here was everyone lending a hand and taking care of the city's beauty as well as each other.

      Apprehensive, Trey entered and saw the white washed buildings with colorful flowers on the sills. People ran from one store to the next taking care of what needed to be done. He hoped he would be welcome and wondered whom he would speak to about setting up a place of his own.

How would Trey know about the government or their people? He's never been there. Describing a scene or place first without it being in the character's POV is author intrusion. 

You need to begin the scene with knowledge of which character's POV you're in and what they're experiencing along the way. Otherwise you have given information ahead of the character's experience. Yes, you as the writer may have researched the information, but unless you have the character research it, then you've given the info before it's time.

The best way to know whether or not you're intruding into your story, is to keep within the character's POV and remember to know your character's and make sure they each have their own personalities and voices. 

Study your character outlines and try to stay within their voice. Also how you portray a character and then suddenly they have all this knowledge is changing their personalities. 

This can be a tough skill to learn, but if you want your characters  and story to be rich and clean, it is a must to accomplish.

Have you been told your intruding into your story? Did you decide to fix it and learn from it, or figured the reader will never know?

Leave me a comment and let me know your experiences with author intrusion.

Have a great weekend all!

Love, Lisa

Friday, July 17, 2015

Quality Verses Quanity

Years ago when my job was on an assembly line building medical products there was a phrase that was implemented into our work - quality verses quantity. We had meetings discussing how important quality was and if the quality was there, the numbers would follow. Shortly after the entire plant had been taught the new vision, Deming, I was trained in statistics. I would keep track of scrap and product going out the door, and the reasons for the scrapped units. I would then deliver the reports to ten different departments throughout the company.

Since then I have always taken to heart the belief in quality. The same goes for my writing. With so many authors to compete against on a daily basis, you need to stand above the crowd.

Now we all know what sells books is when you've published many, but if the books aren't great reads, that will bite you in the end. Taking your time to do it right is the key, even if it takes you two years to get one book out. But believe me as time goes on, you'll get better at your writing and will be able to take a book from start to finish at a much faster pace.

I know you're saying, but I know authors who have 40 books under their belt, is that what I need to accomplish? The answer is no. It depends, first of all, the genre you write in, and second, the size of books you plan to write. 

There are plenty of authors who write novellas and can pump them out, but that's because the books are much shorter. If you write your stories with less than 40,000 words, then it is much easier to finish the book. You usually find this with romance. 

Then there are the commercial type books. Those are the ones with hardly any description, 2 page chapters, and and leave you feeling as though you just ran a race instead of reading a book. Personally I hate seeing the big name authors succumb to this type of writing. I think their publishers took it seriously when hearing people's attention span is limited now a days. I don't think that's what the studies really meant.

People still like long novels filled with emotional characters and great descriptions that bring them into the scene. Look at some of the most popular books out there, The Game of Thrones series, and Outlander. Those are long books. I believe what readers truly want is clean, tight novels, not a lot of info dump and drawn out stuff that doesn't pertain to the story. In other words, they're not looking for a "telling" story like the commercial books of today. They're still looking for a great read that takes them to knew worlds with characters they love.

So remember the next time you're tempted to add a lot of back story or info dump, ask yourself is this moving the story along? Am I boring the reader? Are my characters emotions shown on the page? Does my descriptions bring the reader into the scene?

As writers we tend to overwrite, so don't fall in love with a line, or a scene. Know when you have to cut and do it. Keep your reader engaged, and don't worry, eventually you will be able to publish more books and gain more sales in the long run.

One other thing is make sure your book is ready. Sometimes we have to do revisions more than we wanted to. Having strong critique partners is major, along with beta readers, but you also need to know your book. Using an outline is important, not only to make sure you have no plot holes, but to be able to see your entire book out in front of you will help you to check for flow, tightness and balance. 

You can never stop learning in this craft, that's one of the things that make it so great. As long as you realize you're not perfect and corrective criticism is part of the game, you'll do fine. 

What types of issues have held you back with sales? Leave me a comment and join in on the conversation. I would love to know your thoughts!

Love, Lisa

Friday, July 10, 2015

Is There Enough White On The Page

If you're a new writer you're probably wondering what I mean by the title. No it doesn't mean no words, it means are you splitting up your work into paragraphs, or are you continuously writing, so that is all you see is words on the entire page. The white is in between and breaks up the long, drawn out reading.

There are several different reasons why you start a new paragraph. I'm going to list them here and hope it helps you to know when to start a new one, whether it is to break up the writing, or because of dialog.

1. When you change subjects : For example - If your character is describing a scene, and then switches to action, you would want to start a new paragraph. I'll give you a small scene from my book to give you an idea.

Vines and foliage grew up the cavern's walls. He could make his way within a rod from the tunnel. Then he would have to rely on niches to ascend the rest of the way. He prayed he would be able to climb up without falling back into the trees.

Colton took a deep breath and released it. He trudged through the dense plants to the wall. A few of the plants had hefty trunks, with large branches growing out the sides. He tested his weight and and pulled himself into the tree.

Now I think some of you would have made this one big paragraph. It seems like it is the same subject, but it really isn't. First the cavern wall is being described. The next paragraph is his attempt at the climb.

