Tag Archives: novel writing

Book cover for Crimson Son by Russ Linton

5 Things I Learned Self-Publishing

By Russ Linton

Last June I published my first book, Crimson Son. I’ve been living the harrowing life of a self-published author ever since. After banging on the gates for a while, I decided to wander off into the woods and build my own house. During my time in the hinterlands, I’ve managed to learn a few things which I’d like to share. It might save you some trouble if you decide to go this route. Then again, it might all be bullshit. The publishing world is in a massive state of flux and what works now might not work in the morning.

Get Over Yourself

This is the first stumbling block for any self-published author. You can’t be the judge of your prose. You can’t pretend to be the enraptured audience to your subtle plotting or intricate characterizations. You absolutely, positively, need input from outside your own head. (This also excludes your immediate circle of family and friends.)Too many self-publishers skip this step. They’re convinced they’ve got an amazing story nobody has ever heard and that their every last word is manna from the heavens. They don’t need an editor. They don’t need an audience. Their story, their prose, will create its own audience.

Let me enlighten you:

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Little girl writing

6 NaNoWriMo and Novel Project Development Techniques & Tools

Whether you are preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or simply working on your novel, here are 6 techniques — plus resources and tools — to help you reach your goal.

1.  Recommended Books

Since you are working on a book, I figure you also like to read them, so here are some titles I’ve found useful.

2.  My Guide to “Fast Writing”

Elsewhere I’ve created a compilation of the tips and techniques by other successful writers on novel writing preparation based largely on Rachel Aaron’s techniques for achieving 10,000 words per DAY(!). There’s also a handy PDF download to take with you.

3.  Plot Development Worksheets

Novel Storyboard Worksheet : A PDF storyboard for noting events and characters by chapter. 

Traditional Plot Development Storyboard : A PDF  storyboard that breaks down traditional fiction arc into the standard 20-chapters used by mass market paperbacks for decades.

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NaNoWriMo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide

In preparation for NaNoWriMo,

I’ve created a comprehensive guide to novel plot development, character creation and writing preparation — and then I thought I’d share it with everyone else getting ready for NaNoWriMo. After reading Rachel Aaron’s posts on how she achieves 10,000 words per day when writing her novels as well as how she prepares to start a new novel writing project, I started collecting her recommendations and meshing them with other authors such as Holly Lisle, Bob Mayer, and Jim Butcher to create a new Novel Writing Plot Development and Project Worksheet below. I also have some recommended titles for those wanting even more.

Fast Writing Novel Plot Development, Character Creation, and Project Preparation

Sepia close-up of guy with black glasses

The PDF version of the Novel Writing Project Worksheets and Guide is below. Check back for the epub and mobi formats coming soon.

You can download the more stylish version below, but here’s a quick summary of the process. I’ll be breaking it down in more detail with individual posts from time to time, but with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) coming up, I thought I’d better get the short version up for us all. I’ll keep revising and updating as I find more relevant techniques, tips and suggestions. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo: Theme, Character and Plot Development Preparation

I’m about to confess to a horrible crime (at least in some people’s minds), but first let me say I’m doing a bit of a Dance of Joy because while driving to pick up bird and wildlife food, the theme of my NaNoWriMo project finally came to me today .

Asian Woman Head TiltedFor me, theme is like my destination in a cross-country trip. If I don’t know my theme, I don’t know where I’m going. Now I know some of you are saying, “Carolyn, you ignorant slug! (to paraphrase SNL) You’re climax is where you’re going.”

Sure, my climax is my ultimate destination, but if I don’t know my theme, I don’t know my route. I don’t know How I’m going to get to my climax because I don’t know Why I’m taking this trip. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Prep: Novel Writing Plot Development and Project Worksheet

Howdy! We’ve Updated this Page Recently.

All of this information and worksheets were updated in 2013 and can now be found here and herePlease head to the latest posts for the New and Improved Novel Writing Plot Development Guide and Worksheets. Thank you!

 

R.I.P. Mass-Market Fiction Paperback

The New York Times has an interesting article on the decline in sales and marketing of the mass-market paperback. The industry experts in the article attribute the largest cause to the recession and e-readers and the release of hardcover titles as reduced price e-books faster than the release of the paperback. They also implicate the discounting of hardcover titles by chain, and now independent, booksellers.

All of these are certainly contributing factors, not the least of which is the recession and the increasing loss of the middle-class and its discretionary income. Add to this the decline in readership period and its clear that the mass-market paperback is becoming less profitable and therefore less viable.

But I think the article misses two key factors: Continue reading

Key Elements For Writing Marketable Fiction

The essential elements of a marketable novel author Janice MacDonald teaches in her writing course are:

  • Hook
  • Sense of place
  • Interesting characters
  • Compelling dialogue (she’s English)
  • Strong storyline (one with a logical pattern)
  • Appropriate pacing
  • Distinctive voice
  • Particular point of view
  • Slowly revealed secret or answer (the presentation of information)

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Writing Critiques and Reading Like A Writer

The plan was to spend January completing the first draft of a memoir and then going back to work on the NaNoWriMo novel revisions. That was the plan.

I did, however, get to work tangentially on writing. A friend asked me to be a beta reader on the first draft of her first novel. She’s published some short things but this was her first complete, 90K word novel. I was honored.

Unfortunately, it’s in a genre I don’t often read outside of a small, narrow group of authors. So this required some research. I firmly believe that you have review things in context. Each genre or category has certain unique needs beyond the basics of good writing. Seriously, would you complain that “King Lear” didn’t have enough jokes? Or that there wasn’t enough romance in Carrie?

