Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 03/27/15

CREATING THE MOMENTS OF EXPERIENCE

In the study of Philosophy, the term “empirical knowledge” refers to knowledge based on experience. As professors and students dig further, they discover that experience is also the processed and unprocessed thoughts perceived after an event occurs.  From those thoughts, wisdom is gained as people/characters reflect and/or interpret the actions and events of their lives.  German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

What I’ve just described is the heart of and the “act” of writing and reading fiction. In the course of our lives, we will never be able to experience what it is like to live in all the societies/cultures around the world—or all the times/eras. However, through fiction novels we can imagine it. Some might argue that non-fiction facts provide a clearer picture and understanding. I politely disagree because it is in the EMOTION of the moments of life that we are able to truly grasp the essence of what has happened.

Back when I was teaching, we did a week-long exercise in Emotion, Mood and Motivation. My question was, “Which comes first?” Does the mood of the moment create the emotion that motivates the action?  OR…does a character’s deep-seeded motives create the mood that then creates the emotion and action? OR…(well, you get the idea).  Here comes the really fun part of writing fiction. Writers get to jump into those motives, moods and emotions of each of their characters and discover new experiences for their readers to experience.  Here are some ideas to help you in developing your skills and abilities in this area.

  1. Fiction author, Orson Scott Card suggests focusing on motivation: “Instead of writing about feelings, write about WHY your characters are doing the things they’re doing.”
  2. If your readers need to know that the main character is “full of fear,” stay away from telling that fact—show the emotion. Example: the house is quiet and peaceful…the cat knocks over her water dish…the main character JUMPS into the corner of the room behind the couch and bursts into tears.
  3. Mood music. The world of movie-making uses this element to the max and we’ve all experienced it. This can be—and must be—accomplished in fiction writing, too. Much like an artist paints a masterpiece, the use of description (yes, adjectives) is an art to itself. READ the master-authors who utilize this gift and you will develop it, too.

Folding these elements of Mood, Motivation and Emotion into your characters will greatly enhance your ability to give readers exactly what they are looking for in Fiction Novels—their subconscious (and often conscious) need to experience life from another perspective. No two characters (or people) will react to events and circumstances in the same manner. And, as the character experiences more of life, they may not react as they did previously.

The excellent Fiction Author will grasp these elements of writing and never let them go, but continue to develop them throughout their writing lifetime.  That is my hope for every reader of this blog, that you will write and publish the very best quality of Fiction Novels and reap all the rewards!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 03/20/15

A BIT MORE ABOUT THE PLOT

When I was still in the high school classroom (teaching advanced writing), I borrowed the Science and Biology teacher’s skeleton for a day. I found it to be a very useful visual in my efforts to explain the importance of actions and events when building the storyline (plot) of short stories and novels. This illustration is from the free ClipArt files and I especially like that the figure is IN MOTION…as the plot should be.

skelton

There is an ongoing discussion among writers as to whether Characters drive the Plot or the Plot drives the Characters.  I’m in the first camp—because it is the re-actions of the characters (to the plot action/events) that keep Readers turning those pages.  The skeleton illustration demonstrates that the brain (character thoughts, emotions) send the signal to the other parts (plot action/events) in order to move forward.

I can, however, acknowledge the other discussion position because if there was no “hand” to send a signal to (no planned plot event or action) then nothing would happen.  Ah…the conundrum!

So it is that I focus on the concept of MOTION—moving forward toward my desired conclusion—when developing a plot for any length of fiction.  Here are a few ideas to help with that…

  1. Start with “The End.” Have you seen the TV commercial (mini-short-story) where the cowboy rides off into the sunset and is knocked off his horse by the words THE END? Knowing how you want your story to close should provide many ideas for the characters to “act out” in order to get there.
  2. Think dialogue. Some writers don’t consider dialogue to be part of the definition of PLOT. However, I offer this thought using the above scenario. The cowboy is knocked off his horse—injured—so there will be some type of re-action to that event and (for humans) it usually includes LOUD WORDS. What they say usually leads to the next step in the storyline.
  3. Consider HOT and COLD, never TEPID. Lukewarm, half-hearted plot points usually cause a reader to close the book and not pick it up again. Again, I’m NOT saying that there needs to be an explosion in every chapter. Cold/cool moments are very necessary in order to give readers a chance to consider what has happened, and what they “guess” might happen within the next pages.
  4. Take a look at the skeleton’s CENTER of gravity. The dynamics of motion rely on balance. It is the same with the fiction novel. Protagonists and Antagonists (and their supporting characters) need to be vitally present, active, and positioned throughout the story in a balanced manor.

