Monday, December 19, 2016

Peace and Joy

Welcome to the last post for IWSG for 2016. We'll be back on the first Wednesday of 2017 for our monthly blog hop. Remember in your post that the proposed question is a personal option if you're not sure what else to say in your blog. We all certainly want to hear about your victories and worries as we navigate this complicated business together. If you are interested in the question, here goes:
What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?

Congratulations to the winners of Michael Burnett's audio book, The Independent Author's Guide to Audiobook Production: A Professional Narrator's Secrets for Success on ACX

Ellen Jacboson 
Geradine Bach 
Toi Thomas 
Karen Lange 
Lidy Wilks

As writers, we know other writers and probably a few are on your gift list.. There are no shortages of suggested gifts for your fellow writers. Here's one such list though it might be too late to order something and receive it in time. Still, ideas!

The past year has witnessed some wonderful things for IWSG with the publication of our first anthology, Parallels: Felix Was Here, and the gathering of more terrific stories for inclusion in the second, not yet named, anthology. The talent of this group is impressive.

It's the time when we look back on the year that was and start thinking about our plans, dreams and hope for 2017. This past year saw so much turmoil around the world and here at home, that many of us are still reeling with a gloomy outlook. As writers, we have the opportunity to bring cheer and laughter as well as a sense of hope into the lives of our readers. And we should gift ourselves with the same things.

I hope the holidays bring you the peace of being safe and warm. I wish you the joy of family and friends. I gift to you my belief in a better future for humanity. I share with you my love of our writing community and the goodwill we grace each other which every day.

Hopefully, you'll find time to write over the holidays and if not, indulge in some reading. And most of all, find peace and joy in the season. And believe. Believe 2017 will be great.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christine Frazier and the Better Novel Project

Please welcome Christine Frazier, founder of the Better Novel Project!

How did the Better Novel Project begin and evolve over time?

I wanted to write a novel but I didn't know where to begin-- I felt comfortable with prose and description but didn't know how plot or structure worked. I decided to study successful books-- Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight-- to see what structural elements they have in common. As I began my research, I thought I would start posting my findings online to both help other writers, give me some accountability, and start building a platform.

The biggest evolution over time has been the artwork. When I started, I purchased stock photos to accompany the articles. I learned a lot about blogging and copywriting from my older brother who writes He pointed out that I love to doodle, and suggested that drawing my own pictures for my posts would help me stand out. He was right! Now I spend just as long on creating an infographic or shareable image as I do the actual research (and it's a lot of fun!)

What common elements do you see in successful books?

There are probably 100 common elements in the master outline! In the beginning, I picked up on very broad similarities-- I think one of my first posts was about how Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games all involve a young adult protagonist and element of magic of science fiction. As I've become more familiar with those three books, I can pull out smaller similarities and zoom in on the structure of scenes themselves, like a fight scene.

You cover so many story aspects in your posts. What and where do you research to pull it all together in your articles?

For the first few months of my blog I consulted some great books like Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James Baker Hall and The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey. They definitely set my off on the right foot. To get in the correct mindset for deconstruction, I also like Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and of course, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Now most of my research just comes from the main source novels themselves. I see something different every time I go back to them. I will also get inspired by films I love, like The Dark Knight or Star Wars.

You say you discovered the joy of research and outlines while in law school. How does it all figure into what you do now outside of Better Novel Project?

Yes, I loved law school! I was a practicing attorney for several years, and now I am taking a break to focus on my novel, Better Novel Project, and my other site

What’s the one thing that causes writers to struggle the most?

The most common e-mail I get from readers is asking whether something in their plot is "right." As much as I love studying patterns in writing, they are just patterns, not rules. I think structure is worthwhile to study so that you can meaningfully deviate from that structure as you see fit for your own story.

As for myself-- my biggest struggle is sitting down and doing the work. I can always find a legitimate-seeming distraction that bumps its way to the top of my to-do list, leaving "no time" to write. I can get overwhelmed easily by the prospect of a big scene I want to do and then end up doing nothing at all. My trick is to tell myself I only have to write for five minutes, and then I can get up if I want. It makes the getting started part a lot easier, even if I end up writing for longer!