So in the course of a couple of weeks I re-read a half dozen titles that were successful financially and/or I considered some of the best of the genre as well as alternating between skimming and scanning about a dozen that were typical. I even plowed through as much as I could stand of the book that had sent me fleeing the fantasy aisle many years ago. (It didn’t get better with age — its or mine.)

I spent the better part of an hour randomly opening paperbacks from the rack at the grocery store. After the first six, I was about to write to my friend apologizing that I was totally unsuited to critique her book because I simply could not read more than a few paragraphs of the standard titles in her genre, when I picked up one last title, opened it at random — and found a delightful bit of good writing. I’m at the library right now, where I found the first of the author’s titles to check out and try. (Sorry, but unless a title or author is recommended by someone I completely trust or has multiple reviews that make it compelling, I always try new authors via the library first. This way I can keep affording to buy new releases, including hard copies, by the good authors.)

The point of all of this, is that I’ve spent the better part of the two months reading as a writer instead of a reader. When I read like a writer, I focus on things like the structure of the plot, how the characterization is handled, the development of tone and style. There are many times I’ve read something as a reader, completely lost in the story and characters, swept along by the pros; and then, I read the story again, this time as a writer noting how the author managed to capture me.

Some writers can write a plot that’s intrigues so completely, I ignore the less than perfect prose (My “potato chip” reads are mysteries). Others create characters that are such lively, fascinating companions, I myopically overlook plot holes — unless I fall in one. Then there are writers who voices are so witty and charming, I’m completely seduced. Often awaking to find a note on my beside table and my wallet emptied. And finally, there are the writers whose prose is so beautiful and graceful, I feel as if my own efforts resemble the first steps of a gawky teenager amongst the corps de ballet.


Periodically, when I feel I need a refresher course in how to read as a writer, I pull out my copy of Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want To Write Them. While Ms. Prose (Isn’t that a wonderful name for a writer? I wonder if it’s too late to have mine legally changed?) targets the future M.F.A. candidate and completely eschews anything so plebian as “genre” authors, she does teach me how to read, both my own work and others, critically. And by “critically,” I mean objectively with a discerning eye and ear.

Here’s how she opens her book:

Can creative writing be taught?
…I answer by recalling my own valuable experience, not as a teacher but as a student in one of the few fiction workshops I took… Its generous teacher showed me, among other things, how to line edit my work. For any writer, the ability to look at a sentence and see what’s superfluous, what can be altered, revised, expanded, and, especially, cut, is essential. It’s satisfying to see that sentence shrink, snap into place, and ultimately emerge in a more polished form: clear, economical and sharp.

Here’s an example from her chapter on “Narration”:

… this device enabled me to overcome one of the obstacles confronting the novice writer. This hurdle disguises itself as the question of voice and of who is telling the story (should the narrator be first or third person, close or omniscient?) when in fact the truly problematic question is: Who is listening? On what occasion is the story being told, and why? Is the protagonist projecting this heartfelt confession out into the ozone, and, if so, what is the proper tone to assume when the ozone is one’s audience?

I had always assumed that I was alone in having discerned that the identity of the listener was a more vexing problem than the voice of the storyteller until I heard a writer say that what enabled him to write a novel from the point of view of a rather complicated middle-aged woman was by pretending that she was telling her story to close male friend, and that he, the writer, was that friend.

Ms. Prose goes on to examine and dissect successful examples of narration ranging from Wuthering Heights to Anna Karenina, from Philip Carver to Isabel Walker to Mark Twain to Diane Johnson (Le Divorce, a book alas I didn’t finish because I was simply in the wrong mood. My mood is something else I have to keep in mind when critiquing my own or someone else’s work). I got more out of one trip through Reading Like A Writer than I did from an entire semester of writing class. If nothing else, I learned how a master writes a compound, complex sentence.

After a couple of months of reading like a writer, I’m ready to start writing for myself again. I’m encouraged by how badly some published authors write, humbled by how well some do and greatly inspired by the realization that I can improve my own initial drafts by applying some firm, disciplined manuscript critique.

To the keyboards! Tally Ho!

Failing Farther Behind But Getting Ahead

I only got a couple of hundred words today because I’m desperately working on writing some training materials for a presentation on Monday. I’m taking a bit of extra effort on the materials because I hope to recycle them on my web site and with other clients, but it’s proving an enormous time and energy drain. And the irony is that it’s on using WordPress.

I have made a ton of notes for scenes I want to write and I’ve committed to being at the Itty-bitty Buzz coffeehouse from 9 – 11 a.m. on Sunday in case any of the other NaNoWriMo participants in the area want to meet. So I’m planning on making Sunday a NaNoWriMo catch-up marathon day. (Although, I think my husband would appreciate my getting to the litter boxes more often.)

I’m thinking I should have my character want to get back together with her significant other, but I’m not certain I want her to be that weak. On the other hand, I’ve seen far to many people, male and female, be strong in other areas of their life and incredibly stupid in their relationships. And this is definitely a character that craves consistency in her home life. People talk about characters taking over, but this one seems to be waiting to be told what to do.

Well, I’m too tired to write on either the technical material or the novel, so I’m curling up with Ngaio Marsh and tackling the keyboards early tomorrow. Brrr! There’s going to be a hard frost tonight. I’m glad I made up a box in the shed for MaoMao (the neighbor’s cat who sleeps in our shed and begs food from us — and yes, I have sucker written on my forehead).

The Clock Is Ticking

Tonight at 12:01 a.m. NaNoWriMo starts and the clock starts running. I’m doing the NaNoWriMo to force me to complete a novel. I’ve started many and bogged down in the middle which led to eventual abandonment. This time I’m determined to make it through the first draft. Okay, I’m keeping this short because I’ve got a lot of things to do before midnight.