Monday, December 31

Scene Goals: What Do Your Characters Want, Why Do They Want It, How Do They Get it?

Scene Goals: What Do Your Characters Want, Why Do They Want It, How Do They Get it?

Merry (almost) New Year! Today I'm going to talk about scenes and how to make sure each one pulls its weight in your story. First, though, I would like to solicit ideas from you, the wonderful folks who read my blog.

What sort of topics interest you?

1) Writing
2) Editing
3) How to self publish
4) News about the book industry and where things are headed
5) The structure of stories
6) What editors/publisher are looking for and how to help your story get accepted
7) Time management: setting goals, scheduling to your time, etc.
8) Platform building: Do writers need to blog? Social media: Do we need it and, if so, how much?
9) How to grow your twitter following
10) Indie publishing: How to design a great cover
11) Programs and apps that help writers
12) [Insert your topic here]

What kind of articles about writing would you most like to read in 2013? Do you have a specific question you'd like answered? You can leave a comment on this post, or contact me directly through my contact page, here. I'm also on Twitter and Google+. I'd love to hear from you! :-)

Scenes: How To Write A Riveting Scene

Now that I've made my impassioned appeal for your feedback (grin) let's move on to something writing related: scenes and how to write a scene your readers won't be able to put down.

I'm working my way through the second draft of my NaNoWriMo manuscript and I'm thinking about things like:

- What should each scene accomplish? 
- What are the essential elements any scene has to have?

Fortunately for the writing world we have Larry Brooks and his marvelous site, Larry writes:
Have each scene CHANGE the story and the reader's experience of it, even just a little.
That's from the article, Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Write a Scene. Any Scene.

In other words: What do your characters DO in your story and what DRIVES them to do it?

What are their goals? Why do they want those goals? What are the stakes? What happens if they don't accomplish their goal? What happens if they do? Cash this out in concrete terms.

On Christmas day I watched all three original Star Wars movies, so I'll use Luke Skywalker as my example. If Luke failed to destroy the Death Star in A New Hope then the Empire would have crushed the resistance movement and taken control of the galaxy. If he does, then the Rebel alliance has a chance.

But that example didn't have to do with scene goals, it had to do with story goals. Remember the scene where we meet Luke and his uncle for the first time? What is Luke's goal? To help his uncle find two droids to help out with farm duties. Luke is hoping that if the droids work out well that he can leave the farm and go to school. C-3PO, on the other hand, simply wants to escape his captors and not be separated from R2-D2 while R2-D2 wants to continue the quest Princess Leia gave him.

My point is that all the principle characters in the scene want something. Something tangible. Something that is easy to state in a few words.

The Kinds Of Things Characters Want

K.M. Weiland from WORDplay talks about the kind of things your character might want in a scene:
1. Something concrete (an object, a person, etc.).
2. Something incorporeal (admiration, information, etc.)
3. Escape from something physical (imprisonment, pain, etc.).
4. Escape from something mental (worry, suspicion, fear, etc.).
5. Escape from something emotional (grief, depression, etc.).
Those 5 points are from Structuring Your Story's Scenes, Pt. 3: Options for Goals in a Scene. It's a terrific article. If you haven't already, I recommend subscribing to her blog feed, she writes many articles about writing and every one I've read has helped me.

Evaluate Your Scene Goals

Another thing Weiland mentions is testing your goals. She writes:
1. Does the goal make sense within the overall plot?
2. Is the goal inherent to the overall plot?
3. Will the goal’s complication/resolution lead to a new goal/conflict/disaster?
4. If the goal is mental or emotional (e.g., be happy today), does it have a physical manifestation (e.g, smile at everyone)? (This one isn’t always necessary, but allowing characters to outwardly show their goals offers a stronger presentation than mere telling, via internal narrative.)
5. Does the success or failure of the goal directly affect the scene narrator? (If not, his POV probably isn’t the right choice.)
I'm going to try and keep these points in mind as I continue editing my manuscript today.

Talk to you again tomorrow!

Please do think about the questions I asked, above:

What sort of articles about writing would you most like to read in 2013? Or do you have a specific question you'd like answered? 

I'm going to leave you with this quotation from Stephen King. It doesn't have any direct bearing on what I've been talking about, but I thought it was great advice and wanted to share:
The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing . . . . It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. (The Real Importance of Reading,
Talk to you again in the New Year! (wave)

Other articles you might like:

- How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select
- Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select
- The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

Photo credit: "PopStar" by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, December 30

How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select

How To Sell Books Without Amazon KDP Select

This is a continuation of yesterdays post, Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select, but today we're going to talk about how to sell books either without using Select or by using a hybrid approach.

2. Selling Books Without Select

a. The power of permafree

There are many ways to use the permafree strategy (see: Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales).

- Make the first book of a series permanently free

- Write a book intending to make it permanently free

For instance, if you have a few blog posts you're especially proud of, compile them into a book and make it permanently free. I think you'd be guaranteed to get more traffic to your blog.

- Make one of your short stories or novellas permanently free

This should be one that you feel showcases your ability. Yes you'll lose some potential revenue but you could also think of it as passive marketing. After you publish the book you can and then completely ignore it and it does it's work without you having to tweet or blog or do absolutely anything! That's attractive to all writers who feel their most valuable asset is their time.

b. How to make a book permafree

This part is easy. Publish it through any and all online bookstores you can but make sure that at least one of them will allow you to sell the book for free. (I know Smashwords will let you do this.) The other bookstores will price-match and, eventually, make your book free as well.

I want to mention that I don't know how Amazon, or any other online retailer, feels about this.

3. Going Hybrid

a. Grow an audience for your series using select then pull it out of the program and publish it as widely as you can

Ed suggests starting your first couple of books in Select then transition out once you have 3 or more books in the series.

After you've written 3 books take them out of Select and, as a group, place them in all the online bookstores. Readers often want to know an author isn't going to promise the next book in the series then get busy with another writing project and never deliver.

Also, bookstores such as Barnes and Noble often promote new books. Ed writes:
... if you've got a squad of books, they help each other out. They pull each other up when one of them stumbles. BN, for instance, has a new releases list that goes back 90 days. You have a much better chance of climbing high up this list if you fire three titles at it all at once--giving browsers three chances to find your series--rather than hitting it with a single book at a time. There are cases in which books enter a state of positive reinforcement where they haul each other faster and faster down the track.
Great advice.

