Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to Develop Story Ideas

A lot of people feel they have one story in them just just screams to be written, but what happens after the first book.  The second novel is one of the hardest to produce, because the first book likely took years to put together and usually takes a lot of the author with in but the more stories a writer published the less of themselves can be seen in the pages. It can become difficult to find a story worth telling after the main story is out, its especially difficult for authors who don't write series because a whole new set of characters will need to be introduced.  Its starting over from a fresh start, which can keep it interesting for writers who easily get bored and want to experiment with different settings, characters and even genres, although the differences in style to jump genres don't come easy to everyone naturally.  People with a dark personality may find it difficult to write cheery romantic comedies and bubbly people probably wont take to writing dark horror novels naturally.  Its best to write what feels the most comfortable because if it comes difficult the readers will notice and it wont flow as naturally.    

Some people get story ideas from dreams or maybe it will just come to you randomly when your mind wanders.  The shower is a great place for cooking up ideas and long walks can inspire some creative thoughts.  Its a good idea to keep a little notepad with you at all times to be able to jot down any stray thoughts and ideas whenever they creep up.  Otherwise a genius plot twist might just escape your mind lunch and sitting down at your keyboard.  It happens to the best of us.  For those who remember there dreams, keeping a journal beside your bed at night can be useful to trap those wildly crazy concepts.  They might just be useful later. Even writing down ideas for new novels before finishing the current one is beneficial and will help with future plans.  

Some people use recording devices but they can be bulky to carry around and odd to be seen talking into in public.  For people who don't mind screening hours of their own voice they are viable options as well but I don't recommend them.  Jotting down notes is usually easier and you can practice the trade while doing it.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Animal Farm Read Along Starting Soon

The first Word Addicts read along is starting on Friday April 25, 2014, with George Orwell's, Animal Farm.  The short novella was written from November 1943-February 1944.  It is based around the Russian Revolution in 1917.  It's a short read totally a mere 112 pages and is an easy classic novel to tackle.  Anyone wishing to participate can find the novel at this link for free online.  Please leave questions in the comment section and stay tuned for other read alongs coming up in the future.  

Beware of Publishing Scams

One of the biggest mistakes an author can make is signing a contract with a less than trustworthy publishing house.  For anyone who has ever experienced this it is a mistake trusting writers will only make once and its nearly impossible to correct after the contract has been signed. It is difficult to get noticed by a big traditional publisher so when given the offer of a publishing contract many people are eager to sign on the dotted line and it might seem great for a while but then the red flags appear.  Here is a list of some warning signs that a publishing company might not be reputable and stay away from any place that takes part in these unethical practices that certainly wont benefit the author.

Fee-Charging: Charging fees for services related to the publishing process is a foolproof way to recognize a scam.  No reputable company will charge an author for publicity, editing, reviews or to purchase large quantities of their own work.  Scam publishing houses will offer a small advance but this is only to make the author more comfortable, but this does nothing to legitimize them.  Run from any company that wants to charge a fee to its writers, even if it appears another company is getting paid.  Many companies own sister businesses to help appear more trustworthy.

Unfair Author Contracts: Its important to understand and retain as much of your author writes as possible when signing a contract.  Places can take advantage of unsuspecting trusting writers and anyone without a legal background should consult a lawyer before making a big life changing deal.  Contracts have been known to grab all the rights and copyright to novels as well including sub-standard royalty payments and sometimes even reverse royalty payments.  Be very careful with this because signing with any untrustworthy place will most likely result in never seeing a penny for your novel and that's for the lucky ones who aren't suckered into paying the publishing company money.

Misleading Authors: This includes directly soliciting authors with phone calls and emails full of false claims.  They often misrepresent themselves to hide the fact they are a vanity operation.  They want writers to believe them traditional publishers and greatly exaggerate bookstore presence and marketing opportunities.  

Conflicts of Interest: Many of these 'traditional' publishing companies are owned by a vanity publishing house and contracts are referred to the fee charging companies under the guise of having made a sale without authors being aware of the connection between the the two operations.  

Lack of Editing: These companies don't care about the quality of the work they sign.  Editing is non existent and usually the first red flag a company isn't reliable.  They will suggest authors red a book on editing and have them edit their own work and after it has been submitted and formatted into a novel the company will charge to correct errors.  Some places don't even seem to bother to read the work before agreeing to publish it and sting manuscripts have been accepted with just the same sentence written over and over again without being noticed.

