Thursday, 14 August 2014

How To: Write Short Fiction

Short fiction is a brief piece that I feel all writers and authors should write at some stage in their life, usually right at the beginning because short stories help writers to write concisely and cut all the crap, because there's no leeway with short fiction, and everything needs to be there for a reason.

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”
 Edgar Allen Poe

There are different types of short fiction that you can try, and there are two spectrums in terms of word count, the first is flash fiction, which is anything up to 2,000 words, within flash fiction, you can find all different types of smaller fiction writing; micro-flash, 55 word fiction, 6 word short story, etc. and they're all there to challenge our skills as writers. Towards the larger end of the spectrum you have the novella, which (to me) is anything up to 40,000 words.

I do recommend starting on the smaller stuff as it is less of a commitment, and it's easier to finish a smaller piece of fiction in one sitting than it is to write something of 10,000 words + in one sitting.

With short fiction, you want to begin as close to the end of as you can, and you need to take the readers in with every word; which means that a hook has never been so important.

“Make your characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Ask Yourself...
(There are questions you need to ask yourself before you start writing anything.)

Who is your character?
What is the PoV?
What tense are you writing in?
What voice are you writing in?
What does your character want?
What obstacle is in the way?
Where is the scene set?

You do not need to ask yourself all these questions,
Just the occasional...

Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?

Write Tip:
If you include a twist in your short story, the reader shouldn't see it coming. So make sure to re-read your work with a "reader's" eye and be extra critical of this twist.

Use writing prompts. Listen to music to be inspired i.e. write a scene/flash based on that piece of music. Watch the news and write a piece based on what you see... the possibilities of inspiration are endless!

A basic narrative structure comes in five points:
However, it is up to you as the crafter of words to mix this up if you will. It doesn't need to cover each of the five points at all, and they could double; action, climax, conflict, action. Just play around with it.

The above structure might be useful if you're a planner, although the pantser may use them, they just won't be planning their story out with them.

If you have anything else to do, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Write Tips: Writing Romance!

If you know me, or my writing, then you know that I don't write romance novels, but that doesn't mean to say that I haven't included elements of romance into my stories/poetry etc.

This post is primarily a re-post from a post written 1st of February 2012 (two years ago). I have also included the comments that the post accumulated back in 2012.

Writing Romance

Picking up on something that I've noticed from the romances that I've read and see promoted, is that they always tend to have these very pretty characters; rightly so, for the aesthetics and the pleasure of it being fiction is that these characters can have an ethereal beauty--so sure, but that's only skin deep.

The best romances aren't about the prettiest people. They're about people like everyone else, and often, we look to connect with the character.

Romances are emotional, the emotion of love, is what these romances thrive on--if not, then it's a loveless romance, and nobody wants one of those. So, make sure that you're connecting with your reader--do this by using beta readers; people to read your writing and give you feedback.
Write Tip:
Your protagonist and their romantic involvement should never be in love at the beginning of the novel, that's too easy!

There have to be obstacles to keep your protagonist and their love interest apart, if not, then it's just going to be about all the fun two characters are having, and that is in a different genre called erotica. The conflict should be something that is going to prevent the characters from achieving their HEA (happy ever after); riding off into the sunset, so it's your job as the writer to think up devious ways of separating the two of them from each other, only letting them get together at the last minute--or so a generic romance goes, but change it up.

SEX! Do you want your romance with or without? If you want it, make sure you always practice safe sex, unless they're trying to get pregnant. If you do plan on writing the sex scene--and border your novel on the lines of erotica, then invoke the senses and make it awesome--although mix it up as you see fit; it could be comical and have one of them burst out into laughter mid-coitus.

With romances, all the senses tend to be heightened; food, drink, clothes, places, people etc. So, if your characters are going for a meal, think about turning your writing brain to "food writing" and use words that you feel would fit that head--crisp cool, succulent, tangy, frothy, fresh, crunch etc. there are so many words that can grab the senses just like these, they can also create a physical reaction in the reader; mouth watering etc.

Write Tip:
Read some romance novels; see what they're doing.
Fiction books can be used to teach as well, y'know.

You don't have to write romance novels to incorporate the above tips--this could be a small element of your epic fantasy novel series.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How To: Dialogue Tags

Another re-post, this time from over TWO years ago, originally posted on the 8th April 2012, under "Dialogue Tags!---Say What?" - I have also left the comments that the post received when it was initially posted, and new comments are always welcome.