4. Experiment: Find What's Right For You

In the beginning I said we'd look at Ed's ways to sell your books without you doing a lot of promotion. This way involves trying a bit of everything, including promotion. He writes:
... when you move your books out of Amazon [Select], advertise or promote your books in some way. If you know a site that advertises to Nook users, book an ad for soon after your books go live on BN .... Do something. Anything at all to get some initial sales and, with any luck, provoke your books into continuing to sell.
Ed writes that in October he was dissatisfied with the sales of Breakers and its sequel Meltdown (both terrific books by the way). Here's what he did:

- A guest post on his friend's popular blog.
- Took out an ad.
Reduced the price of both books to 99 cents.

Ed kept the books at 99 cents for 5 days and, in that time, sold hundreds of copies. After the 5 days he raised the price of Breakers to $2.99 and Meltdown to $3.99. That was 6 weeks ago. They continue to sell at a rate of about 3 per day which works out to around $200 a month. Not bad at all!

All Things In Moderation

Perhaps the best strategy is to move your older books, books that have begun to build an audience, out of Select and distribute them  to as many online bookstores as possible. Put a new book, or one that is under-preforming, in Select to see if that will help.

As Ed says, Select is a tool that a writer can use. It's up to you.

Summing Up

Experiment and find out what's best for you. As Ed says, other folks can say whatever they like, but their experiences aren't your experiences. This is still the wild west of writing and publishing so all anyone can do is pass along what has worked for them.

No one knows what will work for you. You don't even know what will work for you, not unless you experiment.

As Dean Wesley Smith says, there's only one way to kill a career: Stop writing.

I know it's scary. I've been setting my writing and publishing goals for 2013 and I've felt an iron weight in my stomach, my heart starts to beat quicker when I think about putting my work out there. What if no one likes it?

These days I don't need a horror story to keep me up at night!

But that's all part of being a writer, and as I've mentioned to others, you don't have to publish under your own name. If you're nervous, create a pen name, put your work in a program like Select and see if it sells. If so, great! If not ... well, that's good to know. That's great feedback.

No matter how your work is received, if you follow Heinlein's rules then you're a professional writer and that's a pretty terrific thing to be.

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What is your strategy for selling your books? Where do you tend to sell the most books (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc)?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Earn A Living As A Self-Published Writer
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales
- Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?

Photo credit: "Winterlight" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribute 2.0.

Saturday, December 29

Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select

Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select

I love Edward Robertson's blog, Failure Ahoy!, and I recommend it to anyone thinking about publishing their work. Ed is also a wonderful writer, I love his prose.

I first read Ed's blog because of his posts about Amazon KDP Select. The truly great thing about his articles is that Ed shares his experiences in book publishing, including his sales numbers, both good and not so good.

Today I'd like to talk about Ed's latest post, I'm New to Indie Publishing, Part 5: The Long Term, and discuss the various publishing strategies he mentions.

1. Selling Books With Select: When Does Using Amazon Select Make Sense?

a. You have an established series that isn't selling as well as you'd hoped

Let's say you've written and published 3 books in an urban fantasy series. None of these books are enrolled in select.

Case One:

Let's say you're preparing to publish the 4th book in your series. By enrolling your new book in Select you would be guaranteed that a lot of folks would see your book, including some folks who wouldn't have otherwise tried it. Also, you'd probably increase the number of people who visited your website or blog as well as the number of people subscribed to your mailing list. (That's a rough paraphrase of one of Ed's points.)

When I read this my first thought was that if a writer already had a huge fan base that Select wouldn't be of interest. Ed has something especially interesting to say about this objection (see point b, below).

I'd like to sound a cautionary note about putting your book in front of readers who wouldn't normally read it. Of course this can be great. What writer doesn't want more readers? That said, some writers believe that's where most of their one star reviews come from, folks who don't like the book just because, say, they don't like that genre but they read the book because it was free.

Another thing. Some folks think that if something is free then it's worthless. Just the other day a commenter wrote that they'd never read a good book that was free. I suppose one could have had several bad experiences in a row and given up but I've seen plenty of great books that were free, or nearly so. For instance, the publisher of one of my favorite authors, Kim Harrison, offered several of her books for 99 cents.

Okay, enough about Case One. I do agree with Ed that this is an instance where someone with an established series should at least consider releasing their new book with Select. They may decide it's not for them, it just depends on their circumstances.

Case Two:

You've got one book in your series that is under-preforming. One way to boost sales is to enter just this book in select to get a few more eyes on it.

Case Three:

You move all 3 of the books in your series into Select. Now you'll be able to offer one of them free every month. Of course you'd have to be careful to make each book entertaining as a stand-alone, but if you want a lot more eyes on your work this would do it.

b. You have an established series that is selling like gangbusters

In the previous case we looked at a series of books that wasn't selling well, or at least not as well as the writer/publisher wanted. Now let's look at a series that's selling quite well. Ed uses Hugh Howey as an example.

I need to think more about this suggestion before I have an opinion so I'll let Ed explain it in his own words:
I'll put it another way. Let's say Librios, the god of books, strolls down from book-heaven and presents you with a choice. He can make you a bestseller at Kobo, but you have to remove your book from the iBookstore. Mwa ha ha ha! Would you do it?

Unless you're already a bestseller at both places, of course you would. The argument for publishing to every possible outlet is that you never know where a book might take off, so you should buy as many lotto tickets as possible to up your chances of breaking out.

But if you're doing that great with Select and its borrows, you have already won the lotto.
Let me say again that Ed's post is great, terrific, and I agree with most of what he says. I would like to mention, though, that there is another argument for publishing in every possible outlet, one other than that one never knows where a book is going to take off. (Though I am not saying anything against that point of view.)

Let's say I've published one book. I've published it everywhere I can. Let's say that means it's available in 10 different electronic bookstores. I only need to sell 10 copies of my book at each bookstore to sell 100 books a month. 10 copies of a book a month isn't a lot. Now think of it selling 10 copies a month at 20 different bookstores. You get the idea. All the little sales add up. If you sell your book in enough bookstores even if you only sell 10 a month, you'll be selling hundreds of copies a month when you add up all the sales.

At least, that's one argument. There's a lack of data on how often that happens.

Ed has a lot to say about the advantages that the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) can provide a writer and it's well worth the read. I know I'm going to be thinking about what he has to say for a long time to come.

Tomorrow I'll look at the second half of Edward Robinson's article and look at strategies for selling books without Amazon KDP Select.

Update: Click here for the second half: How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select.