Breach of Contract Obligations: Companies often fail to provide royalty statements and fill orders and many never respond to author queries and make changes.  They often claim a hold over between royalties and avoid communication after the contract is signed and book released.  They also try to charge authors to get out of contracts and change their name frequently.  Some writers have been successful in legal actions but its a long and difficult process. 

Be very careful on where you submit manuscripts and do research.  A simple Google search of the publishing company can provide the answers most the time and frauds can be uncovered with a little time and patience.  Don't rush into any contracts and if it seems to good to be true it probably is.  You will not see any money from these operations.

Here is a list of places that writers should make note of:

America Star Book Publishing
Strategic Book Publishing
Whitmore Publishing Company
America Publishing
Eloquent Books

These places change name often and there are many more out there besides this list. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ten Self-Publishing Tips From Author Nick Spalding

Nick Spalding recently signed a six figure book deal and is the author of bestselling self published novels in the United Kingdom.  Spalding's books Love From Both Sides  and Sleepless Nights, were respectively the first and third bestselling self-published e-books in 2012. Its no secret the self-publishing industry is a crowded field and authors need to stand out in order to be noticed and make sales but hope is not lost.  Amazon claims 15% of Kindle e-book sales come from unknown authors without book deals. Here are some tips from Nick Spalding to help your book stand out.

1. Don't Quit Your Day Job

I was a media officer for the police. It did help a bit - knowing how to write a press release, but it didn't help so much with writing the book! I didn't give up my day job until I'd signed a contract with Hodder & Stoughton. It is such an up and down industry - you can be flavour of the month one minute and nothing the next, even when you have had a certain level of success. Until you've got enough money coming in to be able to justify it to yourself, don't give up the day job.
Everyone wants to live the dream and write full time, but it is a very difficult industry to get into and a very difficult industry to stay in. Learn to write around your day job in the beginning, that's what I did. Frankly it's what almost every successful author in history had to do with only a few exceptions.

2. Be Yourself

You have to be yourself in your writing. You have to pick a genre that suits you as a person and you as a writer. If you are a happy go lucky person it might not be best to write about a serial killer or vice versa. There are enough obstacles for a new author, don't create more for yourself, write in a style you are comfortable with. If you are not enjoying writing it, if you are not comfortable writing it, nobody is going to enjoy reading it. 

3. Find a Muse

My partner is my first reader, she reads everything. She has encouraged me and is the inspiration for some of the stories I write.  I think everyone needs that, it doesn't have to be a partner, it can be a relative or a friend but you've got to have that one person in mind. When I'm writing, I'm always thinking about which things she will laugh at, so she is my muse in that manner. It's important to have someone you can give your manuscript to first because it is still quite an intimate thing at that stage.
It's probably a bit clunky and awkward and wrong and it is not ready to be shown to an agent or the world at large. That's when you need your first reader, because you know each other so well and their feedback is what helps you to create a better product that you can then show to others.

4. Check out On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King is, for me at least, the best book there is on writing. He gives lots of advice. The tone of it, the style of it, the things he says about how much he writes every day and his attitude towards the job are great. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be a writer. 

5. Promote Your Work

I have never been called on to sign copies of my book in a shop. If the opportunity arises, I say take it. I don't think you are going to do any harm by going along to your local Waterstones and signing a few copies. Well, unless nobody turns up - then you will feel terrible about yourself and probably never write again. You should certainly have a social media presence, you should tweet, blog and Facebook, but you don't want to irritate readers.  Nobody wants to see "buy my book, buy my book" over and over again. Tweet about your life, tweet about things you find interesting and mix it up.

6. Remember That Books Aren't Burgers

Self-publishing has given lots of people the ability to write lots of books and get them out there. People need to remember that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  The most important thing to remember when you write a book and release it, that you are entering into a relationship with the reader and you owe it to them to provide a product that is as professional as possible.  Books aren't burgers - they are not instantly consumable things and they shouldn't be rushed. Always respect your reader and put 100% into every book that you write.

7. Try Every Possible Avenue

I've got a great agent now. He's got me some great deals and, in that respect, I think an agent is still a good commodity to have. I've got a traditional publishing contract now, too, but it doesn't stop me from self-publishing. I love that because it's how I started and it's not something I'm ashamed of. What the self-publishing thing does is give you another avenue. There is no need to go down one avenue and not the other these days, you can do both. Every writer wants their book to be read. It doesn't really matter anymore how you go about achieving that as long as two things happen: You get your book read by as many people as possible and you get paid for writing it. Whatever avenues get you that result should be explored.