Thanks again!

About Christine Frazier

Hi there! I’m Christine. I studied creative writing at The Johns Hopkins University, and then discovered the joy of research and outlines while in law school.
Yes, joy.
I love researching literary patterns and their creative applications. I’m also a compulsive doodler. (I do the illustrations for The Royal Hamster)
You can keep in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Forward Planning for 2017 #IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month when all IWSGers post about their writing insecurities and/or offer encouragement to others. If the IWSG is new to you, please visit the IWSG Sign-up tab here. A big thank you to our December co-hosts: Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

We've made the IWSG Day more fun and interactive by asking a question each writer can answer, so here goes:

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Now on to today's post:

Forward Planning for 2017

It feels like only a few months have gone by since it was January, however, the reality is eleven months have swept by since the start of 2016.

This time of year is great for assessment—looking at what worked, didn't work, and charting a path forward.  Some of the questions I ask myself every December are:

What have I achieved this year?

I look at what I've published and list the books I plan to write the following year. My son tells me I take on too many projects and I ought to cut back. Sensibly though, I'd say 3-4 books is a good target for the average writer and more for those who are writing machines.

What things didn't I complete?

Inevitably, I have some carryovers because I'm an overachiever. These get first pick as it pertains to new mountains to climb, and keep me focused on where I'm going in the New Year.

What can I do differently on my writing journey in the coming year?

Life and work become overwhelming at times and scheduling too much can cause burnout. To avoid this, I look back at what did not get done and scale back or decide how I can achieve greater efficiency.

Did I create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based) goals?

It's all well and good to throw a list of things together, but without a plan projects can and do go awry. It is the wise writer who plots the steps he/she will take and puts a time frame in place to achieve his/her goals.

What questions do you ask yourself at this time of year? Have you started planning your publication schedule for 2017? Any exciting plans or new direction on the horizon?

We have a special treat!
Audio book narrator Michael Burnette is graciously giving away five copies of his book - The Independent Author's Guide to Audiobook Production: A Professional Narrator's Secrets for Success on ACX.

This is perfect for authors who want to turn their books into audio.

See Rafflecopter for entries – open until December 13.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 28, 2016

High Stakes? Death. Always Death - An Interview with James Scott Bell

Today the Insecure Writer’s Support Group would like to welcome James Scott Bell, the author of several books on the craft of writing, including Just Write, a Writer’s Digest Book. We’re discussing high stakes in a novel and how to manage writing time. Welcome, James!

1. What is one thing all writers can do today to help manage their time?

Learn to prioritize. Not all tasks are of equal importance. Everything you do should be according to the ABCs.

Tasks that MUST be done label with an A. These are tasks fundamental to contributing to your long-term success. Further, those A tasks should also be prioritized by 1, 2, 3, etc.

Set about to do A1 first....then A2...etc.

B tasks are important, but should not be handled until the A tasks are done. Prioritize these as well. B1, B2 ....

C tasks can wait. Do these only if you get some spare time.

Also, put a time estimate by each task.

I prioritize my tasks by the week. Sunday is a good day to plan out your week.

2. We often hear that the stakes in a novel should be high. How high do you think those stakes should be?

Death. Always death. Physical, professional, or psychological.

Physical death is what you have in a thriller. Someone, or a whole lot of someones, are going to die if the bad guys get their way. The Hunger Games.

Professional death means that the character’s job or vocation (e.g., cop, lawyer, mother) is one the line. If they fail in the novel, that aspect of their life is effectively over, or damaged greatly. The Verdict.

If the novel is mainly about a character on the inside, on their becoming a whole human being, that’s psychological death. If the character cannot overcome the challenge, they will “die inside.” The Catcher in the Rye.

3. What is one of the biggest writing blunders you’ve seen writers make and how can they avoid it?

I have a book called 27 Fiction Writing Blunders – And How Not To Make Them. If I had to pick just one, right now I’d say it’s writing the “expected.” Our minds tend to jump to what’s been done before, not just in characterization and plotting, but in every scene we write. We have to consciously set out to find the unexpected. Which can be in something as subtle as a dialogue exchange. This is what makes writing seem fresh.