Have you ever used Amazon Select? What was your experience like? Would you recommend it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings
- Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?
- Writing in 2013: Bend don't break

Photo credit: "187 Days" by Ian Sane under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, December 28

The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

How To Grab Your Reader In The First Few Paragraphs

I've been reading Stephen King's work since I was 17. Before King, I'd never read a horror story. Back then I had a reading buddy. We would read the same book and then get together for coffee and talk about it. She loved Stephen King's writing and I discovered I did too.

Every few months I pull out one of Stephen King's books, read the first page or so, and try to figure out how he did it. How, after only 3 or 4 paragraphs, he makes me care about his protagonist. She (or he) feels a bit like me, or at least someone I know and love.

It was a no-brainer that the article How To Start A Story The Stephen King Way would stand out like a burning candle in a dark room. It's a good article, but (for what it's worth!) here's my take: Stephen King grabs the reader early by saving the cat.

If you've never heard that expression let me explain.

Importance Of Character Identification

Screenwriters have great terms for plot elements: hanging a lantern, a MacGuffin, and so on. My favorite is: Save the cat.

Blake Snyder explains it this way: In older movies there was a scene early on that was intended to get the audience to identify with the protagonist. In a few early movies this was accomplished by having the protagonist save a cat.
The title Save the Cat! is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice—e.g. saving a cat—that makes the audience like the hero and root for him. According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story, but is often lacking in many of today's movies.  (Blake Snyder, Wikipedia)
While movies no longer have save the cat scenes the term is a reminder that we should make our protagonists--if not exactly likable--easy to identify with.

That's what Stephen King is great at--well, one of the things--making his readers identify with his protagonists right from the first couple of paragraphs. It's as though King's mantra is: Grab them early and don't let go.

At this point I'd like to do two things. First I want to talk about, in general, how to get your readers to identify with your protagonist and then I want to look at three of Stephen King's books and examine how he did it, how he implemented the general pointers we just discussed.

By the way, I don't mean to suggest that Mr. King did any of this consciously, that he had these five points before him and said, "Hmm, I'm going to have to create some character identification." My guess is that he has, like all great storytellers, internalized these elements.

Ready? Let's go!

How To Build/Create Character Identification

This is from the video Michael Hauge did with Christopher Vogler, The Hero's 2 Journeys, a few years ago. I've taken these points from a previous article I wrote on this topic (See: How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character).

 Michael holds that there are 5 ways to create an identification between your audience and your protagonist:

1. Make your character sympathetic

- Your character is in love. When I see two people walking down the sidewalk with silly grins on their faces holding hands, I can't help but smile.

- Your character is the victim of an undeserved misfortune. Your character has suffered a brutal setback, something terrible happened to them, something they didn't deserve. Perhaps they lost a spouse or child.

2. Make your character funny

- We like to be around people who make us laugh. We're drawn to them.

3. Make your character likable

How do you do this? For pointers, watch any movie Tom Hanks as been in.
- Show that the character is liked by other characters in the story.
- Show what a great guy or gal your character is. If he has a lot of money then he shares his home, and his gadgets, with his friends, he helps his friends get better jobs, perhaps he helps someone down on their luck send their child to college. Perhaps he helps someone he doesn't particularly care for, and he does it anonymously, because he doesn't want that person's child to go without.

4. Put your character in jeopardy

Your character could lose something of immense importance to them. Perhaps it is their child, their job, their family's farm. They are vulnerable.

A character I think of here is Butch Coolidge (played by Bruce Willis) from Pulp Fiction. What is the one thing he refused to be without? His father's watch. That told me lot about Butch and made me root for him.

5. Make your character powerful

Your character is very good at whatever it is he does for a living. Perhaps they're a great car salesman, or a superhero, or the top master vampire. They have knowledge and strength and they know how to use both.

The secret of character identification

Michael Hauge maintains that in order to get your audience to identify with your character you have to use at least two of the above.

Character Identification In Action, Stephen King Style

Okay, now let's look at how the master of horror gets his readers to identify with his characters.

Stephen King's It

This book scared the pants off me when I was a teen. It turned visiting the loo in the middle of the night into a spine-tingling, heart pounding, adventure. My body felt like it was on a car slowly being pulled up the first hill of a roller coaster. I inched toward the top ready for the gut-twisting rush to the bottom.

It was great.

How'd he do it? That book hooked me from the first couple of paragraphs, so here they are:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

The boat bobbed, listed, righted itself again, dived bravely through treacherous whirlpools, and continued on its way down Witcham Street toward the traffic light which marked the intersection of Witcham and Jackson. The three vertical lenses on all sides of the traffic light were dark this afternoon in the fall of 1957, and the houses were all dark, too. There had been steady rain for a week now, and two days ago the winds had come as well. Most sections of Derry had lost heir power then, and it was not back on yet.

A small boy in a yellow slicker and red galoshes ran cheerfully along beside the newspaper boat.
Here's my take on how Stephen King did it. Yours may differ and that's great. Please let me know what you think in the comments. :)

King's character is in jeopardy

King opens by talking about the terror. A nameless, faceless terror that begins with a newspaper boat floating down a gutter overflowing with rain water, a boat tended by a small boy who runs cheerfully beside the boat. The description of him in a "yellow slicker and red galoshes" makes him (to me at least) seem adorable.

Young, small, adorable. Something to be protected. And this is where the terror began. A cute, vulnerable, child in grave danger. That's interesting. That's a character I can quickly identify with.

King's character is likable

The two go together: having a likable character in jeopardy. We don't want this adorable child to come to harm as he splashes along in the rain beside his toy. But we know there's a nameless terror and this is the start of a horror story.

That book--It--sucked me in and wouldn't let me go for a whole week! Because of it I've spent many nights sleeping with the the light on.

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I also wanted to talk about The Dead Zone and Misery, but it looks like I've run out of space! (I'm trying to keep each of my posts under 1,000 words.) In case you'd like to do this on your own I've included links to both books.

Read the first two or three paragraphs and see which of Michael Hague's 5 ways Stephen King uses to get the reader to identify with his character. (Again, I don't mean to suggest Stephen King is doing this consciously.)

Other articles you might like:

- Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?
- Writing in 2013: Bend don't break
- Merry Christmas! Giving Your Stories As Gifts

Photo credit: "0258" by Cia de Foto under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, December 27

Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?

When Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?

Today Kris Rusch published another thought provoking article on the business of writing, one which raised the question: When should writers let fan preferences influence their creative decisions?

First, an example. Kris mentions The Hobbit (some fans of the books think the movie is too violent, some fans of Lord of the Rings don't like all the singing) and Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise is great but a man-mountain he is not) but there are many more. For instance, some fans of The Walking Dead thought there was too much talk and not enough action--and definitely not enough zombies.