8. Don't Get Bummed Out by Bad Reviews

I do read the bad reviews, I sort of sit there reading them and rock back and forth. Try and remember the old cliches - 'one man's meat is another man's poison' and 'you're never going to please all of the people all of the time'.  It's what you get on average that really counts. If you put a book out there and six months later you've got a hundred one star reviews, chances are you might be doing something wrong. That said, one five star review does not mean you are the next big thing. Stay on a level, don't get bummed out by one bad review... and certainly don't reply to the people who write them!

9. Don't Take it to Seriously

I tend to write in the mornings and I generally do at least 2,000 words a day. Sometimes that takes hours, sometimes it takes an hour depending on what kind of mood I'm in.  I write in the spare room. It's not a study, it's a room with a desk, a bog standard PC and a clothes airer. My routine is basically to make myself a cup of coffee, sit down and try to churn out 2,000 words. It's also important to be comfortable when you write. I've got a great pair of Batman lounge pants.

10. Read Comic Books

I'd like to say I have a great diet and that my body is a temple but that would be a complete lie. I do go for lots of walks though, they help me think about storylines and stop my rapidly expanding waist getting any bigger. We want to get a dog at some point. Exercise is important when you are a writer otherwise give it two years and you'll just be a potato. Make sure you have a good social circle around you too, people you see on a regular basis, otherwise you will just stay indoors all day every day and become weird. And if you don't like Batman you won't get anywhere. Liking Batman is absolutely vital to being a successful author.


Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Battle Writers Block

Even the best writers fight writers block from time to time and even if it hasn't happened yet, chances are at some point it will. There's different reasons why it might happen.  Sometimes its possible to write a character into a situation where its hard to write them out of, or maybe something else is clogging your mind causing endless distractions.  Often on of the main issues is simply too many words and ideas, there's no clear path to get everything down in a way that accurately represents ones active imagination.  The latter is the preferred problem because its easiest to correct but every writer needs to find the best way to combat stubborn writers block.  Sometimes the easiest solutions are the most beneficial but it can be different for everyone.  Here is a list of the top way that work for me and other writers I know.  

  1. Take a walk: Sometimes a break is the best way to clear your head and get the ideas flowing in a way you can make sense of.  Forcing yourself to keep writing and staying at a blank word document isn't productive or likely to end with usable content so taking a step back may seem counterproductive but can really help.  This solution wont work well with a fast approaching deadline but for those with time a nice walk can help, or any other activity that you can let your mind wander.  Listen to music, take a warm bath or sit outside with a coffee on a nice Spring day.  Forget about where you left off on your project and soon enough new ideas might just come without even trying.  The subconscious mind has a way to be working on problems even when the conscious one is preoccupied. 
  1. Try a Writing Exercise: For those who don't think they will be able to get back to writing after taking a break.  A writing exercise might help get the juices flowing back to normal again.  There's a lot of different ones to pick from, one of my personal favorites include writing a situation with the characters from your novel that isn't related to the story.  Try writing what they are doing a year after the story is over or what they were like as children.  Get to know their personalities more and figure out how they interact with one another.  It gets the mind thinking and it helps the novel. 
  1. Read/ Research: When the words aren't coming and everything else fails there's nothing left to do but pick up a book and see what other authors have done.  In order to write, reading is important and learning what works and what doesn't can help.  Maybe something will inspire a new idea and if nothing else, why not pass up an opportunity to bury your nose in a book.  Nothing bad will come of it. 
  1. Have a Secondary Project: Personally this doesn't work well for me but I know other novelists that swear by it and often have many novels on the go at once.  It's a good tactic for the chronic multi-tasker but maybe not for someone who needs to focus on a single thing at a time.  Try having a novel on the go besides from the one your working on so if a tie comes when you get tired of working on the same think or a bad bought of writers block inevitably happens its easy just to switch projects for a while to keep fresh. 
Sometimes deadlines pop up out of nowhere and your mind simply doesn't want to cooperate though ultimately most of the best writers block cures are to simply stop thinking about what is causing the problem for a while.  It's easy to get stressed out and that is the biggest factor in why writers block happens.  There will be times when stepping away just isn't an option and there is no instant cure, but such is the life of a writer.  There will be deadlines that are broken and less than quality words submitted but everyone's first draft is far from perfect.       