This is an issue that needs addressing, and it really bothers me when people go all out on these huge endless dialogue tags.

He Said, She Said.

At High School (this is now about five years ago) I was taught to be creative with my dialogue tags, which meant using anything except the word "said" -- although they never said that there was anything wrong with the word, they did however reward people who went above and beyond, and used the other words...

Below is a list of words that COULD (this is not to be mistaken for should) replace the word 'said'---the letters in red are at the start of each new letter alphabetically.

Accepted, Accused, Acknowledged, Admitted, Advertised, Affirm, Agonized, Agreed, Alleged, Announced, Answered, Appealed, Apply for, Arranged, Articulated, Asked, Asserted, Asseverate, Assumed, Assured, Attract, Aver, Avow, Barked, Bawl, Bawled, Beamed, Beckoned, Begged, Bellowed, Beseeched, Blubbered, Blurted, Bossed, Breathed, Broadcast, Cajole, Called, Carped, Cautioned, Censured, Chimed in, Choked, Chortled, Chuckled, Circulate, Claim, Comforted, Conceded, Concurred, Condemned, Confer, Confessed, Confided, Confirm, Consoled, Contend, Continued, Crave, Cried out, Criticized, Croaked, Crooned, Crowed, Declared, Defend, Demanded, Denote, Dictated, Disclosed, Disposed, Disseminate, Distribute, Divulged, Drawled, Emitted, Empathized, Encourage, Encouraged, Entreated, Exact, Exclaimed, Explained, Exposed, Faltered, Finished, Fumed, Gawped, Get out, Giggled, Given, Glowered, Grieved, Grinned, Groan, Groaned, Growled, Grumbled, Handed on, Held, Hesitated, Hinted, Hissed, Hollered, Howled, Impart, Implied, Implored, Importune, Inclined, Indicate, Informed, Inquired, Insisted, Interjected, Invited, Jabbered, Joked, Justified, Keened, Lamented, Laughed, Leered, Lilted, Maintained, Make known, Make public, Marked, Mewled, Mimicked, Moaned, Mocked, Mourned, Murmured, Mused, Necessitated, Needed, Noted, Observed, Offered, Ordered, Passed on, Pleaded, Postulated, Preached, Premised, Presented, Presupposed, Proclaimed, Prodded, Professed, Proffered, Promised, Promulgated, Proposed, Protested, Provoked, Publicized, Published, Puled, Put forth, Put out, Quaked, Queried, Quipped, Quivered, Quizzed, Raged, Ranted, Reckoned that, Rejoiced, Rejoined, Released, Remarked, Remonstrated, Repeated, Replied, Reprimanded, Requested, Required, Requisition, Retorted, Revealed, Roared, Sang, Scoffed, Scolded, Seethed, Sent on, Settled, Shared, Shed tears, Shouted, Shrieked, Shrugged, Shuddered, Snarled, Snivelled, Sobbed, Solicited, Sought, Specified, Spluttered, Spread, Stammered, Stated, Stuttered, Stressed, Suggested, Supposed, Swore, Taunted, Teased, Testified, Thundered, Ticked off, Told, Told off, Tore a strip off, Touted, Transferred, Transmitted, Trembled, Trumpeted, Understood, Undertook, Upbraided, Uttered, Verified, Vociferated, Voiced, Vouched for, Vouchsafe, Wailed, Wanted, Warned, Weep, Went on. Wept, Wheedle, Whimpered, Whined, Whispered, Yawped, Yelled, Yelped,Yowled.

Yes, there's a lot... and looking at them all makes me feel a little bit sick.

Write Tip:
Don't make it your job to try and fit each and everyone one of these into your manuscript; it will make whoever reads it ill, and that does not go down well with reviewers!

Writing is not about complicating your work, in fact, you need to give your readers some credit; they don't want everything there. Your readers do actually have an imagination of their own and every reader will picture something differently, including speech and how words are said.

When words are supposed to be stressed italics are used, and that's generally the rule. There's also exclamation points and question marks, they can also be used to show the tone and/or mood of the sentence etc.

Write Tip:
Dialogue should speak for itself.