It's true that you can't please everyone all the time, but when should you take your fans' likes into account when you're writing/creating? How much should their preferences, their love of the world(s) you've created influence your creative decisions?

Kris writes:
At what point should fans influence a work of art? Should the writer/director/artist take fans into consideration, and if so, when?

That is probably the toughest question to answer of all.

Why Do You Write: The Economics of Creation

One way of looking at this is to say that there are two kinds of writers: business folks and artists. The former write solely for money--art be damned--while the latter do it for personal reasons such as the pure thrill of creation.

But I think that's a false dichotomy.

On some level, even the most refined artist is also a business person--they need food to eat and a place to sleep, just like everyone else--and the most hard-nosed business person ... well, the very act of writing tends (I feel) to bare the soul. I don't think it's possible to create a story and commit it to paper (electronic file, etc.) without baring ones soul, even if only a little.

But saying that doesn't help. It doesn't address the question: To what extent should you take your fans' preferences into account when you write?

Kris' solution: Don't choose. She outlines three ways writers can write exactly what they want and make their fans happy.

1. Write what you, the writer, want to write

Let's say you're writing a romance, the fifth book in a series. Let's further say that the first four books had happy-ever-after endings and that absolutely no one died or even chipped a nail.

In your fifth book your protagonist feels darker, she's making some potentially destructive choices, choices which will mean the death of one of your other characters. Choices which will mean there is no happily-ever-after ending.

What should you do? Should you wrestle her back to your outline and nix the edginess? If you do, you may get writer's block or the story might dry up on you.

Or it might not. I don't know. I think that sort of thing depends on the writer, but there's an alternative: Write the story your muse is pushing you to write, but don't publish it as part of that romance series. Instead, turn it into another series or a standalone.

I'm not sure if this would have been an option ten, or even five, years ago but today a writer has the opportunity to write the book her muse is dictating while at the same time respecting fan expectations. Nowadays there's no reason why a romance writer couldn't depart from expectations and write a horror. Here's the key: Make sure your fans know what to expect when they pick up a book you've written.

Keep your series characters, your series world, consistent. In other words ...

2. Don't set your readers up for disappointment: be clear about what you've written

Readers have expectations. If someone picks up your book thinking it's, say, a romance and it's a horror you're going to alienate a potential fan, and that'll be the case even if it was the best book ever written.

Kris gives a terrific example of how her expectations as a reader were violated:
More than once, I’ve read something “light” only to be betrayed by it. The example I use when I’m teaching is this: On a particularly difficult trip to the Midwest, I was reading a Nora Roberts romance novel in a Perkin’s Restaurant when—in the very center of the book—Roberts killed a baby. It was a plot point, it was on-screen, and it was ugly. I burst into tears and would have flung the book across the restaurant if I had a little less self-control.

That was the last thing I needed on that trip.

Did it stop me from being a fan of hers? No, not at all. But I became a more cautious fan. And when I needed one of those light, escapist reads, I avoided her books.
But don't worry, there's a way to prevent this. All you need to do is ...

3. Brand each book

A key part of respecting reader expectations is branding.

For each kind of book you write (scifi, horror, mystery, romance, etc.) set up a different pen name. You don't have to be secretive about your pen-names, they're just another way to tell readers what to expect in terms of a book's content. If one of your readers picks up a Samantha Raven book they'll know to expect a horror while if they see a Priscilla Frillbottoms book they'll expect a romance.

Kris writes:
Communication is part of the key. Before indie publishing, I did a lot of my communicating via byline and branding. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an eclectic writer whose work covers the gamut of genres and emotions, but tends toward mystery and science fiction or fantasy (sometimes in combination). Kristine Grayson is always light read, with little or no violence and more often than not a happy ending.
 .  .  .  .
I didn’t want my Grayson fans to pick up my Fey series, which is also fantasy, only to discover horrific violence, melting people and flaying skin. I knew, from personal experience, that it would piss fans off. I’d rather let them choose to read both Grayson and Rusch, rather than surprise them with a dead baby scene in the middle of a very sad real life day.
To sum up: Regardless of what's currently popular or what fans would like, write what you want to write. This won't cost you readers--in fact it'll probably attract them--just make sure it's clear what kind of book you've written. Also, don't underestimate the value of a pen name to help brand a book.

As Kris writes:
Write. Finish what you write, and do your best to get it into the right hands, whatever that means for you.

And most of all—have fun. The more you enjoy what you do, the more your fans will—no matter what part of your writing they like best.
Have you let fan expectations influence what you write? What do you think of Kris' advice?

Other articles you might like:

- Getting Ready for 2013: A Writer's Guide
- Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive
- Writing in 2013: Bend don't break

Photo credit: "a dog and it's boss" by Pixel Addict under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, December 26

Writing in 2013: Bend don't break

Writing in 2013: Bend don't break

I'm loving Dean Wesley Smith's new series for writers on how to set yourself up for success in 2013.

Over the past couple of weeks, Dean talked about writing basics:
- The difference between a dream and a goal.
- How to create goals that have a chance of fulfilling your dream.

In his latest installment--The New World of Publishing: How To Keep Production Going All Year--Dean talks about how to work through failure to meet a goal.

Everyone Fails

What is failure? Obviously, on one level, it's pretty clear cut. If, for example, you set the goal of completing one short story a week and fail to complete a story one week, you've failed.

Dean points out, though, that sometimes failure isn't a bad thing. If your goal spurs you on to write more than you would have otherwise, it was worth it. For instance, if a writer sets the goal of writing one short story a week but misses a few and only writes 47 that's still pretty great!

Dean gives this example: A couple of years ago he set himself the goal of writing 100 short stories. Life intervened, and he didn't get 100 stories done, but he did get over 30 finished before the end of the year. Not bad!

Would Dean have written that many short stories without his goal of writing 100 stories? Probably not.

Technically, he failed to meet his goal, but working toward that goal still helped him, and that's why we set goals in the first place.

The trick to succeeding: If you see that you're NOT going to be able to meet your goal, don't stop altogether. Just do as much as you can.

What To Do When You Fail

Failure is inevitable. The trick is not to let it stop you. Dean writes,
So here are my suggestions when life derails you and you miss your short-term goal.

1… Don’t even once think about catching up. Can’t happen and will make things worse.

2… Climb back onto your production challenge or weekly page goal as soon as you are able.

3… If life alters so much as to make the original weekly pace impossible, stop and reset a new goal for the year and for each week and then stick to that.