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Handwritten Word

Computers have made life easier for writers in so many ways.  Its a normal sight to see writers tapping away at their computers in any given Starbucks.  Before the keyboard the typewriter revolutionized the publishing industry and the life of a writer. Sometimes its good to get back to the roots of writing and nothing quite feels like being an author than sitting away in some remote location typing on a typewriter, much like in the Stephen King novel, The Shinning.  To go even further into the past, handwriting can be a forgotten but useful tool for writers. Without the ability to edit on the go without liquid whiteout, handwriting can be a great starting process to let the ideas flow onto the paper.  It's not just an archaic process from the days long past and can help connect writers with their creative side and writing process. 

As a writing exercise I like to wander around off the beaten path and immerse myself in nature.  I encourage people to take a walk in an inspiring location and just write whatever comes to mind.  Don't worry about perfect grammar or spelling and just clear your mind.  I sometimes write songs while sitting on a beach, or sitting on a log in a quiet forest and watching the wildlife.  Sometimes just sitting and people watching in a busy city can be helpful and you can write someone a creative back story and possibly use them as a character in a project.  The point is to just have fun and get thinking about things from different perspectives.  Handwriting really works well in places where computers are just to hard to carry around and its a great way to develop a personal writing style. 

I also encourage writers to keep a handwritten journal meant for just the everyday musing.  It helps to hone the writing skills and doesn't need to be perfect because its for your eyes only. Journals are great tools to keep writers writing everyday, even if it is just about personal thoughts and viewpoints or even documenting important events and turning points.  In a decade a journal will be a fun piece to reread and bring back memories and see how much your writing has improved.  It's important to master the written word the hard way before truly being able to use computers.  Where any word program will offer a spelling and grammar check, writing with pen and paper wont and handwriting accurately without tools should come before relying on computers to do the work.  Everyone should learn the fundamentals and too many writers out there underestimate the importance of grammar and I'll admit to relying too heavily on my spell check function, but improvement will come with practice. 

I encourage everyone to get out and start writing in a notebook.  Write down observations about people, and how the world works.  Being able to analysis and understand the human condition will make everyone better writers in the end.  Get out in the world and experience as much as possible because its always better to write what you know, even for science fiction and fantasy writers.   

Please leave a comment, story or opinion about handwriting or anything mentioned in today's Sunday Personal Post, I want to hear from you! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Importance of Word Count

One of the single most important aspects in writing that often gets overlooked by first time authors is word count.  It is true that a story should come to a natural end whenever that might be, but word count can not be overlooked entirely and can play a crucial role for first time authors.  The best story ever wont even get a look if it doesn't fall within certain guidelines that vary per genre.  Famous authors can get around these guidelines because their name alone will sell books reducing the risk involved in printing large 1000 page plus novels but this is the exception not the rule and never assume to be the exception.  For the average adult novel a word count between 80 to 99 thousand words is acceptable but be careful with novels that break 100K words because of the mental aspect.  A novel with 99,999 words seems more attainable, similar to the logic marketers price things at $9.99 instead of rounding.  Science Fiction novels are an exception because they take up a lot of words just to explain the rules of the world they are set.  A first time science fiction or fantasy book could be between 100-120K words but for first time authors aiming for lower is better because the less pages and ink used to print is less the risk for publishers.  Shorter novels might get overlooked as well depending on the publishers requirements but tend to do better than excessively long manuscripts, and can be published as a novella.  

As a general rule before beginning the writing process do some research into the genre and come up with a vague guideline.  Its much easier to figure out the end goal before getting too far into a novel and realizing the word count is going to be a problem.  Summarizes a long novel can be a hard process, and adding additional text to pad a low word count is even riskier.  Adding unnecessary scenes and dialogue could take away from the story.  Never force a novel out of something better suited to a novella or a short story because the readers will pick up on the fluff material and it will hurt the story more than anything.  

Here's a rough idea for what the word count of different genres should look like, although depending on the publisher and personal opinion it can vary a little.  Always heavily research the requirements of different publications before submitting content.  