For me, the 3 main words are "said" "asked" and "replied" -- these are the words that go unnoticed by the readers, they're invisible. Although the odd bit of variety is okay, as long as it aides the dialogue in some form or another. You have to write and cut everything that isn't supposed to be there.

*Donya Lynne makes an excellent point in the comments below; noting that the only necessary dialogue tag is "said".

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Monday, 11 August 2014

How NOT to Promote Yourself!

This is a direct re-post from a post I wrote over a year ago on the 28th of June, 2013 (as you can tell by the comments) anyway, I hope that you enjoy this post just as much as you did the first time!

This post is coming from the passive aggressive side of me, and it's also a post saturated in sarcasm. As you can tell from the title, this is how NOT to promote yourself, so do the opposite of what I say, and you should be fine!

1. Don't make ANY effort whatsoever.
Like, ever. Don't you dare follow anyone on Twitter, because you're better than that, people will naturally go to you because you're a writer, or an author. Well, that's the law of the universe, right? Let them flock to you.

Oh, and don't post excerpts to Facebook, or even dare tease the people who "like" your page, or are on your friends list. People will buy your book without this type of promotion, plus, they could steal it if you posted it online. So, god forbid anyone read it before publication.

Also, don't join any Facebook groups aimed at helping writers; they're time consuming, and you don't need help because you're awesome (point 2)!

2. Just tell everyone how awesome you are!
While you know you're awesome, not many other people are aware of it. So tell everyone. And NEVER be modest. Don't confuse gloating with making an effort, being able to gloat about being awesome is effortless anyway.

Naturally, people are attracted to awesome people, so as soon as you announce how awesome you are, people will be flocking faster than ever.

3. Beg! You know how people love that. And spam!
Write huge pleas about why people should buy your book. Not because it's a solid piece of work that will blow their socks off, but because of your financial situation, or the fact that THIS is your "get rich quick scheme" because you've seen so many other people do it. That makes people click the link to your book and because you're just so deprived, they want to support you financially.

Also, make everything you write look like spam. There's nothing that gets someone hot under the collar than spam. And I bet YOU are an excellent spam artist. People are drawn to spam, and will NEVER skim it or sigh. So make the posts impersonal, and never include the reader... jeesh, who do they think they are?

4. Always write in text speak!
If you're wanting to hit that YA market, you need to have the lingo. You need to know how to speak like a youngster. I'm sure there's a dictionary online somewhere that will teach you all the new spellings. Instead of to, too, or two, please ONLY use the number 2, likewise with the number 4 meaning for.

So, if you want to get down with the kids, disguise yourself as one of them. Don't be professional, you're already awesome, you don't need to be professional.

5. Don't filter anything that you post.
Make your Facebook profile your diary! So, note down every feeling and every thought you have. Don't worry about the people reading it, they will probably get some kind of emotional whiplash, but that's okay because you're awesome, and it won't effect their mood at all.

Swear a little, no, swear a lot. Every post should start with a swear word, because that's how you get the attention of people, and it's your profile, it's not like you're in the public eye or anything, I'm sure people won't hold it against you. Don't hold back or anything.


6. Lie! Always Lie! Go on, you're a bestseller!
I mean, you made it to the #200 point on the Amazon free chart, you should definitely tell everyone you know and even add it to your name on Facebook "Bestselling Author [name]", oh and don't forget to mar your book covers with it as well.

What's better is selling those three Kindle copies in Germany that one time last year--totally makes you an International Bestseller, so go ahead and add that as well. Go on. Nobody will fact check this against any reputable sources, so you're in the clear. In fact, I'm surprised more people don't do this!

Wait... I have it.

I'm a bestseller...
...of bullshit. It's a new book.

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Sunday, 10 August 2014

How To: Pricing Your Novel

Pricing your novel can be quite stressful, especially if you're self-publishing and you don't have a clue about pricing. Not only is it your novel that you're pricing, you could be writing short stories or poetry, and with more people self-publishing, there's more questions, often "is xx.xx the right amount to price my book at?" etc.

Honestly, there is NO right answer. You price your book however you want to price it, it may or may not sell, and if you're going into this with a business mind, then you'll want to sell--heck, even if you've not got a business-oriented mind, you still want to sell your book.

What Goes Into It?
  • Your hard work.
  • A cover artist.
  • An editor.
  • Formatting.
All of these factor into how much you'll ultimately price your book at.