4. How can a writer work on several projects at once? Is it possible?

My method is to think of myself as a movie studio. I always have a green-lighted project (my work-in-progress, or WIP). I have several projects “in development.” That means I’ve started making notes on character and plot, and perhaps a preliminary story board (I use Scrivener’s index card view for this). Projects in development go into a file I call “Front Burner.”

Then I have a file of hundreds of ideas I’ve come up with over the years. These are usually summarized in one or two lines. Sometimes just a title. I scan these ideas from time to time, looking for the ones that catch my fancy and, if they do, I make a few more notes. If I start to like something, I move it to the Front Burner.

In this way, my “boys in the basement” are always at work, even when I’m concentrating on my WIP.

5. Why should writers study classic novels?

Depends on what you mean by “study” and “classic.” For me, a classic is The Maltese Falcon or Farewell, My Lovely.  I study these for various purposes related to my own writing.

So it depends on your goals.

If I want to study characterization, I might turn to a Dickens. Or a Stephen King.

If I want to study dialogue, it could be John O’Hara ... or Elmore Leonard.

For emotional impact: Hemingway short stories or To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s good for writers to design self-study programs on each of the seven critical success factors of fiction: plot, structure, characters, scenes, dialogue, voice, meaning (theme). Get some good craft books on the subject and select some novels you’ve read where the writer has done that thing well. Or get recommendations of same. Then read, study, and practice what you learn.

This is called growing as a writer. And it should never stop.

Author Bio:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure, and numerous thrillers, including, Romeo’s Rules, Try Dying and Don't Leave Me. In addition to his traditional novels, Jim has self-published in a variety of genres. His novella One More Lie was the first self-published work to be nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award. He served as the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine and has written highly popular craft books including: Just Write, Write Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structure, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and at numerous writers conferences in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He and London.attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver, and graduated with honors from the University of Southern California Law Center.

Visit his website 

Question to Readers: How do you manage writing time and multiple projects?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mason Canyon Tours

There may come a time in your professional career as a novelist when you'll wonder whether you need a literary publicist. Maybe you have a 40 hour a week job. Or you've got small children at home. Or you're in the midst of trying to sell your home, as I am. 

As the author of two published novels, I certainly understood what was needed before, during and after my novel Mâtowak: Woman Who Cries was due for release. But just thinking about it left me in a brain-fog. While I'm not great at delegating chores, nor am I good at relinquishing control, even I knew I was exhausted and needed help. They say a woman asking for help is an anomaly. I'm so glad happy I broke that cycle. 

At the end of a month long virtual book tour, I'm sitting here grinning from ear to ear because I had Mason Book Tours campaigning on my behalf. While I sat back and enjoyed the process, MBT did the work. 

Want to know what they did?

Here's just a few of the things:

  1. MC produced the tour page with all the pertinent information: bio, blurb, photo, book cover, and calendar. 
  2. MC created the Rafflecopter. 
  3. MC designed the tour banners and graphics and promoted the event on Facebook and Twitter. 
  4. MC served as a middle man between all hosts and myself, so that I had only ONE person to interact with. 
  5. MC provided books for the reviewers and collected questions from the hosts. 
  6. MC gathered the answers to all the questions and returned them to the designated hosts. 
  7. MC put together the tour package with the essential material. 
  8. MC chose the excerpts and sent them out to the right hosts in chronological order to match the calendar. 
  9. MC coordinated the hosts within the calendar month, making certain they had everything they needed before their day.
  10. MC updated the author's tour page each morning and sent out individual emails to those hosts. Q&A, guest posts, and excerpts. 
  11. MC visited every single site, left a comment, and shared their links with her networks.
  12. MC sent a final thank you to all hosts and a wrap up to me with a complete list of all host bloggers and their blog links.
  13. ...
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Mason Canyon Tours did what would have taken me a few extra months of prep work. MC took the pressure off and made the release of my third novel a joy. 

Circumstances change and as authors we adjust and we cope. It only takes one published novel to understand that writing the book is the easy part. 