There has been plenty of times where my critique partners point out areas where I need to start a new paragraph. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the slight variation. It happens to all of us, but you do want to see the white spaces down the page. It breaks up the droning feel of a page with all words and is easier on the eyes.

2. Dialog between characters : When 2 or more characters are having a conversation, you need to break up the voices with paragraphs. I know most of you are saying I already know this, but I have seen this a lot - even in traditional published books. For example - 

Carson Frowned. "It's all been checked. No go." He drank his coffee and threw away the cup. "Why don't we go get in a few winks? The Chief can let us know if anything happens." He rose from his chair and grabbed his briefcase.

"Sounds like a plan." O'Neill stood and stretched his back. "Some dinner might help, too."

As you see, I broke up the two voices and action with 2 paragraphs. Even if you are continuing the dialog with action, you stay within that dialog paragraph, unless the subject changes. If that is the case, then finish the next subject in the next paragraph and start a new one with the second character in the scene.

3. Action paragraphs : This is used sometimes with authors to punch up a scene. Instead of continuing a paragraph, the author will use either a short sentence that stands alone for emphasis, or will go back and forth between action moves and list them separately down the page. For example - 

Colton laughed. “Are you ready to battle, brother? I do not have all day.
Torren drew his sword and lunged.
Colton sidestepped.
The Rebel Leader lost his balance and lurched forward. 

This is a fight scene and it shows how the action moves along quicker with each short paragraph. 

The other example - 

Jason caught a glance of Marek’s face in the van window. That was his cue. He threw on the gloves and cap, ran down, past the comatose Agents, and got in the driver’s seat. The keys were in the ignition. Marveling at the speed and near invisibility of the Djen, he took off out of the lot. As if providence shined on them, the light changed to green.

He smiled.

So as you can see I did a small separate paragraph. It gives the above one more punch and adds to the intrigue. 

These are a few examples of reasons for new paragraphs, plus it is easier to read something with breakups on the page. 

So when you are into your revisions and you come across lengthy paragraphs, take a minute to look at it and see if you can break it up. The writing will seem much cleaner and the reader will enjoy your story a lot more.

I hope this little hint helps you in your writing. If you have any thoughts, please leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Have a wonderful weekend and keep on writing!

Love, Lisa

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Low Down With Facebook And Amazon

Happy Fourth of July all! I hope a wonderful weekend is in store for all of you. Me, well, working on Lore of course. Besides, we have a dog that goes into panic mode when she hears fireworks. She's 13 yrs old so we worry about leaving her alone when she's in her "zone". 

Aside from that little bit of info, I thought I would touch on the big conversation lately with Facebook and Amazon from authors. They sure aren't making it easy for us small time writers who are only trying to gain a following and maybe a little money in our pocket from all the hard work we've done.

First I'll touch on Facebook and the Fan Page. 

When I started my page a few years ago it was progressing nicely. I didn't have a huge following, but it was growing. I'm not extremely savvy when it comes to social marketing, but I do try to learn and have some important interaction with my fans. I won't go into the hits and misses of that subject, but I do want to touch on the "boost" program a bit.

Recently they changed the rules so that very few people see your posts unless you pay money to have it boosted. So if you just post a little comment you will be lucky if more than 20 people from your "like" list see it. Of course the more likes you get for the post, the more people see it. I think the highest amount of people that saw one of my posts that wasn't boosted came to about 60 people. 

I decided to try the boost option for blog posts or something I did on my website. I can't afford a lot so I've always chosen the 5.00 pay amount. I think with that, when I would get likes and clicks on the post, I've managed to get it out to around 300 - 400 people, or so it claims. The interesting thing is I've actually lost "likes" in the process. I guess that's another subject for another time.

But I find that Facebook and Amazon are really cashing in on the small time author. They know we need social media to spread the news about our books, so they take advantage. It is up to you as an author if you plan to utilize the boost, but I'm wondering if it's worth the money.

The next is Amazon's new Kindle Direct Publishing change.

Again, originally this program was designed to help new author's get the word out for their books. I'm banking on Amazon seeing the large amount of authors they had and decided to cash in on them as well. The newest shyster move from them is, first their program for their book-buying customers. For 9.99 a month you can download and read books, 10 at a time, and then once read, you can trade them in for another book. They did pay the author's for their books being downloaded, but now they've changed the rules for that program also.

The newest dig is if someone downloads your book, you get paid for pages read only. It works out to about 7 cents a page on average. If someone only reads a little and decides to trade it for another book, your out any money. 

Now, I have to say this is a major upset for those trying to make a buck or two for their efforts. I personally think its a lot of huey!! (I'm trying not to curse) It makes it tough to decide if you should continue to have your ebooks on KDP or pull them and hope to have sales from customers who aren't part of the 9.99 program.

Another tough decision. 

I haven't made mine yet. I thought about pulling Fable and Fated, and only having Lore on there for the required 90 days, then pulling that one too. I guess I will see if the program works or not for me. If, in a few months, I've seen nothing that screams - stay on KDP - I probably will pull them from the program. Again, this is a personal choice. I, for one, am tired of making these big companies money and not reaping any reward for my hard work.

I am curious your thoughts on this subject. What have you decided to do with both of these rip-off programs?

Please leave me a comment and let me hear your side.

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday weekend and I'll see you back here next Friday! Happy 4th of July!!!

Love, Lisa