4… Somehow, with help or with some mechanism, remember these suggestions.
Great advice! Now I just have to live it.

Other articles you might like:

- Merry Christmas! Giving Your Stories As Gifts
- Christmas Eve And Lee Child's Jack Reacher
- Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two

Photo credit: "Little One" by Sukanto Debnath under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, December 25

Merry Christmas! Giving Your Stories As Gifts

Merry Christmas! Giving Your Stories As Gifts

I slept in this morning, it was glorious!

That was followed by an exchange of gifts and, of course, the consumption of ungodly amounts of delicious melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.

And there was talk. Talk of Christmases when we were kids, and that got me thinking about gift-giving.

Have any of you written a story as a Christmas gift?

I have. Sometimes it turned out well, sometimes not so well (read: spectacularly terrible). It turns out sometimes folks like tangible gifts and don't see the value in several pages of paper covered in ink. (Note to self: Horror stories are NOT appropriate for the holidays!)

But that's okay. Sometimes the pleasure of the gift is in the giving, or the creating, and I find this especially true for stories.

If you haven't given a story as a gift I should warn you. In my experience it works best if you do both. Get the recipient of your generosity the best gift you can afford--even if that turns out to be a candy bar from the local 7-Eleven--in addition to your story.

If they like the story, great! And if not, they have another gift even if it isn't a lavish one. Hopefully they'll be of a mind that it's the thought that counts.

I'm curious, have any of you written stories for friends or family? How'd it turn out?

Merry Christmas!

Other articles you might like:

- Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive
- Getting Ready for 2013: A Writer's Guide
- Christmas Eve And Lee Child's Jack Reacher

Photo credit: "Marry Christmas to all of you!" by rennes.i under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, December 24

Christmas Eve And Lee Child's Jack Reacher

Christmas Eve And Lee Child's Jack Reacher

I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas Eve!

No long blog posts today. I'm going to take a break, stretch out on the couch, read Jim Butcher's latest Dresden Files novel, Cold Days, and start on Guy Kawasaki's book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How To Publish A Book.

After that I'm looking forward to reading/devouring the second of Lee Child's Jack Reacher Novels, Die Trying. When the crowds die down I'm going to see the movie. Here's a clip:

Before watching this video I had thought the Reacher movie was based on Killing Floor, but it's based on One Shot. I might still try to read the Reacher books in order, just quickly. (grin) I can think of worse things to do over the holidays. ;)

In case you want to join me, here is the reading order for Lee Child's Jack Reacher books, courtesy of Goodreads:

    The Second Son (0.5)
1. Killing Floor
2. Die Trying
3. Tripwire
4. The Visitor (aka Running Blind)
5. Echo Burning
6. Without Fail
7. Persuader
8. The Enemy
9. One Shot
10. The Hard Way
11. Bad Luck and Trouble
12. Nothing to Lose
13. Gone Tomorrow
14. 61 Hours
15. Worth Dying For
16. The Affair
      Deep Down (16.5)
17. A Wanted Man

Tomorrow I'll cook turkey, stuffing (featuring bacon and spicy sausage--my philosophy is that the best thing with meat is more meat!) and all the rest of it. I'll drop by to say "Hi" and wish you well, and then I'll post about writing again after Christmas.

What are your plans for the holidays? What are you reading? I'm always looking for suggestions. :)

Other articles you might like:

- Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive
- Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two
- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?

Photo credit: "Christmas #19 - The Timberland Santa" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, December 23

Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two

Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two

This is the second part of a two parts series about how to survive and thrive as a writer in 2013. The first part is here: Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive.

4. What Should We Write About? 

What should we write in 2013? Non-fiction, mainstream fiction? Genre fiction? If so, which genre? Paranormal romance? Urban fantasy? And what's the difference between the two? (See: What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?) Or perhaps something genre-bending like a romantic western comedy on Mars? (I jest)

These days we're spoiled for choice.

Write what you love

Kris Rusch had an excellent post on this topic last week, and I agree with her 100%: Write what you love.
[A writer] should write the best story she can possibly write. She should be stretching her wings, trying harder with this book than she tried with the last book. If she feels safe and comfortable in the knowledge that the book will make all of her readers happy, she’s probably not trying hard enough.

In her creative office, every writer should feel like she’s on a high wire twenty stories off the ground over a major highway with no net to catch her if she falls. She should worry that this book is beyond her skill level, that she might not know enough to write this one, that she might not be good enough to pull this off.

At the same time, she should be having fun—but an adrenalin-junkie kind of fun, an I-can’t-believe-I’m-up-here-trying-this kinda of fun. (The Business Rusch: Where Art Meets Commerce)
It used to be that writers would scramble over themselves to get on email lists editors frequented in the hope that mention would be made of what kinds of stories were being accepted.

No one can predict what will be 'hot' in the future

For instance, at a conference I attended three years ago I was told, confidently, by a senior editor at a large publishing house that angels were the new vampires. "Three years from now," she said, "we're not going to be reading about vampires". Riiiight.

People read what they love, so writers should write what they love.

5. Diversity Is Your Friend

Publish Your Stories In Different Formats: Electronic, Audio, Video, Print

Why? To maximize exposure. Some readers prefer print, so set your book up at CreateSpace or Lightning Source and provide a print on demand (POD) version. Head over to Audio Creation Exchange (ACX) and do up an audiobook (you can pay to have this done by professionals or do it yourself at home).

In an article talking about how her Kobo sales have taken off, Lindsay Buroker writes:
Canada-based Kobo wasn’t on my radar at all in 2011 (my earnings were fairly negligible there), and it wasn’t until Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo, sent me a note in early 2012 (as a result of my woefully neglected self-publishing podcast) that I started following them more closely.
Nice! The point is, one can never tell which seed is going to germinate, sometimes it's the unlikely ones. I think the best approach is to try everything and see what works for you.

But don't stop at podcasting! Doing a video can be scary, but try reading a scene or two from one of your stories and then uploading the file to YouTube (or a similar service). Provide a link to your blog or wherever listeners can find out more about your work.

Lightning Source vs Createspace:
Jen Talty: Amazon's CreateSpace Vs LIghtning Source
Recording an audiobook:
How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio
Making a video:
7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Start Using Video For Book Promotion, Joanna Penn

Publish Yourself in Different Formats: Electronic, Audio, Video, Print

You want to help readers find you as well as your work. Last week I wrote about blogging and I feel that blogging is a great way to connect with folks, but don't leave it there. (And, yes, this is a 'do as I say not as I do' moment!)