Happy Reading. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

7 Benefits of Journal Writing

Journaling is writing down your thoughts, ideas, experiences and observations. It can be done daily or when inspiration hits you. None of it has to be perfect and no one else has to read it. So why would a writer spend the time to journal? Below I’ve put together a list of benefits.

1. General memory recall. Recently I came across my journals while doing a spring clean. I opened them up and read through portions. How much I’d forgotten shocked me to the core. I’d written about events that had a huge impact on my life at the time, and I’d simply forgotten them. Reading through my scrawled entries jogged the memories.

2. Remembering the details. Even for the events I’ll never forget, the little details had still slipped away. The way someone’s smile made me feel, the way a path wove through a forest like an invitation, the way conflicting emotions can turn a moment inside out. As a writer, these details are crucial if we want to create realistic characters and places and lace our stories with an honesty that speaks to our readers.

3. Maintaining your writing skills. For many years I wrote in a journal every day. Eventually the habit petered out as I let the busyness of life take over (or perhaps it was a perceived lack of a life worth writing down). Whatever the reason, returning to my writing career after an extended break, I discovered my skills had rusted over. Capturing the clarity of language needed to write well had become difficult. Stringing those sentences together in a way that could evoke an emotion or crystallize a moment on the page became like knitting spaghetti: messy and not something I’d ever want to share. Like any skill, writing needs to be practiced regularly.

4. Honing your writing skills. While your journals may never be read by anyone but you, which means they can be as sloppy as you’d like, the simple act of writing in them has the wonderful benefit of sharpening your writing skills. The more we write—any kind of writing—the easier it becomes. It’s because the act forces your brain to step out of passive mode and actively break down your thoughts into the written word.

5. Finding your voice. The beauty of journals is that they don’t need to be perfect, which means they don’t carry the same weight that our writing projects seem to lug around with them. For example, the weightiness of doubts and fears: Is this story working? Will it be worthy of getting published? Will anyone like it? Without those fears, we are free to write whatever, and however we like. For this reason, journal writing can help find our elusive voice because we stop trying to write like other writers.

6. Sharpening your observational skills. Journaling helps to add an extra layer of attentiveness when observing the world if you know you are going to write about it later. That power of observation will bring your stories alive. This not only includes enhancing the ability to describe a place in a way that makes it real, but also to be insightful enough when it comes to people’s emotions and motivations to make characters pop from the page.

7. Understanding yourself. The reason I started writing was to understand my place in the world and what I felt about everything. Writing it all down helped me understand the layers of emotion that raged within. It helped me to be honest with myself when it was so easy to lie. Perhaps journaling can do the same for you.

There are many other benefits, of course, so what benefits have you discovered through writing a journal?

Lynda R Young

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Future of the IWSG

The scheduled guest for today fell through, which happens sometimes, but it gives us the opportunity to update you on what's coming up for the IWSG.

The deadline for the anthology contest was last Tuesday and we received record numbers of entries! Thanks to everyone who entered. The IWSG Admins are sorting through the stories and soon the best ones will go off to our official judges. We'll announce the winners on January 4, 2017 and the anthology will go into production for a late spring release.

The next post day for the IWSG is December 7 and the Question of the month is - In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

We also have some amazing guests coming up - James Scott Bell, Kristen Lamb from Warrior Writers, and literary agent Mark Gottlieb.

Our newsletter will continue with guest articles, including those from publishing industry experts and IWSG members. If you've not signed up, you can in the sidebar. You'll also receive a free eBook featuring our top articles.

Don't forget we're also on Twitter and have two Facebook groups!

As we continue to move forward, we want to provide members with the latest and greatest information. If there is an area or topic you'd like us to cover or expand, please let us know!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rejections: Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom / IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month when all the IWSGers post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG, please check out our IWSG Sign-up tab hereA big thank you to our November co-hosts: Joylene Nowell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard, Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains!

We’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post.

November's Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?


I'm going to deviate from the assigned question to actually talk about the thing we could all probably agree is our least favorite aspect of being a writer...rejections. The IWSG anthology contest is now closed, and I know those of you who submitted a story are anxiously waiting for January 4th when Alex will announce the winners. Because of that, I wanted to provide a motivational post for those who may fall just a hair short. It's okay! Rejections happen but please don't let them stop you.