I hope this running skeleton helps someone better understand the concept of PLOT—actions and events—necessary for excellent fiction writing. Just the “look” of those running bones should spur us all forward just to escape IT!  Smile….and enjoy many inspired hours of creative writing and publishing!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 03/13/15

SPRINGING INTO ACTION

S.I. Hayakawa (English professor, president of San Francisco State University, and U.S. Senator) is also known to have stated that writers of fiction must be aware that readers will demand a constant increase in the number and “variety of life experiences” they will experience in novels.  For me, this means that I need to have a solid PLOT in place—the actions and events—that my characters will walk through.  These are also actions, events, circumstances and scenarios that will provide the changes within the characters (as mentioned in last week’s blog).

Here are a few questions to ask while developing YOUR storyline/plot.

  1. Does the story interest you? If you’re working too hard to develop a plot that you think is good—or that someone else told you is “great”—STOP. Some writers I know literally break their story elements up (on 3×5 cards) and re-set (reposition) them. If it’s still not working, don’t hesitate to file it away for another day. Often, good pieces will find their way into other manuscripts.
  2. How is the story unfolding? Is it fast-paced enough to keep readers turning those pages? Or is it putting them to sleep? Unlike movies, you don’t need an explosion or car chase in every scene. However, the steps the characters are taking do need to offer the reader something, such as intrigue, mystery, curiosity or hope, to nudge them along.
  3. Are there enough complications and/or twists to drive the character development and cause your readers to consider what they would do in that situation? Once you’ve engaged a readers involvement to this level, you’ve captured an audience base for future novels.
  4. Is your plot “cliché,” predictable or a formula format? We’ve all “suddenly” found ourselves writing such a story because many of our early reading favorites have been just that—the basic “hero gets the girl” plot. As you’ve probably noticed in today’s multiple TV Marvel series, this genre/plot development remains a valid and profitable one. Happily, they are also mixing in a variety of actions and events that develop the characters in interesting and believable ways.

SO…bottom line…start with the basics of plot development.  Remember the book reports you had to do in high school? Most suggested the same outline for discussion as used by the authors to build their stories. If your geometry teacher were illustrating this, it would look a little like stair-steps with an occasional drop downward—then climb upward—showing crisis and recovery moments.  Somewhere toward the middle a discovery would be made that demonstrated the change in the way a specific character thinks and/or reacts.  And so it would continue until the dramatic, climactic end.

The development of the storyline/plot is often felt within the writer, too.  That’s actually a very good thing because it relates to point #1—Does the story interest you?  If writers fail to become involved with what is happening in their stories TO their characters, the novel will most likely fall flat.  IF you’re just starting your writing career, connecting with a trusted “reader” or ghostwriter can make all the difference in productive marketing after your book is published. Don’t hesitate to seek (and accept) good advice.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 03/06/15

MARCHING INTO SPRING

This month I want to especially encourage my Fiction writer friends.  A very famous author and professor—S.I. Hayakawa—once said, “Fiction is a tool to increase one’s experience of life experiences.”  I wholeheartedly agree.  I’m just now realizing (in my adult years) that the main reason I’ve always enjoyed reading books of fiction is because I learn so much—without the tedious work and/or study of history, psychology, sociology, cultures, governments and laws, etc.  One well written Fiction Book exposes me to all those elements of life, expanding my knowledge and often adding the component of mystery or adventure.

It seems that I have very little time for pleasure reading these days, so I’m becoming quite selective in what books I purchase, not wanting to be disappointed in them.  If you’ve read previous blogs, you’re probably aware that I’m a big fan of author Lloyd C. Douglas, most specifically his novel THE ROBE. From the very first page I walked back in time and became part of the events in the lives of those characters.  The first time I opened this book I wasn’t far from my teen years and immediately identified with the main character’s little sister.  She (and I) matured together, dealing with lost loved ones, questions about “proprieties,” ethics, faith, war and much more—all elements pertinent to my own present-day life.

For the Fiction/Science Fiction enthusiasts, another book that I would re-read IF I had the time is titled The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  The basic info statement about it reads: “In 3016, the 2nd Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems…. Intelligent beings are finally found from the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud. The ancient civilization (at least one million years old) are welcoming, kind, yet evasive, with a dark problem they have not solved in over a million years.”

BOTH books present readers with “real life” experiences IN unique settings of time and place.  Although the plots of these stories may seem dramatically different, they are basically quite similar.  But we won’t discuss that today.  Instead, I offer you the following Creative Writing for Fiction Readers pointers for your consideration.

  1. Does your novel immediately engage the reader in the mind-set and emotions of the characters?
  2. Are you providing enough background information (woven throughout the pages) that allows readers to understand why the characters DO what they do?
  3. Can readers describe the relationship dynamics between characters (friendships, siblings, marriages, co-workers, etc.)?
  4. Fiction readers want to know the characters well enough so that they can form an opinion about who they are and whether (or not) they admire them, dislike them, respect them or want to leave them on a deserted island somewhere because they are not fit for human companionship. Are your characters that well-defined?
  5. Do the characters—at least the main characters—evolve during the timeframe of your novel? (Suggestion: Watch the TV series Downton Abbey and observe the personalities as the development of these characters unfold.)
  6. Will your readers be able to discern whether a character’s actions were justified or unwarranted?
  7. Will your readers be able to “live” the lives of these characters?

