Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is a story worth your time?

I have hero envy, which isn't so bad as a writer.  I can live vicariously through my characters without actually running into a burning building or hunting down bad guys.  My next book captures my envy through my hero, a FBI Special Agent, and my heroine, possibly another FBI agent.

I've done about a months worth of research already into the FBI.  Seriously, it's becoming a bit obsessive, but I've learned a lot about what goes into the training, career and mind set of an agent.

And yet....

I still don't have a story.  I have three characters, their names, what they look like, and the rest is sketchy at best.  So how do I continue?  Do I even bother?  Maybe this story will never develop.  Maybe I'm just not this type of writer....maybe my hero envy shouldn't be played out on the page.  But how do I know?

How does a writer know if they're on a good train of thought?

Well, the first thing I do is push away the insecurities and give myself permission to suck.  Yup, I sat down recently, told myself that no matter how bad my ideas are, just keep writing them down.

They were bad.  I won't use them, but it was a good exercise.  I think a huge hurtle for writers like myself, just starting out, is thinking we can't make mistakes.  We can't have a bad idea.  That's a lot of pressure, and in my case, I'm only in the brainstorming phase!  Isn't this when I'm allowed to have bad ideas?

So here's what I suggest.  Go ahead and allow yourself to have terrible ideas and terrible writing.  Run your ideas through some sort of filter, maybe a spouse or good friend or writing critique group.  Let it simmer.  Give it some time on the back burner.  If still nothing....write something else.  Don't stop writing!  I've been writing random short stories while my brain decides if my FBI story is worth pursuing.  Just remember, you get better the more you write, so even if you don't use a story, it wasn't a waste.  You practiced developing characters, working on tone, suspense...whatever.  You worked.  You learned.  That's always worth it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I've made a huge mistake : Self Publishing Gone Wrong

Ok, I've made a mistake.  Actually, multiple mistakes.  Big ones.  Embarrassingly big mistakes.  Learn from me:

I've always wanted to have one of my books published through traditional means.  However, I recently self published my first novel A Light in the Darkness, a Christian romance / suspense. 

After researching self publishing, I've learned many things. 

I don't even know where to start on all the mistakes I've made.

First, let me just say that this book was written specifically for a dear friend of mine for her 30th birthday.  I finished it about two weeks before her big day, frantically put it all together and ordered it as quickly as possible to make sure it arrived in time.  The fact that it came in time was a great accomplishment.

 After I gave it to my friend, I thought I could spice it up a bit.  I fixed some spacing issues, redid the cover, those sorts of things and thought I was all set.   I've been focusing so much time on learning the ins and outs of traditional publishing that I neglected doing the same thorough research for self publishing.

Here's what I learned:

1.  No one cares.  Not really, at least.  Just because you've written a book doesn't mean that the world is going to flock to buy it.  I can look at my lulu sales page and figure this one out.  I didn't really give the reader a reason to buy my book, other than the fact that I've wrote it. 
                    The book needs to have an eye catching cover, something that says what the book is about.  (My mistake #1)
                     The little blip from the story needs to be really awesome. (I could have found a better blip.  Mistake #2)
                     The author bio should prove that you can write.  (Mistake #3 for me.)

2.  Use social media.  (I've done that)  But don't be harassing.  (Mistake # 4).

3.  Do an e-book.  (Mistake # 5)  Getting an e-book together is a little confusing, but clearly not impossible. 

4.  Edit.  Edit.  Oh, and Edit.  If you aren't good at editing, get a pro to help out. (Mistake #6 - I mean, I edited and had others help, but a pro would have been helpful)

Ok, my ego can't take much more.  I've totally dropped the ball on my first attempt!  Wait, that's nothing to be too ashamed about.  It's a first attempt.  We all make mistakes, right?  Now I can go back to my book, fix my mistakes, and re-release it.  That's the beauty of self publishing.  Plus, I've learned a ton about self publishing and I'm only just beginning! 

So please don't make the same mistakes I did when self publishing.  Take the time, research, and do it right the first time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How do I get better at writing?

Read and write. 

Yup, that easy.

Every time I hear a published author pass on words of wisdom, they always say the same thing.  If you want to be a good author, you have to read a lot and write a lot.

So what are you reading right now?

I just started To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander. How about you?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Synopsis

I recently entered a writing contest where I was asked to submit my first chapter and a synopsis of my work in progress.

Easy enough, right?  I mean, sure, I'd never written a synopsis before but how hard can it be?

So I sat down and a whole bunch of hours later felt pretty good about what I produced.  Then, just for fun, I thought I'd go online and see how other authors wrote their synopsis.  Turns out, I didn't write a synopsis at all.  I wrote the back cover of my book.

And I ate a nice piece of humble pie :)

So what is a synopsis?  It's a summary of your book from beginning to end.  Yup, that means you have to know how your book will end.  This was and remains a problem for me since I rarely, if ever, know how a book will end when I start writing.  Perhaps this is amateurish.  Ok, it probably is.  I also wouldn't recommend it since it entails a ton of rewriting. 

Ok, so I need to work on outlining. 

Back to the synopsis.  Here's some helpful info from Writer's Digest:

The Synopsis Format

Friedman gives some of the best tips for formatting a synopsis. She recommends beginning with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist, problem or conflict, and setting. The next paragraph should convey any major plot turns or conflicts necessary and any characters that should be mentioned in order for your book summary to make sense to whomever is reading it. Lastly, she recommends indicating how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph. This ensures a clear presentation of your book or novel and doesn’t leave the reader confused.

Now, the tricky part is following this guideline while enticing an agent and also not giving so much away that there's no point in reading your story.

The synopsis I wrote was 500 words.  Not a whole lot of wiggle room, so make sure every word counts.

If you want to get your synopsis critiqued, Writer's Digest has a service (you probably have to pay). 

Good luck!