Muse, grant me the serenity to accept the rejections I receive...

No writer is immune to rejections. When I say we all get them, I mean we ALL get them. Authors we love have received more rejections than they can count. Writers just like us are getting rejected left and right. Even best-sellers are rejected. It’s true. Their agent could reject their newest finished book. Their publisher could reject a proposal for a new idea. Their editor could reject a specific story for whatever reason.

The courage to put myself out there...

Although rejection never goes away, you shouldn't give up. Knowing that everyone is rejected should give you the courage to submit; you’re not the only one out there going through this. Sure, being rejected hurts. It’s not fun. But it’s part of the process.

You have to be rejected to be accepted.

And the wisdom to know I am a great writer...

Rejections can make us feel as though we’re not good writers. But what one hundred agents hate, one could love. You just have to find that one, and the only way you can do that is by submitting.

Or we could read books by best-sellers and think, “Gosh, I don’t write like that!” I used to say this until I realized that was a good thing. I write like me, and there is no replacement or equivalent for that.

Sometimes we know we're good writers, but our writing just sucks at the moment. And that’s okay, too. We all go through these ruts. We all suck from time to time. Every book has to have some amount of suckage during the first draft...or third. That’s what editing and revising is for. What makes us great writers is our ability to rewrite, revise, and edit.

Now all together:
Muse, grant me the serenity to accept the rejections I receive;
The courage to put myself out there;
And the wisdom to know I am a great writer.

December's Question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

*Add this question and your answer to your December 7th IWSG post.

Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series30 Seconds, 30 Seconds Before, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death.

Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Five Key Questions for Hybrid Author, Catherine Ryan Howard

Your first three books were self-published - what advice would you give someone considering that option?

I think the most important thing is to ask yourself sincerely what your goals are, and can self-publishing help meet them? For instance, if you dream of winning an award that doesn't allow self-published books to be submitted, then it's only going to fall short of the mark for you. I love self-publishing and I think it's a great option for writers at all stages of their careers, but you have to be realistic about what it can achieve. I also think authors shouldn't rush into it just because they read a headline about someone who pressed "Publish" on the first of the month and was paying off their mortgage with their royalties by the last. Success in self-publishing is just as difficult to achieve as it is in traditional publishing. You don't have to wait for anyone else's "Yes" to get your book out there, no, but there's still no guarantees that anyone will buy it when it's there. And when you self-publish - the clue is in the term - you have to do all the hard work yourself. It's certainly not the "easy" option.

How did you get started with your self-publishing workshops? What are some of the items you cover?

I got invited to a self-publishing conference back in 2010 - Ireland's first - and in exchange for a free ticket, I was asked to live tweet the event. At the last minute, one of the key note speakers had to drop out and the organiser, knowing I had self-published, ask me to fill the gap. That lead to another speaking invite, and that led to another, and so on and so on. Whenever I do a workshop on self-publishing, I always say the same thing at the beginning: that I'm aiming to send the attendees home with all the information I wish I had when I started to self-publish. I think a lot of self-publishers hone in on one area, like e-book formatting or pricing or Facebook ads, and they lose hours online researching the topic in extreme detail. But what you really need is to know the nuts and bolts AND have an overview, a business plan, if you like, and you can really only make one of those by sitting down and thinking about the entire process from start to finish.

What social media advice do you hear all the time that is totally bunk?

I think any advice that stinks of overthinking it. Social media should be a natural, genuine thing writers do because they want to, because they enjoy it. There's no point otherwise, because no one will be interested. Just be yourself. Be someone you'd like to follow. There's not much more to it than that.

Your debut fiction title, Distress Signals, is already available in Europe and will be released in the US by Blackstone this February. What are some of the experiences with Distress Signals that differed from your other three books?