What is the advice we're given about writing? Engage as many senses as possible! But this doesn't just apply to writing. It applies to everything, including self-promotion.

What is your goal when you sit down to write? What are you trying to do with your story? You're attempting to reach out to whoever is reading it and engage them, make them care. How do we do that? Through the senses: sight and hearing among them.

Videos and podcasts, as well as blogging, help make a connection with others. And it's free.

Joanna Penn was one of the first writers to take advantage of the possibilities YouTube afforded writers. In fact, that's how I first heard about her, because of one of her video interviews. And, as I mentioned above, Lindsay Buroker has had folks discover her through her podcasts. Those are just two examples, I know, but I do believe that video and podcasting are two ways of reaching out to an audience that are worth exploring.

6. How Much Time Should I Spend On Social Media?

I've heard folks say that for every hour of social media time one should spend 3 hours writing, and that's not a bad idea, but I think it misses something obvious: Every writer is different. It depends on what your goals are.

Let's talk about goals. Everyone's different, but it takes me at least four hours of editing for every hour of writing.  Since I write about 1,500 to 2,000 words an hour that means every 2,000 words of finished manuscript represents five hours of work.

2,000 finished, publishable, words a day would get me 730,000 words a year or a little over nine 80,000 word novels.

Not bad!

That was all calculated on one hour of writing and four hours of editing.

By the way, I'm not talking about editing the writing done that day. If you're anything like I am, that would be inviting disaster--I'd never get through the first draft!

Also, I'm not suggesting you spend one hour writing per day and spend the rest editing--though that wouldn't be a bad idea.

Every writer is different and many--myself included--like to write a fast first draft which means writing for two or three weeks straight and then editing. Do what works for you. If you're not sure what that is yet, experiment.

So where does this leave us with social media? If you're writing full-time (say 10 hours a day) you still have five hours left in your work day. (I know I haven't accounted for breaks or days off. These figures are approximate.)

Let's say you spend an hour and a half of those five hours doing administrative tasks like sending your previous work out to new markets or publishing your work yourself, answering writing related email (invitations to do interviews, guest posts, asking other writers to do the same for you), and so on.

Another hour and a half could be spent on stretching your wings into new markets. Try out podcasting, video blogging, whatever. Try something new. If it doesn't work, fine! But something will. Eventually.

Sooner or later something will catch and chances are it'll be the least likely thing you did. Hugh Howey is a great example of this.

That leaves two hours for social media. I use Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and a little bit of Facebook, but whatever social media appeals to you, use it to your hearts content for two hours.

This is what a 10 hour day would look like:

Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 4 hours
Administrative tasks: 1.5 hours
Stretching yourself: 1.5 hours
Social media: 2 hours

That's approximate. I'd probably spend more time writing and editing--or at least I'd like to. Administrative tasks seem to eat up most of my time.

What you can accomplish writing 1 hour a week

I think the overwhelming majority of new writers don't write full time. So lets look at a schedule for someone who can only write two hours a day, five days a week.

1 hour writing
40 minutes administrative
20 minutes social media

1 hour editing
40 minutes administrative
20 minutes social media

1 hour editing
40 minutes administrative
20 minutes social media

1 hour editing
40 minutes stretching your wings
20 minutes social media

1 hour editing
40 minutes stretching your wings
20 minutes social media

This is a rough approximation. The schedule will look vastly different depending on the writer. Also, in the beginning you likely won't have to spend as much time on administrative duties since you won't have as much work to send out, as much email, and so on. Also, if you can fit your social media tasks into odd moments of the day (waiting in line at the bank, buying lunch, riding the bus, etc.) you'll have more time to write.

How much work could a person using this schedule produce in a year? Let's take a look:

2,000 words per week times 52 weeks is 104,000 words per year! That's one 80,000 word book and a novella. Or it could be two 40,000 word novellas.

Not bad for one hour of writing a week!

My point: how much time you should spend on anything depends on your goals. When do you want to accomplish your goals by? What do you need to do to accomplish those goals? That's going to tell you how much time you should spend where.

You are the expert on you.

What are your goals for the new year? How are you planning on stretching yourself as a writer?

Other articles you might like:

- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?
- Writing Goals Versus Writing Dreams: How To Get From One To The Other
- The Structure Of Short Stories: The Elevator Pitch Version

Photo credit: "Grandpa" by conorwithonen under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, December 22

Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive

Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive

I've been reading various pundit's predictions for 2013, what the New Year has in store for writers.

Today I was going to write about Mark Coker's predictions for 2013 and take a closer look at what future the large traditional publishers have, especially after they tied themselves to the millstone of Author Solutions.

Somewhere along the way, between draft and finished piece, I lost heart. Avarice isn't new or interesting; on the contrary, it's relentlessly depressing. That a business only cares about he bottom line is hardly news. So let's talk about things we--whether we're traditionally or independently published--can do to help ourselves, and each other, in the coming year.

What follows are my opinions. You may have different opinions and that's great! I'd love to talk to you and find out what they are. The fact is, I've changed my mind about a couple of things this year. That was partly a response to the world changing and partly a result of talking to other writers and being persuaded by the evidence.

1. Where Should We Sell Our Books: Is Amazon KDP Select Worth The Price Of Exclusivity?

Yes, I think so. In certain cases.

If you are a writer just starting out, you have no following. If no one has the slightest inkling who you are then I can't think of a reason not to take advantage of Amazon's KDP Select program.

That said, I believe it would be a mistake to put all your books into Select and leave them indefinitely. There is a lot to be said for not putting all your virtual eggs in one basket. Also, writers don't want to alienate any potential readers. We don't want to require them to jump through hoops to buy our work, and forcing readers to buy from only one store is a pretty big hoop.

If you already have a following, the benefit of Amazon's KDP Select program is going to be markedly less. If you are releasing the first book of a series or if you are branching out into a previously unexplored genre, you might think about releasing the book with Select to pick up a few readers. After the three months are up, though, you'd probably want to pull it out of Select and make your book available on all platforms.

Other articles on the price, and benefits, of exclusivity:
- Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?
- Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?
- Amazon's KDP Select Program Has A Lot To Offer New Writers, But What About Established Ones?
- Kobo Becoming a Player for Self-Published Ebook Authors, Lindsay Buroker

2. How much should ebooks sell for?

I don't think you should price your ebook under $2.99.

You'll probably want to try experimenting to see what the best price point is for you. I think $2.99 is the minimum you should offer your ebook for, but the maximum is up to you. I've seen indie published books for as much as $9.99 selling relatively well.