Short Stories: Less than 10,000 words

Novellas: 25,000-50,000 words (These make great e-books, and may be published in magazines devoted to fiction works.  Some classic novels are actually novellas including Animal Farm)

Preteen Novels: 40,000-60,000

Young Adult: 50,000-75,000

Adult: 80,000-99,000

Science Fiction/Fantasy: 100,000-120,000

A common mistake for new authors is to put more emphasis on page count than word count. Although it's good to see the pages increasing, changing the format will change the page count however the words will stay consistent.  Write what feels right and don't force the novel into a certain length but don't ignore it entirely. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Read Alongs

This is a new section that might appeal to anyone looking for a book club experience without leaving the home, or just for book ideas to read.  I'll take suggestions but classics seem like a great start and could spark some interesting conversations.  I'm going to start this off by reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, as its been on my reading list for the last three years.  Other possible reads I plan to get to this summer include 1984, also by George Orwell and Gone With the Wind.  There will be room for suggestions if this idea gets popular enough for people to participate and comment.  

The Animal Farm read along will start Friday, April 25, 2014 and should be enough time for interested people to nab a copy.  There will be more updates here on the details, and if anyone has suggestions or just an opinion please comment and I will reply.  I want to hear from everyone.  Also if you like this blog please share with your friends.  It's just starting and can use all the help it can get!

What Writers Should Unlearn From High School English Classes

High school marks what most people would regard as some of the worst years of many peoples existence.  It's the awkward in between years when people are finding themselves and their place in society.  It is clear there are a lot of things high school gets wrong, and most people would probably agree much of what is taught is useless information never to be used again and quickly forgotten after prom is over the the diploma is in hand.  English seemed to be an exception, but the best piece of advice came on the first day of my Grade 11 English Class.  The teacher was asking the class one-by-one why we were taking the highest level English.  When it was my turn to answer I said, "because I want to be an author."  Her reply, "Then you will have to forget everything you learned in this class."  

It wasn't until years later that I really understood what she meant.  For the young writers out there, here are some things high school English classes get wrong.

1. Don't use semicolons: This was a big no-no ever since I started journalism school.  The seemly harmless semi-colon was a forbidden piece of punctuation and under no circumstances was it ever published in our paper.  The logic behind this is semi-colons are useless and can easily be avoided by simply making another sentence.  Studies have shown that the presence of a colon trips up the eye as someone reads along and the brain doesn't know how to process the punctuation.  

“First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

2. Avoid big words: As much as writers love throwing in large pretentious sounding words to prove their intelligence and because in high school a larger vocabulary gets better marks on an essay, simple is always better.  The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule was said many times during my print journalism classes, needing a thesaurus every few words probably means the average reader wont understand.  Unless writing for an academic paper or journal the smaller the word the better.  Instead of purchased use bought, instead of received use got, it will flow nicer.  Although simple words are better find a wide range of vocabulary to avoid a lot of repetitive wording. 

3. Paragraphs size: High school always claimed paragraphs needed to be between 5-8 sentences long, although that may be the ideal in some circumstances, depending on what is being written it is hardly a set in stone rule and is more likely to be broken than followed, especially in journalism where 1-2 sentence paragraphs are the norm.  

4. Sentence Fragments are Valid: Vary the length of sentences to keep a piece interesting to the eye of the reading.  Shorter sentences are easier to read but when writing a piece always include longer sentences and then a few shorter ones.  The sentence fragment can be a valuable writing device to hammer in a point.  Really.  Don't be afraid of a three word sentence or even one word, just be sure to use it wisely.  

5. Don't overuse brackets: High school teaches students to use brackets to insert extra information not directly included in the sentence.  However they often slow readers down and can be avoided a lot of the time––unless putting the explanation for an acronym into a story––by using dashes.  It will make the text flow easier and look neater.   

One more bonus point––although it doesn't apply to novelist––is there is no need to include all the information in the lead.  Some of the most effective essays and feature stories withhold key information to the second or third paragraph to increase the suspense.  I once published a movie review that didn't include the title of the movie until the end of the second paragraph.  Rules are made to be broken although it's probably not wise to try this tactic on a high school paper.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Walking Dead Gets Four More Novels

The Walking Dead franchise is expanding again with another four novel series.  Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press have picked up the new series written by Jay Bonansinga and Robert Kirkman, the same dual that wrote the previous four novel series for The Walking Dead.  The first book in the series will be released on October 14, 2014 and is titled Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Descent.  According to Entertainment Weekly, who got their hands on a copy of the first novel the book follows the story of Lilly Caul a character from the original comic book.  Caul is also a central character in the earlier novel A Road to Woodbury.  The first novel in the series will be the story of Caul as she returns to Woodbury after the Governor's failed assault at the prison, and her attempt to rebuild the town.