The whole thing couldn't be more different. I have two teams of people working for me and my book on either side of the Atlantic, and an agent who is like a cheerleader along the way. I get to benefit from people who have years of professional experience in areas like editing, cover design, book marketing, etc. and I get to have lovely surprises like broadsheet reviews and when a box arrived at my house with my American ARCs - and they were in hardcover, which I wasn't expecting at all! I get to see my books in the bookshops I practically lived in growing up, and I get to see pictures of it on shelves in countries on the other side of the world. There was a great sense of achievement when I self-published, but this comes with so much more than that. My dream was always to get published and so this has been a truly exciting time for me.

You are now a hybrid author! What are some of the advantages?

Publishing runs on contracts, and like any job it has its ups and downs. I think it's important to keep your options open and doing a little bit of both traditional and self-publishing is definitely the best way to do this.

In 2010, she self-published a light-hearted memoir, Mousetrapped, about the year and a bit she spent working in Walt Disney World, Florida, and in 2012 followed it up with Backpacked, an account of the detour to Central America she (reluctantly) took on the way back home.
Known for dispensing particularly pragmatic self-publishing advice, Catherine began to speak on the subject for the likes of Faber Academy, the Irish Writers’ Centre, Guardian Masterclasses and others, and in 2014 published the third edition of her ‘how to’ guide, Self-Printed.
Her debut thriller, Distress Signals, is out now in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. It will be published in the U.S. on February 2, 2017.
She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin and working on her second thriller which will be published in the summer of 2017.
Find out more about Catherine here: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why Authors Should Write Book Reviews

When it comes to book reviews, there are many rules and regulations telling authors what they should and shouldn’t do. Reviews by published authors, whether positive or negative, are regarded by some in the writing/publishing industry, as a conflict of interest. Over the years, this has been a highly controversial topic. Yet this peer support system seems to be acceptable at the Academy Awards, where peer recognition is an honor as actors nominate fellow actors in certain categories. 

It’s well-known that famous writers compose blurbs for other writers’ books. Isn’t that a kind of review? Some readers/authors don’t give much credibility to this activity and refer to it as the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" nature of blurbs. But that’s a discussion for another day. The thing is, writers are also readers, so shouldn’t their opinions count? I read somewhere that when it comes to reviews, it seems okay for non-writers to leave a negative review but not authors. The thing is, how often do non-writers post reviews? I think that non-writers don’t post reviews as often as writers, because they don’t know how important it is. But I could be wrong.

But let me get back to the topic at hand which is, why authors should write book reviews. Some of the benefits are:

1. It’s a way of building your online presence. As you grow, potential fans of your work want to know what books you like and why. It gives them a chance to learn about “the person behind the pen”. If writers don’t write reviews, there’s a possibility they could be missing out on a chance to find more readers.

2. It helps you to think/operate like a reader after you’ve spent a chunk of time with your butt in the chair thinking/operating like a writer. Stepping back and getting into the “reader mindset” is an important technique to help enhance your writing. There are writers who can juggle the author and reader hat quite effectively. But it’s not easy.

3. It’s a way of giving back to the writing community. The best thing you can do for your peers is leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads. The first twenty/thirty reviews are crucial to help boost sales and set a book going in the right direction. It also helps to build your author-support network.

4. It’s practise in writing short fiction. When you review a book, the aim is to attract the attention of a potential reader without giving away too much. Your review needs to be succinct, strong and include relevant points that will hold the attention and make it a pleasure to read.

5. It’s practise in analysing book titles. As a writer, I struggle with story/book titles. When reviewing books, these are some of the questions to consider: What did you expect to learn when you looked at the title? Did the story title fit the actual story? To what extent – and how effectively – were your expectations met? You can then apply what you’ve learned when making decisions about your own story titles.

6. It enhances your thinking skills. Reflect on what you as an individual liked/disliked about the story. When you dissect writing that you admire try to pinpoint things you liked about the writing, for example, the phrasing of certain sentences or maybe a paragraph that captured your imagination. Ask yourself: why did I like these aspects of the story? Different reviewers bring different qualities, abilities, degrees of expertise, and experience levels when assessing the same books. Compare your responses to other reviewers to help sharpen your thinking skills.