Writing Fiction novels is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable of writing careers.  The character types you create will come alive in the minds of your reading Fans and bring you—Author! Author!—acclaim in the publishing and literary realms.  Film makers are also actively seeking the amazing characters only you can write-into-reality.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 12/30/14

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

The Self-Published Stars of 2014

This list showcases all the fiction and non-fiction self-published books that received starred reviews in 2014. I always recommend writers check out successful books to learn more about the industry and to improve and inspire their own writing. Consider adding these books to your 2015 must read list.

6 Tips for Writing Fiction Based on True Events

This Writer’s Digest article shares six tips for writing fiction based on true events. One of the best tips is “Get Permission.” Every fiction writer should read this article.

How to fund self-publishing your book? How much do you need to self-publish your book?

This article talks about crowdfunding as a way to finance your self-publishing project and also offers tips on calculating a reasonable goal. This is an interesting read for writers looking for a way to fund their self-publishing project.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) New Writers Awards Accepting Submissions

Book contests are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain credibility and exposure. Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) New Writers Award for poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction is currently accepting entries. Here is what you need to know:

  • The work must be a first published volume.
  • The work must have been published between Spring 2013 and Spring 2014.
  • GLCA will also accept galley proofs for works to be published in late spring or early summer of 2014.
  • Winning authors tour several GLCA’s member colleges to give readings, lecture, visit classes, conduct workshops, and publicize their books.
  • All entries must be postmarked no later than July 25, 2014.
  • Winning authors will receive an honorarium of $500 from each of the colleges they visit. Travel, lodging, and food expenses will be reimbursed.

The Benefits of Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) New Writers Awards

  • Credibility — This award reflects outstanding literary achievement in the judgment of a committee of scholar-critic-writers who have professional and personal commitments to excellence in literature and the encouragement of creative writing. It is a mark of distinction that confers recognition to both author and publisher in promoting the book.
  • Publicity — The winning authors’ visits to the GLCA colleges, with the attendant local promotion and publicity, should serve to stimulate sales in this Midwestern area.These campus visits expose the authors and their works to large numbers of students through readings, question and answer sessions, and possibly workshop class sessions.

For more information on submitting an entry, visit http://glca.org/programs/new-writers-award.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Character Development Tips for Fiction Writers

Back in November 2012 I participated in NaNoWriMo.  As a first time fiction writer, one of the things I found the hardest was keeping character traits straight in my head. Did he have red or brown hair? Was he short or tall? As I was working through this problem, I developed some tricks to help me keep all those important character traits straight. Here are my favorites:

1. Let someone inspire you.

Even if you are writing fiction, you can use people in your real life as inspiration. Picture someone you know or see and base your character on that person. Not only is this a good way to generate ideas and help you remember your character descriptions, it is also a great way to ensure your characters are realistic because you will be describing someone you’ve actually seen or met.

2. Keep a list of character traits.

Even if you think you know your characters well, it is hard to remember all of the details once you are well into writing your book. To avoid messing up descriptions half way through the book, keep a list of all the character traits. You can format this however is most convenient for you. Perhaps create a table with headings such as physical characteristics and personality traits. The key is to keep the list updated and to review it often while you write and edit your book.

3. Plan ahead.

Some people let their characters develop as they write the story, but if remembering character traits is an issue for you, it may be beneficial to create your characters ahead of time. Before you begin writing, envision your characters. Imagine you are interviewing them and write down everything they would tell you and you would observe. What do they look like? Where do they live? What is their temperament? What are their motivators? Their fears? Their strengths? The more you figure out ahead of time, the easier it will be to write about them as they come into your story. Be sure to keep all this information in a safe, organized place that you can reference often.

4. Double and triple check your work.

As you write your book, your character may begin to take on a different personality than you expected or you may decide different characteristics are more suiting for certain characters. It is okay to change things, and you don’t have to be glued to your list of character traits as you write. You do, however, have to make sure everything is consistent before you self-publish your book. While you are revising your manuscript, read through it while focusing on character traits. You should also have at least one other person review your manuscript because he or she will often catch subtleties you missed.

5. Hire help.

If character traits is a struggle for you, a developmental editor may be able to help. Unlike copyeditors who review your manuscript for grammar and style issues, developmental editors look for consistency and structural elements such as character development and realistic dialogue. They can point out errors in your manuscript where you made mistakes and offer advice on improving your characters.

I’d love to know, what do you do to help you remember your characters’ traits?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.