That's not to say you can't make a book free, or dramatically lower its price, for brief periods of time as part of your marketing strategy.

Also see:
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales

3. Should I Blog?

The answer for me was: Yes!

Before I started blogging it was difficult to write every day. I knew that in order to get better one must write but it was difficult to find the "butt-in-chair" time I needed. When I made the commitment to post one blog post a day--then two--writing every day became part of my life.

Blogging Helps Newer Writers

I think blogging benefits newer writers more than established ones. Old pros have their community, they have their routine, and they've written well over 1,000,000 words.

1,000,000 Words And Competency

There's a notion that in order to learn to write saleable fiction one must first write 1,000,000 words. That's an approximation, certainly, but 1,000,000 words is ten 100,000 word books. That seems about right. But there's another way of looking at it: One thousand 1,000 word blog posts! If you did two 1,000 word blog posts a week by the end of one year you'd have written about 100,000 words.

Blog posts count toward your 1,000,000 words, so after one year, just by blogging regularly, you'd be 1/10 of the way there!

Your Blog And Serials

I can hear someone say, "But wouldn't it be better to use those 100,000 words and write a book?"

There's no reason blogging and writing fiction can't be combined. I think one of the big things in 2013 will be serials. Every week you could do one non-fiction blog and and one episode of your serial. Start building up an audience for your fiction writing, get more eyes on your blog, and then--when your story is finished--publish all the episodes on your ebook platform of choice.

A number of writers are taking up the challenge of writing serials. Recently I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one of them, Ben Guilfoy. Ben wrote an excellent article about his experience with the art form as well as how he structures a serial.

Here are a couple more articles on the subject of serials:
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says: Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

To Be Continued ...

It turns out this post is going to be a bit like a serial! I try and keep my word count under 1,000 so I'm going to break off here and finish my list of 'things writers should do in 2013' tomorrow. (Update: Click here for the rest of the list: Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two)

In all things, do what seems right to you. If something I wrote resonates with you, great! If not, that's fine. It was nice having you stop by, I hope you'll come again. :)

Other articles you might like:

- Writing Links: Blogs For Writers
- Ready. Set. Write!
- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?

Photo credit: "Another Pillow!" by CarbonNYC under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, December 21

Writing Links: Blogs For Writers

Writing Links: Blogs For Writers

Yesterday someone asked what blogs I read. "Ah hah!" I exclaimed, frightening the cat trying to drape itself over my keyboard, "That would make an excellent subject for a blog post!"

These are the blogs I read most often. (Links are listed in no particular order.)

Blogs On The Craft Of Writing

- A Newbies Guide to Publishing
- Dean Wesley Smith
- Kris Writes
- The Passive Voice Blog
- Elizabeth S. Craig (Elizabeth also tweets links to fantastic articles about writing.)

More Blogs On Writing

- The Other Side of the Story
- Lindsay Buroker
- The Creative Penn
- Jim C. Hines
- Storyfix (screenwriting)
- The Script Lab (screenwriting)
- Writer Beware Blogs
- Terribleminds (Chuck Wendig is a terrific writer--and his blog is worth reading for that alone--but Chuck's posts are rarely PG 13.)
- Writer Unboxed
- Nathan Bransford's Blog
- John Ward (This isn't a link to a blog, it's to John's Google+ feed. John doesn't always post about writing but he has great content. He is head of a sprawling, very active, Google+ community of writers.

Blogs About Topics Related To Writing

- Penelope Trunk's Blog (What I like most about Penelope's blog is that she gives lots of links and they are almost always quirky and interesting.)
- Seth Godin's Blog

I'm sure I've missed many great blogs. If I missed yours, sorry!

Which writing blogs to do you read? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Other articles you might like:

- Ready. Set. Write!
- The Structure Of Short Stories
- Getting Ready for 2013: A Writer's Guide

Photo credit: "READING A BOOK.." by LUNARIX-PIX under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Ready. Set. Write!

Ready. Set. Write!

Today I decided to combine this lovely picture with the subject of my blog--writing!--and create a writing prompt. (See: Writing Prompts: Defeat Writer's Block And Generate Ideas)

A Writing Prompt: The Girl In A Mask

This young lady is gorgeous isn't she? I wonder what she's thinking, I wonder where she is and whether she wants to be there. What do you think?

Here are some more questions about the girl in the picture. Try to answer at least two:

- What does she most desire?
- What is her greatest secret?
- Does she love anyone? If so, who?
- Does anyone love her? If so, who?
- What does she like most about herself? What does she dislike most?
- Does she hate anyone? Why?
- Who or what does she fear?
- What makes her angry? Embarrassed?
- Is she jealous of anyone? Why?
- Does she like to laugh? Has she laughed recently?
- What is her favorite food? Favorite book?
- Why is she wearing a mask?
- What is her name?

If you'd like to share your answers, please do! :-)

I think she's at a party planning to do something scandalous as payback for a past slight. Which, naturally, won't go as she thinks and will, instead, bring about a disaster of epic proportions.

Other articles you might like:

- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?
- The Cost of Balance
- If Instagram Can Sell Your Photos Without Your Permission, What Is Next?

Photo credit: "try to look behind my mask; there are a woman" by MahPadilha under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, December 20

How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?

How many drafts does it take to write a novel? It depends on the writer. For the overwhelming majority of us it takes more than one. Probably more than two. As Beth Shope writes:
Some never rewrite, but those who manage to produce something publishable after a single, unrevised draft can probably be squeezed in among the dancing angels on the head of that proverbial pin. (True Writing is Rewriting)

Two Draft Writers

For every rule there is an exception.

Holly Lisle has a terrific system she calls One-Pass Manuscript Revision which I'll write about in more detail at some point in the near future. Her method requires a printed copy of your manuscript, a spiral notebook, pens, a cat-free table, good lighting and nerves of steel.

You'll go through your novel scene by scene: Is it clear what your protagonist's goal is in this scene? Is it clear whether she attains her goal? Does the scene advance the story? And so on.

At the end of the process you'll have a notebook filled with things to do/change and a manuscript marked up to within an inch of its life (you can see the pictures here).

As you do the revisions if snappier dialogue occurs to you, include it! If better character descriptions occur to you, use them! But if different character arcs, entirely new characters, new goals, and so on, come to mind write them down in another file and use them for the next book. As Holly writes:
The point of a novel revision is to finish this book. I guarantee you that as long as you’re willing to keep piddling around with the same manuscript, you’ll find ways to make it different. You don’t want to make it different. You just want to make it as good as it can possibly be, and then get it out the door.