Can you think of other benefits/advantages of authors writing book reviews?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Five Key Questions with Award Winning Author, K.M. Weiland

1. What are the key elements of good story structure?

There are fourteen:

1. The Hook: the opening moment that grabs reader curiosity.

2. The Inciting Event: which officially kicks off the plot and usually begins halfway through the First Act at the 12% mark.

3. The Key Event: which officially engages the protagonist in the events of the plot and which usually occurs at the First Plot Point.

4. The First Plot Point: which marks the end of the First Act and the end of the story’s setup in the character’s “Normal World.” It occurs around the 25% mark.

5. The First Half of the Second Act: which spans from the 25% mark to the 50% mark. This notes a period of reaction for the protagonist, in which he tries to cope with the events of the First Plot Point.

6. The First Pinch Point: which occurs at the 37% mark and is a reminder of the antagonistic force’s power and a setup for the Midpoint.

7. The Midpoint: which occurs at the 50% mark and is a moment of revelation for the protagonist as he comes into a clearer understanding of the true nature of the conflict.

8. The Second Half of the Second Act: which spans from the 50% to the 75% mark. This is a period of action for the protagonist. Armed with his new understanding, found at the Midpoint, he can now take the action right to the antagonistic force.

9. The Second Pinch Point: which occurs at 62% mark, halfway through the Second Half of the Second Act. Like the First Pinch Point, it is an emphasis or reminder of the antagonistic force and a set up for the Third Plot Point.

10. The Third Plot Point: which is a moment of seeming defeat for the protagonist and takes place around the 75% mark.

11. The Third Act: which is the final quarter of the book, spanning from the 75% mark to the end, and in which the conflict is finally resolved, one way or another.

12. The Climax: which starts halfway through the Third Act, around the 88% mark and is heralded by a final turning point that pits the protagonist against the antagonistic force in the final battle.

13. The Climactic Moment: which occurs at the end of the Climax and is the true ending of the story, the moment when the conflict is finally resolved.

14. The Resolution: which ends the story with a final scene or two to tie up the loose ends.

2. What pitfalls do most authors fall into concerning story structure?

The biggest one is definitely the idea that story structure is limiting or that it will end up creating cookie-cutter plots. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Structure is just the box that holds the gift. That gift can be anything! What structure does is provide important landmarks within the story to guide us in shaping our tale.

3. How do you research for your historical books, such as your latest about a 1920’s biplane pilot, Storming? How does that research fit into the structure?

My research methods are usually similar for both my historical and speculative stories. I start out with a historical setting in mind, gather as many books as I can find on the subject, and start reading. Most of the time, I’ll dedicate about three months to research, before beginning the first draft.

I don’t so much choose topics as I am chosen by them. Most of my ideas start out with an image in my mind—I see a character and I see a setting, and I try to figure out where they’re at. Sometimes I may decide the story requires me to take too much liberty with actual events, and so I’ll start working on alternative fantasy worlds. With other ideas, I find I need the grounded feel of realism found in real-life historical settings.

4. What is the most important concept in How to Write Amazing Character Arcs that you’ll want writers to grasp?

If I have to choose just one, it would be that character arcs are really just one player in the three-part harmony of character, plot, and theme. They aren’t separate integers. They’re all part of the same whole. When you bring one stage, you’re necessarily bringing all three on stage. It’s important to realize that, because if you attempt to create any one of the three in isolation, the results will be choppy at best, totally incoherent at worst. Character arc is plot and theme.

5. You’ve won awards and had great success with both your traditionally published and your self-published books. What are the best things about being a hybrid author?

With the exception of my one traditionally published book (Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic), I have published all my books on my own. I love independent publishing because you have complete control over your book (which can also be a downfall!), but this allows you more flexibility in controlling price, appearance, and marketing venues. It also allows you a far greater share of the royalties—as much as 75% compared to as little as 7% for traditionally published books. Particularly if you’re successful, that can add up fast.

That said, your book’s success is entirely dependent on you. If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of cover design, book formatting, etc.—or unable to hire a qualified expert to do these tasks for you—then you may unwittingly produce an unprofessional product that will fail to attract readers. You will also, in most instances, have less access to marketing opportunities and budgets.

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY, NIEA, and Lyra Award-winning and internationally published author of Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.