The TV series wrapped up its fourth season in March and has been officially renewed for another season starting in September.  Fans of The Walking Dead wont have to wait much longer for more flash eating zombies.  The presence of Lilly Caul in the new novel brings some weight to the theory her character is reappearing in the next comic book and is the woman portrayed on the cover of the upcoming issues.    

Apparently we still just can't get enough zombies and the books should be a great addition to the series.  Both of the book authors have expressed excitement for the upcoming works and agree there is still a lot left in The Walking Dead universe.  Its unlikely the series will end anytime soon.  More information will come as it gets closer to October 2014.  In the meantime enjoy the cover design as revealed originally from Entertainment Weekly.

Robert Kirkman certainly has a lot on his plate in the next year as he writes the comic books, which will be releasing Issue #126 shortly, he is an executive producer for AMC's TV series.  Season five will be entering production and co-writing and producing the spin-off series which will air on AMC in 2015.  So much to look forward to.  The Walking Dead empire is fully milking the extent of its potential, now having expanded to include eight novels, over a hundred comics, a TV series, a spin off TV series, webisodes that have slight ties to the TV series and video games.  Robert Kirkman certainly knows how to capitalize on a good thing but is there a thing as too much?   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stephen King Special Editions Coming Soon

Stephen King fans will soon have more books to add to their collections.  Cemetery Dance Publications have announced an exclusive deal last week to publish six early Stephen King classics.  All the novels were originally published by Doubleday in the 1970's and early 1980's.  The new editions will be beautifully designed, over-sized collector quality similar to other Stephen King novels released by Cemetery Dance.  The six titles getting new life will be the ones responsible for making Stephen King the house hold name he is today, including Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, Night Shift, The Stand and Pet Semetary.  The first novel to be released will be on shelves in August 2014 and is available for pre-order now at the Cemetery Dance website.  Over one third of the copies have already been claimed so collectors are encouraged to put their order in now.  

Carrie: The Deluxe Special Edition will feature an introduction by Stephen King and an afterword by his wife Tabitha King, six full color paintings by artist Tomislav Tikulin and other special bonus features exclusive to this edition.  Each book in the set will be released approximately six months apart over the next three years.  Artist are already working on the other books, putting together the best bonus material worthy of Stephen King fans, in some cases even previously deleted sections are included. The last special edition Stephen King released by Cemetery Dance sold out in a week, so act fast.  There will be no second printings available. 

Stephen King is one of the biggest names known for horror and suspense.  His books have been the inspiration for many lights left on during the night and for a new generation of aspiring authors of darker fiction.  His first books are the most well known works, and even for those who haven't read the books the tale of Carrie, the story of the telekinetic Prom Queen and pigs blood is widely understood and has come to be a Halloween favorite and graced the big screen in multiple films.  There are few authors who have accomplished as much as King, and with over 350 million copies of his books sold, many movie adaptions and a TV series, it would be hard to see anyone coming close in the near future.  

The new collectors editions being released of the six early novels will be highly collectable, and only available in a limited amount.  There is a set amount printed and once they are gone the price for a copy is likely to increase with demand.  The standard Deluxe Slipcased gift edition will be sold for $85 and is printed in two colors on high quality paper and features a unique black and white limitation page.  There will only be 3000 gift edition copies printed.  The Traycased Artist edition will be available for $225 with only 750 hand numbered novels printed.  The book will be signed by the artist.  There is also an extremly limited amount of Traycased Artist Lettered Editions available for $1000.  Only 52 hand-lettered copies will be made from the finest materials and signed by the artist.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Staying Balanced: Can you Read and Write?

As an author it's pretty clear my first love was reading, and the writing followed as a natural progression.  I would get so immersed in a good book it was difficult to put it down and tear myself away from the the glorious words.  I got involved with the characters and saw them as people with feelings and hoped the protagonist would pull through and the antagonist would get what was coming.  A good book could spark emotion, and thought in me and I became a writer because I wanted to be able to do that for others.  

Years of writing has taught me one thing, and I've learned its nearly impossible for me to stay balanced between my two loves: reading and writing.  Picking up a book can suck me in relatively quickly and once that point of no return happens and it gets to one cliffhanger after another, I know whatever I was working on is simply getting put on hold until the end.  Deciding to pick up a novel can be risky and quite dangerous to my level of productivity.  When working on a manuscript there's a strict no fiction rule but for the ultimate book worms this is hard to enforce.  In order to accomplish anything I need to sacrifice one to make time for the other, and ultimately since one gives me an income I find the choice is obvious.  I've come to the sad realization that I haven't touched a novel since last July and for an author and a book lover this really needs to change.  