Why? Because the definition of a writing career is: Write a book. Write another book. Write another book.

Nowhere in that description is included: Take one story and make it a monument to every idea you ever had or ever will. (One-Pass Manuscript Revision)

Three Draft Writers

The most common answer I've heard for the question, "How many drafts does it take you ...?" is, "Three. But new writers might do more".

For instance, Stephen King wrote in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft that he does a first draft then lets it sit for about six weeks. During this time he writes other things such as novellas and short stories. After the six weeks are up he re-reads the manuscript, thinks about theme, and so on, then writes draft number two. He sends this draft out to beta readers, takes their feedback into account--especially those points more than one person raised--and writes the third draft.

Or something like that. The above is more a summary of what a number of traditional writers have written about their process.

Multiple Drafts

Lisa Gail Green asked a number of writers how many drafts they complete before pronouncing their manuscript finished. (See: How Many Drafts Does It Take To Get To The Query Stage?) Their responses ran from 4 to 13. For instance, Leslie Rose wrote:
Here are my drafts:
1 - vomit draft - let it fly baby
2- Story arc pass - main story subplots - overall structure
3- MC & supporting character arcs - including character development & embellishment
4- grammar/punctuation pass & bad habit pass (adverbs/tense/sentence variety/word choice)
7 - Hard copy read - make corrections
8 - Kindle read - make corrections
9 - Including Beta notes pass
10 - Holistic read - wearing my audience hat
11 - Corrections from Holistic read
Sarah Skilton gives great advise when she writes:
[W]hen you can't stand it any longer and you're absolutely certain your novel is ready to go out into the world, wait. Give it another week before you hit "send." Take a break. Go on a walk. Wait just a teensy bit longer, and give it fresh eyes for typos. It's tough to do, but the person reading it will thank you.

Kris Rusch On Drafting

For some reason I had the idea that Kris Rusch (she'd probably laugh if she read this!) sat down and did a very clean first draft and that's it. Done! Apparently not, or at least not always. In The Business Rusch: Where Art Meets Commerce, Kris writes:
When I write fiction, I am constantly struggling to improve my craft enough to get what’s in my head on the page, every single time.

Failure is an option. If the manuscript doesn’t work, I redraft—in other words, I throw out everything I did and try again. Yes, that means I write sometimes two or three times more material than the readers will see in print. And yes, that means I sometimes toss out more material than I publish.

I figure it’s the price I pay to tell the story I want to tell.

My haphazard, follow-the-story writing method is one of the many reasons why I always balked when one of my editors in traditional publishing asked me for an outline of a book. I can write a damn good outline, one that will make an editor want to buy the book sight unseen. That’s what good outlines do.

But then I’m tied, in some way, to that story, the one communicated in the outline. And I hate being tied to anything. If I get deep into the writing of something and realize that my heroine is just too mean to be a credible protagonist for the romance I’m writing, I want to be able to start over and make her the villain of the piece.

An outline won’t let me do that. I’ve had to do all kinds of machinations to make sure that I’m not trapped by an outline, all the way down to writing the novel first and writing the outline second.
.  .  .  .
If you want to get technical about it, my early drafts are my outlines, and my brand-new second or third draft (done from scratch) are me trying to follow those outlines.

But even that metaphor breaks down when you get into the nitty-gritty of my writing process.

Every writer is different, and every writer has preferred methods of working. Some writers are lucky enough to have organized minds and can create a story in outline form before they ever write the first fictional chapter. Other writers make me look organized in the extreme.

Because, at its core, what we do is an art form. The fact that many of us choose to make a living while committing art makes for some difficult moments—made more difficult by “shoulds” and “have-tos” and “this-is-how-it’s-dones.”

None of that is true in creative mode. There are good ways to work and better ways to work, but mostly, there’s your way to work. And if what you—the writer/artist—are doing works for you (meaning you finish work regularly and get it ready to market regularly), then keep doing that, no matter what anyone says.
I'm a bit like Kris in that--while I do create an outline in the beginning, one that is more of a suggestion, a starting point--I get my real outline from my first draft.

In the end, use whatever works for you. The tough part is that you'll only find out what that is after you've done this a few times! If this is your first time through do as many drafts as feels right and, if you're in doubt, ask your writing buddies what they think.

Whatever you decide I like Sarah's advice to, after you feel your manuscript is finally, completely, done, to put it away for a week, or even a month, and then read it one more time with fresh eyes. If you're anything like me, you'll be glad you did!

What I Do

I generally do 7 drafts. In the beginning I outline my ideas and do character sketches. Then I write the first draft. This usually takes two or three weeks.

I let my first draft sit for at least a week (ideally, I'd leave it for six) and then do a complete read-through without editing. As I do the read-through, on a separate piece of paper, I create another outline from my first draft. After I have my more-or-less finished outline I see how it flows (I think about the monomyth, etc.) and make adjustments. (See: 11 Steps To Edit Your Manuscript. Edit Ruthlessly & Kill Your Darlings)

Once I have my finished outline I go back to my first draft and 'slot' scenes into the new, polished, outline. My second draft is spent filling in scenes that are in my outline but that aren't in my first draft and I prune out any scenes that no longer fit, or that are weak, etc. I print that all out and give it a read.

For my third draft I make sure everything flows, I look at grammar, spelling, prune out weak words ("very", adverbs ending in "ly", etc.) and then hand it to a trusted beta reader, someone I know well and who has given me good honest feedback.

After I get my manuscript back from my first beta reader I generally have to dig in and do revisions, sometimes extensive revisions. That's draft number four.

Once I've completed my fourth draft I give it back to my first beta reader but also hand it off to a trusted group of beta readers--my wonderful writing circle. I find that often my first beta reader--since the big issues have been dealt with--notices several minor issues that need to be addressed. Then my reading group rolls up their sleeves and gives me a whole new perspective. Really, I can't thank these literary angels enough. Any story they have commented on has been enormously improved by their feedback.

After I get my last feedback and make whatever changes are needed (this is the sixth draft) then I let the manuscript sit for as long as I can stand. At least a week! Then I give it one more read-though and call it done. I'll send it off to a line editor at that point. After I get my manuscript back I make whatever changes are indicated and, that's it. It's finally, finally, done. My seventh draft is the final draft (* knock on wood *).

There is no one 'right' way to draft, everyone is different. How many drafts do you do?

Other articles you might like:
- The Cost of Balance
- If Instagram Can Sell Your Photos Without Your Permission, What Is Next?
- The Cure For Perfectionism

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