In this new age, a lot of people who do self-publish also do something other than write; which is format their book, or do their own cover art, or both. (Like I do.)

Something else you might think about is promotion; will this include buying swag: bookmarks, key chains, or other products with your book/brand on them. These are used as giveaway prizes and can be quite costly. Promotion can also include taking paid advertisements out on websites i.e. Facebook, or websites that reach those your book is aimed at, or even "book blasts"; places that blast your book to thousands of their newsletter subscribers. Also, very costly.

So, what's your word count?
5,000? 15,000? 50,000? 150,000?

Of course it matters what the word count is, the larger the word count, the larger the file--and for ebooks, this can be expensive, and Amazon have "delivery costs". For paperback books, again, if you're using CreateSpace (the easiest service for self-publishers) they will tell you the minimum price that you can place your book at, this is because of manufacturing costs.

If you are going through Kindle Direct Publishing, they have two separate royalties; 35% and 70%. You earn 35% on your book sales from selling your book between $0.99 and $2.99, but from $2.99 to $9.99 you can earn the 70% royalties on your book sales.

Here I have three identical scenarios, the only difference being the price points:

#1 - sell an eBook at $0.99 and you make $0.35 per sale - say you sell 5 eBooks a month, that's $1.75 a month; $21 per year.

#2 - sell an eBook at $2.99 and you make $2.05 per sale - say you sell 5 eBooks a month, that's $10.25 a month; $123 per year.

#3 - sell an eBook at $4.99 and you make $3.45 per sale - say you sell 5 eBooks a month, that's $17.25 a month; $207 per year.

To me, these are three parts of a spectrum; $0.99 is cheap, $2.99 is average, and $4.99 is expensive. (My books are around the 60k-70k word count, so I would never feel comfortable pricing one of those above the $4.99 as this is where a lot of books 100k+ are priced, and rightly so, that's one hell of a word count--and going back to what I've said earlier, they will be factoring their editing costs, formatting costs, and cover design, as well as Amazon Kindle's delivery charges.)

As you can tell from the above three price points, the more your price your eBook, the more money you make, and THAT is basic business, but that doesn't mean to say you should be charging the $9.99 maximum that Amazon allow.

Selling your eBook at $0.99 is not underselling other books, it's underselling you, and by this, I mean those eBooks that are priced at $0.99 all-year round. For those readers who haven't seen your endless promotions and have stumbled upon your 350 page novel on Amazon to see your book priced at $0.99, and then they see your ranking at 400,000 (currently something I've done oops), they don't think that YOU, the author have put time and energy into it, and so they skip it. (Paraphrasing what someone recently told me.) However, there are those books that are priced at $0.99 all-year round, and they are usually there for promotional use; i.e. the first book in a series (so $0.99 was not it's original price) that's become popular with many reviews, the price is a great selling point to hook the reader in for your four-book serial, which is all readily available on Amazon.

Three Main Points for Novels
If you're novel is in a series, then this part will be quite useful.

Once people are invested in a series or a character, they will pay to read more about it/them. As a reader, when you're invested in a character, you're really invested.

Going up in increments of $1, here are the three pricing points that I've come across that sell, and surprisingly, if, like me, you never wanted to price your books in this region before because you never felt your worth, then you'd be surprised.

$2.99 - $3.99 - $4.99

I would price the first novel in a series at $2.99 and each subsequent novel within the region of $2.99 and $4.99. My biggest piece of advice would be to experiment with pricing, there is no definitive guide on pricing your novel. You may wish to price yours at $3.49 and then try $3.99 etc. 

Pricing Your Short Story/Poetry
Short stories and poetry are a lot different. Is it a singular short story, or is it a collection? Either way, like I've said above, you need to take into consideration how you got to the point of readying it for publication; editing, formatting, cover art, etc. as it can be costly.

For me, selling one short story of 5,000 words at $0.99 is something that I feel comfortable doing; however, I do format and do my own cover art, so I don't need to incorporate those costs. For a collection of short stories, I feel that between $1.49 and $2.49 is a great spot, even though there are numerous short story collections that are at the $0.99 point; they are underselling themselves, and unless it's an anthology collection with numerous authors, it falls on you, solely to promote your work. This is similar with poetry.

Always experiment &
Never undersell yourself

What do you price your books at?
Any stories about your pricing experiments you'd like to share?

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