As an author getting inspired from books written by others is important, and you need to read to learn what works and what doesn't, discover new writing styles, and techniques to built a strong foundation of skills.  Reading and writing are so fundamentally connected, giving up one so the other might thrive is like choosing between which twin will live and which will die.  Its not an option.  The growing pile of unread books in my collection are calling my name and this summer I challenge myself and others in similar predicaments to solve the problem for staying balanced between the two.  I can't be the only one battling this problem and its time for a solution.  
It's hard to stay invested in two stories simultaneously, even when one of those is my own vision.  It's
part of the reason I'm always left scratching my head at those people who can have two or more novels on the go at the same time.  You know those people who have a book a home, a book for school/work and a novel or two on the go.  I don't understand you, but if anyone can truly turn their brain off from one thing and move to the next without missing a beat, kudos to you.  Maybe I just fail at multitasking.  Please leave your writing problems and solutions in the comments.  I'd like to hear everyone stories and writing experiences.  Maybe something will help out others.  

I know this is typically informal compared to the usual articles here, but I'm trying something different.  I may post a more personal article every Sunday if it gets interest. So opinions are more than welcome.  

I would like to note that although when I write I give up fiction novels I still read a considerable amount of non fiction and short stories that don't take up as much time in one sitting.  So I'm not completely giving up reading, I'm just giving up novels I know I'll have trouble putting down.       

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time Management for Part Time Novelists

There's no secret making a living as an author is hard work and only the top one per cent of the bestselling authors can truly afford to pay the bills and live a decent lifestyle from their works.  For the remaining 99 per cent of us, its a life of juggling different jobs and becoming good at multitasking. Making time to write a chapter in between family and work responsibilities is a challenge for the best of us, as life gets in the way.  At times an unfinished manuscript has to be put on hold for a while, or can be left unfinished indefinitely.  Time management is especially important for those of us fortunate enough to have a day job or school to attend to, and it requires a lot of dedication and self-discipline.  Writing isn't doesn't always seem like the best way to spend the time after a long day, but its important to write often, otherwise risk long stretches of time with nothing to show for it.  It gets easy to say, 'maybe later,' and the more time that goes by, the easier it gets to put it off. Its a place many writers have struggled through at some point in their writing careers but there is a way to combat it.  Form a writing strategy for time management to work around your schedule to suit your needs.  A strategy will help provide goals and keep you focused on the path to a completed manuscript.  Here is a list of popular strategies that can prove effective. 
  1. Word Count: This is an easy way to make the novel more attainable and keep you writing and meeting goals everyday.  First decide on an easily attainable amount of words you can write in a day.  Use that number a minimum daily goal and strive to achieve it, make it small enough that it doesn't seem like a daunting task, and if you miss a day just double to word count the next day to stay on track.  If you know you wont have time one day, its easy to write extra the day before to make up for it.  With this strategy its easy to form a time line for when the first draft will be completed by deciding on a rough estimate of words the novel needs to reach, then figuring out how many days it should take.  I like to use this technique by writing 500 words each weekday and 1000 on weekends.  Often I write more but the small number makes it easier to stick to, and means I can give myself the odd day off without putting myself behind my goal end date. 
  2.  Set Aside Time: Schedule in a certain amount of time each day dedicated to writing. Attempt to make it the same amount of time each day to just focus on work.  This strategy will best benefit those writers who don't like the pressure of a set deadline they need to meet, like the word count technique but will keep you writing everyday just the same.  The downside is it makes it difficult to predict how long the novel will take to complete, because the amount of writing done each day will vary depending on writers block, research that needs to be done and how much editing goes on and many other factors.  I've used this in the past and find it works best by setting aside an hour each day, less time and it becomes harder to get into the mindset of writing before the time is over.  For quick writers its easier to get more words in than with the word count strategy, but there will be slow days. 
  3. A Series of Deadlines: Having time to write every single day is difficult and impossible for some people.  This strategy works well for very disciplined people who can trust themselves to meet deadlines without setting aside any specific time for writing. Figure out either how many chapters the novel will be or the estimated word count expected and divide it into a set of deadlines to be reached.  For example, completing a chapter a week or reaching another 10,000 word marker on the first and 15th of the month. Anything works, and its easy to get an idea on how long the draft will take.  Remember to make time for editing as well.  
Hopefully these suggestions are helpful.  They are not the only ways at battling the time management problem.  Please leave a comment or suggestion it you have a tried strategy or find any of these beneficial. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on POD Publishing

Print-on-demand publishing or POD publishing has changed the self-publishing industry and opened up new doors for thousands of authors everywhere.  Every has a story to tell, but before the process of physically being published held back many from achieving this feat. Authoring a book was simply an unattainable pipe dream, while people went on with their lives. The risks involved with self-publishing are nearly non existent and anyone and I mean anyone can have their story told. With self-publishing, the writer would have to find storage space for all the unsold copies of their book and pay a printer.  Now websites offer free services online and writers merely have to upload their formatted manuscript and design a cover, often with generic predetermined cover art and voila a novel is born and released into the vast space on the Internet. Most never really see the light of day, being sold to friends and family as e-books and a few print copies produced and the author can hold a copy of the novel in their hands for the first time and call themselves a writer. POD is a good thing for those 'writers' whose only goal is to see their work in print for themselves, but whose goals don't include seeing their work on shelves and in libraries. 

Creating a POD book sold online on Amazon or Barnes and Noble isn't enough for those who truly
wanted to be authors. In that case POD should only be used a a last resort in the publishing industry and before considering it as an option think carefully at what you hope to achieve as a writer. Traditional publishing companies will rarely pick up a book that has already been available to the public. Traditional publishing companies will take months to get back to a writer and sometimes, they never do but have patience and hold off clicking the publish button on a POD version until the option has been exhausted. There will be a lot of rejection as a writer, way more than acceptance and to be an author means having thick skin and knowing how to handle criticism.  If one place sends a rejection letter, try another, then another and rework the manuscript, make changes and try again. Writers with the funds to self publish would be better off with a reputable vanity publisher. This isn't the best option but will guarantee the work will go through an editing process, get formatted and placed in book stores.  

POD publishing has a bad reputation in the publishing industry for many reasons and it mostly comes down to the fact anyone can publish a book for free. When choosing this option, be aware of the common mistakes and edit, edit, edit!  It's probably best to go ahead and hire an editor, it will save some embarrassment.  Triple check the formatting and do some leg work.  With POD it's not impossible to be in brick and mortar bookstores, just much harder.  Many local shops will pick up writers in the area and libraries will take copies.  All it takes is some dedication and some people skills.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Battle Between Print and Digital

One decade ago the first modern e-reader came onto the market and revolutionized the way we read books. In early 2004 the Sony Librie became the first e-reader with a e-ink screen making it easier to read digital books. E-reading devices became popular and blossomed into a new market and soon e-books began popping up everywhere. Digital formats of novels are considerably cheaper than their print counterparts because of the low costs of distributing them. A publisher can release and ship an e-book for no cost or less than a penny a copy, making them a popular choice among consumers. The digital advancements of the book industry came with benefits but for the tradition lovers and authors some fear as to what the future of the industry would be. 

Aspiring authors dream of seeing their creation lining the shelves of bookstores, as a physical tangible object–to feel the weight of the book in their hands and turn the pages of their own words for the first time. For those aspiring authors and hundreds of writers out there, the digital world has made it easier to be published. Publishing companies are not taking as big of a risk picking up a previously unknown author and releasing an e-book. It's not even taking into account the self-publishing authors who no longer have to pay for storage and printing costs with print-on-demand formats. The reality is yes, its easier to be published but the dream of holding that book for the first time has become considerably harder to achieve. 

Despite the fact that print is clearly at a disadvantage when compared to digital from a financial standpoint and a physical one-if you've ever tried to move you'll get this one-it continues to win over readers year after year. The sale of e-books stopped increasing exponentially each year as of 2012 and is leveling off with only fifteen per cent of the market according to a BookNet Canada study. Even more surprising is the digital native generation of 18-24 year old's prefer print novels to digital ones. In fact, the generation most likely to appreciate e-readers is the baby boomers because of benefits of increasing the font size and the contrast making it easier to read for those with weaker eyes. Print is still dominating the book market ten years later but at the same time e-readers are adopted by a much broader range of people. Lots of people have some form of an e-reader device in their homes and purchase both print and digital books. 

Print books will always have a special place in the hearts of many. Tangible books are to be collected and the crease in the spine of a well worn book is a trophy and a memory. They might not be the most economic option but for now it's not time to give up on them. Hopefully the trends continue into the future and print and digital can learn to play nice and co-exists with each other, but for this tradition lover, lets hope print keeps its place for the foreseeable future.